Liam Shu-Ling Rachel
Beyond 'Blackboxes'

Thesis supervisor: A/P Joseph Lim

An Ever-changing Urbanscape in New York City

“The screen is no longer a one-way mirror… It is starting to reverse, so that it is no longer simply projects… what happens when we insert our whole body, like Alice, inside?” (Guretin, 2006).


With the advent of technology, screen-based art has emerged beyond planar configurations into an evolving digital landscape which is spatial and interactive. A relatively new phenomenon, the project looks at interjecting key digital light galleries that transforms a megaplot in New York City into a fertile space where digital artists, researchers and New Yorkers interact, collaborate and innovate.

These key digital light galleries break away from their ‘blackbox’ typology where they continually transform, crafting dynamic and ever-changing landscapes. The project challenges the contemporary city that has evolved into a capitalist city. Disrupting the rigid Manhattan grid, an existing postal service block is ‘cracked open’, introducing new spatial layers. Like the street, the architecture serves as a medium for the unpredictable, the spontaneous and the unplanned.

A Quick Brown Fox Jumped Over A Lazy Dog
Digital Components and Systems

The first part of the thesis explores how reading of space and depth is no longer constrained by permanent building systems. Instead, the spatial composition and visual quality  by permanent building systems. Instead, the spatial composition and visual quality changes with the play of light

through digital components and systems. By incorporating key findings, digital systems are integrated for projections to take place beyond ‘blackboxes’. These ‘dancing boxes’ play with light and screens to transform the inside, outside and the in-between.

The Contemporary City

The thesis looks at the contemporary city that has evolved to become a ‘capitalist city’. Dissected into isolated segments, it has transformed into a marketable commodity that eradicates spaces of encounter for play and interaction. Koolhas termed its block typology as ‘lobotomy and schism’.

As building blocks proliferate the city plane, the cracks between them are forgotten and left behind as residual spaces. The Manhattan Street holds the ‘thirdspace’ where spontaneoud and meaningful encounters unfold.

With a direct visual connection to the exhibition space, the seminar rooms become an extension of the events that are happening around them. The exhibition space itself occupies the first storey hall and can be expanded vertically with multi-storey booths, improving connections with the conference spaces on the higher levels.

The architecture responds to existing site edges by carving through and punctuating into existing postal service block. Key urban spaces and galleries interact with edges, bringing the urban street life in while introducing new spatial layers (open, digital, in-between).

Digital art is a relatively new phenomenon and lies within the intersection of art and technology. While there is so much to explore and innovate in the evolving digital landscape, digital exhibits are often confined within the white walls of traditional galleries.

The proposed architecture turns the megaplot into a fertile space that goes beyond physical blackboxes - Constantly changing and interacting with the urbanscape. digital artists, researchers and Newyorkers continually interact, collaborate and innovate.