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Typographic Interventions on Architecture

If Buildings Could Speak, Here's What They Wouldn't Say.

Given its dual nature as both art and science, architecture is often marginalized from other art forms. But even where architecture is art, perhaps because of its materiality and scale, its interaction with other art forms is scarce and difficult. Music, painting, cinema, dance: these can frequently walk hand-in-hand. But not architecture. With this in mind, the first goal for this project was to create artistic interventions that would interact with architecture and use it as an essential part of the composition. The straightforward nature of typography, its flexibility, low impact, temporary nature, variety in aesthetics and, above all, its powerful way of delivering a message proved to be a great tool for this purpose.

The second goal was to exercise, in an uncommitted way, critical thinking—uncommitted because the studies were not based on documented data, as that was not the intention. The main focus was to fly free during the (creative) process: reflect upon a certain circulating story regarding the chosen building and create a provocative message on it utilizing type. The case studies that follow were selected for being buildings that could be easily photographed—and easily accessed—and had enough information online regarding its physicality so that 3d models could be produced for final images. The three case studies are:

Art Nation Without Representation

Some think of graffiti as a mere act of vandalism, represented by “tags”—a stylized handwriting of a person’s name, usually done to property, private or public, without permission. While tags are its original and most popular form, graffiti art has evolved to become much more. It is common to spot colourful, provocative, spray-painted pieces in urban city spaces. While some consider them a nuisance, its unique looks and elements—with intricate compositions and provocative content—have contributed to its recognition in the art world as a legitimate (urban) art form.

While tags have very little visual appeal, more complex pieces are aesthetically captivating. The planning—including finding the right location and sketching a composition—, the incorporation of great diversity of artistic elements, and the in-situ improvisations show the extent of the artistic complexity involved in creating these urban pieces. Wildstyle, the calligraphic style of interlocking letters, for instance, is an artist’s interpretation of the alphabet, and generally relies on the use of primary colors, fading, and foreground/background composition. As Kant puts it, the artist's intent is what defines if the work is or isn't considered art.

The case study shown here combines many of the singularities of graffiti: 1) A specific and singular alphabet, hand-written, bold in colors and shape; 2) Use of foreground and background composition; 3) Vivid colors and gradient; 4) Protest message “Art Nation Without Representation”, illustrating graffiti’s categorization as a yet marginalized art, not worthy of bigger museums and galleries; 5) Location: the outside, rather than the inside, of an art museum. This is also in reference to the illegal and clandestine placing of these works on various facades in the urban environment.

The National Gallery of Art is a national art museum in Washington, D.C., located on the National Mall, between 3rd and 9th Streets, at Constitution Avenue NW.

The Invention Of The Airplane

Mainstream aviation historians, especially in the US, credit the Wright Brothers with the creation of the first successful heavier-than-air flying machine, able to take off under its own power and capable of sustained and controlled flight. The Wright Brothers used a launching rail for their 1903 flights and a launch catapult for their 1904 and 1905 machines—and continued to use skids for their subsequent flights, which necessitated the use of a dolly running on a track for takeoff.

Outside of the US, however, and especially in Latin America and Europe, the invention of the airplane is credited to Brazilian aviator Santos Dumont. The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, founded in France in 1905 to verify aviation records, stated among its rules that an aircraft should be able to take off under its own power in order to qualify for a record—the aircraft had wheeled undercarriages. Supporters of Santos Dumont maintain that this means the 14-bis was, technically, the first successful fixed-wing aircraft.

The Wright Brothers flew earlier with no official witness, except for their own diary entry, and Santos Dumont took off on wheels before the Wrights did, earning a variety of prizes and official records in France. Santos Dumont’s flights in the 14-bis contributed to the development of aviation by publicly demonstrating the feasibility of heavier-than-air flight, which encouraged other pioneers in Europe to begin or quicken the pace of their experiments.

The case study shown here challenges the data officially displayed by the National Air and Space Museum by showing conflicting information regarding the name of the inventor of the first airplane, date and place of feat, and air-craft name.

The National Air and Space Museum, of the Smithsonian Institution, holds the largest collection of historic aircraft and spacecraft in the world. It is located on the National Mall in Washington, DC, at 600 Independence Ave SW.

My Anaconda Don't Want None Unless You Got Buns Hun

The John F. Kennedy Memorial Center for the Performing Arts, known as the Kennedy Center, is the busiest performing arts facility in the US: it produces and presents, as stated online, “the greatest examples” of theater, dance, ballet, and music (orchestra, chamber, jazz, popular, and folk), in addition to multi-media performances for all ages. The Center contains three main venues: concert hall, opera house and theater, which host both national and international performances. These performances attract very selective audiences. The Center also has five smaller venues, with vast program offerings, for simpler attractions.

Despite efforts to expand its reach beyond the stereotypical arts-center member (white, wealthy, and over 40), there’s still a lack of audience diversity. Significant artistic movements are left out or underrepresented: hip-hop, rap, street dance, latin music,to name a few, are strongly present in today’s American urban culture, but not in the Center’s seasonal programs.

The piece above features the chorus of Baby Got Back, by Sir Mix-a-Lot, displayed on the Center’s facade—its imposing and luxurious architecture and interior in contrast with raw, urban slang words. Formally, the words are placed as to interact and add to the already existing visual rhythm of the building’s facade and columns.

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is a performing arts center located on the Potomac River, at 2700 F St NW, adjacent to the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C.