Negative Utopia

Parsa Khalili (website)
Yale School of Architecture
Independent Research
Faculty: Peter Eisenman (website)


Historical Resuscitation: A Retroactive Search for Precedents

The ancient capital of the Persian Empire, Persepolis is believed to have originally been commissioned by Cyrus the Great (576BC – 529BC), ruling under the Achaemenid dynasty. Additions to the complex were completed by subsequent kings, most notably, Darius I (549BC – 486BC). The palace and adjacent city was captured by Alexander the Great in 330BC, looted and nearly burnt to the ground in an act of revenge for the Persian invasion of the Acropolis during the Second Hellenic-Persian War.

This project serves as an excellent starting point for investigation because it is entirely unprecedented. The goal is not to reconstruct the physical reality of what once was but rather to unearth the possibility of an alternative genesis for architectural form. Constructed with almost no physical or contextual limitations, it is important to note that the complex resists aligning to traditional Greco-Roman principles (local and extended symmetries, axial congruencies, a promenade architecturale, the totalizing use of some underlying system of proportions, formal orders, and structural logics).

Through a series of formal investigations, identifying historically what may have informed the organization of successive additions, what becomes clear is that each constituent part both denies any adhesion to a projected whole and also respects adjacent constructs in a particular way. In examining the interstitial spaces, both positive (actual constructed mass) and negative (implied boundaries in exterior zones), a latent architectural condition arises – a negative reality on which the entire complex is organized.

A grammatical analysis of Persepolis presented an interesting opportunity – to study the formal basis of Persepolis through modern precedents. Consequently then Persepolis is fragmented, divided into a series of overlapping independent systems of organization, and studied analogous to modern precedents (Kahn’s Exeter Library, Terragni’s Danteum, Corbusier’s Salvation Army, Wright’s Martin House, Schinkel’s Altes Museum, and Scamozzi’s Fabrica Fino).

Reconstructed from the most prominent elements that constitute these respective projects, the New Perspolis is recovneived of as a new archeological collage. The ambition then was to put under erasure the respective stylistic elements of these modern projects – each at the hand of a different architect working within a different stylistic construct – and create a unified, homogenous plan. To effectively render each plan in this universal language, some lowest common (architectural) denominator is needed; here, in the form of two columnar dimensions and two wall thicknesses.

The investigation then looked at different means to spatializing Persepolis’ new plan: 1-extruding the plan relative to the influence of each modern precedent; 2-extruding everything to one constant dattum; 3-imbedding a hierarchy to each of the four constiuent elements; 4/5-identifying new organizational nuclei by which heights are determined by adjacency.

The project concludes, for the purposes of this independent study, with a series of montages that impose the New Persepolis within the context of the ruins of the existing project.


Leave a Reply