Author : Benjamin Ruswick

University : Harvard Graduate School of Design

Status : MArch, 2015

Advisor : Mariana Ibanez

Title : C.A. Denari’s Inverted Observatory (or) The House of Terrestrial Constellations

The Inverted Observatory is a reaction to world’s increasing capability to make and accumulate in conjunction with our growing desire and ability to preserve, through varying media, everything we produce. Codified and consumable at its point of inception, [ information ] in the 21st century is produced so rapidly and efficiently, that the total volume of information embedded in the collection of all recorded history before the year 2000 is matched by that produced by contemporary society every single day.

Not only are the composite parts of the world increasing exponentially toward an unforeseeable, perhaps infinite total, but the [ scale of access ] to its sum total is shrinking – formulated now for the privileged individual. We not only have access to this information, but with it have achieved a mastery over its vessel. We can view microscopic characters at thousands of times their actual size, collapse impossibly distant nebulas to a two dimensional image, all while rotating, translating, and scaling the globe in which we ourselves (and this privileged view) are placed, with a few swipes of our finger. These manipulations are of course performed on a representational avatar. But the representation is fast modeling itself after the Empire’s Map, stretching out over itself, and spreading thin for its vastness. With time it will either wear thin, or overtake its subject – this project is an interpretation of the latter.

This thesis is a study in the natures of infinite accumulation; the total collection’s increasing reduction to a common visual singularity; and the relationship between recollection and history-making – does the preservation of such a total history require it’s own accessibility?

As its site, the project takes the point at which all the world’s infinite views converge. It doesn’t operate within, but rather around and for this site.

Positioned in a time after the end of archaeology, all the world’s evidential past has already been collected or disintegrated. In realizing the irrevocability of history, our position between our origins and ends is fixed – and we find ourselves operating entirely within the nebulous discomfort of Frank Kermode’s “middest” – an anxiety experienced in being unable to place ourselves at the beginning or end of our own histories. Amelioration is proposed through an investment in the dissolution of future loss.

The observatory is purposed to document and [ preserve ] the world and it’s growing collection. Its relationship to it is hierarchical, surpassing the earth’s insistence of its own static condition as the new absolute object.

The structure is a [ vessel ] for the architectural character of the operation. The collection of infinite views are conducted through a series of rectifications, forming densities and collisions that result in a volumetric repositioning of the two-dimensional actions. The world is repeatedly etched onto the infinite collection of infinitesimal moments in which the machine operates, rewording the world’s narrative in a continual renewal and reformulation of the collection’s parts and relationships.

By scaling, rotating, and moving the world, it achieves, in the form of an abstracted and reductive reproduction, the archival of infinite views and moments – transcribed onto singularity’s casing – the cumulative constellation of time and space’s collapse to its own center – an indecipherable, yet total repository for the entirety of the world.


S//A : What’s the most important aspect of this project that we should be aware of?
Benjamin Ruswick_ This project is less a description or representation of a specific architecture than a functional collection of familiar architectural tropes and techniques that are used to explore questions posed or suggested by the nature of the discipline, yet entirely outside its purview.

S//A : What other fields outside of architecture interest you?
BR_ It’s a hard question to answer because many interests outside of architecture that I’ve had recently have been bent towards it, some to the point of inseparability. If I wasn’t on the architecture track, I like to think I’d have ended up as a marine biologist – there’s something about life performing in an entirely different medium that is pleasingly uncanny to me.

S//A : Most important thing you learned in architecture school?
BR_ It’s productive to always learn and absorb as much as you can, but it’s been important to remind myself that my own interests and techniques are valid, as is everyone’s – voice is crucial.

S//A : Describe your dream project
BR_ A project as an unending body of work – one that can continue in many different forms. I like the idea of pursuing separate projects as pieces of a larger, single interest.