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  • Kivi Sotamaa

The Misfit

A text for the The Philosophy of Dumbness - manifesto by Joseph Choma.

The book is to be published this Autumn with ORO Editions.

I believe organizational strategies for buildings should work like ‘dumb’ recipes. The Misfit is my favorite example of such a recipe. It goes like this: Combine two forms, which don’t fit together and voilá, a third, interstitial form emerges filled with unexpected, exciting possibilities for Architecture.

One of the two forms could be a constellation of interior spaces. It can address the more intricate programmatic requirements and human scale. The other form could be the exterior. It can address for example the city, the landscape, and the crowd. The two combined will always generate an interstitial space, usually with a refreshingly unexpected possibilities for use.

The scale of the building will determine the range of possibilities for the interstitial space, also referred to as poché in architectural discourse. It could be occupied by public space like the Jean Nouvel & Philip Starck unrealized Tokyo Opera House, or filled with artwork like the John Soane’s House in London.

The Misfit strategy is ‘dumb’ in terms of its straight forward approach to program and brilliant in terms the efficiency with which is generates collateral architectural opportunities.

One of my favorite qualities of the Misfit recipe is that it creates a dramaturgical sequence of experiences rather than being phenomenologically transparent. In other words, the view of the exterior does not reveal the logic of the interior but instead creates an experience in dramaturgical contrast to the interior.

The Meteorite is a three story residential wood building we designed with the Misfit recipe: The first form is a folded monolithic shape on the outside, which addresses the scale of the forest. The second form is an intricate arrangement of rooms and voids on the interior. The two combined generate a poché. The air in the poché acts as insulation for the mass timber building and contains occupiable nooks and crannies, inbuilt art displays, storage and technical systems, all which can be easily accessed and maintained.

What is wonderful about a ‘dumb’ recipe in organizing a project like the Meteorite is that I can focus my energy on tweaking what it generates to perfection. I can explore the nuances of form, intricacies of structure, sensibilities of materiality, issues of representation, atmosphere and aesthetics. A simple recipe, or algorithm to use another term, effortlessly organizes a building and creates a solid point of departure for designing terrific architecture.


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