The
  Cornell
    Journal
      of
        Architecture
16
Dash



Jimenez Lai is the leader of Bureau Spectacular. He has built numerous installations, and has been widely published and exhibited, including the MoMA- collected White Elephant. Lai was named a winner of the Architectural League Prize for Young Architects in 2012. He received his M. Arch. from University of Toronto. Lai has also worked for various international of ces, including OMA.

Interviewed by Lily Chung (M. Arch. ’15), Andreea Gulerez (M. Arch. ’16) and Jose Ibarra (B.Arch.’16).



Eds.
You mentioned that dashed lines ultimately describe things, spaces, materials, or ideas that are “simply not there.” The dashed line is of interest to us in this issue because it itself is half there and half not there, and it implies something in the drawing that is present but not necessarily visible: something above, something beyond. What does the dash mean to you and how do you use or misuse it in non-conventional ways?

Jimenez
Perhaps one of the most intriguing line-types in the standards of architectural drawing is the dashed line. Depending on its density, size, placement, or application, it also carries other names, such as hidden line or dotted line. This line-type has the proper- ties of indicating matters beyond the cut, behind the surface, fold lines, construction lines, exploded guides, translucency, embedded material, vector of forces, property ownership, disputed borders, soft separations, annotated callouts, circulation paths, incomplete phases, ghosted solids, and so forth. The differentiations of its pluralistic use rely on distinct and speci c articulations accepted by the profession. But what remains consistent is that this line-type always describes materials or ideas that are simply not there. The dashed lines can simultaneously contain more than one message. As a communication device, this allows a storyteller to use ambiguity to suggest multiple readings of the same thing. A dashed line circle around a solid circle could be describing Johnson Wax column by Wright, or the range of a donkey on a leash tied around a pole. The exact same drawing could be read very differently.

Perhaps one of my favorite types is the dash-dot-dash — often it communicates ownership of territory. Whether it is a property line, or property claims, it produces the injections of selves as compartments in plan. This line-type is a great opportunity to tell stories — it de nes characters, declares stages, and anticipates alliances or con icts.




Eds.
Your inclination to use the dashed line in your drawings allows the viewer to interpret your work in a myriad of ways — that is, one could envision oating surfaces, highlighted areas, fenced spaces, and such. How relevant is this interpreta- tion to you, and would it entail new versions of your existing work?

Jimenez
The room for interpretation is extremely important to me. The best kinds of stories, to me, are ones where a reader is able to re ect on new thoughts whether or not the author meant for it. This includes the room for incorrect misreads — for example, one of my favorite drawings is the plan of Oscar Niemeyer’s Das Canoas House.




As the various line-types travel in and out of each other, I begin to gather thoughts on the spaces of overlaps. The superimposition of the gures produce many Venn diagrams, and it can be up to the reader to consider the social, physical, programmatic, and material implications. The drawing of Das Canoas House can be reinterpreted into ve or six different houses. This is also why I prefer to make at drawings than drawings containing vanishing points — it is much easier to misread a at drawing than a perspective.

Eds.
Cedric Price considered himself the “anti-architect no. 1,” and was said to draw only dashed lines. How do you relate yourself to him? How would you reinterpret his spaces?

Jimenez
One of my interests in the Fun Palace is the overabundance of diagonal elements. The overstructured, truss- lled interior implies that many moments within the interior would contain a world of acute angles. Acute angles in section are dif cult to use, and it is a very subtle way to create obstacles to an otherwise open and exible plan. The dissolution of exibility means the possibility to calibrate speci city. Similar to the interior of OMA’s CCTV in Beijing, the truss- lled interiors prevent the architectural plans from being any longer “typical” or “ exible,” but now the of ce spaces would have to negotiate around the ample amount of 45-degree angles over their heads. Since these diagonals do not touch ground at the exact same points as where the members touch the ground, the drawing registers a different material reality. In this way, the Fun Palace could be a world of dashed lines in plan.



Eds.
Your work at times engages with satirical elements, comic strips, ction: What is the role of ction in architecture, and how has it been productive in your work?

Jimenez
An RFP (that is, a request for proposal) could be a work of ction. It is a collection of material that is not necessarily real in a material sense, but certainly evokes a plausibility to be real. Sometimes the sense of plausibility is so high that somebody could be convinced to spend millions and pour concrete into such a work of ction.
Fiction has another role in architecture — it opens an opportunity to cross- examine parallel realities. It is possible to produce ve or ten versions of the same reality during a design process. This allows all parties involved to foresee several futures before choosing something to go forward with.

Eds.
In your book, Citizens of No Place, you mention that cartoons are more than just rendering techniques that they “dance” between the line of narrative and representation. Do you use cartooning to brainstorm ideas or communicate messages that would be too cryptic otherwise?

Jimenez
Cartooning is for sure a way to brainstorm ideas — it is a great design technique. Cartoons can be the caricatures of famous people, where a re-representation of the subject matter relies on the exaggerations of familiar visual qualities. I would say this is a very contextual way of looking at the status of typologies. It builds on the communicative qualities of an idea, and expands upon it. Through this, a story is told, retold, represented and re-represented into something new.



Eds.
Are your drawings static when nished, or do they continue to live on, to potentially be reanimated with new layers as time goes on?

Jimenez
It depends on the drawing. Certain drawings are dead as soon as they leave the table, but others nd new beginnings when unforeseen qualities about them reemerge in new projects. This is why the role of misread is so important — if the exactness of the drawings are the only goals, we never learn anything else beyond the task at hand.

Eds.
In your White Elephant project, the mini-building/maxi-furniture installation you built in the LoT exhibition space (Louisville, KY), are you implying that occupants themselves become the “white elephant in the room”? How would you relate this to its ability to tumble in multiple orientations?

Jimenez
Inside the Farnsworth House, there is a single object that contains the kitchen, bathroom, closet, replace, storage, and MEP. This object, to me, is a proto- super-furniture. It is not only an object with a Swiss-Army-Knife–like composite of functions, it de nes the spaces around it. The shape of this object is a rectangle — meaning, no nooks and crannies can be found to produce contractions and expansions of spaces. In my recent developments, I am trying to nd ways for this gure-ground relationship to impact the dimensions and qualities of the gaps. This is why the multiple orientations of the White Elephant was an important beginning — it contains an abundance of gyrations.




Eds.
Archigram’s Plug-In City is a project that you have used as a reference in the past. The project’s constantly evolving nature and exibility can be interpreted in many ways. If you were to misread and redraw the following image, how would you do it?



Eds.
The project below is described on your website as “an aggregation of character-like gures,” using multiple projections to “introduce plural readings of the same mass.” Based on our conversation, how would you produce your own plural reading of your below work?




Eds.
Keeping in mind the spirit of this conversation, and the ideas we have discussed regarding dashed lines and representation, can you redraw an interpretation of a future project of yours that does not exist yet?



Eds.
Thanks for the original drawings, Jimenez.

Jimenez
No problem. Must dash!


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