Mackenzie Muhonen

Department of Architecture

Low Fidelity

This thesis begins with Dürer’s “Rhinoceros,” a woodcut produced in 1515. The work was generated from a textual description of an Indian rhino. Dürer never saw the animal firsthand. Yet his image served as the graphic standard for “rhino” for centuries in Europe. Representations of the image were widely disseminated. Until Europeans finally saw a rhino firsthand—namely Clara the Rhino, who toured Europe in the mid 18th century—Dürer’s image and its reproductions were stand-ins for a firsthand experience of the animal.

Today, the way in which we communicate and consume architectural content is akin to Dürer’s rhino. Images of architecture and their reproductions serve as stand-ins for firsthand experiences of buildings. Architectural content that is deeply considered in its inception is now valued in fragments. The layers of information and specificity that are intrinsic to design are excluded in exchange for the production of images. This thesis identifies this condition as Low Fidelity, where the image of the building has displaced the value of the building itself.

This thesis proposes a methodology for maneuvering within the context of Low Fidelity. It uses a series of architectural compositions to enact this methodology. These images treat architecture as a quasi-object that shifts scale, materials, and context to destabilize and defamiliarize. Compositions are nested in compositions are nested in compositions to build up layers of information that become detached from their original context to gain new meaning. By treating visual information this way, this thesis positions the architect as the author of new—or perhaps recast—labors in Low Fidelity. The architect scripts the link between divergent architectural content by designing the details, the indexes, or the table of contents that seam spatial fragments together.

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