The appeal of Generic Specificity

Harvard Graduate School of Design

Architecture Studio for Spring 2020 
STU 1316  Generic Specificity
Instructors: Johnston Marklee

The latest definitions of generic and specific originate from the reverse roles that are defined by the International Style of Early Modernism; the generic becomes a device of sterilization and homogenization of everything specific and local, whereas the specific takes the role of regaining all the lost local elements that generality already homogenized.
Basically, the relation between specific and generic could be defined as an eternal loop, that each time, the specific is reclaiming the lost ground of the generic.

Arts District, Los Angeles

This project aims to redefine generic specificity at the territory of Arts District in downtown Los Angeles. The generic type at the building’s exterior contrasts the specific elements of the interior. This condition of contrasts that produces ambiguity between the generic and the specific is used as a tool in order to relate the interior with the exterior.
Designing in a specific context (Arts District, Los Angeles) is inevitably connected with means that identify beauty in that specific context. Beauty can be caused by two factors, according to Colin Rowe; one factor is nature, which is produced by geometry and proportions and the other factor is custom use, which is related to the notion of familiarity.

Plan Level +1

Plan Level +3

Based on this hypothesis, one could argue that there is an analogy between these two notions and the generic specificity.
In other words, the definitions of generic and specific need to be contextualized. Especially the customary beauty cannot be identified without its contextual relations. In this proposal, the purely geometrical and structural qualities of the building are contrasted with the customary that is found through use and familiarity in the interior configuration, by using different modes of artificial and natural light, air circulation and visual connections between the spaces.
The overall form derives from the permitted boundaries of the zoning code, without obeying to the curved wall of the toy factory which is located on the south border of the site. On the contrary, the exterior façade at the north and east side are composed according to the street inclination. The form consists of three basic elements: two bars and one courtyard.
The form of the building results from the aspirations of maximizing the natural light and air in the interior spaces, by creating two similar volumes. These volumes, although they might appear as repetitive figures, they operate as supplementary masses.