AFTER OCEANIC is the legal entity representing a next-generation, activist-driven public practice working among the realms of architecture, landscape, infrastructure, and installation. The studio forms to address the dynamic human geography of urbanism today.
With a mission to help transform the experiences that drive kuleana toward justice-advancing futures—AFTER OCEANIC maintains an aesthetic and egalitarian vision to advance the recovery of contemporary ahupua‘a systems with a focus that is ecological, economic, and technologic in scope. From building to ecosystem—material, information, energy, and time are planetary systems humans design and redesign.
AFTER OCEANIC INC is the studio of artist-architect Sean Connelly.
|Hawai'i Futures 1||2010-|
|A Small Area of Land 2,4||2013|
|Land Division 3,4||2014|
|Thatched Assembly with Rocks 5||2017|
After Oceanic produces small, approximate interventions concerning time, form, and material in the recovery of ahupua‘a. New media works online expand experimental discourse while physical site-specific and mobile installations provide a communicative media to broadcast applied design research. After Oceanic intends to produce projects at larger scales.
1. Hawai'i Futures is a virtual intervention for island urbanism. As an experiment in new media, the project opens an arena for public speculation and criticism concerning the misuse and underuse of Hawai‘i’s greatest source of energy—the island itself. Hawai‘i Futures presents a notion of the island as a primary technology of sustenance and portrays alternative notions of citymaking according to the life (e.g., ecologies) of volcanic islands versus of continents. Spatial comparisons between Hawaiian land-use and American land-use systems reveal a list of parameters for the recovery of ahupua‘a. (Think Hawaiian Resource Management, or ‘āina-based community development (or the ABCD’s of oceanic citymaking).) Comparisons, parameters, and simulated recoveries are generated through diagrams, 3D mapping, digital models, and financial metrics for every moku and ahupua‘a of O‘ahu. (Selected areas of other Hawaiian Islands have been digitized and are available for collaboration.) The visualized design research presented throughout the project compacts policy, spatial data, statistics, and ethnography into an aesthetic and cohesive vision for the future of an oceanic city.
2. A site specific gallery installation located at street level, A Small Area of Land (Kaka‘ako Earth Room) creates an event for passersby to contemplate a question about ‘āina: how do our relationships with land affect the futures of development? This gesture occupies a 9’-0” L x 4’-0” W x 7’-0” H cross-section of land that turns the ground into vertical position—a monolith at eye level. 32,000 lbs of volcanic soil (⅔ oxisol + ⅓ vertisol) are harvested, hand-sifted, mixed with coral-sand and water, and then packed into tight geologic formation. Its simple rectangular geometry is trimmed by the altitude of the moon to form a prism facing sunrise on the day land in Hawai‘i was privatized (Kuleana Act: August 6, 1850). Over time A Small Area of Land (which bears English translation to the Hawaiian word kuleana) erodes itself into relaxed ruin . The work is footnoted by Earth Room, an installation of Walter de Maria. (The title Kaka‘ako Earth Room owes an acknowledgement to the curator who encouraged the artist to visit Earth Room in the first place. When the artist proposed a similar installation adapted to a Hawai‘i context, the same curator secured an opportunity for it to be produced.) While Kaka‘ako Earth Room is after De Maria, it is subject to a critical regional reappropriation. Since the surface of dirt is easily anticipated by viewers in Hawai‘i since earth is seen everyday, the construction of A Small Area of Land is offset from the wall by distances for walking and gathering at either side of the gallery. This decision builds from an aspect of De Maria’s Earth Room that involves the interiorization of a material as crucial as soil. Kaka‘ako Earth Room takes interiorized earth and crafts it into an object. Initially it was thought of as an indoor landform furniture. Then the driving factor of the project arrived. The horizontal slab of dirt is turned up to stand with an agency of its own and reveal its posture and bands of variation.
3. The idea of form as compass exists in many structures built during the timeline of ahupua‘a. Spatial alignments in A Small Area of Land are critical and intentional. Land Division reiterates a similar intent. Thousands of pounds of strawberry guava are artificially stacked into a symbolic cross-section of invasive forest cut and compressed onto its side. The geometry of Land Division results from simple boolean operations applied successively to a stable spinning cone. The geometry is independent from the gallery space until its rotation is paused and split with two site-specific georeferences. The first reference is celestial. The form is sited perpendicular to the position of the moon facing sunset on the day of the 1848 Māhele signifying the division of land into shares for privatization. The concave elevation of the sculpture appears in bluish light ceremoniously. These alignments are obscured and only indicated in the gallery with esoteric grey markers . The first is of the moon phase above the date 03.07.1848. The second reference is terrestrial and marked by a second icon showing a vertical bar above the date 07.11.1961. This indicates the direction of the state capital in reference to the passing of legislation that divided into single-use land-use districts. The alignment with the capital diagonally splits the sculpture into two masses that are eventually rotated. A white map of O‘ahu with ahupua‘a recovered appears on the wall.
