Infra-Ordinary_Record/Measure

Keshav Aishwarya
Keshav Aishwarya
Keshav Aishwarya
Karl Ochmanek
Karl Ochmanek
Karl Ochmanek
Karl Ochmanek
Karl Ochmanek
Karl Ochmanek
Fariha Wajid
Fariha Wajid

B Arch, 3rd Year Fall, 2013

In 1973, French author and artist George Perec wrote a short essay titled “The Infra-Ordinary.” The opposite of extraordinary, and in contrast to the sensational, Perec encouraged readers to examine the everyday to find the space and time and poetry in the patterns of our everyday lives and the factors that most directly affect us.

In 1974, Perec wrote “An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris.”

One overcast weekend in October 1974, Georges Perec set out in quest of the “infra-ordinary”: the humdrum, the non-event, the everyday–“what happens,” as he put it, “when nothing happens.” His choice of locale was Place Saint-Sulpice, where, ensconced behind first one cafe window, then another, he spent three days recording everything to pass through his field of vision: the people walking by; the buses and driving-school cars caught in their routes; the pigeons moving suddenly en masse; a wedding (and then a funeral) at the church in the center of the square; the signs, symbols and slogans littering everything; and the darkness that finally absorbs it all. In An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris, Perec compiled a melancholic, slightly eerie and oddly touching document in which existence boils down to rhythm, writing turns into time and the line between the empirical and the surreal grows surprisingly thin.

As Perec sat at a cafe over the course of three days, he recorded literally everything he saw as he ‘exhausted the place’, and then presented the data simply, but thoughtfully.

As architects, we must be able to construct a process for understanding and modeling context and situation. We must be able to the organize that process for ourselves, and for others, so that we may trace the implications of that context and understanding. Our approach allows us to discover the specificities of a place – it’s fullness, its focus, its strengths and weaknesses, its form and its associations, and we must then learn to re-deploy these specificities, or form operatives for abstracting them back into our work. The clarity and depth of our research will translate into the quality of experiences in our buildings.

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Keshav Aishwarya

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