Botio Kuo

Massive Relief

Location: Jackson Park, Chicago, IL
Typology: Museum, Library
Advisor: Darin Johnston
In collaboration with Austin Anderson

Buildings become monolithic when the scale of its members become small enough or ubiquitous enough to be erased by the presence of the whole object. Architecture, currently fascinated with the status of the object, has become expert in devising totalizing envelopes. Minimizing seams and manipulating platonic solids, architects design plans that are subservient to form, second to objects.

This proposal subverts the architect’s dedication to formalism. It rejects the conception of objects as already existing. Here, the organizing grid and the tectonic frame that dictate the formal games of modernism and postmodernism are inflated and aggregated to absurdity. At a point of critical mass, the jumbled frame can only be read as relief.

The envelope here is not used as a device of iconicity nor banal anonymity, but instead is a haptic expression of a new complex ordering of spatial affect. Deep reliefs and long overhangs tell only a partial story of the spiraling gallery space and compressed archival storage. It is a return to the rustication and ornamentation of antiquity stripped of the formal signifiers that would tell us it is so.
A monument to a groundbreaking presidency, the library brings a subdued yet highly articulate presence to the Southside of Chicago.