poché – pocket

In french poché means pocket

I recently learned this french meaning of the commonly used architectural term, poché.

This translation immediately caught my attention reminding me of the 2010 pecha-kucha five minute presentation I gave on pockets to an audience of architecture enthusiasts.  In that presentation I underscored the value of pockets as a construction capable of concealing and revealing contents.  At that time I didn’t make a direct argument between the hand size pocket and building size space but the scale comparison begged to be addressed.

So it is through this linguistic translation of poché as pocket that I begin my comparison of pockets and architecture with the interest of better understanding the conceal / reveal qualities of our built environment.

::part 1

Poché in architecture is a graphic technique of filling-in the mass of any cut material with a solid color.  The shading-in, as often seen as walls on a plan, eliminates technical information of construction. The intention of poché is to create a high contrast between the form of the space and the material elements that define that space. This distinction underscores an emphasis between the space people occupy and the enclosure delineating that space.  Baroque architecture, as seen in the San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane plan drawing and photo below, have an intricate relationship between poché and space primarily because the form has dramatic reliefs which emphasize the play of light and shadow.

photo and plan drawing of San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane by Francesco Borromini . left photo credit Lawrence OP

Here both space and material are sculpturally compelling as the positive of one is nests within the negative of the other.  Both vary in thickness, undulations and rotations resulting in a symbiotic relationship.  A 2009 sculpture by artist Mel Kendrick, “Markers”, offers a contemporary play on this balanced inverse of space and material.

Poché as a verb is a process in masking out or removing information, the act of filling in a wall accounts for the space the wall occupies.  The application of pochéd space can be applied differently to convey varying architectural conditions, such as the Nolli map, by Giambattista Nolli and Figure-ground diagrams.  One can also poché space which describes an element of controlled or restrained access. Spaces of secrecy or exclusion are selectively accessible and can be understood as pochéd for a select few.  The section sketchs below applies an inverse of poché, masking out the interior space of pockets, identifying the enclosures as a solid, only accessible by the owner.  The powerful thing about pockets is that they can conceal contents held within.  The element of concealing can leverage a disadvantaged situation or create anxiety in an already tension exchange.  Power of pocket poché is determined by the size and position of the opening to the shape of the pocket.  The mystery infuses the pocket, typically seen as a functional item, with suspense and play.

::part 2, will provide an investigation into pocket’s power of conceal and reveal in relation to architecture.

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