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ADS12: Sight/Seeing

Melissa Wear

Melissa is an architectural designer whose research interests lie on the border between fiction and reality. She is interested in filmic storytelling as a design method for future living practices, and the position of imaginary architecture to impose real change. She considers the mundane nuances of reality to be pivots for design, and she views history and politics as subjects to be investigated and challenged. She took her undergraduate degree in Architecture at Newcastle University where she won the Dr Thomas Faulkner Prize for Architectural History, as well as the Bechtel Global Scholarship, and acted on the Exhibition Hanging Committee. Following this, Melissa had a practical teaching directly from the building site whilst leading the design for a London construction company for three and a half years. Here, she mostly worked on residential development to historic buildings— enjoying the opportunity to take responsibility for running projects from inception, through planning, into construction. During this time, she was also a finalist for the Nonarchitecture ‘Thinking’ Competition. During her time at the RCA, Melissa has investigated the role of the architect in shifting everyday politics. In her first year, she participated in two group projects addressing how public-motivated research studies can impact upon policy-making. Extending from this standpoint, her final year thesis examines the position of colour and light as images of historic storytelling that influence the status quo of world politics.


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ADS12: Sight/Seeing

The transitionary nature of light has been harnessed for political control in the shape of global time zones. Greenwich has established itself as point zero whilst non-uniform landscapes have been subjected as the ‘divided and conquered’. The politically-imagined qualities of allocentrism in GMT have become normalised in the Palladian-influenced architecture of symmetry and quadrapartism, whereby the physical light geographies tend to have been ignored. 

In shifting the prevailing grid by 25,000 miles to the antemeridian, how might the architecture of the meridian objectify physical light instead for its temporal characteristics? How would the modes of navigation at 180°W translate to match the egocentrism of 24-hour cultural patterns of the creative city? In Making Up Extinction, these questions are examined.

Objectifying Light — The temporal character of light has invited humanistic experience through time, from the chashitsu to the tikal. As an object to be captured, light is characterised by its transience. This material experiment of light, first with the free-spirited nature of glass-making, exploiting the process of fretting where hot glass hitting a cold surface ripples; then with the controlled materials of resin and bioplastic, experimenting with additives to manufacture opacity and colour.

WearMelissa File02 JPG JPG — Capturing the Temporal– A variation on the established photometer, a device measuring illuminance (the intensity of light falling on a surface), the spectrometer measures the intensity of light as it passes through a material– each notch of distance employed to find point zero. It is a quest towards light extinction: the point at which two lights of differing intensities equal zero, a point of changeover made visible as light scattering in the sunrise and sunset.

Simulating the Sun — The political harnessing of light has an oddly imaginative nature. The subjection of the islands of the antemeridian to time zone discrimination, has encouraged a sport of time zone ‘leaping’. In 2009 Samoa jumped the international date line giving up its last sunset for the first sunrise. Until 1994, Kiribati straddled the line, occupying both Monday and Tuesday at once. Though, in contrast to the imagined light politicisation of longitude, this sunset experiment demonstrates the physicality of latitude due to the bulge of the equator. The sun rising bottom-left screen in Greenwich escapes the screen in Kiribati– resulting in phenomena frequently told as “a bigger sky”. Might abstracted colour simulate the quality of a place?

Mutating Greenwich — When the prime meridian is shifted by 20,000 km to Kiribati on the antemeridian, the architecture of the Pacific becomes monumental and the architecture of Greenwich its haphazard after-effect. The Palladian allocentricism of Queens House is mutated a new system of Pacific physics for a free flowing aesthetic, where the house invites the physical landscape– in its irregular and transient ways– to be matched by the transient activities of visitors in its new function as a guest house: a place for visiting, meeting, working, eating, sometimes even sleeping.

Inhabiting Time — Reverting to the egocentric spatial navigation style of the Micronesian stick chart, floors are contoured to the circadian patterns of journey whilst sequences of activities enable free-flowing behaviours.

Temporalising Habitation — The spectrum of light is framed by material such that its daily performance is something to be experienced rather than merely directed by.

The Guests' House

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