A B S E N C E
The NADAAA Design Studio Harvest Home: Solar Decathlon Sketching in Turkey Experiences In Architecture Lectures from our Summer Speaker Series: Nader Tehrani NADAAA Mark Sexton Krueck + Sexton Rhett Russo NJIT Andrea Leers Leers Weinzapfel Associates Lyn Rice Rice+Lipka Architects
D L t
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
N m n
This edition of our Summer Institute for Architecture Journal at the School of Architecture and Planning at the Catholic University of America engages the theme “Absence” to explore the conditions found between things and to explore the possibilities of what could come. Our students were given the opportunity to engage with internationally-acclaimed architect renowned for exemplary work, Nader Tehrani (NADAAA), in the intimate setting of a design studio. We were delighted to welcome a respected cadre of architects, Mark Sexton, Andrea Leers, Lyn Rice, and Rhett Russo, to share their work framed via a lens of absence. As architects, we work in the realm of making things present: buildings, urban interventions, furniture. This theme of absence presents an interesting opportunity to consider what is missing and to use architecture as a mechanism to reveal what is hidden. Louis Kahn spoke of the space between silence and light. Inspiration is the feeling of beginning as the threshold where Silence and Light meet. Silence, the unmeasurable desire to be, desire to express, the source of new need, meets Light, the measurable, giver of all presence, by law, the measure of things already made, as a threshold which is inspiration, the sanctuary of art, the Treasury of Shadow ... One of the most exciting prospects within architecture today is to consider how to construct spaces that allow meaningful interactions to occur. We live in an on-demand world where we can pull information to us at will. We are constantly plugged in, looking for
the latest update, wondering what the next trend will be. In this contemporary landscape of highly visual, articulated noise, it is worth considering the loud silence of purposeful acts of making and building. As architects and planners, we can search for an “other” kind of place, one that relishes in the hidden, the echoes, and the spaces of absence.
Randall Ott, AIA
D I R E C T O R L e t t h e
e r f r o m D i r e c t o r
Pairs of opposites, in partnership, set up the condition of understanding one because of the presence (or absence) of the other. Embedded in the removal of something can be the heightened sense of yearning for it. As architects and designers, we create situations to amplify a set of conditions to alter our perceptions. Absence can also be considered as the space between silence and light. In a world where information and data are a click away and the visual cacophony can be deafening, it is worthwhile to step outside of that place in pursuit of another condition.
cultural, technological, and historical issues via focused study of an architectural situation. The 2013 SIA continued to build on the tradition and legacy of the Summer Institute for Architecture at CUA. We were honored to host awardwinning architect Nader Tehrani, NADAAA, as our studio guest critic, and to welcome an incredible roster of invited speakers: Mark Sexton, Krueck+Sexton; Rhett Russo, NJIT; Lyn Rice, Rice+Lipka; and Andrea Leers, FAIA, Leers Weinzapfel Associates. Their collective presence in the design studio and at our school raised the intensity and caliber of discussion, engaging students in the critical process of design thinking.
The 2013 Summer Institute for Architecture studios and speaker series speculate on the notion of absence. Through an intensive design studio and workshops, students rigorously interrogated the multiple ways to test the ideas of absence. We asked the question if these ideas can serve as an operative logic to amplify a circumstance while altering or denying access to another? Or is it that our access (visual or physical) is simply rechoreographed via skillful manipulations of tectonic, infrastructural, and organizational strategies? How can we find the layers of complexity in the seemingly simple juxtaposition of opposites? Critical discussions of the theme played out between all levels of students, distinguished guest critics, faculty, and guest speakers.
This journal brings together the work of the students, the guest critic, and the speakers to present a snapshot of an incredible experience. I am certain you will see the intensity, energy, and enthusiasm on the part of all the participants clearly evidenced in the range of work presented in this publication. As you share in the reflections on the complex landscapes of practice, theory, and building, consider this: Ignasi de SolĂ -Morales refers to absence as not just a void but as the space of the possible, of expectation. Come join us as we seek to reveal the spaces of anticipation and promise.
The SIA has always been and remains a unique experience. It offers the promise of an architectural academic experience, rich in intensity, and unparalleled to conventional practice. The SIA presents students with the opportunity to expand their understanding of broader ethical, social,
Julie Ju-Youn Kim, RA AIA Summer Institute for Architecture Director,
E L t
t t e
T O d
R m r
Taking a closer look into the Summer Institute’s theme of “Absence,” we looked at how to properly show, through images and text, the full experience of the summer here in the architecture building at CUA. Like the theme, we found it appropriate that the journal would be one of minimalism. We found it fundamental that it be simple and straight to the point, leaving room for further individual thought. Absence is found from the void of what has been created making for a more diverse space. In the journal, we laid out the text thinking of the absent space that would be created between the text and the images, creating diverse spreads throughout the journal. The thought of making the text sit on the page, as elegantly as each image, was one of our ways of highlighting the text and giving it importance.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
If we had to give one importance over all others, it would be to give each reader the full experience of the summer. We did this by immersing the reader into the transcription of every lecture that was held over the course of the summer. Along with the lectures we sprinkled in visual shots from student action and work that was displayed over the course of the summer. Less is always more, which goes perfectly with the summer’s theme and our choice of a white backdrop and soft grey focus of the text with simply placed images dispersed throughout the journal. We hope you enjoy the work and feel inspired to become a part of what is done here at the School of Architecture and Planning at The Catholic University of America over the summer. Ariadne Cerritelli
SIA Journal Editor
Journal Design: Ariadne Cerritelli + Amirali Ebadi Journal Editor: Ariadne Cerritelli
C O N T E N T S T a b l e
C o n t e n t s
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
All Images in this Journal 2013 CUA School of Architecture + Planning, unless otherwise noted.
SKETCHING IN TURKEY
JOHN HEARNEY P. 152
KRISTEN WELLER_critic ADDITION P. 164
EXPERIENCES IN ARCHITECTURE
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
N A D A A A N a d e r
T e h r a n i
03 July 2013 Crough Center for Architectural Studies, CUA Washington DC. Tonight’s lecture is kind of like a midterm critique, if you like. It is about three schools of architecture, all in various stages of design, implementation, and use. Those of you who know me know that for over twenty years I have been invested in building up the relationship between the academy and practice in a more robust way. Bringing the world into the school but, more importantly, taking some of the speculative work that we do in school to transform the industry as it is, to transform practice, and to, certainly, not take for granted the modus operandi that we have come to expect and that has calcified the discipline at large.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
So tonight’s lecture is not so much about the relationship between practice and pedagogy, per se, but it is the spaces of pedagogy itself. We could articulate and cite many examples of schools of architecture, but I use these three, really, as a kind of didactic instrument. They become emblematic because of the certain circumstances to which they appeal. On the left the extraordinary school of architecture in São Paulo: the idea that the space of architecture is, in fact, a public space. It is the place where everything happens and it is the cross roads of where all of the disciplines converge. It is a particularly seductive image for what we do as a discipline and a practice. I do remember myself at RISD having to select my major after the end of the first year, and not being sure if I was going into painting, film, or architecture. At one point I went to the architecture department, never having been there before, and I noticed that while the lobby was completely empty, there were people huddled in the far corner trying to get into a door, almost fighting to get in. I had no idea what was behind that door, but I went in there. I could not see anything because, obviously, everyone is taller than I am, and as I smuggled my way into the crowd, there was just a lecture. Why would people line up to see a lecture? But there was such a thirst that, in fact, that was one
(top) University of Sao Paulo Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism © Nelson Kon (middle) Harvard Graduate School of Design Studio Trays © Ken Mccown (bottom) Cornell Architecture, Art and Planning, Milstern Hall © Jake Rudin
of the most instrumental moments that lead me to the school of architecture. There was something about the urgency about what was at stake... and that urgency can be argued to still exist, though in other forms.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
The middle is more contemporary, but by now a historic piece of architecture from the â€˜70s, Andrews, and it is the GSD. It is a factory where everyone is visible to everyone else, but on top of that, whereas the normative factory floor is normally flat, this one is tilted into a series of trays producing the condition of a theater or auditorium, and the optics, and the surveillance, and the spectacle that is part of the production of architecture becomes amplified because of this configuration. The idea of seeing and being seen is really part of it all. The third one is actually a new building that is an addition to the two buildings that Cornell wanted to connect. All of you who followed the competition know that two competitions were dispensed with before arriving to this project by Koolhaas. The brilliance is that he made an addition that happens to be stronger than both of the existing buildings deferring to them, respectfully, but also overwhelming them strategically all at the same time. Of these examples, the last is the only one where the notion of architectural pedagogy has radically changed. We are no long bound to our table with a mayline, we walk around with our laptops. The studio is everywhere. The studio is in the auditorium. The studio is in the library. The studio is at Starbucks, where there is WiFi. The studio is in the Fab Lab. So notions of the centrality of the studio space have, in a way, centrifugally been spread throughout campus, and yet the space of the studio is still what defines the pedagogy of architecture. Remember, design thinking is one of the only disciplines where the professor and the students are on a horizontal plane debating over drawings, and the Socratic Method, in a way, becomes central in the way in which we impart knowledge. It is not a professor lecturing to an audience, it is not a one-way street; it is more of a process and it is a debate. The discursive nature of education is central to the process of learning.
School of Architecture, Yale University, Records Concerning Events and Exhibits (RU 886) Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library Art & Architecture building, section perspective drawing by Paul Rudolph
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
Meanwhile, the economy, processes of globalization, and digital culture have completely altered the way in which we learn, teach, and communicate within the context of architecture. Those of you who were educated in my era had two or three journals that we looked at — Opposition, Assemblage, among others. Now we wake up every morning and we log in to Archinect, Dezeen, Dezain, and a range of other sources where content might be less deep, but its horizontality of access makes the democratization of evident — also blurring the line between knowledge and information. All of this, at one level, has made architecture more accessible to many more fields, many more people, people of different culture and classes, and, at the same time, it has made the idea of having that space an incredible luxury, something that most other countries do not have. Because schools of architecture in other cultures, for the most part, are places where you get educated but you do not have a dedicated studio space. The three schools I will be presenting tonight really are a map of a single institution but in completely different guises, with very different political backdrops, and, as a result, very different circumstances, but they begin to display a discipline in transition. I show here the section of Rudolph’s Yale School of Architecture. It is, really, an amazing building, not so much for its brutality but the way in which spaces of production, spaces of presentation and debate, are integrated together. But so too are the systems of the building where issues of structure, illumination, and the mechanics of the building are somehow all encrypted and imbedded within each other. Certainly this will become omnipresent in the buildings that I will show you as this emerges as a major concern in my evolution. Not having really built that many buildings and being thrown into the mosh pit of practice, it has become clear that the power of the architect has diminished incrementally in the last 50-60 years with the onslaught of specialization. Architects more and more are being asked to design the skin, but not the building — design the lobby but not the building, design an
(top) Hinman Research Building urban network diagram- Georgia Tech campus (bottom right) Hinman Research Building historic image of exterior
interior, design the layout but then not the finishes. This has come as a result of these artificial evolutions of sub-disciplines: landscape architecture, interiors, architects, urban designers, and then, furthermore, with the evolution of technologies, from computation to building technologies, mechanical and structural engineering. We have become further and further more divorced from that thing that we know of as the cohesive project of architecture. These three projects are an attempt to reconcile that phenomenon and, in turn, to re-appropriate certain disciplines to bring them back to an arena for which we can maintain not only control, but also responsibility.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
The Hinman Building at Georgia Tech was really something I inherited after I taught there. We went in for the RFQ and actually won the competition, but the existing building had much to offer. One of the classic modern buildings protected by heritage status in the United States. This was designed by Paul M. Heffernan and it was not a school of architecture. It was a “research” institute with an amazing high bay structure that you see looming in the background — really, a factory. We have witnessed many ways of approaching Heritage buildings in the past. One classic example is the way in which Scarpa, at Castelvecchio, adopted techniques of layering to articulate the relationship between the new and the old; he set up a contrast to produce a dichotomy between the existing and the new, in essence using contrast to pay homage to history. We opted for a technique closer to the tactics of Judo: pulling your opponent with their force, and by doing so you absorb their power for your own might. We realized that this is a building that has a rather unique nature. A composite structure composed of brick, concrete, steel, and wood. It is of a generation of buildings around the 1920s. Very few of these types of buildings were built. Located at the heart of Georgia Tech, it is part of an urban network and the building really becomes a completion, if you like, of a variety of architecture buildings that share a quad in between and then divide up the institutions of the school amongst the various buildings. The library is on one side, the shop on
(top) Hinman Research Building, relationships of required program (bottom) Hinman Research Building, rethinking the use and arrangement of desks to support new ways of working
the other side, the auditorium yet another, and then, in our building, the high bay. But also it becomes an urban connection between various quads and courts.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
We are also reminded that the studio of today has to negotiate between a body of people that require different kinds of intellectual support, and that intellectual support is emotional, it is infrastructural, it is intellectual, and it is cultural. The studio space, if you are truly going to spend 24 hours there (I would expect no less) has to have the necessary infrastructure like shops, printers, wired connections, and so forth. It needs to have research libraries, laboratories, and things that, in fact, we often did not have, but in order to produce new forms of knowledge you need those resources. Culture, lectures, exhibitions, symposiums, and other programs that invigorate the program, and the “whatever,” is the café, the movies, and all of those other things that architecture through its own instruments cannot do. Engaging popular culture out there and beginning to bring all of these things back into the school. We are also, in a way, acknowledging the fact that the desk on which you work [no longer requires] the mayline, it is not the drafting board. It has at least a computer, sometimes two. You still need to build models. The way you used to roll up drawings is no longer relevant, so storing them the way we used to is no longer relevant either; a lot of them remain digitally bounded or you can store them in lockers. The economic ecology of the dimension of the desk in relationship to storage and other elements may be revised. Why? Because the most expensive aspect of architectural education is “space” itself and that is why we are almost always subsidized. The question of Georgia Tech really became what to do with that high bay. The truth was that they needed a lot more programs and so we knew, somehow or other, other activities would end up happening in there. This is, of course, London Tate Gallery. The same space interpreted in many different artists — as public space, as a city, as a universe, but underlining the idea that this colossal space has this ability to be read at multiple scales. In fact, programmatically, at
ÂŠ Jonathan Hillyer
one moment of the project we needed to insert an entirely new building within the space. The budget slashes and the value engineering, arguably, did a good deed for the project. The big discovery we made was that with the crane, with the trusses, with the roof, the huge payback we got from it was the notion, was the idea that you can hang the project in there, instead of building from ground up.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
By hanging the project you get horizontal and lateral freedom, meaning the floor is for you to inhabit. You can move all the desks and you can use it in many ways. You can use it as a factory floor to build a fortyfoot installation; you can have the Beaux Arts Ball there; you can have a cinema there; you can arrange your studio desks any way you like, and, in fact, all four of these have already been achieved in the last two years now. But that means that everything needs to be hung from above. And so we did. We hung our project, essentially, from its ceiling, embedding new structure up there but, essentially, repurposing its most key element, which is the crane. Immobilizing it, but instead giving it a new life. The ground, then, is very simple. It is really a flexible surface. In fact, we raised it so it is completely wired and connected, but it can become anything. The most important protagonist, of course, is the roof with trusses and the track for the crane, and the most important insertion in there is what we call The Crib. It is really a hanging crib that only touches the floor, or a stair rather, in one spot. A staircase that delicately drops on the ground and, in a way, completes an urban circuit between the second and the third floor, both of which are linked to the campus, which is on the side of a hill. The ground floors of this building are at one, two, and three floors — in the back at level one, in the side at level two, and in the front at level three. This crib is activating that promenade. On the south wing there is a suspended spiral stair, which gives a short cut between level two and three and activated the southern wing. And then finally the lights are suspended low so they illuminate the drafting hall, but then are pulled up for those moments when you have huge installations
or movies being shown in the overall space. The lateral flexibility that this gives the architecture school means that then this space of production is connected to the exhibition spaces. It is connected to the Fab Lab, it is connected to the computer lab, the PhD spaces, and all of the specializations that can impact the MArch program. Part of this has to do with how we begin to interpret intellectual communities. Why is it that we would separate the undergrad from the grad program? Why would we separate the PhDs from the grad program? This way puts everyone at one level, forcing them to begin to teach each other, learn from each other, and impact each other’s thinking. The project, then, is insistent about the notion of the hung. Even the door that separates the exhibit space from the main hall is a kind of guillotine wall that is suspended down over thirty feet long that articulates the space. Everything in this project is a piece of infrastructure and the architecture is exposed engineering. It is very rough and tough. It is designed for abuse and, most importantly, for appropriation by the students themselves. The spiral stair is an off the shelf piece held aloft by a piece of millwork on the ground that serves as a bench next to the crit area, but then the mesh acts as a kind of container, a kind of shrink wrapped element that gives it a figure that is then suspended from the truss. The Crib — you can see on the sides — has lateral bracing by paper clip-like steel struts, linking it to the side walls. Very thin cables keep it up and the bows of the t-beams underneath, in a way, articulate the wrap that takes the forces back up to the I-beams and then transfers them back to the cranes. The overall space then is a collection of artifacts that are suspended in the space. You can see the lights here are lowered in relationship to the desks. Part of the delicacy of this project is also the relationship between the rough infrastructural, the industrial, and the delicacy of the wire mesh, which is really like a sartorial craft. On one hand it is an industrial product. On the other hand it has a sensual quality due to its lacy and ephemeral intricacy—something that, in
(top) Hinman Research Building, hanging program and circulation elements, flexible ground (bottom) Hinman Research Building, The Crib
fact, big construction thugs were sowing together for quite a few days… and really did a beautiful job. It, for the most part, is very transparent but then acquires this kind of opacity in certain lighting conditions. Opportunistically, we resurrected and restored the sign that was for the original building that says “research.” The only thing that we did was polish the “ARCH” to indicate its transformation and transition, from not only a school of “research,” but research in architecture.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
Coinciding with the winning of that project, we entered two other competitions. We got lucky I would say, and we actually won two competitions at the same time. One of them was the Melbourne School of Architecture. The Melbourne School of Architecture is really in the center of the campus adjacent to what is called the Concrete Lawn. One could not be in a better location, networked by circulation throughout the campus, and at a critical moment in the competition Tom Kvan, the dean, articulated the brief in a variety of ways, citing the way in which architecture has changed. First and foremost he articulated one point: Melbourne Uni has always been in a kind of subtle competition with RMIT — with RMIT being the design school and Melbourne Uni being the school of research. Very much like Harvard and MIT, they went head to head for years but he wanted to transform Melbourne Uni while also expanding its design reputation—and that begins with a reevaluation of what it means to introduce design studios as the central space to the school. I will go back to that later because it is also the crisis of the project. He wanted a school of architecture to exemplify the discipline. A building that serves as a pedagogical device for an audience of over 2000 students. 2000 students effectively means 2000 critics — 2000 knowledgeable people of your craft and medium. And that does not even include the faculty and others within the culture of schools of architecture who are all are exemplary thinkers in your arena. He also wanted to challenge the notion of disciplinary segregation. Not only does he want to bring together landscape, architecture, urbanism, and planning, but much more. Bring construction industry into the building, bring anthropology and
