The pedagogical methods of John Hejduk, Ulrich Franzen and Robert Slutzky at the Cooper Union School of Architecture in the 1960’s was crucial for Daniel Libeskind‘s linguistic development while still a student. Undergraduates were given a series of exercises on “the visual discoveries of Cubism and Neo-plasticism” and, among some very constrained assignments, one asked to design a building “in the intention of Juan Gris“. The overlapping of visual art and architecture was explored by means of collage works aimed to explore space and form and “to demonstrate the concept of pure plastic composition“.
Collage became a central method of research for a young Libeskind, who dedicated his thesis project (published in “Education of an Architect – Cooper Union 1964-1971“, Rizzoli Press and shown at MoMA in 1971) to this very theme. A series of drawings called Collage Rebus were based on the deconstruction of architectural plans and the consequent creation of three-dimensional, axonometric drawings based on the plans’ recomposition, in a similar vein to Bernard Hoesli‘s method as a teacher at the University of Texas.
Orthogonal or 30° rotated grids provided the framework for the recreation of complex geometries while the translation to axonometry offered a tool to explore formal relationship and spatial ambiguity as opposed to the pretended objectivity intrinsic in the axonometric representation. In his writings for Micromegas and Collage Rebus, the architect explains that no hierarchical order and no physical layering is present in his collage drawings. In fact, a sense of blending and confusion permeates the result, as no element is on top of another and is thus impossible to understand where the piece begins and ends.
(Click to enlarge)
Hannah Pavlovich, Forms and Formalism (Micromegas: Complete Incompletion)
Jennifer A. E. Shields, Collage and Architecture (New York, NY: Routledge, 2014)