As Alejandro Zaera-Polo argues for the politics of the building envelope, the surface of a building is always tasked with mediating between opposing realms of interior and exterior, between public and private. A material thickness caught between the representational image of a building and its organizational logic, the building facade adds yet another set to Zaera-Polo’s dialectics: the drawing and the material reality.
This material thickness has diminished over time as the facade has shed its load-bearing responsibilities. This thinning of the facade has aided the economic demand for maximum interior square footage, working in tandem with the stacked, repeated, rectilinear floor plan. The conclusion of this progression into a totalizing, gridded curtain wall is the culmination of an orthographic mindset. However, as new technologies have challenged the dominance of an orthography in representation, can those changes also manifest in architecture itself?
If vectors represent the computational equivalent to traditional orthographic drafting, then the direction forward lies in the raster. Rendered depth, a quality lacking in many of our conventional architectural drawing formats, has an affinity to the raster that is overlooked yet highly pertinent to a world of post-orthographic perception. An operation unique to a raster format, “blurring” resists dialectics of in or out, public or private, and drawing or material reality. It creates a productive ambiguity that a facade after the curtain wall can embody.
This thesis proposes a blurred facade, envelope, and elevation situated along the High Line in Manhattan, where the clash of a compressed public sphere and insulated interior places new pressures on the role of facade. In so doing, the project interrogates the link between representation and design, and suggests a new direction forward for architecture in a post-orthographic world.