(left) The Crib under construction ÂŠ Jonathan Hillyer (right) Chandelier ÂŠ Nader Tehrani
sociology there, bring material sciences into there, bring engineering into there. This school of architecture is to become the nexus of all of the ways in which we begin to think of the built environment, and urbanistically he wanted the building to absorb them like a sponge.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
One of the key site strategies was to penetrate the building as much as possible. In this case, diagonally connecting the Lizzy Murdoch Building to my right and the Concrete Lawn to the left and trying to bring all those networks through the building—to make it more public, visible, and porous. This is a building in the round; it has to have public spaces from all sides. Masson Road, to the south, is the main road that comes into campus and produces the first vision of this building laterally and frontally as you begin to get to the concrete lawn on the opposing end. The Elizabeth Murdoch Building, that is mother of Rupert, is no longer a backspace to the building. A dignified façade produces a new court that offers the initial penetration into the building from the east towards the west. The building’s Piano Nobile, which is a public area hovering one level over the street cascades down a series of bleachers, linking the building back to Swanston. The services of the building are then brought in by the northern street and underneath a canopy that then links to the Fab Lab, which has its own production court to the north. And then finally, of course, there is the Concrete Lawn, the main façade of the building. The main front of the building connects to the student center right opposing it. This is where everything of the campus comes together and so this building on the round is kind of a mass building — it is deep, it is wide, it is broad, and it is the only way to fit all of that programming there. Composed of a series of courts, the building really has to void itself with a new courtyard, in this case an interior courtyard that becomes the hub of all design activity. The façade of the building then mirrors an organization on the inside with a monumental hall within certain attributes begin to resonate and begin to take certain characteristics within the interior. Of those pieces three are remarkable: a floating ground that sponsors a classroom; a ceiling, which is a structural coffering
Hinman Research Building, The Crib section
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
that absorbs day lighting functions and the visiting critic studio suspended upside down; and the faรงade on the west side called the Joseph Reed faรงade, which was the one heritage piece that had to remain on site to the left. Now the irony in this was that the Joseph Reed faรงade is a beautiful piece of Neoclassicism that was brought to the site some 40-50 years ago from downtown Melbourne. In other words, it never had a function on site as such; it was artificially brought there. A building was put behind it, which never respected the floor to window relationships, and this became an opportunity to create a synthetic and meaningful relationship between the inside of the building and the concrete lawn for the first time. And so, this section of the building then divides the lower floors. These are the auditorium and the conference centers and not just for the school of architecture, they are for the entire school at large. The Piano Noble divides the public realm, the library, the Fab Lab, and all of those things that are part of the productive life of the campus to that upper terrace, which is the hall of activities. Here is the crisis. After all of the focus groups, after all of the meetings, after all of the good intentions that this would become a design school, we were unable to house even one of the students within the studio spaces. In other words, all of the studio spaces are not dedicated, but merely scheduled classrooms. They are scheduled from 9am-1pm, and another session starts at 2pm-6pm, and another one starts at 6pm-10pm, and students are constantly coming in and out of the building, but they do not have their own desks. So the question was where do you house all of these students and how do you make them part of the culture of the building? How do you make this building 24/7? Being a mat building it meant that the donut on the outside had to house all of the conference rooms, all of the offices, all of the classrooms, which meant that atrium that conventionally is a space of circulations could possibly be widened in order to be programmed in relationship to furnishings and programs that can foster the kind of infrastructure for design activity. The Piano Nobile that I refer to is this undulating
ÂŠ Jonathan Hillyer
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
ground that leaks out of the building. It is figurative; it invites you in but it also brings the interior out. It is a landscape piece in and of itself and it is a kind of extended threshold into the building. The ground is broken up into pieces of modular piece and then those pieces are built up. The building up of those modules are lockers. They are lockers for those people that would otherwise not have desks, but could get occupied all over the building. These lockers are everywhere, not just here. In this case, it is an object that houses a classroom underneath it by bleachers, an open classroom above it, and becomes one of the iconic pieces of this interior as it occupies the public space of the atrium. Looking up you begin to see the structural roof all made out of plywood. There is a whole narrative about using natural resources to build the building. In fact, the formwork of the building is all cross-laminated plywood that does not get replaced. It becomes part of the conditions of construction as screws are taped into it and concrete is poured onto it, reinforcing it. The formwork becomes part of the permanent part of the building for this six-story structure. The structural roof is a deep-coffered system that brings in southern light, which for them is northern light, indirect light. And this structural system sponsors, much like Georgia Tech, the emergence of a deep structural condition that transforms from a monolithic structure to a veneer condition, as it suspends down to support the visiting critic studio spaces at the bottom. In other words, a kind of gradient condition where thick laminated lumber at the top essentially establishes a condition of veneers by the time it arrives to the bottom and does not touch the ground. The coffering at the bottom, then, is a kind of acoustical receptacle that creates a helmet over a control space undermined that within it recesses housing, dividing the sprinkler systems and so forth. The circulation system, then, is what we call the Y-stair. It is the monumental system within the space that enables you to go in both directions any time crossing over, back and forth, engaging the atrium,
and activating its perimeter both north and south. The plan is very straightforward, but the circulation of the atrium as you go around it is widened so that they become the spaces of occupation. In fact, the furniture is not all moving, only some of it is. The other furniture are inscribed, imbedded, and become part of the permanent fabric, of the very same mesh that we used in Georgia Tech, to give figure to the program. As you begin to see the edges of the atrium, all of the terraces have spaces of production. On the first floor, of course, the Piano Nobile is all open and huge lectures and alumni events and all sorts of things will happen there. On the second floor, collaborative tables for small seminar groups, work sessions, collaborative projects, and model making happen on that level with crit walls 10 to 15 feet away. One level above that are deep shelves where laptops, stools, and so forth will articulate the edge right outside of the studio. So before and after you get into studio you have your own space of production, again, in the context of the widened corridor, and finally on the next level you get benches for reading and small activity for pin up space where pinups will happen. There will be mobile chairs in the context of these benches also. So in a way the furniture becomes, not a kind of FF&E amendment to the project, it becomes part of the main infrastructure to the piece. Going then from the interior skin to the outside, it is a really raw and brutal piece of architecture. A concrete frame exposes itself on the southern elevation. A scrim that conceals the building and moderates it for the eastern, northern, and western light, and then of course the woods system, which is structural, that is the structure, which suspends down and begins to stack up within the building. These three systems articulate the way in which we begin to think of the tectonics, which not only articulate its manner of construction but its thermal behaviors and energy performance. The concrete lawn is a special place. Not only because of its public nature but many of its programs are brought to that edge and then the Joseph Reed faรงade, which has been inactive for almost fifty years,
University of Melbourne Faculty of Architecture Building and Planning, urban courtyard diagram
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
begins to be rearticulated, and circulated within, and its windows once again become active. Many of the contestants of the competition demolished that or moved it to another site. We took a risk by keeping it there, but, in fact, it became a significant sticking point in the sense that we were aggressive about acknowledging it for exactly what it was — absolutely artificial but also an exemplary piece of architecture. That is not that unique to the School of Architecture. In fact, they have many other archeological pieces that are to be incorporated into the building. There are pieces of sculpture, there are models, there are paintings, and there is even a Japanese room, which is a full-scale conference room. So in fact, the quirks of archeology are all over the building, but the Joseph Reed façade is arguably the most important and establishes a kind of institutional presence within the broader campus. The interior begins to exert itself into the campus, opening its windows and essentially animating the building after many years. The classical orders are articulately built. We had to insert a new structural system behind to support it. We had to delineate the location of the windows carefully on the inside and use them as a guide for re-penetrating them and most importantly erecting out of that façade new spaces, in this case a lounge and a crit space that reconnects back into the building. This façade too, just like the ground and the structural roof, becomes a sponsor for those things that become part of the pedagogical environment of this new School of Architecture. This brings us then to Toronto, which departs significantly from the previous two projects. It has combined all of the challenges and the opportunities of the previous two schools within a very ambitious project, which is essentially double the size and the mission that actually took place in the original competition. The original competition was not on Spadina Circle, that circle that you see at the center of the screen. It was an existing architecture building at 230 Collar Street and it comprised of adding a couple floors on top of the existing building and then a new skin around it for energy conservation. But with clever mobilization of funds, opportunities, and
University of Melbourne Faculty of Architecture Building and Planning, section perspective
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
an expansion of the undergraduate program, the new Dean Richard Sommers was able to reserve this site for a very ambitious project. A site that used to be on the margins of Toronto is now at its center but also to find the boundary between the institutional hub of the university of Toronto, that you see on the right, and the neighborhoods that support it and become part of its community to the left. Spadina running north south is one of the major civic axes of the city that connect it back to the lake. You can see here in this animation some of the major arteries that connect down to the lake with the Spadina Circle being the main one. The southern elevation of that building is complete but the northern part of the building needs a face, an identity, and the new school of architecture will become that opportunity using the landscape as a mediator between the existing conditions and the newly proposed conditions. In fact, the site has gone through many iterations â€” it has been a monastery, it has been a hospital, it has been an art school, but never has it been complete. This is the one opportunity to integrate the relationship of the building, the campus, the community, and the urban condition of Spadina Circle. What is also important to recognize is that there are a lot of buildings that have been built over time in its backyard becoming part of its heritage, though they are not of any value. With great debate we were able to purify the building in the south in order to be able to instigate an evolution of the circle by breaking some rules ourselves. Taking the U conditions that ended two pavilions and in essence completes the building, wrap the building, and treat the new building not so much as a new building but a completion of a type. By doing that we get to provide the framework for a north faĂ§ade, if you like northern light. This is the perfect light for studio space within which a new infrastructure has to be placed (bathrooms, elevators, cores, etc.) that, in a way, articulates the circulation space that needs to go around. Within this gets nested the single darkest space in the building which is the multipurpose hall, the space that we are in, except, in a way, can function as three or four lecture halls and a kind of multi-value room. And in relationship to the site of the city, one of
University of Melbourne Faculty of Architecture Building and Planning structural coffered ceiling and hanging studio
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
the huge challenges was how to deal with an existing easement that made it impossible to reach out and build on to its edges. But with the series of aggressive endowments there is the possibility of expanding the building in the form of a landscape with a new gallery, an extension for a Fab Lab, a city research institute, a research center. All of these echo, in a way, the pavilions that already exist on the building articulating the edges, the corners, the south, the east, and of course the entry into the campus, reminding ourselves that the campus for the most part is on the east so there is a kind of eastern bias that comes into the building, through the building to the west and reorients to the north and south. In other words, if the north and the south are these symbolic axes of this project, the everyday quotidian active axes are the east and west, but these transition in the north south in two ways. In the north, they go up a set of bleachers, which is a crit space that takes you up to the studio space looking up northern Spadina. But on the ground level, through the multipurpose hall and through the southern wing, is a terrace, a prospect that for the first time,reactivates this building and looks down at the lake. In essence, we restore the existing building, but more importantly we develop a new terrace on top of a cistern, as well as bike storage, which infrastructurally refurbishes the site and then provide this tray over which on a daily basis casual activities happen on warmer weather but then other public function, alumni events and so forth, begins to articulate that edge. This is an important aspect given that Canada tends to get cold. The street, as we call it, is at the heart of this project, and it is a street that penetrates north and south; if you like, in forced perspectives, articulating all of its edges, not only with programs beyond but lockers that frame the space. The northern view is then punctuated by a series of pavilions that are part of the landscape that then connect you back into the building. Here you can see the eastern counterpart to the west and the eastern plaza populated also by an oak tree, which is the symbol of the school, bringing you on
an axis into the school with a gallery that opens out onto the plaza. The street, then, is really the core of the urban experience of the school, the center of which is a large oculus that brings light all the way to the core of the building from northern Spadina and symbolically connects you back through the Fab Lab onto the north. On this street is everything. It is everything that is public, that is part of the school life of the building, the lounge, the cafĂŠ, the Fab Lab, the auditorium, the photo studio, the IT, the printing, all of those things that are shared collectively. And opposing the window that looks north on Spadina there is the multipurpose hall. This multipurpose hall, in a sense, is the form of the school but it is not the black box that we are used to seeing. All of the spaces of the school from the old and the new, the undergraduate lounge to the right, the crit space connecting to the studio to the north, smaller classrooms to the south, and the connection back to the old Spadina building, all of these penetrate the space. In other words, this space is activated by all of the activities of the school. On any given day there are not lectures happening in there but other activities such that these other conditions of the building are constantly activating that center. A key spot, then, is this bleacher system, a kind of crit space, a lounge, or also the space that when you get the big lecture series and if there is an overflow you get to have a screen here where the overflow gang gets to be participant to the lecture without actually being inside there. The huge thirty-five foot long wall slides inside in front of this opening in order to do pinups for other events. The connection is then from those bleachers down into the auditorium and then back through. The interior of the auditorium is actually a very economical corrugated acoustic panel behind which there is LED, so it is a glowing box on the interior. The darkest space of the project, essentially, gets northern and southern light as we smuggle all of those clerestories and oculi into the space. And then finally, the flexibility of this hall. What was considered as a single room is divisible by three or four with many different configurations
University of Melbourne Faculty of Architecture Building and Plannning terraces as spaces of production
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
available to it. Most importantly the street, then, has somewhat controlled connection into the studios, going up a monumental flight of stairs, looking into the auditorium, up the bleachers, and finally the pay back comes in the form of a view towards Spadina where all of this northern light is drawn into the space. The building up of the landscape is very much part of the foreground of this project. Using some of the natural flora and weeds of the space; an articulation of the exterior circumferential, the pavilions that are semiembedded into the foreground; and finally the northern faรงade which houses, essentially, all of the studio spaces articulate the northern front. Two different approaches have been taken for the undergrad and the graduate program. In the undergraduate program, no one gets a dedicated space. Everybody has hot spaces so the entire planning is gagged by kinetic elements, screens that move, walls that move, curtains that move, everything that reconfigures space constantly with the critic being a central part of their pedagogy. On the upper spaces is the graduate program with both of these penetrating each other because in section they go up and down in relationship to each other and the PhD program is between the two. The graduate program does have dedicated spaces and there is this ground hall that essentially brings the promise of work, natural life, natural day light, a coordination of the hydrology, and all of the integrated systems into the space, and I will explain that in a second. One of the challenges of the space was to stop the structural system, in the most economic sense, at the junction of the second and third floor and do a largescale truss above. That was hard because trusses are big, they are heavy, and they are expensive. But we figured out, based on the model of the firth and forth bridge, that using the proposed cores we could cantilever two triangles, essentially like the firth and forth bridge, and basically hold the keystone, the in-between, in another skylight that brings southern light in there. So bring a combination of northern and southern light into this space, and the chasm in the middle is really the chasm that brings light into the auditorium.
University of Melbourne Faculty of Architecture Building and Planning exploded diagram with hanging studio, coffered ceiling, Y-stair, Joseph Reed facade
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
The project is then brought together in a combination of strategies all that brings synthesis to the project as not only a design idea but an ecological idea. The amount of energy we use by renovating the building and bringing a population to it. Adapting it to green roof systems. This animation really talks about the natural day lighting, the structural system, the water hydrology, and the control of the site, all essentially become an index of how the image of the building begins to resonate and project itself on the east and west elevations. The performance of the building and its flexibility for natural ventilation is articulated here. The displacement ventilation operates within a similar sense. Natural and artificial day lighting is needed, high lighting as well as desk lighting. All of the storm water harvesting is then collected and brought down two drains, one on the east and one on the west. You can see the large scuppers that are punctuated in this video coming down through the crack of the entry, and all of that, in turn, is then harvested in a cistern that is on the southern portion of the site. Essentially, the argument of the building is that for what seems to be a very economic situation. We now had to find ways in which the environmental systems of the building, the programmatic strategy of the building, the structural systems, the hydrology, all come to a form of synthesis in a minimal structure that, in a way, defines the ethos of this new school of architecture. This is in progress, so this has, in fact, not completely been theorized by myself. We are in the middle of drawing this. For instance, looking at tectonic systems. We are trying to find the largest precast panel that can then span from floor to floor and between windows on the east and west that are really just slits minimizing the amount of light that gets in there from those areas and loss of energy as a consequence. And then we are reminded also that in the demolition of all of the brick that is in its backyard, there is the possibility of recasting that brick with large scale precast within those blocks and, essentially, basically never taking the existing resources of the site away. They get demolished, reorganized, and then redistributed onto the building itself. It is a
seductive idea, of course, but it works out differently as it engages the different processes of the building industry. It is one of those ways in which the narrative of the building goes full circle and begins to give reason to the building, not only from a special, formal point of view, but from a material point of view where the buildingâ€™s sustainability is part of that narrative.
Nader Tehrani the Principal of NADAAA, a practice dedicated to the advancement of design innovation, interdisciplinary collaboration, and an intensive dialogue with the construction industry. He is also a Professor and Head of the Department of Architecture at MIT. Tehrani received a B.F.A. and a B.Arch from the Rhode Island School of Design (1985, 1986), and continued his studies at the Architectural Association PostGraduate program in History and Theory. Upon his return to The United States, Tehrani received a M.A.U.D from the Harvard Graduate School of Design (1991). Tehrani has also taught at Harvard Graduate School of Design, Rhode Island School of Design, Georgia Institute of Technology where he served as the Thomas W. Ventulett III Distinguished Chair in Architectural Design, and University of Toronto as the Frank O. Gehry International Visiting Chair. As the principal and founder of Office dA, Tehraniâ€™s work has been recognized with notable awards, including the Cooper Hewitt National Design Award in Architecture (2007), the United States Artists Fellowship in Architecture and Design (2007), and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Architecture (2002). Having won the commissions of three schools of architecture, Tehrani has completed the Hinman Research Building at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and is currently working on completion of the Faculty of Architecture, Building, and Planning at the University of Melbourne, and the Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at the University of Toronto. NADAAA would like to acknowledge the central role of both Lord Aeck & Sargent and John Wardle Architects as collaborating architects for the Hinman Research Building and the University of Melbourne, respectively, for their input on the two projects.
