Architectural ruins index the total failure of individual buildings, technologies, economies, or, at times, entire civilizations. This course researches the topics of ruination and architectural ruins—what produces them, what defines them, and how they impact individuals, cities, and civilizations on levels from the visual and formal to the philosophical and psychological. The formal and visual materials of this course emerge from the study of ruins from not only the past and present, but also the future, through research into the speculative territories of online “ruin porn,” new genres of art practice, and in particular dystopian television and film projects that reveal an intense contemporary cultural interest in apocalyptic themes. While significant nineteenth-century theories of architectural ruination, including those of John Ruskin (anti-restoration) and Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc (pro-restoration), are addressed, the primary intellectual position of the course emerges from readings and discussions of the philosophical methodology of “ruination.” Student projects involve the philosophical and aesthetic ruination of iconic architectural projects to determine not only their essential qualities, but hidden, latent ones as well. Subsequent group discussion of this work vacillates between philosophical and aesthetic poles in an attempt to tease out new observations on these projects as well as on the nature of ruins and ruination. The self-designed final project is determined pending consultation between the students and instructor, but involves photorealistic failure of past, present, or future architectural or urban projects; dystopic visual speculations; fabrication experiments that test actual material decay and failure; or attempts to reproduce the aesthetic ambitions of ruin porn through the manipulation of existing, or the design of new, projects. The goal of the course is not to convey an existing body of architectural knowledge, but to unearth a new architectural discourse that considers architecture in reverse—emphasizing its decay rather than its creation in an effort to reveal new territories of architectural agency. Limited enrollment.

Last year, the focus of this course was on digitally re-inventing the analogue technique of “kitbashing” to, as a class, produce a single large-format 3d-printed prototype that illustrated potentially new territories for architectural form. Kitbashing originally emerged from the hobby of plastic model building, and involved using pieces from multiple model kits, glued together in unexpected arrangements in order to produce objects that seemed strange and otherworldly. This technique was adopted heavily by designers of 1970’s science fiction films such as Alien, Star Wars, Blade Runner and numerous other films that predated the emergence of digital special effects. The 2014 Disheveled Geometries seminar relied on existing forms that were radically recombined in novel and creative ways. For this seminar we will be building on this research, but directing it in more nuanced formal and theoretical directions involving slippages of perception between forms and figures, and figures and content.

Immanuel Kant in his Critique of Judgment outlines how decisions involving aesthetics are conducted separately from decisions involving intellection. The 19th century art scholar Konrad Fiedler extends this observation and notes that aesthetic judgments occur, in fact, in the brief moment of time prior to a form being recognized and namable linguistically (in Kantian terms “subsumed under concept”). What these philosophically significant observations rely upon is the fact that there is a moment in human perception where a form shifts from being unrecognizable to being recognized as a complete entity, or in aesthetic terms, as a figure. This moment prior to recognition is where aesthetic judgment, for many, is thought to take place—and that once a form is recognized (subsumen), it is then beyond the reach of purely aesthetic judgment— as it has then been tainted by individual ideas about context, linguistics, functions, relationships and expectations. That is to say that you judge a blue vase to be beautiful or not before you linguistically identify it in your mind as a “blue vase,” and understand that its function is to hold flowers. If a form can exist in two states in the human mind- unrecognized and recognized/completed, or in other terms, alien or familiar, then this course assumes that this moment of perceptual shift can be elongated and confused. Given the immense progress in the control of form enabled through computation, we will work under the assumption that architects can now access the flickering zones between these binary opposites in an attempt to produce new languages of the uncomfortably unfamiliar.

This course will enlist readings from a wide range of sources including the history of Aesthetics, Object Oriented Ontology, Deleuzian formalism, Deconstruction, linguistics and art history. While the background will be theoretical the output will be physical. Accordingly, this course will build on the techniques discovered in the Kitbashing seminar and re-invent them towards stranger, recombinant, and partially figuratl ends. For assistance we will enlist the work of artists and designers from a vast wealth of disciplines to help identify and move forward the techniques that produce these figures that exist on the faultline between the figured and unfigured, recognizable and unrecognizable, familiar and alien. As the course is a continuation of the Autodesk-funded “Kitbashing” research, students will each have a 3d printing budget of, at a minimum, $500 each. As with previous Disheveled Geometries courses, there is the possibility that one student may be sent to Garfagnana, Italy for a one-month workshop to CNC mill, in solid marble, a selected project from the course. This will be dependent on funding which has yet to be determined with Autodesk. Course limited to ten students.


Students will be expected to complete a series of assignments during the course of the semester that address the technical aspects of the subject material, as well as the various thematic topics presented in the discussions and lectures. In all design assignments students will be required to produce original and expert work, devoid of errors and omissions on the part of any material or mechanical processes. This is even more important with any 3d printing. That is to say that given the physical and financial resources made available to the students, as well as the professional research standard set in the seminar, no incomplete, damaged, or otherwise sub-standard final projects will be allowed to be presented during any point in the term. As such it is recommended that students test their techniques and materials far in advanced of the production of projects, in order to assure the efficacy of the process. Alternatively, students may outsource their fabrication to professionals outside of the school in the event that the schools resources are unable to reliably produce the intended result. Such outsourcing, per the rules of the school, must be clearly labeled in subsequent portfolio or award submission materials.

Individual project

Students will, using magazines, online sources, physical objects, and other forms of research to compile a collection of ten examples of partial figuration, or forms that fit within the sensibilities described in the introductory lecture. Students will print one 8x10 page per project at 150 dpi, for a pinup/post-it session, all in color, where we will distill the significant formal aspects of each proposed form. Simultaneous to this exercise students will 3d model, a single partial-figure derived from their research and manipulated towards more contemporary ends. The ten images and one 11 x 17" 150 dpi photo-realistic rendering of the 3d model will be reviewed in class. All renderings must be done in solid marble using Keyshot and exhibit sub-surface-scattering properties.

Turntable project

Students will take a highly refined version of the form produced in their first exercise, or form groups with other students, to produce a single Keyshot “turntable” rendering of their form. These will be reviewed and discussed in class relative to a short accompanying reading.

Class project

Based on the individual student projects the class will develop one or multiple aesthetic directions based on particular techniques. Students will then propose physical projects individually or in small groups that will likely be 3d printed and presented relative to the technological and philosophical content of the course.


The four previous Disheveled Geometry courses were documented in 200-300 page books which were distributed widely. This seminar will also culminate in the production of a book that, likewise, documents all of the research done, as well as the final post-seminar fabrication in Italy by the selected student. The research and documentation of process is as important as the final product and is a significant part passing this course.

All Semesters

Spring 2017
Disheveled Geometries: Kitbashing Modernist Icons
Mark Foster Gage
Spring 2016
Disheveled Geometries
Mark Foster Gage