Source: Appliance House

Appliance House Notes

Appliance House Image 1

Intro:  Drawing Towards Building (John Whiteman)

  • “By initiating the gesture of collage and through repeated redrawing, Nicholson seeks a reworking of his first intuition” (Whiteman 7).
  • Initial impression of a thing is actually a transfiguration
  • “The revision of his first impression emerges from its contact with the prospect of a new thing
  • Moment comes from between the pieces of the collage and their mutual energy together (not from any specific element in the drawing itself)
  • “He has the idea that works of architecture, which he takes to include drawings and models as well as buildings, are unexpected spaces found by the act of collage in overlooked conjunctions.  When well worked, a collage possesses, Nicholson believes, an immense force and inevitability, and draws into itself all the ideas and energy available to it” (Whiteman 7).
  • No need for a determinate object
  • Nicholson can/does start with anything (bread tags, tires, crushed cars, can openers, shampoo bottles, etc.)
  • His work is precise – not capricious, ornamental, or interpretive
  • “His work has the precision of one who is trying to newly awaken the sense of a thing once seen so clearly in the space of the imagination” (Whiteman 8).

The Appliance House: What’s In a Name?

  • Project that shifts the mildly incredible into something that’s difficult to discount
  • Assembles frail traits of urban existence into firm gestures – Appliance House becomes a suburban home
  • Investigates conditions of everyday life
  • Used Sears Catalog and Sweets Catalog – wanted pictures of fridges, can openers, etc. – appliances that “nurture homeliness”
  • Cut up and reconstituted/united the images
  • Resulting collages had names of house parts
  • Naming makes an unfamiliar thing seem more familiar
  • Examines appliances for its self-worth and value
  • Sears Roebuck – products close to “immortality” and used “50,000,000 times a day”
  • Characteristics that promote/defy immortality:
    • Skin stretched around every device, hides inner workings
    • Failing appliance – we tap and jiggle it, expecting it to correct itself
    • Repairman sees mechanism without the veil
    • Owner doesn’t remove panel to inspect the innards
    • The “skin” of the appliance represents our current obsessions – wishing for a perpetually youthful look and eternally flawless complesion
  • Appliance House has undergone a “series of programmatic half-lives
  • Every time program changes, its life is split and reconfigured
  • Kleptoman Cell (a chamber of the Appliance House) – place to store orphaned objects possessing beauty that was discarded through senselessness – it’s half life suggests that it hold objects that refuse to reveal their contents (clock case, suitcase, garbage bag, etc.)
  • Workings of the house will be exposed, but designed
  • Appliance House extends itself beyond immediate confines of its structures and its 6 chambers that compose it
  • The half-lives that describes what the chambers enclose migrate towards the city
  • 1st period of half-lives – project exists in drawings and construction of suburban shelter
  • 2nd period – half-lives vacate the shelter, run for the city
  • Appliance House then confronts architectural uncertainty

Collage Making

  • Process of collage making – occupies a disruptive position by using trash and deadness to form beauty
  • Collage is part of everyone’s experience
  • Refers to a group of ephemeral things brought together that disturbs/negates status of individual elements
  • Millions of manufactured objects are encountered each day – threaten to outclass nature for diversity
  • Collage permits a silent rapport (relationship) between collagist and objects (purpose of objects often difficult to comprehend)
  • Allows anyone to hold a view on any subject
  • Orders of logic broken apart by collagist
  • Collage making as contemplative
  • Collage making to bring forward something within the soul
  • Pictures of things trigger trains of thought
  • Collagist cuts pictures out of anything from terrible magazines to scholarly books – no care for their context
  • Readjust the pictorial world to suit the viewer better
  • Splicing together of things
  • When the work is complete, a map of hunches exists
  • Collage can exist as a guide to what exists or can prompt a new set of thoughts suggested by interconnections
  • “The collage becomes a transcription that can accelerate the way one understands the everyday world and how it comes together, without necessarily being an expert of any particular field of knowledge” (pg. 17).
  • Ex. Piranesi – The Tomb of Nero, Grotteschi Series


  • Collage is described as:  “the placement of a fragment next to a similar fragment and then the two are spliced together in such a way that the net result is greater than the sum of its parts”
  • How is this different from any other artistic activity?
  • Conceptually, collage is “an aggregation of various pieces which create an irresistible spectacle in the eye of the maker” (pg. 18)
  • “It is necessary for an artists to use raw material that is directly associated with the age in which he lives.” (pg. 18).
  • Collage allows for extraordinary juxtapositions
  • Painting/drawing require every mark to be done by the artists
  • Collage making can’t fully control what occurs because it uses readymade components
  • Collagist is introduced to further sets of ideas – goes beyond traditional instruments of artistic expression
  • Collage can profoundly alter the way things/placed are viewed
  • If observer looks beyond appearance of collage, collage suggests a method of scrutinizing things
  • Ex. Max Ernst collages
  • Individual characteristics of each component are barely recognizable, only through conventional means
  • LC’s Villa Savoye – reveals how the painter’s eye (activated by Cubism) can make a piece of architecture in the same way that a painting is assembled
  • Viewed from outside – long window frames a bunch of odd, planar shapes
  • Viewed from inside – the space initially worked out thru painting is then projected onto flat frame of window and is realized in three dimensions inside the house
  • Collagist-architect can induce space in manner that is experienced through collage making
  • Collagist’s tools and methods similar to a surgeon’s (scalpel, tweezers, etc)
  • Collagist operates to reassemble a flat being – something is brought to life that did not live before
  • Procedure of collage making – a series of passes
  • Allows for a myriad of yes/no decisions to determine where the fragments go
  • Once fragments find their places, collage can appear to be so correct it becomes bland – loses its spirit when all tensions are pushing and pulling with equal forces
  • Pieces have to be off-center to recharge vitality of mutual conjunction
  • Paper has thickness – collage is a relief
  • Collage is a first hint at a condition of fullness that can exist after the substance of artistic intent has removed itself from flat canvas surface
  • If collage became an object in space, its structure would inform the way it’s to be built
  • Collage method of Appliance House – every junction is highly considered, each pass involved structural reassembly
  • Junctions between fragments take precedence over images on the paper
  • Desire to locate the unknown, creating something that eludes forewarning or prediction
  • By peeling off the paper surface, collage can be brought into relief, the round, the hollow, and into the construction of a building

