“I am interested in what is interesting”
Throughout the History of Art there have been major milestones that led to the advancement of the art terminology that we utilise to understand and define the ideologies in artworks and furthermore in architecture. One of the many ideologies that advanced the understanding of the relationship of background and foreground in art was Mannerism. In the first half of the 16th century, the Mannerist artists shifted the reading of the art imagery with new concepts. One of these important conceptual ideas was Horror Vacui. This term, although it has changed its modes of applications, still keeps its definition which refers to the fear of emptiness. In art, Horror vacui is being used for describing paintings that have an overload of figures and forms. And therefore no background of the canvas could be left blank. And one could even go further and declare that the background equaled itself to the foreground in terms of the hierarchy of importance.
In the field of architecture this term mostly applied itself to the interior around a similar time as in Art. It took the form of highly ornamented interiors, mostly comprised of surface applications. Changing the perception of the space rather than the space itself was the most popular outcome. It was an attempt at making the surfaces of a building embellished and giving the illusion but leaving the forms without nuance.
Nevertheless the interpretation of horror vacui from art to architecture was always very straightforward. The application process from art to architecture did not have many differences. And there have been missed opportunities by not thinking about horror vacui in a more morphological manner. This identification should expand the means of the surface application and break its commodity to embellish a single boundary.
This terminology should be integrated in today's architectural discourse as to how it can be applied in plans, sections and furthermore in urban design. Through this interpretation of the horror vacui, certain architectural elements can benefit from the conditions that an extreme fear of blankness can bring. The application of horror vacui should not only take the visual into consideration but also the cultural, the morphological and the programmatic aspects of architecture.
Urban Horror Vacui in Los Angeles
Ever since the economic boom in the 1950s, American cities have maintained a state of constant construction. Los Angeles is a great example for this type of expansion. The capitalist nature of the cities have made the urban analogies to be growing around the notion of consuming. The nuance of Los Angeles is that it is a city designed to be experienced by the access of the car. The roads in Los Angeles are very wide, mostly because of traffic issues, and kept very clean, way more than the sidewalks. The pedestrian culture, although it still lives, is focused to certain neighborhoods. There exists a hierarchy of the different types of roads. Freeway, as Angelenos call it, are held dearest to the heart. Then comes the avenues and boulevards which hold the retail and business opportunities. And lastly the in-between spaces are filled with residential streets, cul de sacs and drive-ins reserved for the single family houses to be built on.
One of the major characteristics of Los Angeles is the fact that the city fabric seems to originate itself from multiple small epicenters. Its vernacular residential architecture is still very popular within the real estate field and can easily be marketed as the ideal American house with the cul de sac, the drive-in, and the kidney pool in the backyard. The village ideology is very prominent. The towns of Los Angeles have their residential areas with buildings that do not exceed 2-3 levels and their town centers with smaller scale retail and civic buildings and after that the road continues and merges into the suburban area which allows for more developed retail buildings to be accessed.
It is necessary to understand the direction of expansion of Urban Design in Los Angeles. It is again the repercussions of the city approached by the usage of motor vehicles that the urban design flourished in a horizontal manner whereas in other cities the vertical expansion is still the most popular approach and the skyline is the most important symbol of the city. The widespreadness of Los Angeles helps the individual programs to co-exist without being crammed to one another. It allows the parts to be placed without the distinction of their socio-economic group and still be a functioning contribution to the whole. Four gas stations, one on each corner of a crossing can exist, without the need for customer rivalry, as the habitants of LA are very diverse in nature. As the epicenters of Los Angeles keep on being autonomous the programs that occur within a 1 km radius are as diverse as it gets. With this being said it can be speculated that the horror vacui in an urban aspect shows itself very prominently in Los Angeles. The idea implies that programs must exist within each other and any space that is blank must be filled with more programs that help the overall expansion of the towns and later the development of the city. Therefore the urban analogy of Los Angeles does not allow districts to be formed according to program but it helps the areas within the city to develop their urban programs accordingly and autonomously. The hierarchy of the programs are defined in the small-scale non-defined boundaries and as subsequently there can exist many bizarre juxtapositions. For all the reasons listed above one should thank Los Angeles for being unique.
The thesis THX LA, with the help of many facets of architectural design mediums, finds topics in Los Angeles that needs to be highlighted. The sites are found accordingly to the importance of the architectural problems. They are then occupied and filled with the content that Los Angeles produces by itself. An extension of Los Angeles in Los Angeles using parts of Los Angeles.
Therefore certain case studies were made for understanding the concepts of the site; Los Angelean modernist take on office buildings with overly reflective glass panels emphasize the vastness of anonymous company buildings and spotlights the consistently oversized american parking lots, the color block interventions in the luxurious suburbs juxtaposes itself with the everlasting need to be unique in American suburbs. Lastly the different possibilities of metro stations that visualize the city in one small block. The main project is focused on a site in the Los Angeles river filling the concrete river bed and around from bridge to bridge.
The river, to some extent, a metaphor of the Los Angeles lifestyle of the counterfeit and the infamous. THX LA utilizes the river bed as a crystal glass container and the Los Angeles programs, morphologies and formal studies as filling, much like the banana, the cream, the chocolate sauce and the not-to-be-forgotten cherry on top in the banana split.