SCI-Arc Future Initiatives, Postgraduate Program

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Formless Urbanism

Student: Sarah Maansson
Studio Title: CITY DESIGN STUDIO, FALL 2012 – The Figural City / West L.A.
SCIFI Faculty: Peter Zellner

Freed from datascaping, versioning, arraying, modulating or swarming and delivered from the difficult task of building up total expertise this studio sought to discover and explore the crisis of texture and the predicament of the object. The studio sought to move beyond the the dilemma of the overly formed city and to re-organize its complexities with new tools and new attitudes towards a formless city. Working at the scale somewhere between a block and a district the  studio produced figures and fields, objects and spaces, transits and  networks with the aim of exploring the city as a formless process.

Formlessness, rather than being a disturbance to urban form should be understood as an order of form that we cannot yet reconcile aesthetically, an aesthetic brutality that moves beyond binary oppositions between form and content; towards what Yves Alain Bois and Rosalind Krauss revisit in their User’s Manual for the formless; a third term that is “nothing in and of itself…[that]..has only an operational existence: it is a performative…” The formless city, therefore, is an operation that can “…put the formless to work, not only to map certain trajectories, or slippages, but in some way to ‘perform’ them.” The formless,” Krauss estimates, “has its own legacy to fulfill, its own destiny –which is partly that of liberating our thinking.”

Urban Transects

Figure/Ground – New and existing

Green space – New and existing

Hybrid Figures – footprints and sections


Key Hybrid Figures

Transect detail

Model – West L.A.

Category: Studio Peter Zellner 2011


SCI-Arc's SCIFI is an intensive research-based, post-professional degree program and think tank dedicated to generating pertinent examinations of contemporary civic design, city formulation, and urban regulation.



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February 2013
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