University of Toronto Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design Spadina Circle with connection through site
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
University of Toronto Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design interior street
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
University of Toronto Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design section perspective
University of Toronto Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design multipurpose hall surrounded by studios, classrooms, smaller lecture rooms
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
University of Toronto Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design lecture spaces connected to studios
University of Toronto Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design studio space with large scale truss system above
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
University of Melbourne Faculty of Architecture Building and Planning northwest view with Joseph Reed facade
Pompidou Center. Paris, France. 1977. Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers, and Gianfranco Franchini
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
S u m m e r
STUDIO 2 0 1 3
Interrogating Absence Center for Interfaith Global Outreach at CUA Instructors Nader Tehrani Julian Palacio Students John Abowd Vivian Bayles Alvaro Colato Joseph Darling Ademar Do Nacimiento Rayan Hakeem Nareg Khachadorian Jake Morgan Joseph Oâ€™Connor Sarah Rinehart
Complexity must be constant in architecture. It must correspond in form and function. Complexity of program alone breeds a formalism of false simplicity; complexity of expression alone tends toward formalism of multiplicity— an over-simplification rather than a simplicity on the one hand—a mere picturesqueness rather than complexity on the other. We no longer argue over the primary of form or function; we cannot ignore their interdependence, however. Robert Venturi, ‘Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture’. 1966
In his 1926 publication Les cinq points d’une architecture nouvelle, Le Corbusier enunciated what were to become the guiding principles of the modern movement in architecture. Of those, the liberation of both floor plan and façade from the regime of the structure arguably had the widest impact in the development of a new formal vocabulary in the discipline. The autonomy of the plan and the façade allowed for the structure to be revealed, portraying the ideals of the esthétique de l’ingénieur while displacing the synthetic capacity that architecture had embodied until then; in other words, the objectification of the structural system meant that its logic was no longer necessarily registered in the formal expression of a building.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
This lineage was carried forward and augmented even further by the High Tech movement that emerged in 1970s. The Pompidou Center in Paris, designed by Franchini, Piano, and Rogers, is perhaps the most illustrative example of that decade. At the Pompidou, not only the structure is exposed, but also all the other sorts of building systems in an interwoven arrangement of ventilation stacks, pipes, stairs etc. However, the plan and section of the building, remained completely unaffected by the complexity of these systems. These systems are, in a way, absent from the act of spatial or formal invention. During the 1990s, the stripped-down architecture of the so called ‘minimalism’ approached the problem of integration using reductive strategies in a painstaking design process to create a homogeneous and mute space, concealing any evidence of the existence of building systems in favor of a larger architecture idea, an ironic position if we consider that typically more than 50% of the final cost of construction of a standard building goes precisely into these systems. In these instances, we witness a paradoxical situation in which most of the resources are invested in things that are absent from the apparent architecture, but that in actuality are at “its core.”
Contrary to both of these positions, the studio will explore a more tactical engagement with building systems (i.e. fire safety systems, MEP, daylighting, and structure) by pursuing an opportunistic approach to their integration into the design process. Instead of simply muting them or fetishizing their existence, we will relentlessly embrace their instrumental potential to achieve new formal vocabularies and organizational effects, while we also investigate strategies that can reinvigorate architecture by registering the tensions that exist when the logic of these systems meets programmatic, spatial, and material constrains. P
According to the United Nations, the advancement of multi-faith dialogue and religious understanding is one of the most critical issues that we face today as a globalized society. The election last March of Pope Francis I has been perceived by many as a clear sign of the Catholic Church’s commitment to engage in building warmer relations among peoples of different faiths and beliefs. Indeed, on April 9th, the SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, visited the Vatican to discuss strategies to reduce poverty and advance economic development, and expressed that he was heartened by the Pope’s commitment to build interfaith dialogue and by his outreach to Muslim and Jewish communities to deepen understanding and promote tolerance, inclusion, and peace. The Catholic University of America, established in 1887 as a graduate and research center by Pope Leo XIII, is well-posed to lead this effort. The Center for Interfaith Global Outreach (CIGO) at CUA will be a new institution dedicated to inter-religious teaching and scholarship. It will be located on the southern edge of CUA’s lower main campus on an empty site, which is currently used as a parking lot, between Father O’Connell Hall and Maloney Hall.
At the scale of the city, the building must contribute to consolidate a formal edge along Michigan Avenue, helping to â€œestablish a more prominent presence for the University within the neighborhood.â€? At the same time, the building will serve as a gate to the campus, negotiating visual and spatial connections to Crough Center and the Mullen Library. The Catholic University of America - Campus Master Plan, April 2012, p. 80
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
Joseph Darling is a May 2014 graduate from the Master of Architecture program at the Catholic University of America, School of Architecture and Planning. With his concentration in Emerging Technologies and Media, Joseph employs the use of parametric and other digital tools to assist in his dynamic design and fabrication processes.
Born and raised in India, Vivian Bayles completed her undergraduate studies at The Catholic University of America with distinction in 2010. In pursuit of becoming a professional Architect, she continued her academic career in 2013 at The Catholic University of America where she finished a Master of Architecture in one year. In this studio she was able to reflect on the notion of how simplicity and complexity can be viewed side by side through careful manipulation of volumes.
Sarah Rinehart received her Master of Architecture from The Catholic University of America in May 2014. Her thesis project titled, â€œBetwixt and Between: An Architecture of Liminalityâ€? was selected to present at superjury with commendations from her committee. Before completing her M.Arch at CUA, she studied for two years at the Tulane School of Architecture where she participated in a design-build studio that received a 2011 AIA Award for Interior Architecture. She credits much of her design sensibility to her academic travels abroad in Rome, Vienna, Munich, and Berlin. She currently resides in Washington, DC and is a project designer at WDG Architecture.
Jake Morgan is a candidate for a Master of Architecture, class of 2015. He holds a B.A. in Economics and has worked in construction before pursuing architecture. His hometown is Lexington, Virginia.
Proposed as an independent addition to the campus of The Catholic University of America, the Center for Interfaith Global Outreach is a forum for learning, practicing, and deliveration of various faiths. In the form of a jewel sprouting from the landscape, CIGO incorporates strategies for creating flexible prayer spaces in the upper volume that can grow/shrink accordingly. Below the prayer hall is a large auditorium fit for deliberation and education.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
The subterranean levels include a cafe, library, and various support spaces. Finally, its key placement and sitework make it the long needed gateway to campus.
Located on campus at The Catholic University of America, the cultural center is designed to incorporate both spiritual and academic programs. Serving as a prominent street frontage along Michigan Avenue, the academic volume responds to the campus grounds. The spiritual volume is slightly oriented north east to face Mecca in order to create a Qibla Wall. The inspiration for the design of this center comes from the First Unitarian Church by Louis Kahn. In his design, Kahn carved out
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
walls to create spaces and to house service equipment. The idea of carving of a space to inhabit program and other functional elements is carried throughout the cultural center. The multiple series of poche walls not only create a sense of space, but also house light wells, structure, fenestration, seating, and circulation. As a whole, the cultural center has the academic program carved into the campus grounds while the spiritual program is elevated to create a sacred space.
The method for design in this studio was an exemplar-based approach. Marcel Breuer’s Begrisch Hall was first analyzed for its structural qualities. Once an understanding of the structure was achieved, the project’s program and site had to be incorporated to the scheme. An iterative series of diagrammatic sections were conducted to transform the original building into something new and appropriate for the site. While Breuer’s building was perched on three columns with an exposed underbelly of
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
concrete beams, the new building is half buried into the siteâ€™s topography. The resulting scheme features concrete beams that create an underbelly to cover an outdoor seating area at the Michigan Avenue entrance and a canopy for the interior space of the prayer hall. Above the canopy, a third space is created which is an artificial landscape formed by the canopy structure. It serves as an outdoor gathering space for the campus.
ASSEMBLY SPACE PRAYER HALL
CONFERENCE ROOM SEMINAR ROOM
SEMINAR ROOM SEMINAR ROOM
AUDITORIUM SEMINAR ROOM OFFICE OUTDOOR CAFE SEATING
OFFICE OFFICE OFFICE Y
The development of the design is focused around creating an adaptable space that could accommodate the wide variety of programmatic needs specific to various religious activities and services. A large central space was centered on the site to serve as a multi-functional, light-filled main hall that could serve the various programs. The space has a transformable floor that is situated on a vertical lift and surrounded by movable partitions. The floor can rise, lower, or be transformed into bleacher style seating depending on the program. The surrounding partitions
CENTER for INTERFAITH GLOBAL OUTREACH at THE CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OF AMERICA
TER for INTERFAITH GLOBAL OUTREACH HE CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OF AMERICA Morgan
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
8 7 5
allow for control of access to different levels, and screens can drop from above to separate the floor into distinct spaces. At the top level, the main hall opens to an outdoor space that integrates into the hillside through surrounding steps and ramps. The building has the potential to serve well beyond its intended purpose as a programmatic machine, adaptable to multiple functions.
5. LIBRARY 6. STAFF OFFICES 7. RESEARCH 8. SEMINAR 9. QIBLA WALL 10. STORAGE
UP 8 7 5
5. LIBRARY 6. STAFF OFFICES 7. RESEARCH 8. SEMINAR 9. QIBLA WALL 10. STORAGE
1. LOBBY 2. CAFE 3. KITCHEN 4. STORAGE
1. LOBBY 2. CAFE 3. KITCHEN 4. STORAGE
11. ADMINISTRATION 12. CONFERENCE
11. ADMINISTRATION 12. CONFERENCE
Soundscape, Test tile M2, concave side 15 cm x 15 cm.,3d Print ÂŠ Specific Objects, 2013
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
R h e t t
Objects R u s s o
19 June 2013 Crough Center for Architectural Studies, CUA Washington DC.
It is a pleasure to speak to the theme of absence. While it is not something that we deliberately focus on in our work, it does relate to the way we negotiate the agency of material in the design process, and it is in this context that I am going to discuss how we approach the absence of matter within the digital environment.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
There are several ways we like to think of absence. The first pertains to the concept of Specific Objects, which was introduced by the artist and sculptor Donald Judd. In his 1965 essay, Judd identifies the ways that artists had begun to move beyond the fixed forms of painting and sculpture to explore three dimensions and he points out that this shift introduces new opportunities for artists to engage material and color. A similar parallel developed in architecture, almost thirty years later, with the introduction of the digital modeling software. The onset of digital technology made it possible to link form, surface, and color together in new ways, but it did so by circumventing material, and introducing software that had been developed for industry. This has completely changed the way we make things. Juddâ€™s objects are a mixture of material, sculpture, and space. His work gains its specificity from three factors: the way that it occupies three dimensions, the way it is presented as a whole through a limited expression of parts, and the use of one material. We are interested in the way this approach situates the experience of the object somewhere between architecture and art. Take, for example, Juddâ€™s 100 Untitled Works in Mill Aluminum fabricated by the Lippencott Company from 1982-1986. Each aluminum object gains its specificity from the finish of the mill aluminum, the unique form of each piece, and the repetition of the objects in space. There is a deliberate approach toward the orientation of the aluminum objects which acknowledges the natural light in the shed. Judd uses the architecture to shape the aesthetic experience of the objects. For
Giant’s Causeway Visitors Center, 3d view of the roof structure © Rhett Russo, 2005
Orbigraphia, Digital Print © Rhett Russo, 2012
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
Judd, materials remain literal. We try to think of objects outside of what we consider the everyday, or the literal. I believe this is where our thinking differs from Judd’s. According to Judd, “Materials vary greatly and are simply materials—formica, aluminum, cold-rolled steel, plexiglas, red, and common brass, and so forth. They are specific. If they are used directly, they are more specific…” We prefer to approach the materials we work with as strangers. We like the fact that they can remain mysterious so that we are able to tend to their specificity rather than approaching their objectivity as something that is fixed. For us, absence is something that is integral to the idea of materiality. It is part of the process of bringing a particular experience into focus. This is the “specificity” that we appreciate in Judd’s concept of specific objects, and it operates by placing material and technique in a new context that is neither painting nor sculpture, but something new. It is a necessary aspect of “making things real,” and it seeks to define a particular way of crafting an aesthetic experience from the interactions of objects in space. There are several material themes that we continue to revisit. The first involves the use of textiles in the design process. There are different material and organizational aspects of the textile that we refer to as “alternative forms of malleability.” These pertain mostly to the organic and plastic properties of sheet materials, but also include the development of digital surfaces. The second theme is a contemporary one that relates to the development of computer software to represent the seamless behavior of textiles and skin in video games. Alternative forms of malleability are fully part of our culture, from video games to movies. The softness of digital complexions continue to introduce new levels of realism. Digital technology has ushered in a new aesthetic that has changed the way we imagine materials. The third theme is evident in our more recent work with ceramics. As our work has progressed we have begun to consolidate the virtual and the physical behaviors, often by deliberately combining the different mediums of material and computation,
to make drawings, objects, and architecture. Over the last decade our work has been divided by the split that emerged in the mid-‘90s when an interest in the computer separated digital design from material based methods. Two distinct design methodologies emerged. The first can be characterized as the digital design process in which craft originates in the computer, independently from the physics of the real world. By default this has introduced a disjunction between objects and their materiality. Our design process often reverses this process by starting with material, primarily because we believe architecture relies on the complexities of interacting with material, structure, and surface, and secondly because we want to avoid the homogenizing effects of software. Giving primacy to material is something that has become a project for us and it provides us with a critical means to address computation. I am not suggesting that one approach is better than the other, but that their coexistence represents something relatively new. In both instances design technique originates through craft, and the shared experience of working with tools. We have situated our approach within the real and the virtualand. We try to take advantage of their synthesis to look for new opportunities. We have been fortunate to test and execute our work using specific materials, and this has allowed our research to evolve from an early interest in the abstract properties of materials that are scalable, to an investigation into the specific and transformative nature of materials that are associated with fabrication. Drawing plays an important role in the conceptual development of our work. Over time our use of projection drawing has been slowly replaced by the use of surfaces and ordinate systems to produce measurement. Working through this transition was central to making the drawings of the Orbigraphia and our more recent experiments with digital embroidery to stitch the Moraine. Both projects explore the conceptual framework of the textile as a means for drawing and each are derived from three-
Moraine, for Suzhou Fast Forward exhibition, Digital embroidery details, nylon thread ÂŠ Specific Objects 2012
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
dimensional models. Neither are architectural projects, but each establishes a unique bridge between material, drawing, and the organization of parts in the presence of digital technology. The Orbigraphia drawings explore the relationship between form, color, and structure using a two-dimensional surface. We are generally skeptical of what the computer produces, so early on we used the computer to draw things that were either tedious to draw by hand or computationally difficult to rationalize, rather than approach it as a generative tool. Each species in the series is developed as a folded surface that has been profiled and constructed using digital tools. I was interested in exploring how the computer could be used to reinterpret and alter the materiality of the organisms. The organism provides a framework to test how the technology and tools of the digital environment reformulate the way we craft things using points, lines, and topology. We are also interested in the potential of designing with code. This has made it possible to move beyond surface based geometry to make things algorithmically. Our interest has materialized mostly through a direct translation of color data. By accessing the three numerical inputs for RGB data in processing, we have the ability to output data in an alternate form. By sharing numerical data, the code makes it possible to produce a direct correspondence between color and form. It also provides a robust means to work with large amounts of information. In 2012, we were invited to participate in an exhibition to produce a contemporary work in response to the traditional hand crafted silk embroideries of the Suzhou School. We began to investigate the limitations of the digital embroidery machines and the traditional methods for mixing colors that had been developed in the Suzhou School. The coloring effects in Chinese embroidery rely on methods of replicating the color gradients that are typical of Chinese watercolors. The problem was similar for us in that we had to develop a way to encode the relationships of the threadsâ€™ color, geometry, position, and sequence. It was the first time we had executed anything like this and we were limited to two things: the physical memory that the machine could handle,
Newark Visitor Center, Newark NJ, Street view ÂŠ Specific Objects, 2009
which had to fit on a floppy disk, and a budget of one cent per stitch. We had to reverse engineer what we could get from the equation. We used a machine with 15 heads, which limited the output to 15 colors. What became interesting was that in traditional hand embroidery you can work in a much less linear fashion, but with the machine it became much more difficult to execute the work in segments. We came to realize that the machine reads the entire embroidery as one giant continuous computational thread, a continuous line that should not overlap itself. It was a very interesting process for us to consider the organization of color from the perspective of the machine and a similar coding of colored objects would eventually find its way into our architectural ceramic work.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
