Helen Yue Wang & Canqi Mu
Succeeding the bibliotheque and mediatheque – two building types that allow for the storage and exchange of information – our thesis proposes the chromatheque, a vivid environment that orchestrates affect in order to support forms of knowledge production and collaboration inherent to the digital age. We believe that conventional libraries are valuable yet static, homogeneous, and unable to fulfill the increasing desire for cross-disciplinary dialogue and embodied study. In response, this project combines color with cognitive learning and corporeal learning to create an institution that bridges different fields and encourages social interaction.
We argue that digital technology, in its pervasiveness, diversifies formats and possibilities for encounter. However, the limitless bounds of the digital realm can impede our ability to coalesce around sources of knowledge. Our chromatheque supplements the ambient nature of this context by using atmosphere to specify domains of scholarship. Here, color operates as both architectural format and content, creating learning environments that promote collaboration between professionals across disciplines.
The project occupies the interior of the Bell Labs Holmdel Complex, originally designed by Eero Saarinen in the late 1950s at the inception of the Information Age. According to media theorist Carolyn Kane, Bell Labs was once the site of secret interdisciplinary collaboration where artists would sneak into the building at night to run experiments with engineers on digital color. The chromatheque recalls this history, adapting the existing structure and volume to suspend polychromatic trays that support joint action and shared values.
The building is organized under three categories: color as code, color as image, and color as product. As code, color is understood and organized in relation to an index, catalog, or listing that facilitates interaction between disciplines. As image, color information is stored and restored in pixels, and the transformation from one hue to another carries meaning. As product, color becomes an object with an assigned name, a fixed RGB value that can be reproduced over and over in different media. Through a combination of intense lighting, nested forms, and unconventional assemblies of media and technology, the chromatheque weaves these three color types together to create a unique space of embodied learning for our digital age.