Author : Eric Lawler

University : Ball State University College of Architecture and Planning

Status : MArch, 2015

Advisor : Rachel Dickey

Title : Grand Old Object Party | A Memeseum For The Universal Salon

Grand Old Object Party exists as something of an intersection, an off-ramp for immaterial souls coming in contact with physical bodies. The roads at this intersection are that of universal art movements and inhabitable space. Grand Old Object Party is a home for the democratic art movement of meme culture, the Salon that absorbs anyone with internet connection and a desire for human connection.

Meme culture is today’s Pop Art. It arises out of an era of iPhones, plasma screens, a mass epidemic of loneliness, and an overly complicated world of too many souls in conflict with their self-perceived sense of detachment. It’s the product of a global culture coping with the ethos of Disneyland’s “It’s a Small World” and the struggle to maintain some sort of identity in a world of 8 billion people, all of us fighting to find ways to relate to each other. Situational humor is one of the strongest mechanisms to destroy this wall of difference. Buzzfeed feeds off the perceived notion of loneliness by introducing lists of relatable objects in lists such as “27 Struggles That Were All Too Real To ’90s Kids” or “24 Things You’ll Only Know If You Have Nigerian Parents” or “38 Things All Architecture Students Know Only Too Well.” Memes run off the same momentum, creating massive amounts of personalizable jokes based of one single concept orrelatable character. Oftentimes they take a dunk into the ocean of absurdity, spreading virally simply because of their otherness, distinct from anything related to the norm while reinforcing new status quos.

Its formal logic results from a summer of personal decomposition, where old formal style got its bonds broken and injected with new ideas, rejections of simplicity and pursuits of alternate aesthetics. Ugliness became much more of an interest as a reaction against accepted beauty. Soft edges, fleshy accents, and goopy globs became the tool for critique.

To avoid a rant on personal style, let’s explain some of the program. The residences keep similarities to each other such as square footage, wall thickness variation, and sharp or soft edge, yet all are different. The idea of mass produced-memes promotes an idea of subtle difference and personalization reflected by the units.

The Memeseum level shows an open floor plan only separated by curated zones of wall types with different capabilities for different exhibits. Each area has a different language that fits different types of exhibits, thus effectively providing the stage for any sort of work or any size of piece.

The market level evokes Nolli’s Rome, appropriated as a market full of countertops and eating areas. The open spaces are reached through compressions and releases, much like the courtyards and bazaars of Nolli’s anachronistic plans.

The verticality of this project echoes it’s inherent industrial path: the residents are continuously creating and sharing memes, working on their own without any artistic goals in mind, simply reflecting their technological zeitgeist. A few might make their way down into the museum space, being displayed as local work in an experiment to find out how memes fare in a fierce artistic world. Those deemedmarketable can float down to the ground level and sold on items such as shirts, mugs, iPhone cases, and on beverages, just as the extremely successful meme Grumpy Cat has done recently. This process echoes the industrial fetishism of Warhol’s work, described perfectly by critic Susan Sontag as “love of the unnatural, of artifice, and exaggeration.”

Interview

S//A : What’s the most important aspect of this project that we should be aware of?
Eric Lawler_ This project’s best accomplishment, in my mind, is its provocative challenging of conventional aesthetics. Beauty is often viewed as an objective phenomena, one that can be reduced to certain ratios or statistics of people proclaiming some specific form is most beautiful. Yet a walk through New York City’s Union Square presents a vast array of personal tastes and aesthetic judgement through dress, demeanor, and association. The subcultures and subsubcultures across tumblr and forum sites cater to any group of people and any fetish or unpopular interest, given anyone who feels alienated to feel a sense of community. GOOP is a project in support of the weird and the underground, in hopes that something as foreign as goopiness in architecture can add something new to the largely boring contemporary architecture scene.

S//A : What other fields outside of architecture interest you?
EL_ I study philosophy as well as architecture and am interested in the implications of continental philosophy for art and architecture, specifically the speculative realism movement and Graham Harman’s object oriented ontology that’s been circulating around architecture schools like Syracuse and SCI-Arc. I also really like poetry and graphic design.

S//A : Most important thing you learned in architecture school?
EL_ Shedding assumptions and rigorously overturning stagnation. The best thing I’ll have walked away with once I graduate is a fervor for progress and the intense pursuit of an alternative architecture. Such a pursuit demands a full knowledge of architectural history and theory in order to know what might be next and what has been done before. Theoretical innovation must understand its place in history and the best thing I’ve learned is an appreciation for how movements and ideas cultivate across time. I think it’s incredibly important to be able to locate yourself in the architectural timeline as either working a problem in the past or in the present. The future comes with the present because newness comes only after the past is overcome. A whole book could be written on what “new” is, to be honest. There are definitely ways in which the past can be shuffled around into a certain newness.

S//A : Describe your dream project
EL_ I get a lot of inspiration out of people like Jeff Kipnis, Peter Eisenman, Jacques Herzog, Robert Somol, and Sylvia Lavin for the impact they have in the direction of architectural discourse. The ability to find novelty in the banal or clarity in the tumultuous present is irreducibly valuable to my future work. I really don’t know what my future work will look like, but I do know what kind of contribution I want it to present.