We continue to use architectural competitions as an opportunity to test new applications for ceramic. The first project that we designed in ceramic was our competition entry for the Giants Causeway Visitor Center in Northern Ireland. This project was completed prior to having any experience with ceramic. In this case we were interested in using the ceramic to articulate the structural system and to use it to emphasize the crystalline quality of the structure. The center serves as arrival point for the Giants Causeway, the world famous outcropping of basalt columns that extend into the sea. The geology of the causeway is an intricate network of seven-, eight-, and nine-sided rocks. We envisaged the roof structure as a crystalline matrix of hexagonal tiles. To achieve this we developed a series of seven interlocking plates, which repeat to define the roof plane. The building offers a spectacular view of the North Sea. The layout is conceived as a continuous gallery wrapped around two courtyards. Elevated above the galleries is a long narrow lounge that is oriented to face the sea. The galleries form a loop that can overflow into the two courtyards. We introduced an illuminated lantern on the buildingâ€™s exterior so that the building would be visible from across the landscape. It is designed as a rain screen of interlocking hexagonal ceramic units that allow for light to filter through the surface. The coincidence of the roof geometry and the orientation
Museum of Underwater Antiquities, (MoUA), Piraeus Greece, View of the ceramic addition ÂŠ Specific Objects, 2012
of the tiles presented a challenge, and we found that this relationship could be more readily addressed by building physical models. Several themes emerged over the course of project. The first was the development of variable ceramic components. The second involved the use of multicolored glazes to give orientation to the surface, and third was the design of the structure as a porous system that alternates its density to effect the transmission of light.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
In 2009, our competition entry for the Newark Visitor Center Competition was chosen as a finalist. The site is situated between two neighboring bridges along the Passaic River in downtown Newark. The bridges provide a remarkable backdrop for the visitor center. The design of the building was inspired by the open steelwork and the industrial nature of the bridges. There is an openness and intricacy that we wanted to extend to the building. This project took on a different spatial configuration from our previous work and we started to work from the outside in and inside out simultaneously, but with a much more conscious effort to extend the design of the building further into the environment and the landscape. At the time of the competition, much of the land surrounding the river consisted of parking lots and vacant brownfields that cutoff access to the waterfront. We took the initiative to extend the project to the waterfront and to add a water collection feature that could be used all year round for ice skating and boating. We also introduced a bike hub to bring visitors to the site from the train station, which is five minutes from the site. The site includes a group of smaller elements, a bike shop, bus dispatch, elevated bar, and a boathouse building, that are clustered around the edges of the visitor center. The disjunction between the onsite activities and the open work of the envelope contributed a heterogeneous character to building. This makes it possible to link the program of the building to different activities along the waterfront throughout the year. In 2012, we entered a competition for the Museum of Underwater Antiquities in Piraeus, Greece
(Figure 6). The theme of material absence played a significant role in this project. The proposed museum is situated within an abandoned cereal silo. The concrete silo is a remarkable structure and its location on the coast makes it a good candidate for adaptive reuse. The central section of the silo is filled with roughly five-meter concrete cells that are 26 meters deep. The strangeness of the silo presents an interesting opportunity to approach the design not only as an addition but to develop it as a subtraction, an absence, within the existing building. This approach is only possible if we accept the building as something neutral, like the way we accept material. The museum was developed as an archeology that nestles a building within a building. We explored the possibility of using a series of lines, prescribed through the use of a diamond saw to carve out a terrain within the gridded structure of the silo. We sliced out a three-dimensional landscape from the top of the concrete cells and cut a few simple holes down through the section. At the bottom level, below the silos, are labs, cafĂŠ, bookstore, lobby, and a large grid of existing concrete columns. We wanted to develop an excavation on the inside of the building that would allow visitors to move from the small spaces to the large open spaces above. The exhibition requirements were diverse, including the display of pottery fragments, objects such as acorns, coins, statuary, and shipwrecks, with the requirement that some of the objects be submerged in water or kept wet for conservation purposes. We took this as an opportunity to think of the display as an adaptable array of suspended objects. There are three large environmental spaces located within the addition: one for ship wrecks, one for boats, and a third horizontal â€œseabedâ€? for artifacts that sits on top of the excavated cells. This shallow exhibition tank provides a large horizontal layout for artifacts so that visitors can walk into the wet environment to experience the objects. For the exterior of the building we returned to the effects that we developed with the Moraine. The design of the variegated blue ceramic exterior reflects
T-Stool. Press molded stoneware, with pink crackle glaze Sunday morning @ EKWC ÂŠ Specific Objects, 2012
T-Stool. Preliminary Finite Element Analysis by Adam Deskevich. ÂŠ Specific Objects, 2011
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
two aspects of the building, its relationship to the sea and the history of ceramic traditions that make up the collection. We wanted to develop a ceramic surface that would reflect on the material tradition, but also be contemporary. The skin of the addition is designed as a system of architectural precast concrete panels finished with ceramic tiles. The code used to design the color of the ceramic tiles is similar to the one we developed to organize the stitches for our digital embroidery. We adopted a similar sequencing of the colors to develop a shallow relief on the surface. The theme is similar to the ideas we had developed for the ceramic design in the Giants Causeway visitor center, but in this case the color variation could be met by a technique of firing the tiles at different temperatures to alter the color of glaze. Similarly we developed a contrast between the smooth parts of the envelope and the relief of the colored areas so that the quality of the specular light would change during the day as the light tracked across the surface. In 2009 we were invited to participate in an exhibition entitled Useless. The exhibition brought together a collection of industrial objects that had been reappropriated or developed as design prototypes. With this exhibition we began to embrace the idea that failure and variability introduce a unique set of aesthetic possibilities. This approach has evolved into a more robust fabrication technique as we have incorporated waterproof membranes to design our ceramic work. We have continued to develop techniques to cast objects inside of folded surfaces. Even with the computer this becomes a very difficult thing to achieve. With the design of the T-Stool we developed a workflow between our analog work by scanning it in three dimensions and bringing it into the computer to refine the object, and this has presented new fabrication opportunities for us. It also meant that we had to start using different software. Rather than relying on curve based geometry we began to use polygonal modeling to work directly on the surface. I first started to develop rubber molds to press mold ceramic at the European Ceramic Work Center in 2010. Rubber molds make it possible to
produce objects with undercuts and the deep draws that are native to the topology of folded surfaces. With the T-Stool we were able to fabricate a continuous hollow ceramic shell that is a meter long and 15 mm thick. There are three versions of the stool, each with a different glaze. The glazing process led us to appreciate the chemistry of the surface and the way that it can alter the appearance of the object. The glaze recipes that we developed made each version of the stool unique and they introduced a different texture and depth to the surface of each object. The absence of materiality in the computer requires new tools for analysis. We were curious to know how strong the ceramic shell would be and what the structural benefits of the folded surface might provide. With the computer we were able to test the structural integrity of the surface and we were also able to refine some of the surface features that were present in the analog models. Being able to realize the T-Stool in ceramic was a big step for us. The interplay between the features of the analog object and the virtual object are balanced in this work in a way that we had not been able to achieve before. The combination of mediums brings a unique specificity to the object. We went through a digital process of intensifying the important features, and removing others that were undesirable or too frail to manage in ceramic. The furniture engineer, Adam Deskevich, who performed the structural analysis on the T-Stool had never analyzed a ceramic object before and there was very little data available. Before we could run the simulation we had to conduct tests using clay bars to obtain the properties of the stoneware clay. We started by changing the thickness of the shell from 2 cm to 2.54 cm, and as the dead load increased the stresses emerged in two places. The neck at the base of the stool is a place where we expected a problem, but with the nose we did not anticipate that there would be elevated stress. The compressive forces were concentrated at the tips of the stool and the stress increased in these areas. What we learned from the analysis is where the stresses might be elevated, but until we made
(top) LT7 LT Series, 55 x 35 cm., Sintered Porcelain,Sundaymorning@ EKWC ÂŠ Specific Objects, 2010. Photo by Nathan Sayers (bottom) Acoustic test M2, convex side 15 cm x 15 cm., plaster ÂŠ Specific Objects, 2013
tests and set the clay recipe, we would not be able to determine the outcome using the computer.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
There is often a misconception with analysis that the computer is going to be able to clearly define the problem. The analysis can help visualize the problem, but it cannot solve it. The only way to be sure was to test it in ceramic and let the process play itself out. In this regard the production of the object becomes a repository for knowledge that exceeds the benefits of analysis. It’s this relationship that is fundamental to conducting fabrication research. There is another aspect of computational analysis that was overlooked. With most materials it is simple to overlook the fact that the stresses and strengths of the material may change over time. This happened to be the case with the clay, where the shrinkage stresses proved to be more significant than the design loads. We went through a series of working mockups and the computer was useful in helping us work out how the positive would be put together. Because we used a three-axis mill to make the positive, we had to extract pieces with a flat side and we used the computer to devise a method to cut the stool up and put it back together. The added benefit of the digital modeling process is that it allows us to reverse the process of fabrication and consider alternatives. The virtual model allows us to efficiently work around changes to the design in midstream. The most satisfying part of making the T-Stool was hearing an experienced ceramicist make the comment that “ceramic is not supposed to do that.” For us, this is where ingenuity, craft, and the technology are capable of changing our perception of what material can do. In contrast to the effort and planning that was necessary to fabricate the T-Stool we also conducted a parallel line of research that investigated the sintering of granular ceramic. It was interesting because the material can be formed without using molds and it can be obtained by grinding up used china. Granular ceramic behaves like sand; it can self-organize. In this case we looked at the design process and asked, “What if the material just does what it wants
to do? How can we use technology to participate, and play along?” I have been experimenting with granular materials since 2009 and I spent time studying the types of formations you can achieve with it as it self-organizes. This interest came from an admiration of metalsmithing techniques, especially the development of the Japanese swords where the artisans fold in different impurities to produce signature markings. It is a process that resembles the simplicity of baking a cake, and it is incredibly nuanced. By altering the chemistry it introduces new possibilities for individuality and variation. Sintering is a strange process for ceramics because it can produce bonds without water. Hence no drying is involved. The Heap Tiles are the result of a ceramic process that we have developed. At the start we developed a test matrix of different clay bodies to determine which variety of clay would produce the strongest bonds at the lowest temperature. We began with three candidates: bone china, reused china that is dry and pulverized into little granules, and granular porcelain. Dry clays like the ones made from discarded china are commonly used as add mixtures to give the clay more tensile strength. By simply circuiting heaps of this material through a series of holes, the resulting grains self-organize into distinct formations. We were able to acquire spherical porcelain grains and this allowed the material to produce the most consistent morphologies. While the flow of the heap produces sharp concave features on the top of the tile, the excess material that flows through the holes produces convex features, and we have become interested in both aspects of the heap as the process has developed. An opportunity to investigate both formations eventually became possible in the computer. We began to use the computer to generate different hole patterns and varying densities. This is a special kind of porcelain that would not be available without the modernization of the manufacturing process. It is remarkable that through design the specificity of industrial processes can reveal new avenues for matter. The mechanologist, Gilbert Simondon, wrote an essay entitled “On the Mode
of Existence of Technical Objects,” (1958) in which he describes the process of industrial innovation as a process of individuation that culminates with the production of technical objects. The refined porcelain is a technical object. It is not something that exists in a natural state and its manufacture into spherical grains gives it a special set of technical properties. When it is fired at high temperature it bonds. The grains always obey the same geometry — the same type of organizational slopes — and this behavior can be repeated. In Specific Objects, Judd describes the objectivity of materials as obdurate (stubborn or unyielding), and this is what he accounts to their specificity. Most ceramicists would agree that obdurate is a valid assessment of clay, but in the case of the grains their stubbornness is a positive attribute, an alternate form of malleability, which is open to negotiation. There is a sustainable ethic at work with the tiles that extends beyond the reuse of material and it offers a new approach for how we make things. As the process developed we started to test the granular behavior on sloped surfaces so that the holes and the pitch of the surface could be in dialogue with each other. This is where we started antagonizing the material into specific formations. To achieve a basic understanding of the correlation between the pattern of holes and the heap we had to test the patterns using templates. Without the tests it was impossible to visualize the corresponding three-dimensional surface. Because the axis of gravity is straight down, the heaps develop at oblique angles to the curved surface. Even when some of the curved tiles collapsed during firing, they did so very slowly. Because the granular structure is so consistent the mixture could stretch and many of the details were preserved even when the surface of the tile became completely deformed during firing.
(top) Soundscape ceiling reflector, convex side © Specific Objects, 2014 (bottom) Soundscape detail, Combination of surface tiles with large scale reflecting surfaces © Specific Objects, 2014
We have entered a new phase with this research and we are developing architectural applications for the Heap Tiles. We are continuing to use the ceramic process as a design tool and we have developed a script to generate the same behavior in the digital environment using a two dimensional pattern of holes. Much of the work we are doing now involves correlating the morphology of the surfaces. There is a fractal quality to the formation of the surfaces that we believe we can pair with different frequencies. We are investigating how this correlates with the scattering and diffusion of particular frequencies. The goal is to develop ceramic units for a concert hall setting. The inspiration for this idea comes from the design of the Grosser Musikvereinsaal where the ornamental features of the plaster walls and ceilings contribute to the acoustic quality of the performance.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
In our case the difficulty with this approach is determining what each formation does and where it belongs in the space. The architectural tradition that relied on ornament was replaced with a desire for smoother surfaces as modernism took over. In response to this, diffusers were introduced as acoustical treatments that are independent from the architecture. The idea that the ceramic can become a completely integrated architectural formation is fascinating to us. The process allows us to produce unique tiles and to reuse pulverized clay. We are revisiting the geometry of existing halls to study reflection and absorbtion . There is a unique capability that is afforded by the presence of the holes in the tiles. It is possible to leave the holes open to absorb sound, or produce versions without holes that can diffuse sound. We are also interested in applying the morphology at multiple scales â€” not only at the full scale of the ceramic tiles, but at the intermediate scale of the walls and ceiling. With the capability to rapid prototype parts we can now intersperse the analog and virtual features and we have begun to apply the morphologies to the overall formation of space. We have been conducting tests, both with plaster models and curved surfaces, and we are investigating
the features that we can produce based upon the dynamic behavior of the material. We are using the computer script to include fine scale details to scatter frequencies of sound with different wavelengths. There are currently nine 40-inch samples, each comprised of about 60 tiles that have been made for acoustic testing. The samples consist of the same tile to regulate a measured response, and what we hope to obtain is a coefficient that we can apply to the analysis of a space. If we try to calculate the entire space computationally, there are too many calculations. It remains a process that we are continuing to pursue through mockups.
Rhett Russo is an Associate Professor at NJIT and a Principal of Specific Objects in Brooklyn, NY. Rhett has received numerous awards including the SOM Fellowship, the Van Alen Institute Dinkeloo Fellow at The American Academy in Rome, and the Young Architects Award from the Architectural League of New York. His work and writings have been published in Second Nature, 306090, VIA, and Matter: Material Processes for Architectural Production. Rhettâ€™s current research involves the design of acoustical ceramic surfaces. This approach parallels his interest in alternative modes of digital craft and its role in the development of complexity within the discipline of architecture. In the summer of 2010 and 2011, he was a resident at the European Ceramic Work Centre in the Netherlands where he fabricated full-scale prototypes of his ceramic designs. His work has been exhibited internationally as part of the Beijing Biennale in 2010, Suzhou Fast Forward Toronto 2012, and OBJECT Rotterdam in 2012.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
SOLAR DECATHLON S u m m e r 2 0 1 3
HARVEST HOME is the 2013 Solar Decathlon entry by Team Capitol DC. It is an ecologically responsible house that harvests and replenishes natural resources to forge a deep-rooted connection with the natural environment. A habitat for renewal and regeneration, the house features sophisticated control and biomedical systems to serve returning U.S. military veterans and help them adjust and flourish in a sustainable civilian community. HARVEST HOME reconnects the veteran with the American environment and community, through the creation of an interconnected lifestyle with both the house’s functionality and its relationship with nature. The home is separated into two modules, public and private, whose primary goals are to create a physical and sensory connection with nature. Surrounding the home are various decks that extend the living spaces, blending the interior with the exterior and expanding our overall footprint. By treating these outdoor spaces as additional “living and dining rooms,” we can double the usable space of the home. With rich landscaping, easy to use energy-efficient systems, and net-zero initiatives, HARVEST HOME will create a healing environment for the veteran to calm the mind, body, and spirit. By fostering interaction with the house’s energy systems and edible garden, HARVEST HOME promotes a greater appreciation of life, personal strength, and recognition of new life possibilities.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
Harvest Home is a fully accessible house that facilitates a lifestyle of healing and rejuvenationâ€”a need seen especially among war veterans. Complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the house provides maximum accessibility to its occupants. Designed to foster not only healing but also growth, HARVEST HOMEâ€™s energy-efficient systems design and direct connection to nature and gardens makes it an inspiring retreat for reconnecting with community and family.
