Wednesday02 September 2015

Sean McAlister - Dundee University

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Student Statement

Project one

This project, a school of contemporary dance, seeks to explore how the body occupies space, how space might be defined by movement and by “event”. A parallel investigation focused on the mapping and recording of movement and began to challenge the limitations of conventional architectural representations.

The space is largely introspective; dance and auditorium spaces cluster around an internal landscape of steps and terraces. Theformal programme and informal, more socially-orientated spaces describe a set of boundaries charged with a sense of fluidity; recognizing the importance of considered “in/between” space.

Hertzberger meets Tschumi.

This enclosed “heart” of the building is defined on one side by a habited wall of cellular spaces which edge the street andaddress the city; while on the other side, the dance rehearsal spaces are positioned to open towards the landscape.

From the exterior, the whole school seems contained within a protective shell; formed concrete with punc hed openings, reminiscent of Durham Castle and the city’s medieval beginnings.

An investigation of “experience” drives the broader agenda.

Not unlike the subtle, yet disciplined notations of choreography,architectural space seems to have implicit its own manuscript for inhabitation.

Lumière mystérieuse and the mytho-poetic basis of architecture

A manifestation of physical and psychological ideas concerning light, this design proposes a building car ved from a Columbian mountainside, immaculately tuned to the long est total solar eclipse; that of July 16th 2186.

This eclipse sets in motion a timed and meticulously calculated sequence of events within the building allowing a viewer to traverse this buildings entrance without being blinded. Directly after the eclipse the building f ocuses a direct sunlight-projection of Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1972 film Solaris across the inner surface of a 120m diameter torus-shaped chamber.

Through 33 ’light ducts’ light reaches deep into the mountainside to the projection room where a corresponding 33 concave mirrors and the original 35mm film of Solaris together make up a lo-tech interpretation of a conventional cinema projector.

Lumière Mystérieuse draws from a broad set of references; from Lewis Carroll, to Isaac Newton to Lebbeus Woods, with the intention of bringing ideas of scientific understanding of light and experience of space into a close relationship.

Tutor Statement

Sean’s work balances an intuitive skill for imagining powerful and evocative spaces with the capacity to consider architectural problems with an impressive rigour.

His fi nal project “nothing disappears completely” appears at first sight wholly abstract, literally “incredible” but on closer examination it is revealed to be based on a complex and fully resolved series of calculations- both of the physics of light and the biology of the human eye.

In both his projects Sean has been interested in defining the criteria which create “resistance” which can in turn create a creative response, whether they be the logistics of an interface between three groups of dancers
changing classes, or the calculations which make possible the showing of a specifi c fi lm, on a specific date, in a specifi c place, using only sunlight.

He has used the last year of his education both to challenge himself and the boundaries of his discipline, his decision to use etching as a medium to communicate spatial ideas was not a whim one which grew out of a desire to generate depths of blackness not possible using more conventional means.

Helen O’Connor
M.Arch Programme Director
Dundee School of Architecture


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