Two weeks ago, I was  lucky enough again to be part of a very interesting jury at Columbia University for the final review of the studio tutored by Francois Roche assisted by Ezio Blasetti and Miranda Romer. Like the last three year (2008, 2009, 2010), one project/scenario particularly triggered my imagination and critical sense.

This year’s story,  Sadic(t)ropisms or The Intransigent Pursuit of the Sublime is being recounted by Farzin Lotfi-Jam & Juan Francisco Saldarriaga. As their evocative text above implicitly mentions, Farzin and Juan found inspiration in the beautiful novella by James Graham Ballard, The Thousand Dreams of Stellavista (see previous article) in order to investigate the potentiality for architecture to carry some sadistic characteristics towards the body who occupies it. The built environment that hosts their narrative is, in fact, composed by a sort of vertical forest made out of shape-memory alloy which can be easily distorted but re-acquire its original form when in contact with an intense heat. People involved in this scenario are nomads, who after colonizing the matter during the night have to flee during the day as the Sun’s heat threatens to make their bodies prisoners of their direct environment thus continuously attempting to “remember” its origins. The body would then experience a last ecstasy while being strangled, allowing its subject to reach for a while, the sublime indicated in the name of the story.

One could then imagine a sequel to this narrative, in which a part of the population -named the builders or architects- would have managed to settle down in this environment as they succeeded to master the shape of the matter. They would then suspend the process of remembrance of the alloy, freezing it into sedentary habitat until this event they call “Catastrophe” which sees architecture suddenly remembering its origins in a spasm lethal to the bodies living in it.