After the Solar Decathlon, Harvest Home was donated to Wounded Warrior Homes for use to promote a healing environment through the harvesting of natureâ€™s many sustainable resources. The organization also owns a four-bedroom home in Vista, California, that serves as transitional housing for four veterans and their service dogs. Harvest Home will be situated adjacent to this house, with common outdoor spaces connecting and promoting interaction between the homes.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies, façade ©Bill Zbaren
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
KRUECK + SEXTON
M a r k S e x t o n
05 June 2013 Crough Center for Architectural Studies, CUA Washington DC. Tonight I am going to talk to you about something that I am particularly interested in: the art of “making.” “Making” is a very interesting component of the practice of architecture where conceptualization is the first step and having it come to its realization is the second step. The complexity of “making” is full of challenges and opportunities which we fully embrace.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
We are a Chicago firm and do not have offices all over the world. We are just a 10-person firm. We have been as high as twenty but no longer, given the current economic conditions. Ron Krueck and I graduated from the Illinois Institute of Technology, a school that Mies van der Rohe founded, and coincidentally the first project we designed was a steel and glass house. This was in 1980, when postmodernism was the raging theme. It was a departure from that, because I think it showed the idea that modernism actually had a lot of expressive potential that was untapped. We have always thought that material composition, light, and space have an extraordinary amount that could be developed by embracing the tenants of modernism and not going into representational-type work. We are very interested in how space is perceived; how transparencies, translucencies, and opacities change,;how you can journey though space and time with those materials. We are always interested in the continuation of lines and planes, the idea that a sinuous curve can link a soft material with a hard material, that light plays an actual role in all that we do. Actually, very early in our careers we only did residential interiors. It certainly was not by choice, it was just what you did as a young architect struggling for clients. You get what you can. Slowly we started getting into more commercial type work. Toward the end of the ‘90s we were hired by Herman Miller, the furniture manufacturer, to design
Interior Steel and Glass House ÂŠHedrich Blessing
their Chicago showroom and effectively re-brand their image. We realized it was a great opportunity because we understood how their values of design and ours were linked by the elegant use of simple materials.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
Our practice quickly became a practice of “one of everything.” We did one factory. We did one office building. We did one house. We actually come to each project with a particular innocence and really try to find something unique and simple in its execution. We do not come in really knowing very much; we research it and develop solutions that are simple and straightforward, we hope even frugal, while still having expression and a play of natural light. Whether it is the façade of a dance company, with a scrim of metal that is almost like a curtain, or a house that is in the gulf coast, elevated because of hurricanes, our interest in light is central to our design thinking. All of it is a continuation and an exploration of material, space, composition, and expression of structure and really trying to get more out of what seems to be very simple components. Our practice grew and we were fortunate in winning competitions for cultural institutions and larger scaled buildings. I’m showing images of a children’s museum in Chicago’s Grant Park and our design for the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial. Both proved to be very controversial projects. Finally, I’m showing a design for our first high rise mixed-used project that one day might get built. This is an introduction to our work and what we have done, but I now want to talk specifically about three projects because I want to dial down to show you what we go through as architects, and why I find it so thrilling. It turns out that what you learn at university might become a reality in the real world. There are no classes that teach you a lot of the things that you will encounter in the practice world, but at the same time what you will encounter here is similar to what you will encounter in practice. The first project I want to talk about in a little more
Herman Miller Chicago Showroom ©Hedrich Blessing
Shure Technical Center ©Hedrich Blessing 101
Hubbard Street Dance
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
detail is the Crown Fountain. Anyone that has been in Chicago recently may know this particular piece. We were first introduced to the fountain and started to work on it about 10 years ago. With almost everything interesting, there is a great history of the site. This area of Chicago in 1930 was not so beautiful. Any of you that have had the opportunity to see Millennium Park knows it does not look like this, but this is the beautiful lakefront of Chicago. The world famous lakefront you can see is just one big rail yard and the piece in the center is Buckingham Fountain. I do not think there is one tree in the entire park, but you can see the historic boulevard in the front left, which is the Michigan Avenue Boulevard. This was the area as little as 15 years ago. It was just a big hole in the ground where city workers parked for free right in the middle of the city. This is the park area between Michigan Avenue and Lake Michigan. This is the way the city had treated it. Certainly it had been transformed with the park opening in 2004. It has just celebrated its 9th anniversary this past July. The park has transformed this piece of land and Chicago has really been transformed by this piece. We were approached by a real estate developer in the city to work with an artist in building the fountain. We are a design firm and we do not necessarily do other peopleâ€™s designs so we did not see how this would work, especially with an artist we didnâ€™t know. However, the more we looked at the artistâ€™s sketches and started to see this outrageous motion of faces with water, which was something so unusual and totally out there, we decided maybe we should accept the job. Perhaps we talked ourselves into it, but, frankly, this artist was no different than any client we work with that has an idea. We need to make physical the idea, and at the end of the day this is actually what we do. This particular artist had no idea how to build the fountain, but he had the concept. The city of Chicago, being the forward thinking city that it is, had the assistant Commissioner of Cultural Affairs weigh in. This was a letter we got soon after we started the project:
Jaume Plensa sketch, courtesy Krueck + Sexton
“The scale of the fountains are colossal and inappropriate at fifty feet. The towers dwarf the visitors of the park. The public sculpture was not a pissing contest. It was terrible to perceive. The fountain was an exercise of pomposity.” We liken this piece to ballet. It is supposed to look easy; it is supposed to be very graceful, floating, and effortless. But anyone who has tried ballet knows it is anything but easy. So, in some ways, that is what the fountains are. They look very light and easy.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
We went through an extraordinary process of making art. We were taken on by the fountain’s patron, the Crown Family. The Crowns of Chicago, like the Rockefellers of New York, are a very prominent and civic minded family. They were asked by the founders of Millennium Park to support the design and construction of the fountain. After a competition, Jaume Plensa, a Catalonian artist, won the commission but needed an architectural firm to complete it. We were hired and started working on the design of glass blocks. Jaume’s idea was that the towers were to be 50 feet tall with glass blocks which had video and water. How do you start designing the piece without losing its essence? Some of the technical aspects were quite interesting for us because it was not our idea so there was no starting point. We did not conceive the notion of twin towers with water and video. It was Jaume’s idea. But as an architect, I believe it does not matter where the idea comes from. If it is a good idea, you move forward with it. The real issue, I think, as an architect is how do you actually make it physical, how do you make it better when it becomes real, instead of a compromise? I cannot tell you how many times I have seen renderings of buildings and promises of things that when you actually see it, it is many times less than what was promised. Our goal was to make it more. We embraced the technical side of the fountain without a great deal of
experience, as our largest water feature were some urinals and sinks. It took approximately six months to develop the glass block. We went to Pittsburgh where we worked with a very specialized crystal company pouring glass into molds and then making the blocks and working on how to put it together. One side of the fountain is clear for the image, while the other three are translucent with a texture. The structure of the blocks was one of the fundamental challenges of the piece. It is a steel skeleton that, like the ballerina, is supposed to be effortless. Anyone that is at all familiar with a sailboat knows that a 20 foot wide by 50 foot high sail has a lot of wind load on it. We attempted to make the glass block walls light and thin. The towers basically rest above a two level garage. The water is pumped up to the top. The air is also pumped into the towers to cool the LED, which I will talk about in a minute. And all pumps and fans and computer systems rest in the parking area below. The entire area between the two towers is a reflecting pool with only a quarter of an inch of water on, it but below there is a two foot reservoir. It is a highly engineered piece that needs to be carefully maintained. We started working with how you put these glass blocks together — each of them measuring five inches high, ten inches wide, and two inches deep, like tiles. We had a great idea. We were going to take it and put a compression ring around it, put clips on the compression ring, and clip it to the structure. We thought, in this scenario, we could go four-foot-two by two foot one. Since we could not get the glass blocks done in time we made a full size mock up out of wood, added the compression ring around it, albeit a very crude form of compression ring. Steve Crown, the patron, came into the conference room, we proudly propped it up, and he walked over and touched it. It moved about a sixteenth of an inch and then all the blocks flew out onto the floor. It was a complete failure. “Oh God!” we said. As a great patron that he was, he seemed unfazed and said it was
Crown Fountain ÂŠBill Zbaren
a good thing this happened here in the conference room rather than on the completed fountain.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
We spent three months on that idea and had to start all over again. But in the end it was a breakthrough. What we had always thought was we had to use the blocks as structure. When they fell to the floor, we said, “Let’s forget the blocks. The blocks do not exist. The whole tower can exist without the blocks.” That was the breakthrough! That was when we looked at it black and then we looked at it white. When we got rid of the blocks everything changed. It was the failure of the blocks that really opened the door. We said, “We are going to build a grid and that grid is going to take the gravity load and lateral load. The blocks will be infill.” Who cares if a vandal comes along with a sledgehammer and breaks the blocks because the grid takes all the load. It is really a tee grid and the blocks just lock in. You can see how the gravity load is taken, and this is effectively how it sits. The glass is white, the tee is there as a grid, and then the lateral load is handled by this standoff. So for us the failure is what got us to think about this completely differently. There is the tee that ends up being a stainless steel tee. This goes back to that first form. You can see what we have done with the glass itself; we mortised the tee into it. We have actually formed the glass block so the edge can just be siliconed. The amazing thing about it is you do not actually see any of this because the internal refraction of the glass makes the entire structure appear to go away. Again, it fulfills the idea of the ballerina that is weightless. So then we bring these pieces to the corners and, voilà, it all comes together. Here is the fabrication: in this case it was all fabricated full size in Florida. The stainless steel tees were cut and put in a jig on the floor because the relationship between the glass block and the LED, which I will talk about in a minute, were very tightly controlled. They were actually shipped to Chicago with pieces missing and then holstered into place. Again, that entire piece
ends up being, in this case, a 20-foot long beam. So it is really an entire structure now that can take both lateral and gravity load without relying on the blocks. I can blow out blocks and it still works as a structure from the grid. The lateral load is handled by small standoff pieces that come out and end up being bars with turnbuckles handling that load. The LED lighting, which now is a very common technology, was fairly new when we started working on it twelve years ago. The LED side, the entire clear side of the fountain, has to have the image come through and still have the lateral load. How do you handle the lateral load? What we did was we put a little bit of a gap between the LED to allow tabs to pick up the lateral load and for air flow. You can see both block and LED coming together. This photo is the shootout that we had behind our office with a couple of manufacturers. This is the artist, Jaume Plensa, on the far right and the patron Steve Crown. The patrons always seem to wear suit and ties. And here are the other people involved. This just shows the technology of the LED embedded in the piece. We started the project very leery of each other. Jaume had just gone through a year and a half with other architects not paying any attention to his ideas and I knew every good artist is an ego maniac. I asked, “How are we going to deal with this?” But, I have to say the two of us and our two teams got along famously. He was incredibly practical and communicative, leaving to us what we did best. At some point he said, “I don’t even mind if there are columns on the corners of the towers because I don’t want to make anything heroically structured.” I said, “You really would not want columns! You do not want that. You want it pure.” It was that kind of dialogue between the two of us that was quite wonderful. So then what we did was mock it up in Millennium Park, full size. We went to Salt Lake City to mock
LED test Crown Fountain, courtesy Krueck + Sexton
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
up the LED panels, and this is what I call the art of “making,” which is so much fun. The requirement of the contractors was to have us approve the panels before they were shipped to Chicago. They said, “Come to our warehouse, we will show it to you on the floor.” We said, “No! It has to be vertical.” They said, “We have to have a 50-foot high by 20-foot wide screen stand vertical. We cannot do that.” “Well then you are not going to get the rest of your payment.” It turns out, next door to them, was a rollercoaster fabricator. They knocked on the door and asked. “Guys, can you help us?” They said, “No problem, piece of cake.” These cowboy rollercoaster guys got this thing up in a day and a half. So it is that sort of development out in the fields of Utah that was quite good. Once it was erected we could see lines from the LED so we had to re-engineer that component. Again, it is very important that you do things like this before it is built. Now the water feature, which is in the center of the fountain. The concern is how it actually works. These are the images that Jaume had, the images of the face spouting water. We called this the gargoyle effect of the fountain. In a meeting on October 4, 2000, I wrote, “dead people” on the LED and Steve Crown actually wrote, “over x-million killed.” We were quite concerned about what the water would do to the audience and user. Imagine, Aunt Millie walking in the fountain and all of a sudden the gargoyle goes off and she is thrown to the ground and cracks her head open. Jaume said if that happened he would be liable for nothing since he is a Catalonian artist. However, I would be in jail because I am the licensed architect! We all traveled to Toronto to partner with a fountain consultant and actually got into a pool with them to make sure the spray was diffused enough not to knock anyone over. We were also worried about the opposite effect, water dribbling from the gargoyle. We developed an oversize showerhead assembly with the fountain person that solved all these problems. So this is something they do not teach you in architecture school, whether
Crown Fountain ÂŠHedrich Blessing
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
undergraduate or graduate, how to figure out a fountain shower head. It was quite challenging trying to figure out all these components and how it all goes together. We also mocked up the top cap, full size, to see how the water flows down the fountain and we saw sheets of water were peeling away. We were concerned about gusts of wind blowing that water and that it might just hit the steps of the Art Institute right across the street. We ended up convincing the glass block guys to curve their top block. Attention to detail and purpose, even at the very top of the fountain, is critical. At one point, the project manager said, “You can do that out of sheet metal,” but the notion of having a line up there is a total antithesis of what the project is all about. To ensure this would be exactly what we wanted, I would go back and forth to Pittsburgh often, becoming a true glass block expert. Finally, the lighting of the piece is, of course, very important because that is how you experience it, especially at night. So instead of down lighting it, we actually up lit it, using the top of the fountain as the reflectors. Again, 10 years ago these were fairly early LED pieces. You can see how the transition of the fountain changes, and even those lateral supports become a scale mechanism and point of light that are quite attractive in the piece. It is very pure, structurally quite sound, and beautiful as it goes through its rhythms of light. Finally, the School of the Art Institute got an HD video camera and worked on filming (1,000 Chicagoans). Jaume Plensa was impressed with the diversity of Chicago, compared to Barcelona. He wanted this fountain to express the city’s diversity of age, race, and ethnicity. There were only two requirements to get your face on the fountain: one was you had to be from Chicago, and two was that you could not be famous. He did not want Oprah Winfrey, Mayor Daley, or Michael Jordan to be on the fountain but rather the everyday Chicagoan. The School of the Art Institute had to beg people to be filmed for the fountain. Next year, to celebrate the ten year anniversary they
Crown Fountain ÂŠCesar Russ
are starting a new campaign to get new people on the fountain. It is interesting how things change. They could get not get anyone to do it the first time and now everyone wants to be a part of it.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
In this case, we were a perfect fit for Jaume, because we actually believe that architecture is the finest of the arts, and what he was trying to do and what we are trying to do in our daily practice are identical. Basically, inspire the world; try to create a physical pleasure and a visual pleasure. We never expected it to be embraced this way. That quarter inch of water that these kids are playing in has become Chicago’s back yard pool or slip-n-slide. How it relates to the great architecture of the city is also quite beautiful. The other aspect is that the fountain does not go quiet in the wintertime like so many others that seem dead in in the winters of Chicago, New York, and even here in Washington. In the Crown Fountain, even though the water goes off, the images and lights are still displayed. It is actually quite nice. What is wonderful about it is that it is framed by the gilded architecture of Michigan Avenue. I was struck when Julie was talking about the space between. The most important part of the whole Crown Fountain experience is not so much the towers but the space that exists between them. That is where isolation and tranquility exists. The water cancels out all the traffic noise and you are in the magical space where you see the rest of the world going around you but you no longer hear it. So that space in between is quite important, quite wonderful. I end the piece here saying that the influence that both art and architecture have are conceptual, spiritual, and sometimes, it is quite physical. So I think for our firm, although we had been practicing at this time for over twenty years, this was a real change in how we thought about things and how we thought that art and architecture could actually change things as long as it had the credibility,
craftsmanship, and the materiality that were truly authentic. I think that is one of the things that, if you go to Millennium Park, can be fairly abstract. These are two towers with faces on it, yet totally approachable. How it changes your perception of that space and your place in the city is quite interesting. The next example of our work, the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies, is a project that we were fortunate to win in a competition and coincidentally it is actually just down the street from Millennium Park. This site was actually the last open site on the historic Michigan Avenue. That entire length is the historic street wall of Michigan Avenue runs about twelve blocks. All the façades of the buildings, with the exception of a couple, are now historically controlled. In our case, the site was empty so what you could put there had only three requirements: one, that it respects the street wall, whatever that means; two, that it have a base, a middle, and a top, whatever that may mean; and three, that it have a verticality to it, again whatever that means. There was no requirement for materials or composition. The competition started with 75 architects, then 25, then ten and finally four. We were still in it, not because we were the best, it is just that everyone else was thrown out for some reason or another and we were one of the four left standing. We were the only ones left from Chicago, which we thought would be an advantage, however we learned it was no advantage at all. And the reason we got there was because we had done so little work, we had no questionable work that could disqualify us. For us, this was a major breakthrough in our careers. We finally have a cultural building that was in an ideal location and had an incredible program. This was our chance to do it. The site is wedged with a historic building on the right and a not-so-historic building on the left. In fact, Spertus’ headquarters were in the building to the left and they owned the adjacent site. It is only 80 feet
Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies ÂŠBill Zbaren
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
Y Mullion and Curtain Wall Axon courtesy Krueck + Sexton
Model Section, courtesy Krueck + Sexton
wide and has one face. This is like school, where you have a blank sheet of paper and you wonder what do you do here? How do you start? We started looking at the research of the area where there are these incredible buildings—Gage Block by Louis Sullivan and the Chicago Athletic Club by Henry Ives Cobbs, one of his great buildings was just down the street. It is a street with a “Who’s Who” of American architecture. Benjamin Marshall’s Blackstone Hotel, Louis Sullivan’s famous Auditorium Theater, and Daniel Burnham’s Transportation Building. And we had the chance to be a part of that historic wall, to be a part of it in a different century but still be part of that architectural dialogue that makes Chicago so wonderful and open.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
So one of things we looked at was the notion of façades forming a wall. You think of a wall as something flat, but what we realized was that Michigan Avenue was anything but that. It is actually vibrating with movement. The wall is like a plant, searching for the same thing—light. Maybe light more than views, but you can see what happens. Louis Sullivan’s Auditorium Theater projects out and creates great openings. Daniel Burnham’s Transportation Building has all of these bays and movements. So we were very struck by what we saw. These were all 19th and 20th buildings and ours was going to be a 21st century building. All of our projects begin in model form, just like every architect and student has done. What can it be? We started looking at something like this. What is the new bay window? How does it work? We did a lot of interesting forms and a lot of questionable forms. Like here, the attempt of making it a vertical break of the building between one-quarter and twoquarters, one-third and two-thirds. Even though it is not very attractive, it actually comes back. I believe that the art of “making” is actually making, exploring, and making, and judging, and refining. I know there are some architects that have a stream
of conscious design process. We are anything from that. We are always erasing and rewriting. But I hope that gives it some amount of substance and some amount of credibility because of the work that goes into it. What we see every day, whether it is a picture, movie, or what we hear, affects us. Ultimately, we got a call from the Mayor’s office and he wanted to see us and our building design in two weeks. So we had two weeks to figure this out, do a rendering, and go to the city. We had already shown the Jewish Center a few ideas and we thought, “Oh well, this was one more design they won’t like.” We walked in to present to them and they said we totally captured their organization. They did not want anything referential like the Star of David or the Torah. They wanted a sense of openness, community, and dynamism expressed in their building with really no precedent. They wanted to be of this century, it was 2004-2006 when we were designing this. We presented our design to them and overwhelmingly it was accepted, much to our surprise. We knew the Jewish community would accept it but we were afraid the City of Chicago would not. We thought there was no way they would like anything but a redbrick building with wrought iron railings. The City asked us to present day and night renderings and again, much to our surprise, it was overwhelmingly accepted. As it turned out, this was October of 2004, just after Millennium Park received great reviews. There was a sense at the city that contemporary art and architecture was now suitable. The only problem, after it was voted on and accepted, was that we had absolutely no idea how to build it. We had never done any amount of façade work like this but we were confident we could make it work. Just like the Crown Fountain. we had to figure out this façade. And I think that is a different approach. There are architects who say you have to have a structural reason to do it, which is a valid way of working. What we did here is we said, “Let’s create something
Spertus under construction, courtesy Krueck + Sexton
unique and then figure out how to build it.” We love that because it is a way of working that isn’t set by precedent. We love going down to the last detail.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
