“From the Bubble to the Sponge” -Scott Duncan (SOM) Church Lecture

Scott Duncan’s lecture on the “sponge” vs. the “bubble” used interesting lexicon to shed a different perspective into the status of architecture. The subsets of these “sponge” and “bubble” buildings seemed to suggest more interesting ideas than the projects he provided. Amongst these subsets included: Mies bubble, Pierce bubble, urban bubble, landscape as sponge, mediated bubble, sponge in the forest, the Cloud, sponge cube, horizontal sponge, vertical sponge…Although they each packed interesting characteristics, I felt that the power of the lecture could have been more effective if they did not exclusively serve to categorize the projects that SOM has done in the past. Moreover, I think pairing these categorizations with SOM projects would have been a good base for forward-thinking processes and obstacles to engage and overcome within architecture and design.

That being said, the overall concepts of the “sponge” and the “bubble” were thought-provoking. The idea of designing that should be adaptive to its environment (the sponge) and not resistant to it (the bubble) is incredibly applicable to the current social and environmental forces happening today. As urban sprawl rises and temperature and water levels rise, thinking how we design to move with these changes as adapters and purifiers establishes longevity, unlike the temporality of resistance. Duncan eloquently summarized this notion by promoting that these built environments should be set to “allow nature into it.” An impressive example of this was seen with his work on Kuwait’s military academy where areas of importance on the campus were activated by allowing sunlight in.

Although I think Duncan could have steered the “sponge” and “bubble” to establish more clearly projective incorporations in architecture, his lecture provided fodder for personal inquiry in my studio work and overall interest in design.

[CEU credit]

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