Enigmatic Excesses

Invited Distinguished Professor:

Gonzalo Viallo. Morphtopia.


Gabriel Esquivel,  Studio Professor

Texas A&M University


Team: Kate Gesing and John Scott.

Our project examines the Ennis house by Frank Llyod Wright, through the mutual irritation of volume, surface and line in excess. Existing at the scale of a single family house, each of these explorations have been unfolded, reconfigured, and then refolded within this particular monadic manifestation of the house. Possible manifestations of the project are infinite. We began to look at Leibniz’s idea of the monad as a vehicle for incorporating external references and issues of precedent. He argues that the monad is “pregnant” with the future and “laden” with the past. This means that it must contain within itself all “virtualites”, “potentialities” and traces of properties it did exhibit in the past. By dissecting and reapplying the aspects of the house that we know, we attempt to uncover elements of the unknown “real” in addition to the “sensual”.


Our mereology contains pieces of the original house which are recognizable, pieces that are not recognizable, and seperate pieces which have been tied in due to the interaction of their characteristics. Furthermore, components of the precedent exist in a state of ruination, while other elements of the house have been reconfigured, defamiliarized and deformed. While there are three genres of space within our mereology, there are numerous recurrent logics which have been applied throughout . Many of these logics stem from early explorations of aesthetics.


To break down the different aspects of this assemblage, it is important to understand how the pieces were originally dissected. Located in the southern foothills of Griffith Park in Los Angeles, the Ennis house has strong connections to Mayan revivalism and the textile block. The scalar resolution of the house changes depending on your viewpoint. For example, the silhouette of the structure is seemingly a skyline in itself, resembling a temple complex. However, a phenomenological experience of the house reveals a complex interaction between the pattern of tiling, and the manifestation of spatial arrangement. These “fractal-esque” tiled blocks become columns, space, and then an overarching formal arrangement for the house. The aspect of a multi-scalar resolution will be maintained throughout our current interpretation. These ideas, in addition to elements from the initial experiments have been foundational in the project.


By looking at the floor plans of the house, we were able to determine regulating line-work and view it as a means of framing and binding the volumes together. Furthermore, line-work was extracted from the site conditions at various scales. Lineaments formed from highways, and figuration from winding neighborhood roads are drawn on from a place of immanence. This line-work exists in its own right as three-dimensionalized components of the house, as a basis for a textural pattern that distorts the surface, and as a method of binding volumes together.


As tools of understanding, the monad and metaphor of the rhizome are not mutually exclusive. Our project uses them as immanent processes that overturn the transcendental model of understanding. Within this metaphor one can begin to understand that there is no distinction between the individual and the collective. This applies not only to the physical manifestation of the project, but to the theoretical framework as well. There are connections which can be traced to the precedent, but also various associations which are not immediately visible. In essence, our project was not produced through either a top down, or bottom up understanding of the assemblage.


Distortion and defamiliarization of the surface is a recurring theme, as we explored the extent to which surface treatment and texturing can produce a visual gluttony that eventually becomes semi-indigestible. Kant states that “ aesthetic occurs as an excess that goes beyond strict instrumentality and generates a function that opens up a new space…” For example, a terrace gateway formed from linework of the city, becomes a further divider of space with the application of “melted” drips. Thus, this specific application creates a terrace space that operates in the sensual liminal space. While this project is at the scale of people, it is spatially non-anthropocentric. Not all the spaces are able to be inhabited by people. Components of the Ennis house such as a collonade or plinth become propelling ruins when textures derived from original column blocks are reapplied, disfiguring the surfaces. Self referential moments draw from both textural and deformative processes. In other instances, these textures have been extruded and transformed into novel configurations to the point of the precedent being unrecognizable.


Incorporating these objects allows us to look for the point where the aesthetic unit begins to interact with and become part of the “real”. Otherwise defined as the previously unknown qualities of the project that are not sensually understood. As the process ripens, irreversible bonds form within the project. The interweaving of scalar relationships fuse together to create a multiplicity of treatments that produce different phenomenological conditions. Volumes formed through binding line-work and irritation of the surface are seen in multiple scales. This results in a resolution of exuberance that can be seen at the level of the whole, individual rooms, and within smaller components such as the fireplace. This application is similar to the incorporation of the tile patterning within the original house codified in a multiplicity scales. While exhibiting a gluttonous amount of ornamentation, it doesn’t operate in the same manner as a Baroque space. These spaces are not only encrusted but revealed and transformed by the qualities of the surface. In other words, these surface treatments directly alter and disfigure the volume instead of creating a continuity of figure.


In section, one can see how surface texturing has directly affected the poche in addition to the deformations from “binding”. Moreso, these bondages create autonomous spatial conditions in themselves. Within the plan there is an ambiguity of scale in which one may question if this is a single family house or a complex woven together of smaller spaces. This is another example of the scalar games between the differentiated spaces due to the resolution of excess. Within the project, excess and surface treatment are not simply blanketed over a disfigured form, but rather, used to ensure that all components are rhizomatically connected. More than a still life, our mereology is a project of both being and becoming. All components cultivate relations and irritations at different points of contention scattered throughout.


Our assemblage deliberately explores ideas of excess in an attempt to reach the space of abundance and draw out aspects of the unknown. The multiplicity of interaction between the volumes, surfaces and lines creates a gluttonous amount of visual information that can’t be entirely digested. In addition to referential and recurrent use of precedent in the shifts back and forth between 2D and 3D linework, the gluttony and relationality between line and form delivers a surplus of information that one is not able to read all at once. Thus, returning much of the project back to the realm of the unknown. By looking into the scales of excess between line, volume and texture the project achieves formal exuberance. Thus achieving both the “sensual” and the “real” within the domain of cognition through an abundance not of space, but of information from visual stimuli.

in the same manner as a Baroque space. These spaces are not only encrusted but revealed and transformed by the qualities of the surface. In other words, these surface treatments directly alter and disfigure the volume instead of creating a continuity of figure.