The world is experiencing a shifting work-life paradigm with the rise of coworking spaces and the number of creative class who choose to work in them. The coworker community operates as decentralized workforce rather than following a hierarchical organization, with a certain degree of disjunction presented and desired between the events, space and movement and the readings of undefined coworking spaces. No-sentral, a coworking project proposed across Nu Sentral amidst the dilapidated shophouses of Brickfields as an extension of working network across Jalan Tun Sambanthan away from the 24 office and residential tower blocks of Central Business District KL Sentral. The site is surrounded with 24/7 amenities and great accessibility to public transportation and working opportunity.
In references from theories devised from Tschumi’s architectural disjunctions, real and fictional architectural elements of events, space and movement with varying level of Visibility and Accessibility are disjoined and alternatively distributed across the building without a main central point and clear hierarchy of space; to reflect the organizational hierarchy of the community. It encourages and allows the workers and visitors to move and hot desking around different part of the building in different time of the day to either have a ‘fresh start’ or have a clearer view and be familiarized with the surrounding, thus creating unintended encounter and dynamic interaction within the coworker community. The building established itself as a game of snake and ladders, with its unending circulation filled with alternating program, alternating accessibility, varying space conditions, multiple entry/exit point that provides coworker a game of choice towards an undetermined daily routine and events.
The thesis investigates the limit of Tschumi’s architectural disjunction in providing a multiplicity of readings in fictional and reality to create dynamic movement and interaction in the contingent of coworking community that drives change, embraces organised chaos, uncertainty, and has high demand for humans’ interaction amidst the diurnal and nocturnal coworking community of sharing.”
What prompted the project and interest in co-working spaces?
It is hard to fully understand the needs and situation of what other people faced, moreover having to produce a thesis and building design for them under a short period of time. Rather than trying to diagnose and design for people entirely different than us, and to eliminate that sort of excuses and barrier of understanding, I gain inspiration and motivation towards questioning the possibility of working spaces for people like me, my classmates, and the co-working culture happening among the creative class.
Secondly, my supervisor introduced Bernard Tschumi’s reading to me after I mentioned “Fiction, Causality” as keywords of interest for the thesis. The reading has since captivated me and made me fall in love with it. Eventually, the thesis ended up as a synthesizing process initiated from an academic point of view to theorize and form design strategies from Bernard Tschumi’s reading(theories) that are compatible and applicable for co-working spaces.
Do you see an implosion of this kind of space in the future?
Not entirely. Based on research, it is evident that there is an increasing amount of co-working spaces and the needs for it as the preference and shift in the work-life culture and mobile workforces made possible with technology are rapidly increasing.
However, the project does not aspire to be a solution or an absolute probable scenario for co-working spaces. The kind of spaces presented as the outcome of this thesis is not for everyone. It is for situation and community who have desires and needs for a fictional construct, a certain degree of uncertainty, an undetermined daily routine, or dynamic interactions/encounters in their working environment.
What prompted the use of the pen on the white paper? What is your take on the digital tools through which we operate in relation to the more analogue method of sketching?
There are several reasonings behind the decision. One of the key strength of the readings of Bernard Tschumi, especially “The Manhattan Transcript” is its ability to questions the limit of architectural representation, and the relationship between the viewer, drawing, and its meaning. To better examine the readings, theories while hopefully developing and expanding on the technique, I am advised to explore the thesis consistently using analogue method of drawings and being as close to the technique. My loves, interest and passion in developing manual drawing skill and itself as a uniquely human’s expression of design also fueled the motivation behind this decision. Other constraints such as time and ease of exploration have encouraged me to stick with the decision as there are limitations or weakness of digital tools in exploring certain drawings too. (such as some imperfect, abstract, explorative drawings)
Secondly, it is for an academic presentation in the context of a master thesis at a university. The design itself is already rather complicated. It is a strategic move and my personal intention to reduce the complexity of the production and make the presentation as low-tech as possible, to expose the raw content while removing the makeup and barriers between the viewer and drawing. I gain great pleasure in forming a better connection, conversation and dialogue with any human, including public, architects and academics from different eras. I understand the advantages and logical reasonings behind digital tools. However, I’ve observed that it could be counterintuitive and a rather unnecessary barrier that further worsens the elitism already existing within the architectural community. Anyone including children would understand the process and usage of pen on paper. The focus is fixated on questioning and building knowledge on architectural design, rather than building and showing expertise on digital tools and productions.
How important was it to draw the project in context?
There is some relationship between this project and its surrounding context. However, the way to judge and criticizes the aspects and degree of context being incorporated or being a factor in this project’s outcome is questionable and subjective. For this specific thesis, it is of a type of contextualized concept, in which the main challenge lies in how you apply the concept (the theories, strategy, logic, parameters) onto the specifically selected context. (the one that you selected to be most suited for your concept and best examine the concept)
Other academic or designer may take inspiration on the method of theorizing, some may extract it and experiment the concept on other contexts in their own methods and synthesis. If the concept were to be applied to an entirely different site and contexts, the outcome would be entirely different. Furthermore, the idea of contextualism is heavily emphasized in the academic context of my school. Thus, it is extremely important for me to draw the project in context, based on the specific context I am in and the creative constraints that I am facing and expecting.
How important is both the idea of the Manhattan transcripts as well as the technique of representation in your project?
The Manhattan Transcript is important as it documented the process of Bernard Tschumi in examining his own writings “Architecture and Disjunction” in his own way. It is the key reference for me to study and examine on regarding the relationship between the written texts and the drawings, and Tschumi’s methodology on the forming of the relationships. By doing so, it enables me to form design theories and strategies for the thesis in my own method and interpretation, that all have played a big part into generating the final design outcome of the project.
In term of the technique of representation, many fantastic elements in The Manhattan Transcripts that would create subjectivity and arbitrary interpretations are sadly having to be reduced or stripped off as being part of the representation technique in the project. This is because the thesis remains as an objective study that must be focused, logical and sequentially presented. Many dead ends and failures on the exploration itself occurred to come into that realization. Thus, the thesis at the same time is also about studying and identifying representation technique presented in The Manhattan Transcript that is applicable to my academic context. This resulted in a presentation of content with minimal texts and method that allows a controlled and acceptable level of subjectivity and arbitrary understanding for viewer’s own interpretation and viewing pleasures, in which itself aligns with the strength of the actual design strategies. (co-working spaces with a multiplicity of readings)
To what extent have the writing of Tschumi shaped and affected you as an architect?
I used to think there are absolute rules or merits in perceiving architecture. Before I even begin thinking about thesis and taking my master’s in architecture, I have plenty of questions regarding irrational, illogical design decisions along with the relationship between cause and effect. The writing of Tschumi changed my perspective on the negatively perceived aspect of any dichotomy, providing clues for the possible logical reasons behind something seemingly irrational presented in deconstructivism such as extremely long corridors intentionally made hard to access, or chaotic arrangement of spaces. Studying Tschumi naturally leading up to deconstruction and situationism have also changed my mind on the absolute certainty and hegemonic definitions of various text and context. It made me questions and think about the metaphysical state of architectural elements and epistemology of established architecture rules and knowledge. It has taken away my navigational compass in the design world and opened my perspective designing for human in an ever-changing and increasingly complicated world embedded in multiplicity of meanings.
What would you say is the architects most important tool?
The definition of an architect varies according to location and context. With that said, I would say the ability to think, design and synthesize towards the goal of materializing fictional world onto the human’s reality is the most important tool for an architect in my opinion and current times that I lived in.