appliance_house_face name collage

Bread Tags

  • Objects designed in a trance state
  • Mass production
  • Objects like these bread tags (produced in millions and discarded in exactly the same number) will be kept safe in the Appliance House

Configuration of the Appliance House

  • Composed of 3 pairs of small rooms, facing a hall whose doors to the street and garden are pierced at either end
  • Each room encloses normal everyday suburban living, but have all changed their ceramic nameplates
  • The study room with collections and trophies becomes the Kleptoman Cell – room given over to face-to-face confrontation of what it means to have in one’s possession any object gleaned by any means, fain or foul
  • Nook with fireplace becomes a furnace to suit pyromaniac within us all
  • The Kleptoman Cell – first room on the right in the Appliance House
  • Occupant engages in task of collecting (things of beauty collected from disinterested owners)
  • Found objects that are shed scales of ourselves – stored in Cell’s walls
  • Homeowner has many collections, but hides some and puts others on display for the visitor
  • Someone borrows a book, but keeps it – book becomes a talisman for purposes other than reading – Kleptoman Cell is perfect for an object like this
  • “The Cell can now project tryst space, providing an atmosphere of acute danger and blunt passion cradled within a triangulation of the marginally ridiculous” (pg. 38).
  • Room seen from outside – a hollow formed by walls an inch thick or a solid cube of concrete – the architectural intent lies between these two states
  • Kleptoman Cell perceived as a vacated room which has pilasterized its intent and intrigue – collector’s bricolage is pressed out from the center of the Cell and the artifacted are cajoled into the walls
  • Cell is a cube 22’ L x 13’ H x 11’ W

appliance_house_kleptoman cell

  • At entrance – Telamon Cupboard and Flank Walls
  • Telamon Cupboard receives/released items procured from kleptomaniac activity (kleptomania – the urge to steal, without regard for need or profit)
  • Stairs between Cupboard and Flank Walls lead visit into body of the room
  • Cell and its collection unfolds
  • Rear Window at the end of the room – set in tension with Cupboard at the entrance
  • Window as a frame to look into, not out of
  • 13’ needle pivoting from the Window gyrates above the head and points to the Cupboard
  • Telamon Cupboard:  began as a paper collage disguised as a mirrored bathroom cabinet – reinvented itself into a cabinet of immense roundness, stability, and gravitational force
  • Permits the appliance’s skin to be handled, but still protects its mechanical workings
  • Workings of an appliance are reconstituted in design of the Cupboard to expose the fallacy of the appliance – instead it accentuates those aspects of appliances’ lore that possess dignitas
  • Objects are stored in forty 9”x 9” x 20” D boxes, each with a sliding door
  • Rolling doors obscure the objects – when half the doors are lifted, Kleptoman can only see half of his collection
  • Every component of Cupboard is visible but structural elements are intertwined with non-structural elements
  • Full of contradictory tensions and compressions – it pulls and pushes itself into complete stasis (equilibrium)
  • Restores outward appearance each time doors are shut – no evidence or fullness/bareness inside Cupboard’s inner realm

appliance_house_telamon cupboardappliance_house_telamon cupboard 2

The Kleptoman Plans to Build

  • Collages are precisely constructed, but permit ambiguous interpretation
  • Drawings allow for changes to occur
  • Places the responsibility of interpretation on the maker – re-engages his sense of integrity in deciding how things are made
  • Architect’s drawings no longer dictate a method of making/thinking, permit decisions to be made that embrace the entirety of the maker
  • Kleptoman choses an object to put in the Wall, tale of the thing is known, and choses a place to insert the object – re-inspecting the collages help choose the right spot
  • Cell Walls would collapse if built as drawn – rigged so all the parts are fixed onto an armature made of 7 pylons forming each wall
  • Object-laden Walls are in constant flux
  • Pylons are 1’ apart, surfaces are polished hard to give semblance of a continuum – Walls begin encroachment and whittle away straightness of pylons
  • Walls would dissolve structure and replace with their own


Appliance House Image 2

The Rear Window Appliance House Image 3


Nicholson, Ben. Appliance House. Chicago, IL: Chicago Institute for Architecture and Urbanism, 1990. Print.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s