So this is what the building actually looks like straight on: it is a very simple grid that is based on a fourfoot-four inch by seven-foot-tall window opening that mimics the windows of the avenue. Then all we do is bisect the grid with fold lines that converge at nodal points. The problem is when you break the plains apart, as shown in this axonometric, the façade is actually three-dimensional because it is moving in all three dimensions. If I have a piece of glass and a frame that is four-foot-four by seven and I tilt it from the bottom to the top it simply gets a little bit longer. If, however, I tilt it and twist it, it becomes a parallelogram, so all the glass on the façade appears to be a parallelogram even if when looking at it from the front it seems to be all rectangles. So the big conundrum with the structuring of the façade was how can the support mullion be in two places at the same time? To solve this issue we came up with something called the Y-mullion. The other name we gave it is a femur bone. The ability of the mullion staying in the same place and having the glass rotate is sort of a fundamental discovery that changed everything. This did not happen overnight though. It was a good five month process to figure all this out. The result of it can be seen in these images of the façade under construction. The Y-mullions simply span floor-to-floor and become the bones of the façade. What is exciting about the practice of architecture today is we talk about things being constant. The one great thing here is that this is very much like nature, in that we have one tight frame where it makes the adjustment, but the adjustments at first appears endless. In fact, there are a finite number of adjustments, so each piece ends up being between 14 and 21 feet tall. Each of the Y-mullions have the same cross-section but have a unique vertical profile. That is where the technology of fabrication and analysis
really comes into play. So it is like bones and skin; once the bones are placed, then the skin comes into place and is simply clipped in place. The skin is comprised of 750 pieces of glass, with 500 of them being unique. You can see some of the pieces here. The piece and how it relates to the street wall is very important. I also do not want to forget this. While it is certainly about the faรงade, that is only just the face of the building. What is actually the heart and soul of the building is what is on the inside. Since it is a mid block building, I only have light coming in from one side. So the other area that we looked at is how do we drive light deep into the space. We created a vertical slot through the building to act as a reflector to bounce the light and at the base there is a 450-person auditorium. I maintain that what is promised on the outside of the building, with its dynamic faรงade, has to also be fulfilled on the inside of the building. It is very open and filled with light in the lobby. As you ascend into the space, the folds at the back of the auditorium expresses its use. The upper part of the floor is where space is filled and drenched with natural light coming in and opening up through those spaces. These are the gallery spaces on the top of the building, again very simply detailed and expressed. It is fundamental, the idea of light changing the space. Then, finally, how does it work on the street? How does it fit in? You can see again the relationship of the windows just on the building to the right of ours. Ours is flush with just one material. It is in this century, where you get to use less but it is more expressive. It does have verticality, it is 10 stories tall, and it does have a base, middle, and a top, and finally it relates to the landscape and skyscape of the city. It is boldly of this century, compatible with the great architecture of the past, expressing values of openness, transparency, and inclusion. Ultimately, what the Spertus Institute is all about. The last building I am going to show is a project that we presently have underway. It is an interesting
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
project for a completely different reason. With the Jewish Center, completed at the end of 2007, we thought it would be our entry onto the big stage. Then something called the Lehman Brothers financial collapse happened in mid-2008 and with that, everything was basically wiped out for architects, certainly for our firm. We were working on projects in LA, New York, and India. All of them came to a grinding halt so the financial collapse hit us particularly hard. We thought we were diverse and had different types of work but it turned out we had one source of clients. Clients, and therefore work, from the private sector only. This meant whether it was an institution, an individual, or a company, it was all in the private sector. We had no other work so we had to scale back our office a bit and reinvent ourselves. What we decided to do was to go after federal work. The first introduction to that was what I showed earlier, the Eisenhower Memorial, which has been quite an interesting competition project. We also participated in a Design Excellence competition for a federal office building in Miramar, Florida. I want to show you the “process” which was actually part of our submission to the government. The government never asked for design ideas, they only wanted a design approach. This is a slightly shortened design approach. As background, Miramar is just north and a little west of Miami, locating it between Miami and Fort Lauderdale. At first blush, there doesn’t appear to be much of a difference between Miami and Fort Lauderdale. What we like to do, which is fairly common practice, is to view the site from above, which in this case was about 8,000 feet above the site, to understand the natural context. The site was just off the ocean but it was also just off the everglades. We started doing research and we realized that the site, looking very non-descript currently, was all Everglades a 100 years ago. So we used this as a major point of approach to design. We thought the site does not want to
be 18 inches of gravel, it actually wants to be the Everglades. So that, for us, was a huge turning point of our understanding of a design approach. If any of you have ever been to the Everglades, it is one of the most exquisite environments in the world and totally unique to south Florida. There is no other place in the world that has everglades. That is why as an architect making a place that is unique is so important. As you look anywhere in the world, anywhere in the USA, things can begin to look the same. There is a GAP, there is a Chipotle, there is a McDonald’s. It does not matter where you are, it is all the same. So what makes place is actually, of course, nature, landscape, and architecture all working together. So this was quite an insight. We thought that all of the other competitors would have the same approach, but, to our surprise, that was not the case. The site is between an interstate on the left and a busy road on the right. It is an east/west site on 20 acres of improved land. This was the improved land we wondered about. So we asked, in our submission, what is a 21st century federal office building? What should it be? So we thought, “Let’s go back to Senator Daniel Moynihan who actually set up the guiding principles for federal architecture and the design excellence program.” We actually pulled out statements that Design Excellence architecture is to “reflect the dignity, enterprise, vigor, and stability of the American National Government and embodying the finest contemporary American architectural thought.” Very few projects that the government builds are Design Excellence, but the ones that are picked to be examples of the guiding principles should also reflect the regional architectural traditions. So we researched the regional architectural traditions of Miramar and found that most buildings resembled Taco Bell. Architecture is all about environment, so switch architecture to environment and you have it. Again, I do not buy that Spanish Colonial Mediterranean fake is an architectural style that we
Wetlands site plan with building footprint, courtesy Krueck + Sexton
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
would want to emulate or reflect. Also per Design Excellence, “An official style is to be avoided.” We always remind the government that design must flow from us to them, not the other way around. The building site analysis should be considered as a first step in the design process. One of the great building and art pieces that the design excellence program has is the Federal Center in Chicago, by Mies van der Rohe, and this great Calder sculpture. This is a low point, not of design excellence, but of all of federal architecture. The Frank Hagel Federal Building, built in 1975, is another example of the thought process of making buildings big, square boxes with dark glass, thinking that will keep the energy in the building. It is a disastrous building in every way. The ‘70s were unkind to federal architecture. The Indianapolis Federal Center, another example. Just make it as big as you can, put a courtyard in the middle, make it totally nondescript, and have no relationship to site, to highway, parking, or anything else. Our approach was to review the site, which we had limited knowledge of other than the dimensions, and understand how the program of 500,000 square feet for about 1,200 people with parking for 1,000 cars would best be accommodated. After the Oklahoma City explosion, it was required that all federal office buildings be highly secure, regardless of who occupies them. In this case, we knew the user for the next 20 to 40 years was to be a high security tenant. A secure building starts with a secured parameter which requires the building to be set back 100 to 120 feet from the secure perimeter. All these requirements for security, set back, and parking seem like a terrible program in the middle of nowhere on this “improved land.” Given the conditions, we thought there was a lot of opportunity to think about it differently. We started to crystalize an idea of restored wetlands and create a nature preserve and start to restore a damaged site. As architects, we are very interested in promoting sustainability but a rational and
common sense form of sustainability. We do this in a very simple way called effective environmental design. The first and most important thing is how you orient your building. It actually does not cost one cent more to orient your building in an optimal way. Obviously in an urban setting many times that is not possible, but in this case, in a green field, we knew it could be accomplished. The siting, massing, and orientation have the most profound effect because its life cycle is 100-500 years. The building enclosure is the second priority so we ask how tight and what is the performance of that enclosure? Like our skin, the enclosure of a building is a huge element, the largest individual component. The third priority is the HVAC systems and lighting controls however, it has only a 30 year life cycle. The last priority is alternative energy sources. Whether it is solar, PV, fuel cells, all of these things that are so much in the news today. We give this the 4th priority because it has, at best, only a five year life cycle. Additionally it is also the most expensive and difficult to maintain. It does not cost you more for a building to run on a correct east/west orientation rather than a north/south. Again, fuel cells, PV, putting up wind towers, those things are very expensive, hard to maintain, and take special knowledge. So actually, to the surprise of many, alternate energy is the last thing you do. Get your skin and your orientation correct and you have gone a long way to making it a sustainable building. Our approach was to think of the building and property and say, “Ok this is a standard office building on a great site. We have seen them before, we know the program, it is just office space and core. We can take it and push out the core to the end, again not a novel idea, allowing for a more flexible program. Orient it so that north/south are the main sides of the building and the east/west sides, which in South Florida are very tough because of solar heat gain, are the core elements. This is a very simple and sustainable approach to massing. It also works
Everglades courtesy Krueck + Sexton
quite nicely from the standpoint of government office building with mitigating bomb blast. That is just the reality of the world we live in today. The problem however, with this massing is that it is just too big. We slice the building mass into elements that are 60 to 80 feet wide. The reason that the actual bands are only 60 to 80 feet wide is our desire to drive natural light into the space, because that is where you find orientation and that is where you really harvest natural light at no cost. This allows the user to connect to the landscape. Unlike that very large federal center I showed you in Indianapolis, this is the current thought of how office buildings should work. Then maybe they are connected at the ends and we have courtyards that are developed.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
We then take a section of that and we find ways to develop it further. We are doing this without even knowing the details of the program because that was not given to us. But this is the way we took it. We have a secured perimeter, you know. Unfortunately Tim McVeigh changed how secure perimeters must now work. There are ways to do it by putting in a fence or, alternately, a moat. Rather than just a moat or fence, canâ€™t we think of something a little different? The idea of, wow, we can actually use the wetlands, use the Everglades, and have it be our secure perimeter. The condition of security is actually integrated into the natural landscape of the site. In thinking about a bomb blast, we angled the faĂ§ade so that a blast force would be reduced. We might even put a screen in front of it so it further reduces the force of the blast on the facade. This can also help the solar gain because it can screen the sun. All of these images presents a development, or tells a story, of how we would approach this project. You still need views out and connection to landscape but now you are behind the screen and area that is protected. Courtyard/interior court images seen here are examples of how you can actually present a lot of design ideas without doing the design. The courtyard, again, is very important because that is where light and air and, most important, connection to the landscape
happens. But the courtyards can also work to shade the building. A courtyardâ€™s solar heat gain can be excessive but by enabling the buildingâ€™s architecture to create shade, you are using the architecture to mitigate the direct sun. We have just completed a building down the street here in DC where we have used this technique. Only half is finished; there is another building that is going to be added to complete the site. But, again, here is an example where we bring diffused light into that area. In addition to these approaches of bringing light in, you also need to make sure that air is circulated. We came up with this idea, something that actually modern architects rarely use: it is this idea of comfort. Comfort is very important, especially in South Florida because there are two experiences that you have probably all had, whether in California or, especially, South Florida. You walk into a building from the outside and you are immediately freezing because of a huge temperature change. You go from 95 degrees with 95% humidity to 75 degrees with 20% humidity. It is a shock. The other thing you are experiencing is being in an area that has 10,000 foot candles, the intensity of the sun in south Florida, and then walking into the lobby where there are 50 foot candles and you are completely blinded the second you are in the building. So we said that should not be an every day occurrence for the 12,000 people that walk into our building. We as architects should have control of this condition and make the entry experience comfortable. The design notion that we had is as you come from uncovered, outdoor space, where people are parking and it is 90 degrees and ten 10,000 foot candles, we create a building where we have some reflective surface. We design an outdoor covered area, and then a semi-covered area where the temperature drops from 90 to 88 to 85 degrees. The foot-candles are cut in half now and all of a sudden there are 5,000 foot candles. Now you go into a semi outdoor controlled space where it is now 81 degrees because you have
some native vegetation and some amount of light coming in and you drive your foot-candles from 5,000 to 1,000. You are now in a conditioned relief area. When you enter a courtyard you are now 79 degrees and your light levels are now 5,000 to 1,000 foot candles. Then finally you enter the building and your eyes have had a chance to adjust to the light and your body has had a chance to adjust to the temperature. Comfort was basically one of the legs of our design approach and what we promised the government if we were selected. We thought this was really a sustainable approach to both light and temperature mitigation and control and how that can be designed into the building.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
This is something that we use as a sustainability check, as you go with conventional design on the left, all the way to climate positive, which you know everyone is talking about. You can notice, as you go through, the steps are very important. You start with a high efficiency envelope, the skin of the building. You then design high performance systems and finally you put in solar thermal. Each one of these systems starts to become more expensive and more difficult to maintain. Actually, your first couple of steps can do so much more to make it sustainable than the last ones. This was the whole assembly of what we were promising the government if we were selected. Finally the GSA told us that the building was to be iconic. The idea that this building was going to be in South Florida and become such an iconic piece of architecture was part of the program. We all know that Washington has a lot of historically iconic buildings, so it was our task to design one for this century. Amazingly, we won the competition and I would probably not be here today giving this presentation if we had not. This is the only job we have won in nearly four years. It is a $1.5 million project and quite important to an office our size. We started with this idea of three bars and the idea that the
Sunshade model/building section, courtesy Krueck + Sexton
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
landscape runs through it. The bars and landscape, without even understanding how the landscape works, is important. The bars, just for program of the office space, are going to be 60 feet wide. That is a little bigger than the width of this room. In the private sector you could never do a building so narrow. There is not an office building in Chicago, Washington, or New York that is this lean. The federal government, however, in their Design Excellence program, will support new ideas of work space. The furthest an occupant is ever from natural light and a view is 30 feet. Most people are only 20 feet or even only 10 feet from the glass wall. I believe that natural light and view outside are a fundamental element of work space. I went into the Frank Hagel building in Oakland and it is exactly opposite. A user could be 100 feet from the window of black glass. It is not a happy environment. I maintain that the federal government, like Apple, like Microsoft, has to be inventive and innovative, and they are not going to get there in a dank environment. The length of our building, 400 feet, the length of a city block, can be a bit of a problem so what we did in order to make it work was twist and turn the building. The twist and turn results in a final design where one enters the site bound by a water feature that contributes to the secured perimeter condition, because vehicles cannot drive through that or around it. I have a canal on the south side of the site, a big parking garage and PV on the upper right, and a maintenance facility on the upper left. The whole site is dedicated to biodiversity of plant and wildlife. These are the images of the adjacent site, a protected wetlands that we are pulling into the site. The question of why we would do a glass building in South Florida is a question that might come up, given the solar condition. Certainly natural lighting is great, but what we found using glass as the envelope, we can do a very efficient, very high
performance envelope and connect completely with the landscape. Unlike Chicago and New York, and maybe even less so in Washington, I only have about a 20 degree temperature swing. Glass is not a great insulator but when I only have a 20 degree difference that insulation value is not a problem, especially in a tropic climate. It is actually a lot more of a problem in a cold climate because of the sometimes more than 100 degree temperature change. The orientation of the building is east/west because in South Florida the problem you have is the early morning and afternoon sun, which is very intense. Although the narrow parts of the building are facing east and west, I still have those faĂ§ades and they really put a tremendous load on the systems of the building. So what we ended up doing was just very simply putting all the exiting/communication stairs at the east and west ends, so that ends up being the buffer. It is not as important if those stairs are 85 degrees so I position them and put a lot less energy in those spaces. It is a transition space so I use that area as a huge insulating unit. I need the exit stairs, so placing them at the ends of the building wings works quite nicely. The summer sun in South Florida is actually very high in the sky, which doesnâ€™t really put a load on the faĂ§ade. The problem is in October and March where it can be 85 degrees and the sun is low in the sky. We did a lot of research and development with our exterior sunshades. I will give a general overview of the glass make up, which is a very interesting assembly. First of all, we put a perforated solar screen on the front of the building. We used very thick 3/8th inch temperate glass where we put a ceramic frit, basically a dot pattern, on the number two surface to lessen the sun load. We used a low-e coating, this high efficiency coating, also on the number two surface. There is a one-inch air gap between the two glass members. The backside glass is laminated because of hurricane and bomb blast. Then finally we have an RF/IR shield because it is
Interior view sun study, March, courtesy Krueck + Sexton
a high security building and this shields electronic signals. All these separate elements go into this special assembly of façade glass. The government project manager asked what glass we had specified and we said we have not even picked it because we’d have to first do a mock up. He said, “What’s the big deal? Just pick the glass, all glass is the same.” We actually convinced him to put 12 samples on a truck and drive it around the site to look at it in all the orientations. No one left that meeting saying all glass looked the same. Since this building has only one material, glass, we wanted to make sure it was right.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
We created an animation illustrating how the sunshades are assembled and perform. They are laced together as a series of V and inverted V shapes. They are made this way to duplicate the trace of the sun. In the morning we can have eastern sun and in the afternoon we can have western sun that the shade controls. This is not just a horizontal. It is a rhythm piece that moves like the sun. You can see how it all comes together in this image here and it all has to be hurricane and bomb blast proof. You can see some of the animations we produced to convince the GSA that this is all going to work and that birds were not going to land on the shades and cause all sorts of maintenance problems. We also created another animation to prove to ourselves that it was going to work. December 20th, when the sun is lowest in the sky, even in South Florida you can see the dappled light move on the floor from 9AM through the afternoon. I can have the sun penetrate in the building on December 20th. Sometimes it can be 80 degrees, but many times it will be 65-70 degrees so I can have a little bit of sun. The real problem is March 20th when the sun is still low in the sky but it can be an outdoor temperature of 85 degrees. You see almost none, just a little dapple here and there. So it just shows the effectiveness of that architectural element interrelated into the skin and what it does to the space.
Finally, here are some images of the sort of integrated sustainable approach that we used to harvest water from the site for use in our cooling towers and irrigation and collecting the water on the roofs, or pumping some on the land. This graph shows how the electrical use goes down. There is some PV on the site. Actually, about 12,000 square feet of it. This shows how net zero energy can be achieved by PV on the building and, ultimately, in all the parking areas. We also planned net zero water use. Water in South Florida is a very scarce commodity, so the idea of holding onto the water and containing that is an extremely important point. This idea of not using any supplied water but harvesting the water of the site and using it in our cooling towers and irrigation is central to our sustainability effort. Storm water, well water, and grey water are all used. There is a possibility that this approach was not selected by the design builder so as an alternate we also looked into using a municipal wastewater treatment across the street to obtain the water to run our cooling towers. This shows the multiple paths to water usage. It is interesting working with an environmental engineer because they pointed out that water is every bit as important, especially in South Florida, as energy. In this case, we are able to get down to a 95% water reduction. These are the final rendered images of what the building will look like upon entering the site. We think for a government building to be a dynamic, even an optimistic building, it does not have to have a lot of Ionic columns and limestone on it. It actually has the materials of today, the technology of today, but with the notion that it connects to the site. We talk about the site as being the 5th façade, and in these images you can see how it relates. This is the building as of yesterday. It is fully under construction, which is surprising given what happens in Washington these days. The notion of a highly efficient, high performance building nestled in the Everglades, and in some ways elevated by the Everglades, will
Perforated sunshades, courtesy Krueck + Sexton
really resonate with the usage. I will leave you with this. The challenge for an architect is we always think of the building, but I think our greatest responsibility is to the land. We will know that as this gets built we had some hand in transforming 20 acres of land from gravel back to everglades. I will say it is our greatest accomplishment. It is probably not the building, but the land, and how the building gives back with the land.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
Mark Sexton is a founding partner of Krueck+Sexton Architects and, along with Ronald Krueck, designs and manages all of the firmâ€™s work. He is responsible for the development and execution of design ideas, and for the coordination of project teams. His dedication to craftsmanship, material, and detail enables the firmâ€™s built work to express the values of modern design with a timeless quality. In 2013 Krueck+Sexton was selected by the US Department of State through their newly inaugurated Design Excellence Program to renovate and rehab embassies, consulates, and diplomatic facilities worldwide.
