Branch administrative cente, Venice, California
Pope, Albert||Sherman, William H.
Master of Architecture
The thrust of this thesis is the relationship of the built artifact to its context, both physical and cultural. Through the combination of research and a design project, I have set out to explore the correspondence between the formal, aesthetic treatment of the margin in architecture and the political, ethical treatment of the margin in the social contract. I have been especially interested in how the treatment of the edges is addressed by the center. In other words, how the body politic builds for its citizens. And how public spaces accommodate various segments of the populace. The city is the appropriate place to begin, I think, because it constitutes both a social, political framework and a physical, built environment. In the city it is immediately apparent that site refers not only to a specific place, but also to the artifact’s location in time and culture. Related to this is the question of the monument -- its appropriateness and uses for our time. On the one hand Bataille has accused architecture of "covering the scene of the crime with monuments." I suppose the "restoration" of New York’s Union Square could stand as a good example. On the other, the projections of Krzysztof Wodiczko and the quilts of The Names Project seriously challenge the validity of the recent spate of monument design competitions. In architecture per se, especially civic structures, this leads to issues of representation. What picture does the building present of the people who made it -- and the people for whom it is intended? I have considered these issues of context, urbanism, and monumentality through a thesis design projects a Branch Administrative Center for Venice, California. The program is derived from that prepared for the recent West Hollywood competition -- a mixture of government services and offices, public assembly spaces, and a variety of outdoor recreation facilities -- adapted to accord with the Branch Administrative Centers, proposed for various districts of Los Angeles since 195. I chose Venice because of its strong urban diagram, its edge condition (edge of continent, fringe of society), its cultural and ethnic heterogeneity, its manageable scale for intervention, the high profile there of marginal and homeless persons, and the community’s ambiguous political relationship to greater Los Angeles.