Traces, Relics & X-rays: The Form of Absence

By Paul Robinson.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Liminal Distances: The Form of Absence portends a multifarious process using both explicit and implicit relationships between traces, relics and x-rays to critically inform how one can architectonically approach, and ultimately touch, existing structures. This speculative process fosters contemporaneous questions concerning the use of technology and architectural representation. Technology – the x-ray – is used as tool and simultaneous impetus for the stimulation of the imagination, thus furthering its connection to the spirit defining architectural visualizations and material constructions

Traces, relics and x-rays are collectively used as constituent artifacts construed into an “artefactual” body defining a poetical present. Liminal Distances can be seen as reciprocal moments within a process becoming that foster a relationship between formal and narrative structures.

Inherent in the intervention and alteration of existing things is the problem of approach. History, ethics, politics, prejudicial bias, program, structure and materiality all converge as a layered milieu of artifactual data: the body of the thing to be altered. Understanding the deep structure of this body and the invention of processes in which to excavate and reconstruct the body’s narrative is an essential preface to architectonic considerations with an interventional directive. This proposes that the modalities used by the Architect to approach existing structures be palimpsestic and quasi-archaeological. Implicit is the idea that the process for interpretation and programmatic intervention go beyond mere formal analysis – although it does not suggest that formal systems and analysis is an unnecessary constituent.

Antecedent to the conceptual tenets of Liminal Distances is the Poetry of Michel Deguy, the collaborative and individual work of Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray and their use of X –rays and photographic transparency, the indexical and spatial castings of Rachael Whiteread and Gordon Matta-Clark and the art and architecture of the Austrian architect Walter Pichler.

Keywords: Architectural Theory and Design, Interventional Design

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 3, Issue 6, pp.259-280. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 3.462MB).

Paul Robinson

Assistant Professor, School of Architecture, University of FLorida, Gainesville, Florida, USA

After studying music at university Robinson pursed a five-year traditional apprenticeship in the shop of an industrial, marine and architectural pattern-maker. He credits this education as teaching him how to see space. Robinson recalls: “A pattern-maker must view the way things are made in reverse. It is a world where things are made by a process of subtraction: always plastic – sculptural – yet precise and tectonic.” Only after spending seven years running his own shop did he begin his formal architectural education at the University of Florida. Upon graduation he received the AIA Henry Adams medal, the highest honor bestowed by the American Institute of Architects upon a design student graduating at the Master’s level, and founded his design practice while teaching part time at the University of Florida. Currently Professor Robinson teaches full time at the University of Florida, School of Architecture and maintains his Practice. He teaches Design Studio, Architectural Theory and Materials and Methods of Construction. His current research explores critical strategies in interventional design as a sustainable approach to existing architectural systems; Technology and the Imagination. Professor Robinson has lectured extensively and has taught in Italy, Slovenia and the US.


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