5. The set of strategies that comprise Thatch Assembly with Rocks (2060s) explore architecture as economy of islands; as an assembly of material and time into systems as significant and necessary as shelter and information. The outdoor siting of this project creates a moment to consider how islands are bound to the scale of building. As buildings are founding components of local and global economic systems, they represent the physical storage of assets (and liabilities) produced across the array of livelihoods experienced on Earth. In the links between shelter and economy, the pursuit of island-based materials in Hawai‘i architecture is critical to the recovery of ahupua‘a, a fundamental technic of economy.
Time travel is the first in the set of strategies. (I) In response to the biennial theme Middle of Now | Here, Thatch Assembly with Rocks (2060s) concerns the history of architecture in Hawai‘i, in the decades surrounding Statehood (1959). The installation offers an intervention in time where traditional thatching materials local to Hawai‘i remain a primary building technology for architectural and aesthetic achievement. Surrounding this time, achievements in American architecture underpinning the avant-garde of twentieth century technology accompanied advancements in national and global steel markets emerging from the second world war. Among the most prominent steel works in architecture, Mies Van Der Rohe’s Crown Hall (1956) is credited as the world’s first realization of a clear-span structure to produce universal space—a general space freed in the absence of interior structural columns made habitable through a mechanically conveyed atmosphere enclosed in glass completely. Crown Hall represents a primary emergence from a history of thermal systems in architecture: passive (non-mechanical) buildings habitable within a thickness of opaque walls, columns, and corridors shielding the interior from climate. These tectonic advancements of steel and glass in modern architecture are relative to the history of their application in continental climates. The declaration of space as never before having being universal leads to a moment of speculation regarding the tropics. The thatched Polynesian canoe house with a clear-span timber structure is an oceanic analogue of modern architecture’s universal gem. Thatching—the primary universal building technique extending from ancient times worldwide—requires the use of material that is readily available, durable (lifecycle 15-20 years), with installation processes that are iterative and replicable. Yet, despite the prerogative of modern architecture to address site critically wherever it goes (see Gropius House, 1938), as steel building prevails internationally and in places as remote and tropical as Hawai‘i, regional [link: Kenneth Frampton] building resources like palm fronds for thatching are largely absent from its then vanguard repertoire of epistemology, material, and technique. In the proliferating spans of glass and steel dominating the era of Hawai’i Statehood, thatching is considered primitive and replaceable.
Thatch Assembly with Rocks (2060s) attempts to fill a gap in the history of Hawai‘i architecture. The project yields an anachronism for contemplation. On one side, a history that could have been, where thatching is incorporated regionally into modern architecture surrounding Hawai‘i Statehood. On the other, a history possible a hundred years from now (2060s), at a time when the building code for indigenous structures has modified. In misplacing the assembly as an artifact in time, (II) the second strategy of material study emerges: the project is a material study. In the assembly, the primary material is Loulu, (pritchardia remota), a fan palm endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. The materials, which used to be prevalent across all elevations is readily available and used historically for thatching. The fronds, which can remain dried on a tree for decades, are harvested only after dryness has subsumed its biological function to reach a final molecular outcome—in death the leaf secretes its own waterproofing. After harvest, the fronds are processed and organized for lashing. Conventionally, lashing is secured to a frame of similarly lashed wooden rods of varying circumferences. However, as a material study the palms are misplaced together with a sawn cut, hand notched timber frame. The pairing of thatch and sawn timber incorporates two disparate events in architecture to make new history. Rocks—the most sacred and contentious island-based materials— are placed in each module as an entrypoint for further discussion about the piece.
In this event of new history, (III) the third strategy reveals itself: the thatching is skewed in plan and reversed in section. This conceptual hint serves first to remind the participant this is not a house but a material study. As a material study, this creates various moments to focus conversation: (a) site, (b) intensification, (c) craft, (d) enclosure. Given its placement on site, (a) the orthogonal volume is skewed at 105.6 degrees (N to East) in reference to the position of the moon as it rises on the Spring Equinox. This angle is crossed with a second axis toward mauka-makai. The skewed operation of the rectangular volume enables the roof to separate from the walls resulting in the structure for thatching, which is then finally reversed. The reversal of thatching yields an affect of intensification. (b) Three exterior thatched planes turned inward intersect to simulate the appearance of a dense, perhaps urbanized condition; a courtyard, alleyway, or interstitial rooftop spaces. (c) The oblique geometry, as the participant moves around the assembly, appears to slip and elongate. Both faces of thatching become visible together at once. The frilly appearance of the typically outward facing thatch is revealed to be indeed profound—the rigor and craft of a thatch structure are best seen from its interior. The act of reversal interiorizes the exterior, and (d) the experience of the assembly begins to upend any notion of enclosure and place the question of indoor and outdoor within the actual material (and its land base). (IV) The final strategy is fleeting and experienced only during a short period of the day with the right weather. As the slope produces shade, the assembly demonstrates the thermal utility of the thatch. Compared to a roof made of copper, corrugated metal, or asphalt shingles, the thermal efficacy of loulu palm produces an environment that is several degrees cooler.