Building the City from the Inside: Space, Time, and Labor in the Lobby of Neoliberal Urbanism, 1976 – 2005
This is a thesis project about lobby spaces as sites for the production of neoliberal ideas about the city. The project investigates how the lobby has been designed to form a space where the city – often perceived as lost or beyond comprehension – can once again be understood, experienced, commodified, and consumed.
The project is located in the existing research field on “interior urbanism” (Rice, 2016), where historical and contemporary analyses of architecture underscore the interdependency between building interiors and larger urban transformations. The relevance of the project lies in a critique of the notion of autonomy (Aureli, 2011). This critique is unfolded through three case studies that point to the porosity, fragility, and temporary nature of a building’s relation to the city.
The main research questions are: How are ideas about the city produced through the lobby entrance space? What is the relation between the architect’s vision of their projects and the actually existing building today? How does the lobby present, frame, and interact with the city? The main research questions are mirrored in three theoretical themes: Spatiality, temporality, and labor. I unpack these in relation to the three buildings in three cities, and place them in a discussion about the role of architecture in producing specific experiences of the city from inside the perimeter of a building plot: The Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles, Casa da Música in Porto (a concert hall), and Wynn Casino in Las Vegas.
The chapter on spatiality considers the entrance of Bonaventure Hotel as a continuously refurbished threshold that territorializes part of its the exterior street, reflecting the idea of the city as a neoliberal redevelopment project that never ends. The chapter on temporality considers how specific time-spaces generate and shape ideas about the city in Porto’s concert hall Casa da Musica. The third and final case study deals with the labor and infrastructure necessary to produce a specific atmosphere in the Wynn Casino lobby, that at the same time mirrors notions about the outside city of Las Vegas as dilapidated and empty.
Task 02, Proposal for exhibition
Central to this thesis is the production of the city from three buildings, and how this production takes the shape of a continuous process of maintenance, refitting, re-interpreting, etc. If there is such a thing as architectural autonomy, it should perhaps be understood as precisely this process of constant renegotiation. Perhaps architecture’s only “permanent” feature is that it is unfinished? The use of scaffold as the central architectural element in the proposed exhibition design reflects this idea of production, maintenance, and transformation as defining architecture.
Using metal scaffold tubes (diameter of 48 mm and in various lengths), joints, and sheets of 12 mm structural plywood, I propose one exhibition module for each case study, in total three. Held together by a 19-meter long and 1,8-meter wide polypropylene entrance matt (typical for so many lobbies), the three modules form a sequence of gates, where the themes of each chapter can be read (through text and images) and experienced with the body. I propose that the three modules are exhibited in or around the lobby of the buildings they analyze: The Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles, Casa da Música in Porto, and Wynn Casino in Las Vegas.
Exhibition module 1 – Stretching the Threshold: The Long Entrance to Bonaventure Hotel, Los Angeles
The first exhibition module present the discourse around the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles as five layers that visitors experience as a sequence of vertical strips with text and collage-drawings. First, John Portman’s vision of the hotel as an interior public space. Second, Fredric Jameson’s reading of Bonaventure as postmodern hyperspace. Third, the refurbishment works of the entrance by Marta Fry Landscape Architects. Fourth, Charles Rice formal analysis of the “interior urbanism” of Portman. Fifth, the claim made in my thesis project: The entrance spaces to the Bonaventure atrium form a threshold that attempts to open up the previously withdrawn interior to the city, and support an idea of the new downtown Los Angeles as an ongoing redevelopment project that is always about to be completed.
Exhibition module 2 – Staging the Intermission: The Urban Waiting Room of Casa da Música, Porto
Building on a study of the waiting spaces in the lobby of Porto’s concert hall, Casa da Música, the second module is a plywood cave with a bench and 6 views. From the bench visitors look through “windows” (screens placed in niches in the plywood) displaying photographs and videos of the urban landscape of Porto, as it is seen from inside Casa da Música during a concert intermission. The module captures the effect of Casa da Música lobby as a central point for consuming the city, as sensorial experiences of the ongoing concert visit (music, materials, alcohol) are paired with snapshots over the city, all within the temporal frame of the intermission.
Exhibition module 3 – Scrubbing Away the Recession: Labor in the Lobby of Wynn Casino, Las Vegas
Exhibition module three gives the sound, scent, and visual sensation of entering the Wynn Casino lobby. A perpendicular projector projects high-res images of the travertine mosaic floors of the casino lobby. Translucent polycarbonate walls and ceiling reveals the cables, hardware and wiring necessary for this experience to happen. By collapsing the experience of the interior atmosphere with the labor and infrastructure behind the production of such atmosphere, the module underscores a central theme in the chapter: The ongoing real-estate recession of Las Vegas is kept away by continuous labor in the casino, yet the presence of this very work is a reminder of the dilapidation of the outside.