Rendering of FOB Miramar FL, courtesy Krueck + Sexton
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
S u m m e r
2 0 1 3
Photographs contributed By Eric J. Jenkins, AIA
Instructor Eric J. Jenkins, AIA Walter D. Ramberg Students Mohammed Al Saqer Thomas Burke Jennifer Butler Anthony DiManno Liz Marie Fibleuil Hannah Irby Toni Lem Jeffery Mclnturff Phooko Phooko Emily Pierson Sandra Pinto David Piraino Christian Porfido Matthew Simeone Paich Strobel
“I shall Somewhere Two roads I took And that
telling this with a sigh ages and ages hence: diverged in a wood, and I— the one less traveled by, has made all the difference.” Robert Frost
“On the road again, Going places that I’ve never been. Seeing things that I may never see again, I can’t wait to get on the road again.” Willie Nelson
Starting in the only city that bridges two continents, the Summer 2013 Istanbul and Central Turkey travel program was an intensive, three-week sketch analysis course in which students examined Turkish vernacular and sacred designed environments. From Istanbul, the program moved into the Black Sea, Anatolian, and Cappadocian regions rich with designed environments and even richer and often unfamiliar cultural traditions. Mosques, houses, furniture, tea glasses, textiles, ceramics, urban spaces, and material assemblages became the focus of the students’ daily analytical studies and personal interaction.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
Yet the sketching and the sites and places sketched were only the means to a far greater end. A higher intention of the Istanbul and Central Turkey program was to help raise the students’ architectural, urban, and cultural awareness and, hopefully, their own self-awareness by deliberately guiding them out of their own physical and psychological comfort zones. It was hoped that through dislocation they might discover and transform. This transformative dislocation, of course, is part of long tradition. From aboriginal Walkabouts to “Grand Tours,” or even a child’s cautious steps away from her parents to moving away to college, dislocations are, quite literally, paths toward intellectual, spiritual, and emotional development. (Joseph Campbell) For architecture students, a peripatetic education removes them from a normative educational path in order to inculcate “poetic awareness” in the context of the design environment. (Norberg Schulz) It was, in some respects, less about what they saw, but how they saw and how they might see themselves within the greater world. While the goal of any education is knowledge, an ultimate goal is wisdom. Found through selfassessment, wisdom usually emerges from awareness aroused during or just after students engage situations that highlight or question normalcy, or at least what is thought to be normal and in the background. By up-ending the normal of everyday life—familiar sounds, smells, sights, tastes, and
textures—the background becomes foreground. In a phenomenological sense, this overt re-attending to lifeworld or background of life to which we pay little or no attention. (Merleau-Ponty) The inattention on our part or the “natural attitude” in which we accept without question, either consciously or unconsciously, given conditions, methods, and solutions gives way to a conscious awareness of the experience as experience. (Merleau-Ponty) By engaging in a “conscious awareness” of the world, we begin to attune ourselves to that world and how we may be able to design in it and for whom we design. As an architect it is worth developing a sense of the unseen and the seen. The seen in that we should develop an ability to analyze and appreciate the physical aspects of a site or place. We begin to look for and attune ourselves to those things around us that may be hidden often in plain view. This awareness has a literal an impact on practice. Research into higher education substantiates what any teacher would tell you: off-campus programs that heighten personal awareness contribute significantly and distinctively to career development. Travel programs are inherently active and collaborative and expose students to more diverse communities. Additionally, off-campus programs introduce or reinforce independent thinking and learning, personal autonomy and responsibility, and can better predict workplace competence. In comparison with on-campus peers, off-campus students are often more assured in their career choices, were able to link causes of problems or issues to structural rather than personal factors, and showed increased civic responsibility and engagement. (McKinney, et al. 2004; Kuh, 1995) Travel programs, obviously, place students in unfamiliar, even frightening contexts and, correspondingly, help precipitate awareness of the lifeworld through an arousal of the world that is normally unseen. Within new settings, that which is normal becomes abnormal or new so that when they return to their “normal” world, they and the things
are transformed in some respects. As any traveler or teacher knows, travel awakens that which we put to sleepâ€”often a necessary sleep. Inundated with sites, sounds, tastes, textures, and scents, we gradually desensitize ourselves to these stimuli to survive. We let our senses doze so that we have clarity of our lives. This is only natural. Without a filter or method to keep all stimuli from over stimulating our senses, we would more than likely develop neuroses or psychosis or at least be overloaded. Unlike children who engage with the new, adults often cannot react as a child to the stimulus avalanche. While this desensitizing helps us survive day-to-day, it also reduces ability to experience life and our appreciation for stimuli that may need attention. Turkey is ideal for this shift.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
As one of the most critical geographical crossroads in the world, Turkey has witnessed civilians rise and fall. Like a tideâ€™s ebb and flow, these civilizations emerged and subsided leaving behind architectural and urban legacies that have remained relatively intact. The link from central Asia to the Mediterranean, a significant part of the spice route from Asia to Europe and the sea-lanes between Europe and the Middle East, civilians such as the Hittites, Seljuks, Frisians, Greeks, Romans, Persian, English, French, and Turks created a rich palimpsest that is quite visible and accessible. Likewise, Turkish architecture is inherently layered. From mosques to houses, the architecture and urban design layered in solidity and spatial intensity. As a crossroads, Turkey offers a both/and experience: it is at once European and Middle Eastern, at once western and eastern, occident and orient. There are times and location when a student may feel that he or she is in Europe when a few minutes later within a distinctively Middle Eastern setting. This duality is a kind of Rosetta Stone in which the students can experience the translation of place, culture, and architecture and urban design. Students enter and exit or move between the two which allows for a kind of cultural buffer for many students who have never traveled beyond western sites. - Eric J. Jenkins, AIA, Associate Professor
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
The 2013 Istanbul and Central Turkey program was the second in a three-part Turkish program of study. United by discussions of Turkey’s Islamic and vernacular architecture and urbanism, each of the three programs focused (and will focus) on distinct, if overlapping, themes and associated geographies. In 2010, the focus was western Turkey’s GrecoRoman classical sites including Troy, Ephesus, Priene, Miletus, and Didyme. In 2013, students focused on vernacular and sacred architecture of the Black Sea, Anatolian, and Capadocian regions. Traveling by chartered bus, we visited, among other smaller sites, the following cities and towns: Istanbul, Safranbolu, Yörük, Kastamonu, Amasya, Tokat, Divriği , Sivas, Kayseri, Ürgüp, Konya, Kasaba, Atabey, Afyon, Kütahya, Bursa, and Cumalıkızık. (A third program in 2015 will focus on coastal Turkey and include southern Anatolia, Cappadocia, and Cilicia regions with visits to Antalya, Silifkye, and Antayka.) In the syllabus, the official learning objectives of these intensive, three-week sketch analysis courses is three-fold. First, it is for students to engage in and learn from Turkish architecture, urban design and, in general, cultural production through observation and reflection primarily through freehand analytical sketching. Second, like other travel programs, it allows students time to reflect on their architectural education as they make connections between what they might have learned on-campus with what they see in vastly different situations. Finally, the program helps them develop their analytical abilities through daily sketching that is both specific and open. The teaching methodology is based on the overriding idea that through freehand drawing, designers can develop a greater understanding and awareness of the designed environment. Designers can do this by engaging in varied and/or specific freehand analytical
drawings to understand the designed world’s multifaceted nature. A drawing and its theme are a type of “lens” through which designers can discover hidden patterns that inform their own processes. Depending on the site, students are given a range of direction that alternate throughout the day and with each student’s particular needs and abilities. From carte blanche self-directed exploration with little interference from the instructor to specific sketch assignments or exercises, the students are brought through a series of sites, topics, and themes . A second aspect of the program is student-based research. The intention of this research is to prepare students for the program, to help them develop a more robust understanding of particular sites, and to link them to the program as a whole. This last point is important for the responsibility of even a small portion of the itinerary transforms the students into active contributors. Research begins three months before program’s start. With faculty guidance, students select a specific site and an associated topic that may be directly or indirectly related to the site. Students research the site and topic and, over several weeks, prepare a 500-word illustrated essay. These essays are then combined into a trip booklet and distributed at the program’s start. Each student then presents their research at the site and suggests sketches that might examine the topic. For example, in 2010 a student selected Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia and discussed the building in relation to sacred light. Rather than a simple factual site description that one might find in any guidebook, the student placed the building within a conceptual and historical architectural context. Several students then sketched shadows and light within the building. The three-week program coincided, interestingly, with start and climax of the 2013 Taksim Square and Gazi Park protests. Arising from a planned development of Istanbul’s Gezi Park into a shopping mall within an Ottoman-era barracks replica, the protest focused on the loss of public park to development and the environmental concerns. But
beneath this the protests became much greater. The protests became part of a larger debate on the use of and future of public space physically, politically, and socially. Moreover, it was about conflicting visions of Turkey’s past and future—visions that are conflicting as they are subtle and overt. The conflicts varied widely but included differences between urban and rural, between tradition and modernity, between east and west, between secular and religious, between liberal and conservative, or between young and old. While they steered clear of Taksim, they did encounter protesters throughout the city and especially one evening on the Bosporus ferry between Asia and the European. As they stood inside the Asian side Kadıköy ferry terminal preparing to take the ferry back to the old city. The waiting room filled with excitement and protestors wearing make-shift tear gas masks and bandanas carrying photographs of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and Turkish flags heading to Taksim Square on the European side. Chants recalling Atatürk’s vision of a secular modern Turkish Republic filled the air. As the ferry from Europe docked, cheers erupted from inside the terminal and the arriving ferry. Those heading to Taksim cheered those returning from the day’s protest; those on the ferry cheered on those who would soon take their place in the square. The fear of the gas and police did not dissuade those heading to Taksim. The future was theirs. They confronted the dichotomies of past and the future. The students on the trip engaged with Turkey’s condition and will continue to do so in their lives as they confront the global environment in which cultural differences become increasingly real. The differences and similarities between east/west, old/new, historic/ contemporary, and even Muslim and Christian will play an important part in their lives and careers. The Istanbul and Central Turkey program asked students to engage in the dichotomies, dualities, conflicts, resolutions, and perhaps the dialectics of a global environment. From Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar to an isolated family farm in central Anatolia or from subterranean Byzantine cisterns to mountain top fortresses, the students witnessed Turkey’s width and depth.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
LEERS WEINZAPFEL ASSOCIATES A n d r e a
L e e r s
31 July 2013 Gensler Washington Conference Center Washington DC. When Julie proposed the theme of absence as part of your summer institute investigation, it gave me pause. After all, architecture is often spoken of as having presence, not absence, and its “thingness” is perhaps its most characteristic quality as compared to, say, a piece of music, a theatrical performance, or a work of literature. So I began to think about what could be the architectural implications of absence. The more I looked, the more I found evidence that even those attempts to portray or convey absence left a strong echo of the “thing” missing. Often absence was made evident by the traces left behind in shadows and after images. Finally, I concluded that reflecting on absence could be the provocation for a series of architectural ideas. So what I would like to share with you this evening is some of our recent projects, seen through the lens of absence and presence.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
The first pair of projects I will show you I call Missing Pieces. These are projects which actually create a civic or community focus in residual or void spaces that are absent of activity or place. The second group I call Urban Camouflage. These are projects whose envelopes conceal or cloak their contents while carefully controlling what is revealed. The final three projects are grouped under the rubric of Marking the Center. Their function is to mark a crossroads or center point of activity for which only the faintest trace has previously existed.
(top, opposite page) MGH Museum of Medical History and Innovation, Boston, MA At night the museum is a glowing beacon at the gateway to the hospital campus. © Anton Grassl/Esto (bottom, opposite page) MGH Museum of Medical History and Innovation, Boston, MA The roof garden is a quite refuge with views of Beacon Hill. © Anton Grassl/Esto
Beginning with Missing Pieces, the first project is a museum for the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in the center of Boston. The idea, conceived by a senior surgeon and donor, was to create a small museum of this hospital’s historic accomplishments and future research. The campus of MGH is a city within the city, with many buildings. However its main point of entry is deep in the middle of the block,
Photographer: © TBD
Photographer: © TBD
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
largely hidden from view. What was missing, what was absent, from the campus of MGH was a front door, a presence, a street address. The site available for the museum was a tiny parcel, nothing more than a traffic island really, left undeveloped because its footprint was less than 5,000 square feet. It was in this space that we were able to create the front door, the welcome space, and the museum for the entire hospital. While it is very small, it has tremendous visibility on the street. It brought an unknowable, hard to comprehend, complex into visibility for the public. The program for the museum was barely defined when we began, centered around a very small collection. In fact, it was a building in search of a program requiring no more than two stories of exhibit and meeting space. Because of its important location and function with respect to the whole hospital campus, we were able to develop a virtual third floor, a roof garden, with pergola on top to bring it into the scale the city required. The building is wrapped in a site assembled copper sheathing as well as a fritted glass in the lower gallery areas. There is a core area at the back of the building, a gallery at the main level, with double height entry space, a flexible meeting space on the second floor, and a roof garden. It is a very simple plan with a tremendous amount of transparency to the city. It sits immediately next to Beacon Hill with views of the state capitol. It fulfills a purpose for the institution that was absentâ€”opening the hospital to the city. The museum is open to the public most days of the week, including the roof garden, and despite its tiny size it is highly visible and it has made a tremendous impact for the hospital in the city. At night the building glows. Its copper has aged, becoming a darker brown, and eventually it will turn green. We were amazed to find that the museum has found its way onto a website called the Innovation Trail in Boston, a supplement to Bostonâ€™s many historic sites.
Taunton Trial Court, Taunton, MA The new courthouse has a clear identity and approach from the street. ÂŠ Anton Grassl/Esto
Taunton Trial Court, Taunton, MA The main entry, a glass tower set back from the street, provides a welcoming universal access while representing the openness of civic society. ÂŠ Anton Grassl/Esto
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
The second Missing Piece project is a courthouse. This is the third courthouse for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts we have designed. It is for the city of Taunton, south of Boston. Taunton is a small mill town, with a lovely town green surrounded by twoand three-story buildings. In the 1890s, inspired by HH Richardsonâ€™s Allegheny County Courthouse, a very grand and very imposing courthouse was built facing the town green. Our task was to build something four times as big without upstaging the historic courthouse. The site for the courthouse was the missing piece part of the block adjacent to the historic courthouse. A grand three-story wooden hotel, the Taunton Inn, once occupied the site. It burned down in the early 1800s leaving a hole in the city. Small commercial buildings without a significant presence were built on the site and our task was to fit a courthouse into this missing piece block. Our strategy was to create a new courthouse which was a contrast in both form and material, but with a glazed tower similar in proportion and height to the historic building. The new tower forms the courthouse entry and the security zone. The rugged stone masonry of the older courthouse is translated into a smoother, textured limestone. An interesting part of this challenge was to use the entire site to bring the old and new courthouses together. We did this through an inner garden. Behind the tower the garden joins the two buildings. The security area in the entry tower is treated like a public room. Glazed waiting areas on upper floors project into the voluminous grand bay window. The main stairway rises along the window and garden edge. The stone from the exterior lines the inner corridor wall. Courtrooms are announced with wood portals. The courtrooms themselves are illuminated with north facing skylights. This was a very complex urban site and the new courthouse creates the
missing connection between the parts of the block which were so separated and damaged over the years. A second way of thinking about absence is to evoke the notions of hiding, concealing, and revealing, and we have been engaged in a number of infrastructure projects, which take their inspiration from this issue. At the University of Pennsylvania we won a design competition for a very large chiller plant and baseball field at the riverâ€™s edge and gateway to the campus. The site was an athletic field and the only place available to locate a large infrastructure installation. The plant is a piece of equipment 450 feet long and 50 feet high and there was simply no hiding it. Our strategy was to make it bigger, not smaller, by wrapping it in a very light elliptical screen providing space on the inside for the vehicles to move around and an undisturbed area outside for the baseball field and stadium. It was a puzzle to locate both the stadium and this very large infrastructure element within the teardrop-shaped site along the river. The curved form helped to place it on the site leaving space for the ball field. The screen itself looks very delicate but it is actually constructed with industrial strength material and detailing. The screen of corrugated perforated stainless steel is fastened with exterior and nonconcealed fasteners on a steel frame. The whole screen wall is 60 feet high. It is structurally strong enough to withstand stray baseballs as well as wind pressure. The building behind the screen is a very simple curtain wall structure around the equipment. By day, the plant is a shimmering silvery object resembling a boat pulled up alongside the river. It is about 600 feet long and 60 feet high and so big that it is visible from the train, the highways, and coming across the bridge. By night it is illuminated on the inside. The equipment is color coded and the upper crown of the ellipse is illuminated to sustain the memory of the whole form. It is both an absence and a presence.
