Shaelena Morley
Diploma 9
I’m using the cabinet as an index to explore the notion of collection as a series of rooms where the room is the collector and starting point for creation of site. The nested rooms are a network of spaces, objects, materials and personas.

I’ve created a testing field for other forms of collection through the urban housing block - a place where people’s possessions, lives, and stories inevitably converge and overlap due to the dense nature of urban living. Effectively, I’ve designed a cabinet of curious living.

An important reference is Dada artist Kurt Schwitters, a man whose Wunderkammer was not a cabinet at all, but a series of inhabitable rooms. What he called the Merzbau was the result of an almost manic process of total inclusion beginning with an agglomeration of objects: the Merz Column.Schwitters constructed his universe in a room by packing objects into space. In the recontextualisation of the project, I have packed these spaces into an object. The object, or ReMerzed Merzbau, acts as a mini wunderkammer, which tells a story of objectification, exposure, and inversion.The objects I’ve collected in the cabinet act as an interrelated set of spatial and material fragments which are embedded within the project and situate its context. First and foremost the fragments have their own individual character, which placed together generate a collective form.With designed relationships of overlap at every scale, the spaces themselves overlap as an interlocking set of blocks where no piece can be removed without affecting the others. Not defined by planes, the building is designed volumetrically to reinforce these interdependent relationships.Even in the joints, the pieces come together using intricate woven joinery with brass layered to reinforce the structure.Duchamp challenges how we understand the essence of place by including an immaterial piece of Paris. Similarly, much of what makes the urban housing block is the collection of lives and stories that are woven into it - things that cannot be mapped or easily captured. It is more than just the architecture itself or its geographical site, but the people who breathe life into a place.The block forces a shift in relationships between residents by minimising divisive boundaries in favour of thresholds which connect and overlap spaces volumetrically, visually, and materially. Like the thoroughfare rooms Robin Evans describes in ‘Figures, Doors, and Passages’, the room, then can return as the collector of objects and people. What once was the corridor is transformed into a snaking path which at moments forcefully passes through an intersecting volume instead of passively moving alongside.Through the collection of references and the relationships they form, the cabinet of curious living generates its own site where the design and collection are one.
The references collected, the relationships between objects and the connections formed between spaces are all saturated with ‘site’ which is cultural rather than physical. By locating the project in a cultural context, I challenge site as an architectural convention and argue for one that is more inclusive to the intangible qualities of place.