Zhao Sheng

MArch I

Those Pregnant Images I Would Like to Bring Back to China

Advised by Jorge Silvetti

Since modernity, the term “atlas” has garnered a meaning beyond an accumulation of maps, referring also to the practice of collecting images. Aby Warburg collected 971 images in his Bilderatlas Mnemosyne to create a model of historical memory that transcends cultures. Gerhard Richter brings atlas to the level of a methodology, as a means to reflect upon his own geopolitical identity. 

It was never a rare practice even to architects—Aldo Rossi had his private Polaroid collection, Eduardo Souto de Moura has his “wall atlas” in his atelier. From the thousands of images that I have amassed, I collect 60. There are photos I took, illustrations I claimed, and pictures I borrowed. From there I dare to say, a building will be made. 

In these images, I am looking for what Roland Barthes calls the noeme—the essence. Punctum should be separated from studium to allow us to twist meanings. Images should be played with, just as they were by the likes of Richard Prince, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, David Salle, and Annette Lemieux. Images ought to be exhausted, and only then can we make the jump to designing a building. The project, in the end, shall contain only images—those I collected as well as those I produced. Good architects rarely reveal the path from their images to their buildings and are reluctant to explain their process. The thesis is to unfold this process. 

Hands and photos

Image of hands taking a set of books out of a box.

Image of hands flipping an accordion book with an image on each fold.

Image of hands flipping an atlas book and looking at a spread with 60 images.

Image of hands flipping an atlas book with nine images randomly picked and presented on each page.

Image of hands flipping an atlas book with original image on the left and modified image on the right.