If given the choice between staring blankly into space or reading architects’ office statements on their website, we choose the first. They all say the same thing: we’re sustainable, responsible with budgets, experienced, award-winning, etc. . . . The game seems to be how to say nothing in particular and comfort any worries of someone contemplating hiring you. After a few clicks, it’s hard not to think that all this quote-unquote professionalism is very cold at its core. We can’t tell you exactly when MOS started. We like to say it was 2003, but we didn’t have an office space then and our name was !@#?, which we quickly found was too difficult to use because 1. you couldn’t pronounce it and 2. you couldn’t get a web address. So, eventually, we drifted towards MOS—an acronym of our names and reflection of a shared desire to be horizontal and fuzzy, as opposed to tall and shiny. We began around an oversized table, a surface for collecting, gathering, and working through a range of design experiments—a make-believe of architectural fantasies, problems, and thoughts. As we’ve grown, we remain around a large table, working together on each project through playful experimentation and serious research. This website indexes that work: housing; schools; houses; cultural institutions; retail; exhibition design; installations; furniture; objects; books; writing; software experiments; and videos.
Krabbesholm Højskole (Denmark) is awarded an AIA NY Excellence Award
MOS Architects receive an AIA New York Award of Merit for Element House
We draw, talk, email, doodle, diagram, render, print, print, draw, model, receive, distribute, call, approve, confirm, reject, plead, deny, laugh, export, import, present, listen, order, zoom, script, post, pan, copy, paste, scale, collate, staple, eat, list, drink, walk, draw, chat, meet, photograph, crop, calculate, draw, adjust, tweak, sip, solve, stack, note, organize, scan, edit, review, print, question, comment, make, sketch . . . and occasionally, we collect things from this process and store them in a flat file.
Architects Draw People
Ask anyone, “What do architects do?” and most will reply, “Architects draw buildings.” They will likely imagine a myopic figure, often dressed in black, huddled at her/his desk, obsessing over details. This image is not all wrong, but architects also draw, add, copy, or notate people to go along with everything we make. It is impossible to represent architecture without representing the human. Even when the human presence is intentionally left out or is reduced to a faceless set of measurements, it haunts architecture in its absence. As such, the point of this work, An Incomplete Encyclopedia of Scale Figures Without Architecture, is to collect various architects’ representations of life into a single document. We began this project with no strong methodology other than casting a wide net, scouring both library and Internet to collect drawings by architects we knew to produce significant buildings and drawings or by those we simply thought of at the time. Then we deleted the architecture and context of these representations to focus specifically on the human(s) depicted by various architects or architecture offices. If we found nothing, we noted as much. While compiling all of these images, we were surprised to find that many architects simply do not represent people. Equally surprising, we found that architects who arguably have or claim nothing in common sometimes share an attitude towards scale figures (or a lack thereof). Perhaps their absence is evidence of desires for the so-called post-human; perhaps including people simply obscured representation of the architecture; or, perhaps the architects just didn’t get to it. Throughout the Encyclopedia one can find architects who: represent the human as inchoate scribbles; draw them by hand; exaggerate features; create a style; emphasize the geometric or mechanical aspects of bodies . . . And architects who: reference other scale figures; collage themselves as scale figures; make political statements; want to portray a mood or attitude; want to make scale figures as uninteresting as possible; show only backsides or only silhouettes; are eclectic; and so on. One can also see the relationship to media and technology through how architects represent people: in gaussy transparent Photoshop silhouettes; models collaged from lifestyle glossies and on-the-street fashion blogs; soft charcoal smudge-sketches; watercolors; full-color graphic illustrations; etc. . . . We tried to include broad examples but, when skimming the Encyclopedia, accept our apologies for those offices and buildings we have neglected to include. We did what we could to be as inclusive as possible within the relatively narrow medium of architectural publications. After all, the point was never to be completely totalizing—an impossibility, nowadays—but rather to be as broad as could be managed within our given resources. . . . And we tried. We collected over 2,000 figures produced by over 200 architects, and presented every figure at the same scale(1"=1'-0"). Scale figures are a fundamental part of any professional architect’s arsenal; we have all amassed folders upon folders on our servers filled with these fictional people. And although scale figures are one of those things that most of us take for granted in day-to-day practice, they are no doubt a disciplinary problem, a fact which became increasingly evident as we assembled the Encyclopedia. It might seem naively absurd, but as we stared at the countless figures in this book, it became hard to see them as anything but a kind of global citizenry. They are Architecture’s refugees. They travel the world, popping up from time to time in various institutions and schools, at lectures, on reviews, and in student work. And the more we looked at them, the more we thought about both the architecture offices that created them and the wonderfully diverse world we all live in—a world which seems to be ever more intolerant of difference and increasingly inhuman.
Project Team: Michael Meredith, Hilary Sample, Michael Abel, Jacob Comerci, Taylor Cornelson, Michaela Freidberg, Mark Acciari