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Dislocate Figures

On, Above, And Below: Architecture and The Ground

Advisor: Gary Paige

Professor of Practice at USC School of Architecture

Principal of GPS (Gary Paige Studio)

Head, Asian Architecture Landscape Urbanism (AALU)

USC, 2024 Spring

Featured in A+D Museum Exhibition

Los Angeles: A Model City

A Visitor’s Center & Garden located at the beginning of the trailhead to the Oasis of Mara in Twentynine Palms, CA, adjacent to the Joshua Tree National Park-North Entrance, will serve as the program and site.

Model Photograh

Introduction: Contrast, Merger, Reciprocity

The history of architecture is, arguably, the history of the relationship between buildings and landscapes. Concomitantly, buildings and cities are the manifestation of a complex web of forces that reflect and project—implicitly or explicitly—a philosophical view and give rise to an idea about how we imagine, em-body, and subsequently inhabit our environment. Le Corbusier’s dictum that a city “ the grip of man upon nature” is evidence of one such view. Architecture, he argues, is a tool used to control and domesticate nature; the site (ground) is subordinate to the building object and typically stands in stark contrast or opposition to the landscape: Architecture as difference or nature’s other. Le Corbusier’s weekend villa on the outskirts of Paris, a laconic white box on columns overlooking a verdant field, or Mies’ house for Dr. Farnsworth, a platform and a glass box that hover above the site adjacent to the Fox River, are canonical examples.


Similarly, although not as pervasive, another model exists and posits a complementary relationship by merging the building with the landscape and is exemplified by Wright’s idea of the Prairie House or Libera’s house for Curzio Malaparte in Capri. In this case, architecture operates as an extension or amplification of the horizontal lines of the Midwestern plains or the cliff overlooking the Gulf of Salerno; building forms and materials echo and abstract the landscape.


Yet, despite the prevalence of these two approaches, a third and potentially more sophisticated model exists where the landscape is seen not in opposition to built form, nor as merging with the building, but rather as a reciprocal form that produces a multiplicity of interdependent and coexistent relationships: Architecture as a complementary contrasting relationship between form, landscape, and program. Paulo Mendes da Rocha’s Brazilian Pavilion for Expo 70 in Osaka is a notable example and, more recently, OMA’s competition project for the Agadir Convention Centre in Morocco. In both cases, architecture is imagined as a new hybrid building landscape that reimagines the typical relationship between buildings and the sites they inhabit. This is the subject matter of the Project. In a general sense, the focus will be on examining various site strategies and approaches, as well as the planimetric AND sectional relationship between the site, the building, and the surrounding landscape. And more specifically, how a building is situated on, above, or below the ground. Finally, I will show the idea of building landscapes and “landform buildings”—two typologies that simultaneously contrast and complement the ground that they inhabit.

Floor Plan & Section (Programs)

Floor Plan & Section (Line & Shadows)

Site Plan & BuildingElevation 

Aerial Front View (Looking West)

Aerial Side View (Looking North)



Aerial Top View

Pitched Massing


Elevation Oblique

Model Photograpy 1'-0" = 1/16" Section Model


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