Critical Sections

    By Greg J. Smith
    Design by Erik Loyer

    Open Project

    While the majority of the houses discussed have been built and exist in the city, as non-residents of these spaces we can never truly understand these structures beyond photography or architectural tourism

    - Greg J. Smith, Author's Statement

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    Author's Statement
    "Books of architecture as opposed to books about architecture, develop their own existence and logic. They are not directed at illustrating buildings or cities, but at searching for the ideas that underlie them. Inevitably, their content is given rhythm by the turning of pages, by the time and motion this suggests. The books may read as sequences, but they do not necessarily imply narratives."

    Bernard Tschumi wrote the above statement to contextualize his seminal drawing project The Manhattan Transcripts, which was first exhibited in 1978 and consolidated as a publication in 1981. This experimental work abstracted the skyline and street grid of New York City into a framework through which he storyboarded a series of spatial and cinematic scenarios. The project interrogated the conventions of architectural drawing and co-opted them towards the creation of an idiosyncratic and dynamic narrative.

    Critical Sections is a reconsideration of the methodology of The Manhattan Transcripts in light of hypermedia and database culture. This project puts Los Angeles under the microscope and proposes a dissection and reconstruction of sixteen notable representations of life in the city. Instead of focusing on the cityscape, Critical Sections looks to private residence as a cipher for reading the built environment in Los Angeles. Drawings of eight prototype homes, "idealized" dwellings, have been combined with stills and sequences from eight films set in, or explicitly about the city. Each of these assemblages provides an idiosyncratic focus around which to arrange a body of pertinent references on cinematic and residential space. The resulting index is a dense constellation of fragments that merges text with image and fiction with concrete reality to construct a new narrative space, an archive for thoughts, observations and commentary on domesticity in Los Angeles.

    It is not without irony that fictional representations figure so prominently into this work. While the majority of the houses discussed have been built and exist in Los Angeles, since we are not residents of these spaces we can never truly understand these structures outside photography or architectural tourism. As viewers, we are similarly estranged from the version(s) of the city that are depicted in narrative cinema. This project capitalizes on the tension between our familiarity with and alienation from these shared memories and positions them as reconfigurable elements, the base material of this examination of residential space in Los Angeles.

    — Greg J. Smith, May 19th, 2008