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THE FLAT OUT LARGE

Los Angeles, California / 2020


THE FLAT OUT LARGE AKA EARTH PROTECTOR

This project investigates formal potentials of the “flat out large”, that is, the largely unexplored architectural territory of super-slender, super-flat volumes. Flat out large (FOL) volumes, called “blanks” for short, are tiny in one dimension and huge in the other two. Blanks are monolithic and mute and have no specific orientation in space; they can be moved, rotated, copied, and scaled, but not deformed or transformed or otherwise damaged. They can stack loosely, lean on one another obliquely, and appear to delicately support one another like a house of cards. Compositions of blanks appear playful and provisional, and appear to exist in a different time and scale than everyday reality.

In a world full of congestion and medium-scaled humanist buildings, there are many advantages to these mysterious FOL buildings, which have small footprints, small profiles, and large graphic elevations. Their size and slenderness resonate with contemporary building types: megamats provide massive floor plates for highly sought-after creative and tech spaces; superslabs respond to the tiny housing revolution with contracted floor plate depths. Defying the extruded, gravity-centric city of the 20th century, FOL buildings drop down from above, creating cities on top of cities, something Timothy Morton and I call “hypercities.” Where they land, they create discrete, bounded spaces like interiors of giant houses.

This is a new form of adaptive re-use, where the old and new city dock together without fusing, in a non-binary condition we might refer to as a third object. The third object is virtual, but concrete, and it contains chunks of dense, bounded, three dimensional urban space within the sprawl. This is not continuous city-building as we know it—it is discrete world building. It preserves the history of a city by piling things up and leaving everything in play rather than maintaining the charade that the city is a holistic anthropomorphic body that needs to be continuously mended. Parts remain at a distance, resonating, anticipating the next layer.

Loosely composed FOL buildings enclose space not only by operating as roofs and walls, but through shadow-cast ground objects that spread out below, seemingly indifferent to the capitalist land subdivisions they cut across. Shadow-cast ground objects are like stages for social and political life that gather and protect citizens. Major roadways are pushed below grade to make these stages free for pedestrian life, urban furnishings, gardens, and pop-up programming.

The sheer scale of the blanks-- and their ability to incline to the sky—turns them into giant solar power plants. The solar field type, once relegated to the outskirts of cities, somewhere out there, is suddenly an urban idea. Powering themselves as well as the city they “house” below, FOL buildings are energy-discrete and part of a new way of thinking about energy today—in terms of plentitude rather than lack.

Location: Los Angeles, California
Program: Mixed Use / Creative Office / Tiny Housing
Energy: 7,450 MW