“What is so remarkable is the near total disengagement from signification of any kind. Such a condition is immensely difficult to achieve; mere abstraction does not begin to approach it.” —Robin Evans, 1984.

“I don’t invent colour. I don’t invent anything.” —Rachel Whiteread, 2007.

In the documentary Brillo Box (3¢ Off), when Andy Warhol is asked why he turned a common Brillo box into sculpture, he casually responded, “because it’s easy to do.” He may have been referring to the ease in the ability to quickly make many screen printed boxes, but it’s safe to assume that Warhol was referring to how an everyday consumer item is replicated, compositionally stacked and is easily appropriated as art. Appropriation yields irony which is easily interpreted, but is paradoxically difficult to attain without an alignment of particular social, economic and cultural forces at play. Architecture today struggles to produce easiness. While on the one hand it is operatively easy to make new architectural forms, complex geometries, and provocative representations, producing visual immediacy that simultaneously allows for unexpected readings and interpretations is difficult to realize. As a broader disciplinary discussion, the studio will engage the topic of “easy” and “difficult.” Unlike Warhol’s boxes that work with the signification of a consumer brand, Rachel Whiteread’s Embankment installation of blank boxes makes references to the constructive approaches to space and scale, disengages with signification, while also producing a false simplicity and easiness in its arrangement. The studio will look closely at Rachel Whiteread’s works as examples of ways to enact new readings of materialized constructs.

Project and site

The project will be the design of an office building or “easy” office. The studio will look at deferring the exterior formal agenda of the building to instances of interior office conditions. Students will research the history of the office space, from the pre-technological to the hyper technological office of today and study the evolution of the autonomous office cubicle to the interactive, open office environment, to the emergence of the collaborative, shared office space. Rather than take on the subjectivity of the work space as a proliferation of individualities, the accumulation and assemblage of interior “stuff” will question norms of shared spaces and how the interior is interpreted from its exterior. We will look at spatial and programmatic organization through figural geometries and unexpected material articulation. The studio will engage in a recursive 2D to 3D process where a banal arrangement of office “stuff” yields descriptive flatness as a way of expressing an interior condition on the facade and form of the building. The project will be located in Culver City, an area of Los Angeles that has transformed from a light industrial zone to one that is populated with creative office spaces.


Although sequential, the first half of the semester will take on four procedures to test ways to produce easiness-difficulty. The sequence includes collage of interior stuff, projection of lines that hover between 2D and 3D, the embossed compression of geometries to a thickened surface, and a capture of the interior through casting . During the travel week of the semester, students will visit Los Angeles to document the site and case studies. During travel week we will have a pin-up and discussion of the work to date, as well as tour notable office spaces in the Los Angeles area. In the second half of the semester, students will focus on and develop the building in more detail, from the inside-out.

Assignment 1: Collage—collect, compose, and combine stuff
Assignment 2: Project—extract 2D, form 3D, project 2.5D
Assignment 3: Emboss—building in “built-ins”
Assignment 4: Cast—reciprocity between inside and outside


Brillo Box (3¢ Off), dir. Skyler, Lisanne, documentary, HBO, 2016.

Imagine….Rachel Whiteread: Ghost in the Room , BBC, 2017 (we will provide a link to download due to website restrictions)

Evans, Robin, “1984, In Front of Lines That Leave Nothing Behind.” In Architecture Theory since 1968, edited by K. Michael Hays, pp. 482-489, Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1998.

Lavin, Sylvia, “Architecture in Extremis,” In Log 22: The Absurd , guest edited by Michael Meredith, London: Architectural Association, 2014.

Mullins, Charlotte, “Architectonic Ghosts: House 1993.” In Rachel Whiteread , pp. 39-50, New York: Anyone Corporation, 2011.

Ngai, Sianne, “The Cuteness of the Avant-Garde,” In Our Aesthetic Categories , pp.53-109, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2012.

Somol, R.E. and Sarah Whiting, “Notes on the Doppler Effect and Other Moods of Modernism,” In Perspecta 33: Mining Autonomy, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002.

Venturi, Robert, “The Inside and the Outside,” In Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, pp. 70-87, New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1977.

Open accordion

Other Semesters and Sections of this Course

Spring 2017
Advanced Design Studio: Free Migration
Keller Easterling
Spring 2016
Advanced Design Studio: Architecture Without Content
Caitlin Taylor, Kersten Geers