Author : Viola Ago

University : Southern California Institute of Architecture

Status : MArch, 2013

Advisor : Elena Manferdini

Title : Blush

This is a focused obsession of color and facial expression, in architecturalizing the theatrical behavior of blushing. The ambition is to have the blush belong to the materiality of the architecture as it brings “faciality” into the behavior of the skin.

The blush is a response to the attention paid to surface in architecture, particularly the post-modern attempt of expressive façades, but without defaulting into the clichés of contemporary façade treatments such as perforated skins, transparencies and layers. Therefore, this thesis defies the application of ornamentation onto facades; instead, it is rooted on the idea of cosmetics in architecture, as being indiscreet and working as fields1.

This project wants to intensify the expressiveness of the face of a building by literally using the facial qualities of a human face, a portrait. The abstraction of the portrait into a hierarchy of geometrical shapes suggests an overall figure of the face. The perception of the figure from form positions ­­this thesis in close relation to sensation 2 in an attempt to design a new diagram for contemporary sensibility.

Beyond formal manipulations, color embedded within the material makes the building blush. This thesis resides in the blushing occurring through the material and architecture as opposed to special effects of projections and animations. Specifically, the blush is underglaze coloration and its gradient effect is achieved by breaking it down into individual components that make possible the overall perception of a blushing façade.

In support of the argument that sensation is what is painted for color is in the body2, this method re-establishes the potential of architectural surface and its dependency on the viewer and the sensitivities of his sensory apparatus as it offers something to see3. Situated in Chicago, due to the existing frontality of buildings, The Auction House faces Grant Park on Michigan Ave., giving the opportunity for the building to be viewed at varying distances and angles. The front of the building is comprised of parts that delicately peel away from one another. This depth, carried through to the interior, establishes the separation between the front of the building and the exclusive, private auction house behind it.

  1. Jeffrey Kipnis, “The Cunning of Cosmetics” El Croquis 84, 1997
  2. Gilles Deleuze, Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, University of Minnesota Press, 2003, 32
  3. 3. Sylvia Lavin, Kissing Architecture, Princeton University Press, 2011, 100