Zoom in and/or zoom out

October 2, 2013


Katherine Shonfield describes the way muf design process works – which can be described through the formula detail/strategy=DETAIL, “[…] meaning the utopian projections of strategy are simultaneously understood through the transformation of a tiny piece of the here-and-now, DETAIL, capital letters. […] So  strategy derives from the up-close look at the up-close and personal; and DETAIL from an up-close look at a strategic ‘what if …’. DETAIL is a kind of premature gratification of a utopian longing.” (p. 17)

Reading the formula very literally is actually helpful for me at this stage of the studio project I am in (designing a ‘house’ for dance). I am in the middle of the confusion that I always feel right after the first stage in a design project; that is after I have studied the place, the theme and formed a concept or a research question. I have always struggled with that exact stage, moving from one scale to another in the ‘right order,’ e.g. moving from 1:5000 to 1:1000 to 1:500 to 1:100 to 1:5.  I have always felt a little bad about wanting to do 1:1 and 1:5000 simultaneously. What will happen in my project if I throw away the binoculars for a while and dust off my microscope? Maybe I can use the muf formula to embrace my architect-planner instincts of switching between: using the scale 1:1 to define what a house for dance actually is or what it could become.


Shonfield, Katherine. 2001. “Premature gratification and other pleasures.”  This is what we do. A muf manual. London: Elipsis London.


One Response to “Zoom in and/or zoom out”

  1. Johan Alvfors Says:

    I think it is a great idea to follow this idea to challenge the usual pattern of how to work with scales. I have also used the microscope at times, and more than else to lift out a detail, a process, an action, and study its precise conditions, and extrapolating from that. This allows you to get away from preconscious structures and create the unexpected – an experiment that will get reactions. It is not to design in a safe way, but it is probably be worth it! Just watch out for how you go from the detail to the DETAIL. The “close up look at strategy” could prove to be the hardest, and tends to bring back what is already known. Maybe this is where there is a need for conscious provocation?

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