Tabula Rasa Imperfecta




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Meso Scale: Community [Church]

Present 2014: Water  plays  a  substantial  role  in  religion.   In  many Christian denominations members are initiated into the congregation through varied forms of Baptism. In the Baptist community a  Baptism  consists  of  the  future  congregant  being  fully  submerged into a body of water. -Future 2055: Within the confines of the built walls exists a pool of holy water,  to  be  used  for  Baptisms.  The  pool surrounding the exterior of the church serves as a pool for repentance, where congregant’s sins are filtered and purified through water purification systems.

Future: The community continues to rely on the central body of the church.  However,  the  role  of  the  structure  has  expanded  beyond religious practice, and now provides fresh water for its tap-in congregation.




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Micro Scale: Site [Library]

Present 2014: The spread of knowledge is at a standstill at this abandoned library. The typology of the library must change in order to keep up with the increasing ease of accessing knowledge remotely. The abandoned library becomes a cistern to collect water, and will slowly begin to take on similar physical and metaphorical qualities of a bathhouse. Future 2035:  Roman Baths used water to create a communal space for users to share and spread ideas and theories.  In this sense the bath house and the library are quite similar, each used to share and spread knowledge. Thus, the user becomes the driver behind the spread of knowledge, using the constructs of the social bathhouse to inspire conversation and share ideas.

Future: Acquiring knowledge is no longer the primary function of the library, but rather it’s by-product.  The secondary function of providing a center for clean water, retreat, and warmth, exemplified by libraries designed by Henri Labrouste, is now at the forefront of this space.




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Macro Scale: Network [School]

Present 2014: Detroit’s public school district is failing, exemplified by a seemingly constant stream of school closures.  Water can play  a  role  in rethinking the educational system, perhaps through less conventional forms of teaching.   -Future 2025: Vocational schools are created to educate students in the practice of urban farming.  Commonly untaught skills are learned for the betterment and sustainability of current and future communities.  Conventional education, however, is not lost, and remains a viable option.

Future: Similar to Barn Raising, communities rely on vocational education to teach and re-teach each generation a set of skills that will enable them to provide for future generations (such as, but not limited to, urban farming).

Tabula Futura Imperfecta

Claire Leavengood-Boxer


Theorist Paul Virilio argues that “every invention contains its accidental demise, converting the accident from an unpredictable uncertainty to the accident waiting to happen.  The train’s invention was, therefore the simultaneous invention of the derailment… the accident presents, at least in the city, the opportunity for another invention.  In theory, then, the accident holds the kernel of reinvention.”  Virilio defines this as the ‘Tabula Futura Imperfecta’.

Virilio’s Tabula Futura Imperfecta allows for an unconventional means of looking at Detroit.   Vacant community centres are no longer defined as ‘failed’ entities, but rather seen as sites placed along temporal graphs depicting a perpetual rise and decline.  The state of ‘failure’ (decline), as Virilio declares, becomes an entity’s kernel for reinvention (rise).  In this study the church, the library, and the school are archetypes of community centres in parts of Detroit that are projected to incur increased populations from surrounding blighted areas.

The perpetual rise and decline of each site, or network of sites, are studied at three scales: Macro, Meso, and Micro. Each site remains in its own temporal cycle of rise and decline, although may interact (physically or ephemerally) with other sites in the city. Over time the typology of each community centre will transform and reinvent itself. At each scale, the community centre seeks to incorporate water re-use into its transformation.  An interwoven, sustainable network of ‘tap-in’ communities begin to form, which seek to question the typology of their respective community centres.


Who influences you graphically?

I often look at the highly detailed and spontaneous drawings of Lebbeus Woods, as well as the ethereal yet grounded nature of drawings by LCLA.

What role does the technique of overlay play in the images? In terms of breaking and linking time and spaces?

The technique of overlaying worked as a mechanism for discovering new ways to think about temporal and spatial aspects of architecture. Opposite this is the technique of rendering, which often references a highly specific moment or experiential condition within the architecture. However, I sought to achieve a graphic representation that alluded to a prolonged expanse of time, and which sought to capture the essence of the building when seen as an extended temporal condition.

You explore all means of representation, do you trust that a project can solely be explored to its fullest by using all of these?

I always find it difficult to accurately represent the project in my head no matter the medium of representation.  Every medium provides its own set of representational restrictions and limits, which can either serve as helpful or harmful to the narrative of the project.  Ultimately though I think this project would benefit from a greater degree of three-dimensional analysis, especially temporal conditions of materiality  Two-dimensioal representation conveys a lot about the project, but can only take the project so far.

Does the decadent and aged texture want to reflect the atmosphere of Detroit as a Tabula rasa on which to build and explore?

The texture evident in a number of the drawings plays a variety of roles, but primarily focuses on preserving the character and history of a building and its subsequent site.  While most forms of representation work to portray a level of cleanliness in the architecture, I hope to do the exact opposite.  The muddied, aged, and highly storied pasts of the sites are every bit as important as a conceived, plausible future.  The aged texture works to maintain the storied pasts as the future of the building plays out.




Claire Leavengood-Boxer is a Master of Architecture candidate at the University of Michigan’s Taubman School of Architecture and Urban Planning (’16). She was born and raised in the Maryland suburbs of Washington D.C., and went on to complete her undergraduate degree in architectural studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges (’11).


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