Synodic. Adj. “relating to or involving the conjunction of stars, planets, or other celestial objects.”
Over the course of the last 3 millennia, masculine paradigms of extraction and industrialization have become normal as societies have moved away from their connection to the land and, by extension, femininity. This studio seeks to challenge this paradigm by developing a proposal for a Women’s Museum of the 21st Century in Santiago, Chile’s Parque Metropolitano, which extends from the foothills of the Andes bringing nature into the city. The project seeks to provide an alternate path forward by looking to the maternal past as we confront novel climactic and political challenges. More than a collection of objects celebrating women’s lives, the studio and museum aim to bring architecture into harmony with the land—formally, conceptually, and temporally—embodying femininity rather than merely containing it.
Conceptually, this proposal begins with an obscure historical event.
In June of 1936, Chile transitioned from the use of the Julian calendar to the Gregorian, becoming a society which measures the passage of time using the sun rather than the moon.
In so doing, Chile left behind a rich cultural history which embodied a completely different cosmological organization than the heliocentric model of the universe. In contrast, the Mapuche and other indigenous Andean peoples relied on a subjective, geo-centric understanding which synthetically combined astronomy with the creation of monuments like stone gateways. These built forms were used to track and measure the phases of the moon and their relationship to the tides in order to organize and ritualize daily activities, from forestry and agriculture to building. Together, these related phenomena and activities were seen as embodiments of fertility and, thus, femininity.
The proposed women’s museum is a synodic gallery, a building which is simultaneously a tool for measuring seasonal moon events and organizing activities according to them: while the exterior of the building frames specific views of the moon, the interior of the building houses program for the Parque-Met’s nascent forestry program, containing a seed vault, exchange and harvesting program, as well as a space for the germination and propagation of tree clippings.
Formally, as the building extends toward true North from the contours of the Andean hillside, the roof forms an agora space for public debate. The mass of the building below is carved away by the geometry of the moon – measurements for lunar standstill moon rise and moonset, the same marked at Stonehenge, creating void spaces which frame views of the moon on the horizon. These void spaces are lined with thatch produced seasonally from nearby agricultural fields; the seasonal shifts measured by the moon through the gateways physically co-producing the gateways themselves. The residual masses constitute the interior, dedicated to forestry and constructed using Incan stonework techniques.
Here, the exterior gateways frame and curate the synodic subject matter of the museum and play with the museum typology by employing a less contemporary understanding of the gallery as a covered walking area which is open to the outdoors. In this proposal, the paths of the moon and park-goers alike constitute the museum itself.