Jared Macken proposes to build two small architectural structures – designed so that two complete strangers will meet face-to-face for the first time. The structures will be sited in a vacant parking lot in Topeka, KS. Participants will approach a “strange structure,” walk up 9 steps, enter a three-foot square room at the top of stilts, and peer through a window looking out to the adjacent structure. As strangers approach the windows they will come face-to-face with each other. Since this project will be located in a vacant parking lot already frequented by pedestrian traffic, strangers will have an opportunity to engage further with the structures and meet each other on a regular basis.
Macken will also coordinate an event where artists, community workers, archivists, and other cultural practitioners from around KS – both acquaintances and strangers – come to the site and engage with each other using the strange structures. The intention will be to create a larger cultural dialogue about how we all approach this concept of being a stranger in the built environment. Encounters between two strangers will be documented – each stranger will be given a small form that allows them to write down what they talked about and explain how their interaction impacted their own perspectives regarding strangers. This information will go into a book publication related to the event – documenting the construction and life of Two Strangers Meet Alone in a Vacant Parking Lot and showing drawings related to the form of the two structures. This will be a limited edition of five bound books. He will also print 50 artist prints depicting the architectural drawings of the two structures.
This project has evolved from Macken’s past project called The Western Town: A Theory of Aggregation, which critiques the city through the fictional towns described in Wild West movies. The protagonist is “The Stranger,” a character who wanders into such western towns from the wilderness and makes residents nervous and scared – until they realize that this stranger may help them understand themselves better. In the end the Stranger saves the town from self-destruction.
Two Strangers will catapult into a series of built structures in Kansas related to the Western Town Book. Macken’s main interest as an architect, artist, and university instructor is exploring how small architectural structures connect to each other, fostering community in the city through collective form. The cohesion of a city is challenged by the paranoia and fear felt by inhabitants toward strangers. This life-size model will finally realize Macken’s concept of the Stranger in the city, engaging directly with this urban concern and, ideally, assuaging these fears.
Jared Macken received his M. Arch from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) in 2011 where he was the recipient of the Pella Fellowship Prize. While at UIC, Jared held Teaching Assistant positions for history and theory, co-founded the Department of Urban Speculation with Alex Lehnerer, and was an editor as well as art director for Fresh Meat, a student-led journal about architecture.
He is co-author of the award winning book The Western Town: A Theory of Aggregation (Hatje Cantz, 2013), a research project completed in cooperation with UIC, The Graham Foundation, and the ETH (Swiss Federal Technical Institute). He taught architectural design studios with the chair of architecture and urban design for three years at the ETH-Zurich.
He is now based in Topeka, KS (his home state) and teaches architectural design studios as an adjunct lecturer at the University of Kansas School of Architecture and Planning. Prior to studying architecture, he received a BFA (Hons) in Graphic Design from Wichita State University.