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Tara Castator, "Chancy-Mancy"

Master's thesis

Tara was interested in the role of chance in the process of architectural design. After some research, she realized that unpredictability isn't just something to be controlled; it can also be an integral part of the creative process.

For her thesis project, she wanted to create a tool that could help harness the power of chance to intentionally guide and engage the imagination. That tool eventually took the form of a deck of cards.

"Cards can be reordered, and through that you can come up with new ideas that you otherwise wouldn't have," Tara says.

A major influence on Tara's project was tarot, a card-based divination system used by psychics and other believers in the occult. "What I liked about tarot was the idea that there's some kind of interpretation that's very specific to the user," Tara says. "Tarot cards depict qualities in people — but, because they're abstract qualities, users are able to project their own lives onto them. That's why I decided to make this project a little abstract. I'm relinquishing control and allowing the user to read into it themself."

Like a tarot deck, Tara's cards leave a lot to the imagination. She created a deck of 78 of them, split into two "suits": interior and exterior. Each suit makes up half the deck — 39 cards — and consists of a series of cryptic illustrations of various architectural objects and concepts.

Here, for instance, is an "attic" card of the interior suit and a "trim" card of the exterior suit:


And here's a "ceiling" card of the interior suit and a "roof" card of the exterior suit:


"The exterior suit is more about the object as a tangible thing in the world," Tara says. "And the interior suit is about the qualities relating to the object. The idea is that, ultimately, these objects are neither of those things. They're both."

Using Tara's cards is an art, not a science. The process begins by drawing a few cards and laying them on a table. After that, it's up to the designer to determine how the cards relate to each other, and how that relationship might be embodied in a piece of architecture.

To demonstrate the process, Tara used her cards to create a few architectural models. Here, for example, is what happened when Tara drew three cards: "the garden" (interior), "the column" (exterior), and "the vestibule" (interior):

Tara's model

The model shows a concept for what Tara calls a "garden of columns." Some of the columns are rigid and pristine while others are allowed to be eroded by natural processes. The use of random decay for aesthetic purposes exemplifies the thesis project's theory of chance as a positive, helpful force.

And here's what happened when Tara drew "the gutter" (interior), "the arch" (exterior), and the "mullion" (interior):

Tara's model

This arch-lined pavilion structure is designed to accept rainwater and channel it outward in ways that would be visually appealing to a visitor.

Advisor: John Shnier