By Lise Anne Couture & Hani Rashid
In mathematical terms, the word "asymptote" is defined as a line that a given curve gets closer and closer to, but never touches, as it gets further from the origin towards infinity. In architectural terms, Asymptote is the Manhattan-based architectural design and research practice established by Lise Anne Couture and Hani Rashid in 1989.
Rashid and Couture's work is intriguing because it draws inspiration from a wide range of sources not traditionally associated with architecture - among them the design of airline interiors, sporting equipment, and organic systems like seashells and honeycombs; and various means of communicating and disseminating information. Their projects are concerned as much with light, speed, and traversing virtual boundaries as with "real-world" geometries and building systems.
Echoing Asymptote's approach, this book presents a seamless trajectory of projects organized in a non-linear fashion and illustrated with installation photographs, collaged photographs, and computer generated diagrams and environments, all in color.
The projects follow one another in a panoramic, filmstrip fashion and are interspersed with descriptive text and the speculative writing that Asymptote is known for. The book is intended to be explored at random, without strict beginning or end.
This new multimedia hub was proposed for the landmark Armory Building in San Francisco's Mission District. The project entails renovating existing office space and providing over 200,000 square feet of new leasable space for the growing e-industries within a structure formerly used as a parade ground. Asymptote proposed a new "building within a building" inside the impressive seven-story-high Armory. Contrasting with and highlighting the existing nineteenth century steel truss structure would be a new facility incorporating the latest communication and digital technologies. The proposed building structure incorporates advanced fiber optics and light lens systems to maximize daylighting, and integrates all wiring, data feeds, and HVAC systems into the facade.
Proposed tenant amenities, including a cafe, bookstore, fitness facilities, and "digital lounges," would be located in the open space surrounding and below the new structure and would also serve the local community. Public components such as digital training labs and exhibition galleries would contribute further to the community and offer opportunities for corporate community partnerships.
The Univers Theater, a temporary structure first erected in Aarhus, Denmark, in 1997, brought architecture, theater, and media technologies to the intersection of event-structure and historic presence.
The aim of the project was to provide an architecture in keeping with the goals of the prestigious Aarhus International Theater Festival, one that would anticipate and incorporate multimedia technologies and prompt social exchanges (virtual and actual) in the historic Bispetorv Square at the center of Aarhus. In addition to implementing structural and mediated technologies, Asymptote created an architecture of hybrid form, unorthodox materiality, and efficient structure to address the critical position of a new architecture confronting the contemporary urbanism of European cities today.
The future of cities and the ways of corporate culture are inextricably linked. The airport is today a surrogate city-space equipped with all the attributes of urbanism yet at the same time hygienically insulated and controlled.
The advent of digital technologies has spawned in most business sectors two seemingly contradictory trends: long-distance communication by sophisticated electronic means, and a vast increase in travel and the need for face-to-face meetings. As businesses merge and grow around the globe, airports have attempted to keep pace by offering executive business areas, lounges, places of worship, and a plethora of other features that at one time only real city space might have provided. These trends suggest that airports will transform into places that people not so much simply pass through but instead use and inhabit. Cities have historically evolved around trade routes and transportation nodes, including waterways, highways, and rail lines. In today's continually changing global corporate culture we are seeing the evolution of city space occurring in close proximity with - if not wedded to - new airport planning.
From the outset, the Knoll A3 project was a complete revaluation and overhaul of the conventional - and some would say outmoded - office cubicle. With a background in architecture as opposed to industrial design, Asymptote was predisposed to take an initial approach that was spatial and environmental rather than primarily object driven.
The project was seen as a valuable opportunity to rethink the dynamics of the office landscape: How do people interact in quasi wireless, digitally equipped environments? How can one have a sense of privacy while also feeling like part of a larger community? What are the new emotionally charged forms and materials that we surround ourselves with on a daily basis? How can these be employed to create vibrant and interesting work environments and furnishings? How can a desire for versatility and flexibility be accommodated while at the same time maintaining a high level of efficiency? Can this be achieved while still bringing a sense of order and dignity to our workspaces?
Last updated: December 19, 2013