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Machine Ex-Machine

Invited Distinguished Professor:

Barry Wark


Gabriel Esquivel,  Studio Professor

Texas A&M University


Team: Marie Chapa, Shannon Sumner, Colby Cox, Justin Kiser, Luis Armando Sanabria.



The project focuses and explores ideas of metal materiality and the machine with reference to  anthropocentric and ecological events that redefined the object's material natural state.  Through this constant state of becoming, cultural issues are explored regarding the machine and how it both affects and it is affected by the physical environment. The different material conditions demonstrate their natural state being altered by these processes, while also altering the cultural and aesthetic qualities around them.




References - The Lloyd building in London that shows the anthropocentric aesthetic of fetishization of the machine as it willfully avoids the natural state we are exploring in our proposal, mechanical and electrical systems in the Shard by Zaha Hadid were also referenced, exposed infrastructure of cities and urban contexts, anthropocentric artifacts, such as railroads, working as machines.  High tech vs rusty ancient machine aesthetic - contrast 


Past Iterations - through these iterations we explored different notions of ancientness that are visible in the different layers of the building through varying levels of rust, staining, and deterioration. These noticeable differences across the layered parts  suggests that it is working in both anthropocentric and ecocentric timescales. While also creating fractured continuity and half symmetry in the building, which allow nonhuman propagation.

The introduction of the machine and continual adaptations of it has intensified the anthropocentric impact.  The machine is often credited for solving the negative impacts, however it cannot be forgotten that these same machines are responsible for accelerating these problems.  This relates to the cultural issues of how metal and machines are viewed in their natural state.


The  context of this structure frames the building with two facades that open into an interior courtyard that excavates below the ground and exposes the machine.  The numerous separated massings create a varied range in verticality across the site, while creating relationships with anthropocentric machines such as hvac systems, cables, and pipes.  This notion also follows the idea that machines can become icons of the city.  This creates a cultural and aesthetic contrast of the ancient machine with the high tech anthropocentric exploitation of metal in the urban context.


Materiality is displayed through moments that showcase the different ontologies of parts and conditions of metal, through both human-caused weathering and nature-caused weathering.  In addition to this, the individual overlapping lifetimes of all the parts are emphasized through their relativity to each other and the unfathomable timelines of these parts. For example, metallic frames encase more monolithic masses which have been carved through and built around by humans to create the metallic machine; through time, this metallic shell begins to rust over, clearly distinguishing the  monolithic structure as a separate entity with its own properties and compounds. This example shows the intricacies and complex relationships of how the parts simultaneously age individually and together based on the properties of the metal compounds. Some objects appear reflective while others begin to lose their shine due to the different ways weathering treats them and, and how their surfaces react to the air around them according to their varying levels of toxicity.

  • The industrial aspect of the project stems from the discarding of the romanticized version of the machine, and the exposure of the machines that often go unseen. It’s no longer viewed as just this beautiful thing but rather a necessity embedded within the project and society as a whole. 


Our building shows a  visible recursiveness of parts and exposed metal elements that make up the massings.  This is done while showing the anthropocentric exploitation of the metal for structural and mechanical purposes, and it is contrasted with the naturally weathered and rusted parts of the building. This exaggerated use of metals in a machine-driven form reveals a cultural problem of the fetishization of machines that we are trying to address in our project. 


Our plans and sections have a hierarchy of spaces for the human as well as the non human. The plans and sections reveal the internal machine through the layered metal sheeting of the poche as well as the exposed mechanical, HVAC  and electrical systems in both the human and non human spaces. These drawings also show the relationships with the underground machines and structural infrastructure of the ground, which contrasts the various metal conditions represented throughout  in our project.


The building has a unique ground condition that is characterized by a series of excavations that expose parts of pipelines and underground machines, while allowing humans to move through the spaces only through a series of bridges connecting the buildings and the walkable spaces within the individual structures. With this excavated  ground condition we expose the underground and the systems within it, exposing the machine. We are doing this to further this aesthetic agenda of exposing the machine in its natural state, the natural state being that of which  the machine has created for itself ultimately. Overall Showcasing the natural state of metal with different levels of deterioration and rustyness due to their individual lifetimes .


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