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Normal Architecture

Ong Chan Hao

- Assoc. Prof. Erik G. L'Heureux

This thesis examines the context of practice as an intelligent and aesthetic project in architecture. It is critical about the portrayal of architecture and its formal outcomes, where the architect is reverred as an artistic author, hiding the boxing ring of reality which involves people, their whims and their value systems. The game-like quality of practice that architects have to deal with becomes the protaganist of this thesis, airing the dirty business that we only hear over drinks, and manifesting it as an aesthetic project challeging the preferences of reductivism and hygiene in architecture.

Part I, How to Murder a Thesis, invites the environment of practice by contaminating the thesis methodology. A game was designed, introducing 6 individuals (Lee Lip Jiang, Ng Sze Wee, Ahmad Nazaruddin, Amelia Lim, Jasmine Quek, Seah Ying Xin) to co-author a house project as clients (2 players each in 3 scenarios). Structural engineers Robert Bamford and Philip Wang were also brought in to provide a different value system to the table.

Part II, Normal as Feature, is an exploration on how friction and compromise between parties in practice lead to aesthetic and formal outcomes. 1) The architect’s agency becomes fragmented, appearing in features and details rather than from the whole. 2) These features become opportunities to challenge my aesthetic leanings from modernism, as evidences (and coping mechanisms) of violence in the architecture practice.

Photography is used as a representational tool to extract these fragmented features from the whole, as a claim of agency. The details, although small, take on strange presence in relationship to the rest of the architecture.

Supervisor's comments:

The contingent factors that produce architecture are largely marginalized within the fiction making scenarios constructed in academia. Apart from being an artistic endeavor, the making of architecture is absolutely entangled with critical systems such as capital, labor, codes, clients, personalities, and people. These variables are often rendered as irritants; secondary concerns in the fantasy that education constructs all for “new, novel, and innovation”. The architect’s leadership is to maneuver and dance with the multitude of such forces as they attempt to shape and inflect architecture, yet architecture schools, and thesis itself, largely reinforces the architect’s role as a singular and genius author – a Howard Roark ghost that even percolates here on the equator. Putting the entanglement between architect, client, and engineer at the center, this thesis entangles compromise, friction, irrationality and abuse within the methods of design. The outcome is both a system of design, and an accommodating aesthetic that allows for irritants to inhabit the heart of the thesis and the center of architecture as a discipline.

- Assoc. Prof. Erik G. L'Heureux
Ong Chan Hao

In the end, what matters the most is what you learn.