Literal Arts
UCLA 2011, Professor: Roger Sherman
Program: Night Club + Performance Venue
Location: Sunset Strip: Los Angeles, CA
Size: 20,000 SF

In Today's identity-inflated culture, there is a desire to imbue projects with the capacity to become destinations in themselves which is increasingly at odds with that of engaging the gritty exigencies and realism of their surrounding context. All to often this is translated to a parsing of disciplinary responsibility, wherein the fields of art, advertising and filmmaking (visual effects) are looked to as offering the power of public attraction, while architecture works comparatively in the background, managing interior function and reconciling it to exterior demands. This can be seen as a development that is in no small part due to the fact that those other design disciplines are more comfortable in working with the more direct, or LITERAL forms of visual communication with which the public is fluent, in contrast to the more abstract, geometrical and plannerly medium of architecture, which is driven more by medium than message.

Using this discursive context, the studio explores how architecture might recover its popular mojo and consequently it public agency, by employing the communicative and drawing power of LITERAL PRACTICES, whose enigmatic power and attraction lies in altering reality rather than supplanting it altogether with a virtually-conceived alternative. Like a Rorschach, the Literal exploit’s the uncanny as a form of conceptual and perceptual puzzle that begs to be seen, understood and played to be believed, particularly as it relates to the address of multiple audiences. The instrumentality of such an approach is tied to the fact that in today’s media-saturated culture, the uncanny possess more stickiness than either formal intricacy or elegance. The uncanny aspect of the Literal aims to elicit a double-take: a “can’t believe my eyes” curiosity that delivers the answer only by inviting closer or by repeated inspection in order to divulge its logic. Unlike Las Vegas-style gimmickry, it takes the hucksterism of the one liner seriously, both as a speculative construction that has the mechanism by which to smuggle in disciplinary relevance. As in theatre and magic, the means and methods of production of the Literal are therefore necessarily concealed-both as a precondition to the estrangement that it is intended to elicit and as a means of masking the incommensurate relation between outward appearance and interior arrangement.

This project explores reflectivity and the ability of mirrors to distort and collage reality as we perceive it. The form comes from the desire to create two large rear-view mirrors angled according to sight lines along Sunset Blvd. Both the East and West facing mirror are angled so that they are able to reflect the activities in the sunken courtyard. These reflections montage the activity of the club with a billboard appliqué on the mirror to give the driver along sunset the appearance of a live-action collage.