Optical affects: Fenestrations and optical fascinations in the re-embodied architecture of South-East Queensland
Brisbin, Christopher A. (2011) Optical affects: Fenestrations and optical fascinations in the re-embodied architecture of South-East Queensland. In McNamara, Andrew E. (Ed.) Sweat: The Subtropical Imaginary. Institute of Modern Art, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, Qld.
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Fuelled by the emergence of new computer-mediated design and fabrication technologies, the means of conceiving and constructing architectural form has never before been so open to radical figurative and procedural transformation. It appeared that almost anything was possible at the turn of the new millennium. However, this emerging techno-determinist approach to architectural design generally denied the synaesthetic human body as an agent in design conception, effectively perpetuating the prevailing traditions of Western occularcentricism. The formal and spatial character of architecture that resulted in the 1990s was effectively reduced to questions of surface and flatness. However, a series of Australian contemporary architectural projects by architects Elenberg Fraser in Melbourne, and by M3 Architects in Brisbane, began to question this monocular tradition, choosing instead to mine the field of Art in search of optical effects that engaged directly with the observer on an embodied sensorial level of cognition. This chapter will demonstrate that such new conceptions of surface affect provides an alternative functional and conceptual method through which to transcend the dictatorial constraints presented by vernacular traditions; such as those effecting climatic screening and compositional fenestration in the architecture of South-East Queensland. This chapter will demonstrate how Elenberg Fraser’s Dazzle Shed and M3’s moiré screen used in the Brisbane Girls Grammar School are exemplars of projects that seek ‘cognitive surface disturbance’ in order to sensorialy embody the beholder. These projects directly draw upon concepts of pictorial composition and optics borrowed from the de Stijl art project of the 1920-30s, and upon the Op-art experiments of the 1960-70s. This chapter, therefore speculates that such projects proffer a dramatically different conception of surface and spectatorial engagement than that which is purported by the prevailing ‘sup-trop-arcadian’ and ‘timber & tin’ traditions of South-East Queensland architecture.
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