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2015 Liminal Studio Session 4 Review

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2015 Liminal Studio will review SESSION 4 on Tuesday 05 May 2015 in Architecture Building rooms 801a and 803.

Morning Session

Reviewers: Hendrika Buelinckx, Upe Flueckiger, Mari Michael Glassell, Steve Badgett

  • 12:00pm - Lunch break

Afternoon Session

Reviewers: Murray Legge, Terah Maher, Victoria McReynolds, Steve Badgett

  • 1:30pm - intro
  • 3:45pm - wrap

Project Statement

Smithson understood the prehistory of his site. Beneath the Great Salt Lake was, for some, the center of an ancient universe, and his jetty could have been an elaborate means to bore down to get to it. As if understanding this, Ballard wrote in the catalog text: “What cargo might have berthed at the Spiral Jetty?” he elaborated later to me in a letter: “My guess is that the cargo was a clock, of a very special kind. In their way, all clocks are labyrinths, and can be risky to enter.” The two men had a lot in common, and Ballard believed him to be the most important and most mysterious of postwar U.S. artists. My interest in time, cosmic and human, future and past, as well as the analog spooling of the now, has Ballard at its core.
Tacita Dean. “The Cosmic Clock with Ballard at its Core.” First published in the Guardian 27 April 2009, and then in JG (Glenside, PA: Arcadia University Art Gallery, 2013) page 11. ISBN 9780976215455

Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.
Cormac McCarthy, The Road. 
(New York: Vintage, 2006). ISBN 9780307277923

Shore is a liminal space that exists between civilization and the absolute. 
Jayson Musson and Alex Da Corte, Easternsports. Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, 2014. 

The ambition of this design studio is to develop a particular, distinct and vivid body of architecture research. Work will develop to a level of completion and integrity beyond standard academic studio practice and be held accountable to the details of action that follow the adage of poet and pediatrician William Carlos Williams: “no ideas but in things.”

The studio will examine the liminal horizon of human occupation between landscape—architecture—landscape. Liminal is an adjective commonly defined as: 1) of or relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process. 2) occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold. The examination will be framed and guided by liminal conditions of architecture, its very existence and compositions, as well as liminal site conditions.


The primary site for the studio will be the Great Salt Lake in Utah, however playa lake conditions on the Llano Estacado will also be engaged for analogous testing and development.


The primary program and project for the studio will be a base station for the Great Salt Lake Exploration Platform (GSLEP). Additional supporting projects will further the investigation and propel the primary project.

The Great Salt Lake Exploration Platform will allow visual and performative research to occur within the vastly under explored landscape of the Great Salt Lake. It will enable people to spend periods of time on the lake to examine issues as broad as environmental indicators, perceptual thresholds, diverse land use, and cultural history from a unique and untapped perspective. It can be difficult to imagine unexploited sites of exploration. The remoteness of places near and far have been challenged by the increasing ability of media to access sites with remote sensing technologies. Despite these new and outstanding tools, much remains to be examined in our own backyards. The potency of primary research—first-person truth on the ground—remains paramount for architects, artists, and culture-workers operating among the complex realities of the built environment. The Great Salt Lake Desert is America’s backyard: collecting land-uses, building programs, and expounding material history expelled from other parts of the country. The Great Salt Lake is the lowest and most remote portion of this desert—our nation’s entropic sink. As a fundamentally inhospitable landscape (no fish live there), it holds unique and extreme architectural challenges for even temporary occupation.

The GSLEP will enable a small group people to remain upon the Great Salt Lake for determinate durations of time, and it will include necessary life support and a research infrastructure (shade, fresh water, food and waste storage, solar power, communications, and evacuation provisions), designed to maximize potential. The GSLEP with be designed and built by a collaboration between Chris Taylor and Steve Badgett, and once operational, it will be available to the Center for Land Use Interpretation‘s Wendover residents and other researchers interested in operating on the lake.


The primary ethos of this studio will hinge on intellectual and material risk. David Pye makes the productive distinction in his book The Nature and Art of Workmanship between the workmanship of risk: where “quality of the result is continually at risk during the process of making” and the workmanship of certainty where “quality of the result is exactly predetermined before a single saleable thing is made.” The formal outcome or destination of the studio is not known in advance—it has yet to be invented. Success will be a factor of the collective effort, student and faculty, to advance the questions of the studio and produce a body of research that evidences our inquiry within the language of architecture.

Multivalent assignments will guide the flow of the studio and meter minimal requirements. They are intended to frame performance goals, not limit intentions or responses. It is intended that work products from all registers and iterations will be cumulative and support the evolution of the project. Session reviews and weekly presentations will evaluate experiential evidence of poetic and technical performance. It will be essential from day one that tangible substantiations of intentions are produced.

Additional information can be found at 2015 Liminal Studio.

Rm 801a / 803