S'14 Thesis: Harry MX Wei

Harry MX Wei
M.Arch Thesis Spring 2014
Faculty Advisor: Michael Meredith
Project Title: "Dysfunctional Machines"


Machines have profoundly impacted architectural discourse ever since the dawn of Modernism. Corbusier, Banham and the ‘Ecotech’ all retain affinities with modernist conception of the machine - it solves problems while affording temporal, economic, and production efficiencies. However, this relentless pursuit of function and optimization often supersedes more fundamental spatial experiences - reducing architecture to a woeful state of utility. Given such a legacy, this thesis zeros in on a distinctly different relationship with machines – Can machines be performative without the conventions of functionality and efficiency?

As Adorno has indicated, once under demands of pure functionality, technology can no longer be experienced – only operated. This thesis will build on the notion of performance not in terms of measurable achievements, but performance predicated on human experience. In the current state of emaciated experience, the true contemporary spirit dwells in the ‘Dysfunctional Machine’. Dysfunctional Machines are a series of 1:1 responsive devices that retrofit architectural elements in a manner that is contextual and heuristic. They can be seen as compressions of architectural space, manipulating phenomena in the same way that architecture does – using space, time, sound, light, and materiality to reground architecture’s capacity for generating affect, perception, and wonder.