“Grounded,” offers an abbreviated history of the dialectic between built surface and natural topographies. NOA Principal, Andrew Heid traces a lineage of typologies which successively erase the distinction between architecture and landscape by manipulating slope in section. While the “a-frame terrace” is for example typified by Gropius in 1929, and the “puddle” by SANAA in 2004, this self-conscious teleology culminates in a project by Heid himself, the “SUPERPAD.” 

Below is the text as printed in PIDGIN no. 2:

In the beginning mankind sought high ground for divination and the promise of humanism: high ground afforded protection from wilderness and the chaos of nature

…making room for the figure of community.

The cultivation of high ground materialized people and territory into vessels of control and domination—from the temple to the walled tower. Power projected outward from singular built form. With industrialization came the eradication of ground… first by gridding streets for new cities then cutting topography for growth. The wilderness and chaos of nature consecrates its inverse in the hygienic metropolis, where the 19th Century egalitarian belief in progress gives birth to the street as the primary figure of the city…

If the apotheosis of power in the 19th Century city was the arcade and radial boulevard, then the idealization of the Modern city was the tower and plinth. From this new ground, the marvels of technology liberated the morals of mankind: multiple grounds multiplied realities, free plans unleashed free trade and freedom… The realization of the Modern city was a Faustian bargain: unlimited ground that towered towards the heavens for the price of one ground blackened between the emptiness of exurbs and the masses of purgatory.

By returning to its origins in the figure of high ground, architecture re-asserts its power in the city. But formal exploration continued… in contrast to the stack, the slope promises free section…

However, early modern experiments with slope remained shackled to the tower, where a-frame terraces captured vast interiors filled with air... or whatever...

Postmodernism brought complexity and commodification back to an architecture denuded by abstraction. Mixed-use development finally exploited the programmatic possibilities opened by the terrace... while others eliminated the problem by using found topography...

More recently, experiments with shallow slopes have created more porous spaces at the cost of density…

Finally, projects have returned inserting architecture in existing ground… this time under rather that on top. While achieving density and porosity, the problem of terrace is avoided by filling poche space with ground.

The contemporary city exists in a state of perpetual emergency: it ignores the alliance between architecture and urbanism, while simultaneously denying questions of large scale development. To elaborate this paradox today is to assume the question of the superblock: the clearance and development of sites larger than the conventional block. While this anti-type has often been denigrated by traditionalists, the SUPERPAD demands reconsideration with the passing of the metropolitan grid, whether by default, design, or destruction. The SUPERPAD offers two versions for metropolitan life after the grid, sponsored under conditions that range from saturated terrain to thick-offices, and connecting work to life, while a subduction of green carpet holes allow for light and air… instead of consuming ground, density here makes new ground in a lierating moment of free plan and free section…

Opportune sites of contradiction: from the LILY'S super-metropolitan mountains in swamp wilderness to the CLOUD'S plateaus of delirious ruralism in depopulated inner-city quarters... like tectonic plates, the program envelope is defined by an up thrust of parking, cordoning offices, and connecting work to live, while a subduction of green carpet holes allow for light and air...instead of consuming ground, density here makes new ground in a liberating moment of free plan and free section…

 

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