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Conversations : Section Through The Shadows

The Conversation Series

Transcripts of recordings between Michael Rotondi and colleagues in architecture and academia,

taken from video meetings. The dialogue has been lightly edited for text format.

With Prof. Michael Benedikt, Architect and Distinguished Professor at University of Texas at Austin
October 7, 2020

Michael Rotondi : How long could you talk about the new screen porch you put up?

Michael Benedikt : Oh. A looong fuckin‘ time. Oh God. You know what, I'd have to bring people here though because, it's just volumetrically, quite startling, because it's so delicate. I was a little worried that it would make people feel like they were in a terrarium or a bird cage.

But it's startling, I have to say. And, put it this way, it's better than I thought it would be. Like, I think I'm pretty smart and I do nice things, but I go out and then I go, ‘holy fuck I did this!‘ Someone was smiling at what I was doing because this is better, this is better than I could hope for.

MR : That's really nice.

MB : Yeah, yeah. And, you know, there were decisions in there that Amelie made, that at first I objected to : ‘No, we can't have the door over there. It's gonna look….‘ But she was right. You know, it's like, ‘aah fuck..‘ It just came out better, that's all I can say. In fact, I took a whole bunch of pictures this morning, more pictures.

We had a little plunge pool in our yard, which we put a camper screen tent, and it acts like a scrim. The shadows of trees and leaves play on the scrim, even as the sun comes through. A little bit like a mirror, you get something for nothing. You get a section through the shadow planes for free. Overlaid on everything else.

MR : That's nice. That's a good phrase : section through the shadows.

MB : I mean, it's so modest that I'm getting a lot of joy out of it.

MR : Well, the richness first doesn't come from the design, it actually comes from the design, but the design is transparent to the experiences that change throughout the day there. You know, what we've been all trained to do is to make things that just BLAM you in the face, you know?

MB : Yeah, yeah.

MR : Like youre driving 60 miles an hour, you gotta see this damn thing! And because of that you miss all the other subtlety.

MB : Yeah, this is slow, slow design.


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