Fayetteville Arkansas | 2015 | Exhibition
Semiautomatic Cenotaphs are memorials for victims of mass gun violence in the United States; the projection of an architectural antidote to the increased frequency of shootings and the disturbingly short cycle of shock, grief, loss, and forgetfulness that accompanies the spectacle of the tragedy.
The project transforms the passivity of automated design and construction into an active critical practice with a social agenda. The work was focused by questioning if the coded language of computational scripting can be asserted with the same ideological force of prose in the modern manifesto.
The rhetoric and capacities of mass customization are germane to recording the effects of gun violence in architectural form. Every mass shooting affects culture at two scales: holistically when considering the tragedy of mass shootings as a national (or global) phenomenon, and locally in the nuanced experiences of communities, families, and individuals. The design approach for the Cenotaphs commences from this observation in the development of a system to account for both the common resemblance and personal specificity of each event of gun violence. Similarity is achieved by constraining the proportion and shape to a sphere modeled after Boullee’s Cenotaph for Isaac Newton, scaled down to reflect the intimate context and for ease of implementation. The distinct aspects of each shooting are captured in the architecture through an algorithm that articulates material differences between structure, thickness, and opacity from data unique to each event.
Ultimately, projects like Semiautomatic Cenotaphs are formats for architecture to assert a sociopolitical imperative through the new means of working available to contemporary practice. And in order to have the broadest influence on the field, architects should continually search to enter into arguments for technology that are critical and affirmational rather than merely optimal or instrumental.
Photography by Ethan Werkmeister