Saturday, September 5, 2009

Day 1: Tea House

In our two-hour conversation on Friday, the understanding of what would constitute the "Wabi Sabi Tea House" became influenced by our own experiences of tea within Southern culture - in the South, (sweet) tea is perhaps as important a ritual as it is in Japanese culture. A generous proposition as most of us revealed we don't like it.

The discussion cycled toward the space of the Southern front porch, which we identified as being perhaps the answer to the Japanese Tea House. For argument's sake, let's examine the elements of the Japanese Tea House vs. the elements of the Southern Front Porch in a search for alignment and sense:

In "The Book of Tea," Okakura Kakuzo writes "[t]he early tea-room consisted merely of a portion of the ordinary drawing-room partitioned off by screens for the purpose of the tea-gathering. The portion partitioned off was called the Kakoi (enclosure), a name still applied to those tea-rooms which are built into a house and are not independent constructions. the Sukiya consists of the tea-room proper, designed to accommodate not more than fiver persons, a number suggestive of the saying 'more than the Graces and less than the Muses,' an anteroom (midsuya) where the tea utensils are washed and arranged before being brought in, a portico (machiai) in which the guests wait until they receive the summons to enter the tea-room and a garden path (the roji) which connects the machiai with the tea room. It is smaller than the smallest of Japanese houses, while the materials used in its construction are intended to give the suggestion of refined poverty. Yet we must remember that all of this is the result of profound artistic forethought..."

The Southern Front Porch (site of tea rituals enacted in the lower half of the United States) is an interstitial space of private publicity - a space that visitors must be invited to inhabit, but that is highly public. These are spaces that negotiate between architecture and nature, interior and exterior, public and private.

For class this Friday (September 11th), reflect on how a traditional Japanese tea house might be translated into a Southern front porch experience - the necessary space that will be sponsored from this strange union - and importantly, how Japanese Wabi-Sabi aesthetics will inform the design.

The readings that will assist our upcoming conversation are on the server - they differ from the syllabus, based on our conversation. They are:

Okakura Kakuzo, The Book of Tea. (Tokyo: Charles E Tuttle Co, Inc., 1956).
“The Tea-room,” p 53 – 73
“The Material Qualities of Wabi-Sabi,” p 62-72

Day 1: Con/Temporary Temple

Please visit one of the AA Worship Spaces discussed in class on Sunday, September 6 and Sunday, September 13 - we will meet again as a class on Thursday September 17. Guided by the reading of 'Between Sundays' and the 'Mnemonic City,' approach the worship service as a "space of public appearance" where, whether the worship space is architecturally historical or not, spirituality is culturally constructed.

Draw maps of the rituals and processes enacted, and take note of the hierarchy of phenomena (architectural or intangible) as a 'collection' of your experience. In these spaces, as Marla F Frederick notes "the power of the nonmaterial world over the material world."

In class on September 17th, we will discuss your maps, your notes, and your experiences. Remember, a "collection" of items (whether pamphlets, maps, or notes) should be both aesthetically and coherently assembled to share with the class. See on the 15th!

On the server (and handed out) are the four readings that you'll need to complete for our next meeting:

Marla F. Frederick, Between Sundays (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003)
“Introduction,” p 1 - 29
“Revival: Reading Church History” p 82 – 91
“Are We a Church or a Social Change Organization?” p 122 - 127

"The Mnemonic City: Duality, invisibility, and memory in American urbanism," Craig Evan Barton

"Communication," Andrea Dietz


This blog will serve as a platform that unites two parts of a large-group independent study co-taught with Professor Jose Gamez: one focused on designing and building a Tea House at Hodges|Taylor Gallery in Charlotte, NC, and the other focused on designing and building a Con/Temporary Temple founded on the tradition and reality of African American churches in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The purpose of this independent study, and what unites the two projects, is the influence of Visiting Artist Theaster Gates, Jr. at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte this semester (October 28, 29 and 30).

Readings will be found on the server, under the ClassFolders folder, within ARCH4050/6050_f09_Gamez.Wendl-TempleExercises.

The content and organization of this course occurs around a visiting artist’s presence on campus, making academic use of the particular knowledge and expertise of Theaster Gates, Jr. By incorporating the knowledge of this artist into the curriculum, it is believed that a more lasting and meaningful impression can be made upon the students – by their direct involvement with the same strategies and contexts that Gates is using. The organization of the course into two separate projects allows for a meaningful and well-researched design build opportunity for both the Tea House and the Con/Temporary Temple, and the alternate meeting times allow for interested students to participate in the design and making of both projects at their discretion. The focus of this course on real sites, real communities, as well as cultural and informative texts provides an opportunity to take knowledge and apply it to real material and cultural conditions and sites. This is a rare opportunity for students of architecture to design and build not out of ‘necessity’ or ‘service,’ but out of optimism and generosity of spirit, guided by a visiting artist, two professors, texts, and community input.