Other Ground

2013, Nowhere In Particular

Imagine a range of building/ground relations spanning from Frank Lloyd Wright’s “organic architecture” to Robert Smithson’s Partially Buried Woodshed. The former “purifies” architecture through a return to nature—extending roof lines, expanding windows, and building up peripheral grounds, fusing building and site in one transcendental unity. The latter uses ground as a weapon of entropy against architecture, crushing a decrepit woodshed under a mound of dirt, thereby exposing architecture’s futile will to discipline chaos. On one end is organic sentimentality and on the other cynical criticality. Other Ground exists somewhere between these two poles. It engages ground, but not in any kind of return, for it denies ontological difference; nature is not above, below, or other than architecture. It follows that there is no split between two material realms (architectural and natural); there is just this specific heap of dirt, leaves, polyester, dew, steel, sticks, flowers, paint, and moss. Thus, Other Ground leads to other grounds, other types of ground, other ontologies of ground, and other acts of grounding. It is too muddled to be place, but not cynical enough to be critical. It embraces entropy, but not to attack. Rather, it seeks evocative visual and haptic qualities that expand our perceptual capacities to engage baser forms of earth, opening new aesthetic categories that might orient architecture in the age of ecological crisis.