Reflections of the Immersed Self

Date:  Spring 2013
Technology Core Studio
Institution:  UCLA M Arch I
Critic:  Neil Denari

At John Lautner’s Chemosphere House (1960), an essential experience occurs from the point of view of a “relaxed viewer” gazing out across the Los Angeles skyline. The following design proposal demonstrates a particular interest in creating a perceptual experience rooted in a deep interior. To accommodate the “cineramic” or immersed viewing subject, a large physical model was constructed to capture a sweeping gaze and undermine the notion of a single or privileged point of view.


PRECEDENT: Chemosphere House

At the Chemosphere, an essential experience occurs from the interior point of view of a “relaxed viewer” gazing out across the Los Angeles landscape.  For the last century, two subjects have dominated discourse on spatial organization in architecture; first the static viewer fixed in Cartesian space and, second, the subject in motion following the path of the Modern promenade.  In both instances, perspective techniques capture a subject’s attention directing vision towards specific focal points.  Architect John Lautner, deviates from both Cartesian perspectivalism and the Modern promenade in his design for the Chemosphere as his accommodate a third type of viewer—the “cineramic subject.”   Don Yoder describes in a dissertation on Lautner that, “This relaxed viewer finds freedom and pleasure in the enveloping ‘widescreen’ frames.”

The cineramic subject is not restricted to read space from a single or series of predetermined points of view—rather, at the Chemosphere the subject experiences space through a gaze, absorbing visual content through what art historian Erwin Panofsky describes as a “spheroidal” field of vision.  Unlike a perspective-based experience, spheroidal vision operates as the eye continually scans back and forth.  At the Chemosphere, Lautner further encourages a spheroidal reading in his choice to design a completely columnless interior space.  He introduces the possibility for overlapping lines of sight and multiple points of view.

A sharply defined roof and ground plane at the Chemosphere anchor a viewing subject in space and fame the sweeping landscape beyond.  Vision is transported as the octagonal plan stretches continually towards the periphery and a distant horizon.  At the Chemosphere Lautner makes a particular choice to tilt all of the glazing inward at the top of the fame restricting the occupant’s field of vision.  Lautner states, “I purposely sloped the glass to in so when you stand up against it you can’t look straight down.  You are forced to look at the magnificent view.”  In tilting the glass at the Chemosphere, Lautner suppresses the perception of a “middle ground.”  Gazing through a 65’ interior space, furnishings and occupants populate an intimate foreground condition while Los Angeles populates a distant background.  The effect of using the architecture to frame the surroundings “all at once” collapses the spatial experience into a distinct background and foreground experience.  Ultimately, Lautner employs this technique to produce a “floating sensation” and the perception of infinite space.



PROJECT: Reflections of the Immersed Self

The following design proposal demonstrates a particular interest in creating a perceptual experience rooted in a deep interior. To accommodate the “cineramic” or immersed viewing subject, large drawings and a physical model were constructed.  In the model, a mirror lining an interior wall (virtually) doubles the interior volume and extends the panorama. To eliminate perception of a middle ground, the window frame is softened by three primary techniques; first, the floor gently slopes towards the glass deemphasizing the model’s edge. As the floor surface slopes, it also prevents viewing occupants from directly approaching the model’s edge and, ultimately, promotes a point of view set back in space.  To further encourage a sweeping view and scanning of vision, the glass is segmented in the frame along a radius.  Finally, a bevel in the interior wall accepts the glass and pulls vision back in towards the interior.

When drawing the building envelope, we turned to the aerospace industry to create a building section that was thin and smooth.  Similar to John Lautner’s Chemosphere, we chose to conceal the high tech between surfaces choosing to draw a carbon fiber monocoque assembly with corrugated carbon fiber fused between two stressed skins.

 California Polytechnic State University 
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