“Great architects build structures that can make us feel enclosed, liberated or suspended,” wrote Matteo Pericoli in an opinion piece for the New York Times. “They lead us through space, make us slow down, speed up or stop to contemplate. Great writers, in devising their literary structures, do exactly the same."
Creative writing students in the “Laboratory of Literary Architecture” course at the Columbia University School of the Arts (SOA) in New York tried their hand in architecture. Here are a few examples of what they came up with:
“The Falls” by George Saunders— Project and essay by Javier Fuentes, SoA Fiction, in collaboration with Lorenzo Villaggi, M.Arch ’15
"The Falls" narrates the story of Morse, the main character, and a man who is so self-conscious and paranoid about what people in the town of St. Jude might think of him, that he becomes almost paralyzed by a myriad of possibilities. What the model is ultimately trying to convey is that when you are inside this structure, traveling back and forth, up and down, there is an imperious desire to discover the space as you become overwhelmed by its magnitude.
“Disgrace” by J.M. Coetzee— Project and essay by Joanne Yao, SoA Nonfiction, in collaboration with Chelsea Hyduk, M.Arch ’15
Disgrace by the South African author J.M. Coetzee is a book that contains a universe of themes. But at its core, it is the story of David Lurie, a professor of English at a university in Cape Town, South Africa, who experiences several cataclysmic life events. Lurie is publically discredited as an educator and denounced as immoral after he rapes a student. The rectangular shape of the model is meant to recall a plot of soil on a farm, Lucy’s farm, where Lurie begins his journey. The path represents the superficial shifts in Lurie’s attitudes, the temporary responses caused by the life-altering events he experiences. Because the events change his life but have little lasting effect on his principles, they’re shown here as knife-like slices that cut through the soil but only change the path insofar as to make it shift to the left or to the right. This is a game for the eye, of sorts. The slices do not affect the path in a meaningful way and ultimately, the path continues in the same direction.
“To the Lighthouse” by Virginia Woolf— Project and essay by Catherine Pond, SoA Poetry, in collaboration with Stephanie Jones, M.Arch ’15
The three sections of the model (the first house, the breezeway, the final house) represent the three sections in “To the Lighthouse” by Virginia Woolf. In designing a house with a similar structure to the novel, there should be two structures, and a passageway connecting them, as with the three chapters of the book. This triad would be the balance. So the two structures are alienated by a space, a gap, but connected by a passageway, which, situated on the far left, spills from one building into the next. To get from one structure to the other, one must endure the trip through this dark, windowless space.
“The Royal Game” by Stefan Zweig— Project and essay by Eloisa Diaz, SoA Fiction, in collaboration with Chelsea Hyduk, M.Arch ’15
In 1942, an ocean liner travels from New York City to Buenos Aires. The passengers are deserters, expatriates, opportunists, refugees, and exiles. Among them is the current world chess champion, Mirko Czentovic, who agrees to play one game against the rest of the passengers combined. The model is built on the belief that the human spirit can attain great heights if one puts in the effort. To that avail, the staircase is designed so that in its irregularity, it demands from the visitor not only the regular physical investment of the climb, but also the additional care one needs to put into finding a solid step among such triangular difficulty.
Students completed 12 projects in total and they can all be viewed here in greater detail.