The Bayon was the first Khmer Empire temple with which I felt both truly impressed and taken far back into time. I liked it so much - the scale, the multiple tiers, the discovery of the faces when going through the small alleyways and then popping up on the second floor to see them up close that I took half an hour to sketch one of the heads...
This temple complex is most visited for its sweeping views of the setting sun as it located on a small hill. But they limit visitation to a hundred people or so, so if you get there within 30 minutes of the setting sun and there is a line of hundreds of Chinese tourists, you'll be out of luck. We took the elephant ride up to the Temple -- interesting animal to ride upon!
In the first week of October 2015, after becoming wonderfully married (woohoo!), I finally journeyed to a part of the world that was an influencing factor on my masters' thesis six years ago: the ruined temples and cities of the Khmer Empire. It was certainly more impressive in person than any kind of dramatization that you may have seen in film, and it also spoke volumes of just how little is known about this lost civilization. The few cultural remains of the empire only show statues and bas-reliefs of everyday life -- or otherwise parades of Chinese soldiers -- but I would have wanted to see depications of the colors of their dress or what foods they ate. Modern Khmer cuisine, I will say, is profoundly delicious.
The guidebook that we used to visit the temples, Focusing on the Angkor Temples, Third Edition, by Michel Petrotchenko was actually not available for purchase in China. It is an excellent guidebook, however, as it had hundreds of images and detailed architectural plans of the temples. I would highly recommend getting a copy; they are available for purchase (US$23) in Cambodia such as in the National Museum in Phnom Penh.
Going about the ruins I often felt like a humble adventurer or a visitor to a tomb of ancient people, always in awe yet never quite understanding everything I was witnessing and experiencing. In fact, I should revise that statement to say that I understood a tiny amount of what I was seeing -- from a cultural and historical point of view, of course.
The weather was favorable during the time we visited; it's not recommended to travel to Cambodia in the month of October with the rainy season about to end. For the most part we were not rained out on any tour except for a truncated tour of Pre Rup and East Mebon. And that led a certain mesmerizing atmosphere to East Mebon while it was raining. It could be said that all the different temples we visited had their own magic, so I think I will post some images in some forthcoming posts...
I have six concerns and one method of making that I think will continue to appear in my work. Two concerns began developing as an undergraduate in sculpture: awareness of presence and moments of pause. They may be a part of who I am; I've been attempting to explore these concepts in a related piece of writing. Adventures around the corner, awareness of grade and the experience of discovery are concerns that developed during the program at RISD. An iterative process, or repetitive disposition, first started appearing in college as well, and has developed to a strong undercurrent. The use of mass plantings and a repeated material palette are indicative of this process.
In my sculpture work, one example of this repetitive disposition is what I term a sculptural investigation. It was an assemblage of plasticine panels that recorded a particular process of making as a landscape. The panels were photographed and bound in an album which I titled: "System: Elevation".
Constructed Landscapes - Fall 2008 - Emily Mueller De Celis and David T. De Celis
The studio objectives for this course were to integrate our emerging knowledge of...
- Perceptive site analysis
- Constructive mapping
- Innovative tectonics and systems
- Applicable theoretical issues
- Relevant cultural precedents
- Precise material investigation (both built and natural)
...into a cohesive design agenda.
The studio was split into two parts. In the first part we attempted to design a roofscape for the Central Square YMCA in Cambridge, MA. We understood that this roofscape would lead us into the second part, which was to design a multi-program urban park in the back of the building on a several acre parking lot. We first researched green roof precedents and then worked on the roofscape for 3-4 weeks. The rest of the semester was devoted to the urban park. The emphasis on framework and precedent allowed efficient familiarization with the site before we moved into a larger scale and program.
For both the YMCA roofscape and urban park I took the position that the site was a refuge of inter/personal discovery. I attempted to be consistent in this position throughout the studio. The terms that I started with from initial concepts carried through to the urban park and played an integral part in the program, despite the many revisions.
I started with the term "enlighten" to envision this idea of "refuge of inter/personal discovery." Eventually I came up with a thesis:
Enlightenment can be defined broadly as wisdom or understanding enabling clarity of perception. This enlightenment can range from a sudden, highly localized epiphany to a life-long journey. Therefore the experience of the roofscape necessitates multi-sensory experiences that are clarified through the use of moments of adventure around the corner.
It later evolved into: Comfort created by moments of pause, yet having enough energy for a sense of adventure around the corner. This is a diagrammed and defined below.
I had first approached the program as "zonal entities." Each"zone" held a component of the program and there was little overlap. This is illustrated below:
I soon realized that thinking of the program in zones was very constrictive. We were required to design spaces for 1,2 and 10+ people on the roofscape. I could not design each space simply for "adventure" or "comfort" or "enlightenment." Furthermore, these were qualities of presence and not program. That is, a space created for adventure could be used for self-reflection; so I was doing no more than contradicting myself: Read More »