My first studio project in Inha University Department of Architecture Engineering was the nine-square grid. That was in year 2000. I built a model with nine spaces, 3×3, then created relationships among those spaces by introducing different elements. Looking back, I wish I was more bold with the nine square project – twisting a row or two, shifting the walls, or even overlaying another nine square for experiment. After the nine-square grid project, I put together a field of objects; first one was with masses and the second one was with planes. While consciously placing and connecting the objects we also learned to familiarize ourselves with model making tools. The first three projects probably influenced my final project of that semester which came from shifting planes to play with light and create dynamic spaces.
Recently I found out that the nine-square grid project originated from 1953 in University of Texas, Austin. It was created by John Hejduk, Robert Slutzky, and Lee Hirsche. Perhaps it was the open-ended characteristic of the project that attracted me to architecture. There was no one correct answer. If metaphysics was taken as a method to ask “what is there?” and “what is it like?,” I suppose it is a good way to guide students start talking about their project. The problem I have now is that I do not recall having any meaningful conversations about my projects in that semester. Yes, time was tight. Producing four projects in one semester was not easy. We also had around 20-30 people per studio. But I do wish there were more dialogues and a search for why, because it would have helped immensely in design thought process later on.
The exploration of the line (derived from the Gestalt methods of Josef Albers) during the freshman year was an exercise on the abstraction of space, the understanding of the three-dimensional reality transformed into the two-dimensional flatness of its representation. Similarly focused, spatial investigations became the device for studio teaching: the famous “nine-square grid” problem was proposed by Hejduk and Slutzky with Lee Hirsche as an architectural problem in the junior studio. The metaphysical, open-ended quality of the exercise (a formal frame inside which the architectural project was developed) might be seen as a paradigm of the curriculum of the new program itself, and, at large, as a revision of the modern model.