Drawing Machines Series 1: Counter-spaces and Notation Machines

Category: M.Arch Thesis
Year: 2015
Advisor: Benjamin Flowers
Published: MAS Context No. 27
The modern American city is organized into a multitude of spaces based upon function and use. These organized spaces dictate a prescribed behavior and social awareness resulting in a landscape of ill-fitting and awkward territories existing in opposition to one another.  An unintended byproduct of these collisions is the counter-space.  Akin to slag, sludge and waste resulting from modern industrial processes, the counter-space is the left-over and neglected space of the city resulting from the ever increasing hegemony of society.  Hidden within plain site, abandoned and unused, these spaces exist everywhere.

     This thesis project seeks to understand and reveal these counter-spaces and their subsequent populations within the city of Atlanta in order to bring an awareness to the design of the city for all populations. The spatial-temporalities of counter-spaces will be understood through a deterritorialization of representation through notation and mapping.  Through this act, a “cartography of events” will be created for each counter space using series of notation machines in which temporal factors from each counter-space site will be used as inputs for the machines.

Machine 1: Temporograph
Location: Median of I-75/85, I-20, and various on/off-ramps in Downtown Atlanta, GA

The Temporograph gives voice to a site which has been divided, molded and carved by the intersection of multiple interstates. The site itself provides shelter to multiple individuals of Atlanta’s homeless and transient community.The machine reacts to the temporal juxtaposition existing at the site; five pendulums correspond to one of five stimuli: the movement of car traffic on all four sides of the site and the movement of human traffic on a human footpath through the center of the site. Five sensors are placed within range of each path of movement and register the average flow of traffic existing at the site throughout the day. Weights on the pendulums correspond to the rate and are moved up or down throughout the day in order to register the change in average flow of traffic. The notation that occurs resembles the pulse of an electrocardiogram. 

Machine 2: Stratograph
Location: The former GM Lakewood Assembling Plant in Southeast Atlanta

The Stratograph is a machine that allows the past to be vocalized. The site utilized for this machine exists sits at the edge of several major thoroughfares of the previously busy industrial activity of Atlanta. It also sits in the shadow of the U.S. Federal Penitentiary. Existing next to one penal colony, the site previously housed another form of penal colony: an automotive assembling plant. As white-flight and the move to suburbia drained the city, the factory was eventually closed in the late 1980’s and eventually torn down in the mid-1990’s, leaving a massive concrete plinth within its wake. The site has since developed a patina of plant-life and pollution on top of its concrete shell.
This machine utilizes microscope slides depicting images from the pre-civilized era of the city, the period of growth in which the railroad tracks were built, the beginnings of industrialization and the GM Plant, the plant’s destruction and the subsequent decay of the site. These slides are mounted upon the machine using three adjustable arms; these arms possess several axes of movement. An image of the slides is then projected upon photographic paper, allowing combinatoric plans from various stages in the site’s life to form. The movement of the arms of the machine allow anamorphic projection as well, thus manipulating the angle of the slides and creating new and unique images.

Machine 3: Displacement-graph
Location: The abandoned Alonzo Herndon Stadium at Morris- Brown College

The Displacement-graph acts as a timekeeper for its respective site. The site is the abandoned stadium at Morris-Brown College, an historically African American college located in west Atlanta. Beginning in the early 2000’s, Morris- Brown developed a large debt it still owes, eventually losing its accreditation. The college today has around 30 full-time students. As a result of its decline, the college lost its football team and thus closed its stadium in the mid-2000’s. Sitting in stillness within a half-mile of the Georgia Dome and the future Atlanta Falcons Stadium, the site slowly decays as the years pass.
Running beneath and through parts of the stadium, the MARTA east/west commute line disrupts the stillness of decay several times an hour throughout the day. Responding to this juxtaposition of temporalities, the Displacement-graph drips a combination of water and ink onto a canvas regularly throughout a 24-hour period. Every time a train passes through the site on the MARTA line, a small motor vibrates the plate upon which the canvas sits, thus giving voice to the stillness and movement that occurs throughout the day as this once popular and busy stadium slowly decays to dust.