University of Pennsylvania Gateway Chiller Plant Complex, Philadelphia, PA At night the illuminated screen wall emphasizes the southern gateway to the University. ÂŠ Peter Aaron/Esto
The Ohio State University East Regional Chiller Plant, Columbus, OH Soft illumination at night screens the equipment within and lights the pedestrian way. ÂŠ Leers Weinzapfel
At The Ohio State University, now under construction, we have designed another Chiller Plant. Our site is at the very heart of the campus, very near the main Oval and Peter Eisenmanâ€™s Wexner Center. It faces the main street of the town across a broad lawn area. The challenge was to imagine a very large piece of equipment as a positive asset and an important face of the University.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
We began our studies with a large enclosed volume, similar to our approach at the University of Pennsylvania. After looking at several versions, we concluded that it either projected into the main street lawn area too much or created a massive long wall. Instead we discovered that if we were to offset the two parts of the program, the cooling towers above and the chiller equipment below, we could alter the scale of the large volume and articulate the difference between the two parts materially. We enclosed the upper volume with a perforated screen system and the lower volume with a translucent fritted glass. In this case we were interested in exploring a palette of materials for both the glass and the screen that would give it a basket weave of texture. We used three perforation sizes of screen and spaces between panels to achieve an overall woven fabric, which was 50% open for ventilation. The glass is variously fritted or clear so that it partly reveals the equipment inside. Utility infrastructure is an intriguing building type for us and one that we treat as research. We are able to push the formal boundaries because we understand how the equipment works. We have been experimenting with a variety of ways to wrap, cloak, and reveal these large equipment volumes. Another way to think about absence is where there is a trace of a center but it is weakly defined. Architecture can strengthen those traces and improve their legibility. We were fortunate to be involved with two buildings at the very heart of
the University of Connecticut which demonstrates this strategy. These were buildings for the social sciences, including classrooms and departmental offices. After studying a single big building for all of these functions, we concluded that it was better to divide the program into two buildings, one mostly for class rooms, the other for classrooms plus department faculty offices and research. Together the two buildings could define a campus center. The University was originally an agricultural campus at the center of Connecticut in a rural area. When it began, the campus faced the main road but as the campus grew its planners wisely decided to leave the cars at the periphery and to turn what had been streets inside the campus into pedestrian walkways. However, the crossroads of a former roadway at the center was hard to perceive. With the two buildings we were able to create a clearly marked center. We thought of the buildings not as separate entities, but as a pair working together formally and materially. The classroom building is divided into a lower copper-clad volume with big lecture halls and a higher brick-clad volume with medium and small classrooms. The â€œS-shapedâ€? departmental building is formed around two interconnected courtyards with classrooms on the ground floor and offices above. The courtyards are lined with copper cladding while the outer walls are clad in brick. An important dimension of the design is the sustainable landscape weaving the two buildings together. The landscape fulfills an essential storm water management role with the use of bioswales and native plant materials. Together the two buildings direct movement across and through a newly defined center. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is planning a new research campus on the site of a decommissioned private airfield. The proposed campus plan uses the former runway as the green spine of the new campus. Our task was to create the first building for collaborative research on
University of Connecticut Oak & Laurel Halls, Storrs, CT “Academic Way” view to Laurel Hall from Oak Hall Sustainable landscape connects the buildings across the pre-existing oval. © Anton Grassl/Esto
University of Connecticut Oak Hall, Storrs, CT Oak Hall, View into sunlit North courtyard and Academic. © Anton Grassl/Esto
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
the campus, marking the cornerstone at the intersection of the greenway and the entry road. The design concept is a layered series of spaces — a conference and meeting zone facing north onto the greenway, a linear top lit atrium zone, and a broad fan-shaped workzone facing south. The meeting spaces are gathered in a highly transparent volume overlooking the greenway and inviting views into the activity spaces. The workspaces overlook a densely planted rain garden and are protected by a series of sunshades which allow light and view while protecting from the strong sun. The atrium zone joins meeting and workspaces with a generous and open stair. Small conference rooms project into the atrium at different levels. At the ground floor, a twostory Commons space the greenway and a generous café opens onto the dining terrace and garden. As at the University of Connecticut, the landscape development plays an essential role in managing stormwater on the site and in healing the scar created by the airfield. Together the building and landscape set the framework for a new campus center. The final project I would like to share with you is the design for a new campus center at one of the leading business schools in France, on a site on the periphery of Paris. The campus was created in the 1960s as space became too limited inside Paris. It is clearly divided between a compact academic center and a loosely dispersed group of residences. The division between the two parts of the campus was made more complex with the plans for new academic and residential building in a third sector. Our studies for the development of the campus plan suggested that a campus center be located at the nexus of the three sectors. Although small in size, the new “Totem,” as it was dubbed, creates a clear destination among its larger neighbors. A crystalline object, the Totem houses a café at the ground and mezzanine levels, a level of student services, and a generous multi-function space at the top of the
building overlooking the campus. From the entry approach, the academic center, and the residence halls, the Totem is a clear marker and orientation point within this dispersed campus setting. From these few examples I hope to have shown that sometimes architecture is motivated by creating something which is missing—an absence—fulfilling the desire to make visible a history, a social entity, a pattern of activity. At other times architecture needs to conceal, suppress, or only partly reveal the nature of its contents. And sometimes architecture simply clarifies that which is only faintly perceived. In “The Winter of Our Discontent,” John Steinbeck put it more poetically: “It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.”
Andrea Leers is principal and co-founder with Jane Weinzapfel of Leers Weinzapfel Associates, a Boston based practice whose work lies at the intersection of architecture, urban design, and infrastructure and is notable for its inventiveness in dramatically complex projects. Andrea is an internationally recognized leader in urban and campus design, and building for education and civic institutions. She has led the design of many of the firm’s most prominent and award-winning projects. The firm’s award-winning projects include the Expansion of the Harvard Science Center, the Harvard New College Theatre/Farkas Hall (formerly Hasty Pudding), the University of Pennsylvania Chiller Plant, and several courthouses including the Federal Courthouse in Orlando Florida and the Taunton Trial Court in Taunton Massachusetts. Leers Weinzapfel Associates has received over 65 design awards and was honored in 2007 with the AIA Firm Award, the highest honor the AIA bestows on an architecture firm. A monograph on the firm’s work, “Made to Measure: the Work of Leers Weinzapfel Associates,” was published in 2011 by Princeton Architectural Press.
(top, opposite page) University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Collaborative Research Transparent offices and meeting spaces overlook green space © Leers Weinzapfel (bottom, opposite page) University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Collaborative Research Sky-lit atrium provides various workstations and meeting spaces © Leers Weinzapfel
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
in Architecture S u m m e r 2 0 1 3 Director David Shove-Brown, AIA Co-directors Aidan Fredericks Kristen Weller Teachers Dylan King Corey August Students Ryan Bartucci Khaleef Bradford Falere Fagoroye Bridget Farley Nicholas Goldman John Hearney Alfredo Hernandez Kevin Huberty Glenn Lauzon
Bradley Lois Victoria Poindexter Erica Possumato Melissa Schaaf Carlyn Schaeffler Mohammed Sheikh Gloria Umutoni Robert Vince Tanner Waide
The Experiences in Architecture program at The Catholic University of America is an intense three-week workshop for students interested in architecture or other design related fields. Students are exposed to both the academic and the professional sides of the architecture arena, as the city of Washington, D.C. becomes their classroom. Participating students begin their design journey in the studio with lessons in drawing and model making fundamentals as well as vocabulary of the student and professional. Over the next several days, students are taught to look and draw at the world as architects; field sketching and documentation take on lives of their own. As the students get used to their new tools and skills, they are brought out into the city for multiple field trips to buildings, monuments, offices, construction sites, and landscapes in which they work their craft. Over the next several weeks, the students spend half a day out exploring the world of design. As the students venture further into the city and design discipline, they are also introduced to the studio environment. In this world, the students begin by designing simple collage boards exploring the dialogue between the man-made and the natural. This
collage assignment spans two days, following which the students design a “landscape” with a basic kit of parts and design concept, but no client. A week is spent crafting and recrafting models and drawings of this designed landscape. Following a formal review, the students are presented with a client. With this new element, the students must not only redesign their landscape, but introduce elements specific to each client’s need. The Archaeologist requires a Gallery space for found artifacts, while the Astronomer needs and interior / exterior observation space. The Secret Agent desires an enclosed “hide-out” and the Rock Star demands a practice area / performance stage. The last week of the program is used to perfect the design for each particular client concluding with a formal review by professors, practitioners, students, and parents. Evenings are also spent out in the city with adventures to monuments, movies, local restaurants, and sporting events taking place. Weekends maintain the same energy level having journeys to the National Zoo, Eastern Market, and other local favorite locations. The program is nothing short of exhausting, but mentally and physically rewarding. The Experiences in Architecture program very successfully prepares each student for the rigors of architecture school as well as campus and city life at the university level.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
Dia: Beacon south galleries; Fred Sandback installation view ÂŠNic Tenwiggenhorn
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
RICE + LIPKA A R C H I T EC T S
L y n R i c e
17 July 2013 Crough Center for Architectural Studies, CUA Washington DC
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
It is good to be here at Catholic University to discuss our work and especially to have the challenge of relating it to the theme of absence. We have a small studio in lower Manhattan that I direct with my partner Astrid Lipka, and we are a group of inspired pragmatists. We, like all architects, search for opportunities encoded within the restricted yet, admittedly, comforting structure of complex project restrictions. However, as good “new pragmatists” we share Bernard Tschumi’s provocative yet masochistic assessment that “the tighter the constraint, the greater the pleasure.” And in a way, the people and organizations that hire us do bind us up in their sometimes twisted and contradictory expectations and then leave us, tied to our studio like hostages on a deadline. Somehow they have full faith that we will make something amazing their instructions. In fact, this resistance that they provide us does offer us something to test, to provoke, in response. We have never felt more uncomfortable than when working on a project with no client — a speculative house to be sold after it was designed, alongside 99 other houses in the middle of the inner Mongolian desert. And, no joke, a sense of panic hit us in the absence of user desires. There was very little off of which we could push, and a substantial part of our job — our reason for being — was lost and with it the pleasure undoing, of operating around and through its constraints of the project. Rather than being bound up in constraints, we were left naked with no problems to solve and no compelling reason for invention. Then of course we realized that this lack of constraint constituted a really serious problem — so that cheered us up and we were able to proceed. So we liked the struggle. We, like minimalists, work to strip away excess and yet we conversely re-tangle issues by questioning whether some of the perceived excess might actually have critical performative characteristics. So we discard nothing — we just set things aside for examination later. We work not so much to reveal an essential core of the project, but
Dia: Beacon north island gallery; Warholâ€™s Shadows partial installation view, ÂŠ Bill Jacobson
rather to expose that what is thought of as essential is possibly not, and may even be standing in the way of innovation. So we equally question assumptions that a) define excess and b) dictate what is essential. We try to identify the hidden and unarticulated desires that are behind a set of articulated constraints, and then we speculate about the different ways we might satisfy those desires to exceed expectations — through clarity, possible cleverness of our propositions, how the project looks, but most importantly in what it does. As Stan Allen contrasts with theoretical constructs, “how a project operates in and on the real world.” And hopefully we do this in ways that the public may not see coming and that may provide a new kind of satisfaction.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
Absence is not a theme that we consciously explore in our work, yet I realized as I was preparing for this talk that we are constantly exploring it. Absence is like that. Though it seems as if it would be, absence is not absolute. It can be partial, intermittent, diluted. I am sure you have been having these discussions. The experience of absence can be gradual and subtle, or it can be shocking. Joseph Beuys’ Fond series are large stacks of felt separated with enough space to walk around and through them. The effect is penetrating, or actually just the opposite. Somehow the ambient sound around the work is subtracted from the environment. It leaves one with a sense of depressurization in which the inner ear is somehow being drawn out of the head into this vacuum of the gallery. What is important here is that one’s normative experience is disrupted, and it is through this disruption that something new is revealed to us. These oversized works fill the gallery visually, spatially, but actually empty the room aurally, leaving a negatively charged space where one’s idea of silence and sound are profoundly expanded. So it seems that the profoundness of absence is made possible through presence in a way maybe that perception of light is reliant on surfaces, forms, and atmospheres to be revealed. We cannot see the effects on light in a total vacuum like deep space. Absence, in this way, can be extremely tactile, rather than an abstract idea. It can frame, shape, color, and heighten perception. Turning that thought around — for every presence one can imagine, that there
Dia: Beacon southeast gallery; Heizerâ€™s North, East, South, West partial installation view, ÂŠ David Joseph
must be an absence that accompanies it — a sort of silent companion to presence. If we are conscious of this silent companion, of what our projects are not, and if we can be as articulate and specific about what is intentionally excluded, accidentally omitted, or partially hidden, we perhaps are able to use absence generatively to expand our understanding and enhance our likelihood of producing true innovation.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
We, as a studio, work iteratively producing and testing many alternatives for projects and at the end of our design process, as you know, the reality is that only one variation or alternative or scheme is realized. In this way, there is always much more evidence of what the project conceptually is not than what it is. Of course, there is a tremendous amount of detailed evidence of what the project is, including the built form itself. What we will do is take a look at some of our work in terms of absence with the hope that, even after completion, we can learn about the work, how absence may have informed the process, and perhaps something about the nature of absence. Dia:Beacon, at first glance, seems to resonate well with the theme of absence. The project is the conversion of a former Nabisco plant located on the Hudson River about 90 miles north of New York. It is about 300,000 square feet with nearly 200,000 square feet of sky-lit space on the main floor. It is a former box-printing plant and they needed the daylight to make these precision printing alignments. In this photo I took when we first arrived on site, you can sense the longterm lack of activity and sense of abandonment, emptiness, and neglect. And that sense extended off-site over to the Hudson River. You can see here the dumping ground that the Hudson was at the time for both domestic and industrial waste. In preparation to start work on the project, we familiarized ourselves with the work of the artists of the permanent collection which, for the most part, was in storage and needed a new public home. We flew to Marfa where we saw the Judd aluminum cubes. We looked at the works of Serra,
by Michael Heizer, and by Fred Sandback. These works share a decisiveness, a timelessness, and a sense that only the essential is present, making their context a silent, yet significant, companion in the works’ reading, in the establishment of ground, height, and texture in ways related to the partnership of presence and absence that I just described. So, from the onset we knew that what would be required here was an architecture of absence, though we did not describe it in that way at the time. Vera Lutter is an artist who captured pinhole camera photographs that are two-or-three day exposures — I must be somewhere in both of those photographs — and they offer a ghostly presence that speaks to the building‘s industrial past. The building provided what was essential for the production of the boxes, but it was cluttered with a lot of machinery, pipes, ducts, etc. With the new use, we needed to look at this silent partnership that was to come between individual works and their immediate context, between the different artists of the collection, and between the public and the building as a whole. Let’s take a look at what we actually did to achieve, what one of our colleagues described as “nothing — with absolute precision.” We were working with the artist Robert Irwin on the exterior surrounds and the entry sequence. One of the first things we did was to separate large groups from everyone else. Large groups enter though the café, everyone else enters directly into the art space through Irwin’s veil of flowering trees, laid out as a normative grove or orchard, but one combined with the logic of the parking lot. Even though the permanent works here do not cycle or change often, based on the time of year or the time of day and the weather conditions, one can have a different experience. We architects anticipated, with such an enormous building, that we would create a generous lobby, but Bob asked why not consider the forecourt the lobby — an exterior room in this amazing Hudson River valley for these people coming up from the city. It was a fantastic idea. Instead, we created a compact passage in a way that people physically cannot enter as a group. Visitors enter one at a time and are confronted by this existing fire wall which presents what Michael Govan
Dia: Beacon with exterior surrounds- aerial view from north, ÂŠ Michael Govan
has called a “pseudo-existential” choice of entering into the east building or the west building. Originally, two parts of a single DeMaria work occupied both sides of the wall, so there is no right or wrong way to proceed. That passage we created is a dark and moody space that contrasts the existing skylit spaces, so when you pass through that constricted threshold, the space really bursts with the natural light from the sawtooth skylights you see here.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
It is an enormous building comprised of three major art compartments, each about 8,000 square feet and accompanied by a train shed, where the trains loaded the boxes and transported them via the rail line back to Manhattan, via the old Highline, to the Chelsea Market building where they were making the Oreos and Saltines. There is also an administrative building with a café, bookstore, etc. I think our entire apartment fits in one of these structural bays, just to give you the sense of just how large this space is. To untangle circulation, to make sure that people feel oriented in this major space, we created gallery islands for paintings, which receive only indirect north light from the skylights. Around them is situated sculptural work that receives a mix of indirect, but also direct, west and east sunlight. Walls on the painting side have a continuous surface, but we articulated the columns on the sculpture side to express the strength of the existing industrial shed structure. We spent a lot of time on details like where exactly the top of the new gallery walls would be in relation to the existing structure. Each decision, each rule, would ideally extend 300,000 square feet throughout the building, so each decision was a big decision. We mocked up at full scale several variations of the wall, including versions pushing up into the skylights, but this idea, that the beams would continue over the top of the wall, gives one a sense of the whole shed, even as it defines individual gallery spaces. We covered the entire roof in a new white roofing material to maximize the amount of light reflecting into the space. Here you can see the mix of west sunlight and indirect north light on these Chamberlain sculptures. The building has a tremendous amount of glass and we preserved all of the original delicate steel frames, but replaced
the glass with a locally obtained obscuring glass that maintains a sense of interiority with a focus on the art. So we did not completely deny the outside, but did leave an impression of it combined with a limited opportunity to clearly view the exterior surrounds. At the back, south, part of the building we have a different kind of skylight — rectangular monitors — and we maintained the same principle of reflecting light through them into the galleries. This is the south building, where we removed ink-damaged maple flooring, salvaging just enough to repair the north two buildings’ floors. Our central task perhaps, to minimize distraction from the works, was essential to the project. Working with Arup, we situated all of the mechanical equipment on the roof, nestled between skylights. They shoot air out directly into the galleries via high velocity diffusers with no interior ducting. At the south building, it was a little more complicated and we dumped air down into thickened walls and then leaked it out over the top. You can see in this image the importance of context for these Fred Sandback pieces — they are they are just so delicate. It is easy to see how any willful architectural manipulation or expression of systems would overpower that work. Here one really just sees a gap where the air flows out. We digitally and physically modeled the space for the curators to use in situating and organizing artwork for all the artists. They in turn developed the territorial strategies for the space, and we then worked architecturally to respond to those specific work/space pairings. Here, we surgically removed the center of the south building and re-spanned it with industrial trusses to provide a column-free space for Judd’s plywood boxes. So the task of doing nothing with absolute precision was quite involved. There was in truth a lot of work to do there, including the negotiation of the installations of various artworks. This is Michael Heizer’s piece, a component of it, as it is being set. We poured our concrete flooring precisely to the work’s steel edge. This is the only gallery space where the glass remains clear. Beacon Mountain, which is sloping down here from the east, can be visually related to
Dia: Beacon Reconstructed south central gallery with Donald Juddâ€™s Unititled, partial installation view, ÂŠ David Joseph
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
this new artificial ground plane, reinforcing its original conception as an earth work. We worked with Richard Serra to calibrate the proportions of the renovated train shed. We removed the train tracks, which meant we could establish the floor height of whatever level we wanted. We mocked up different proportions of space for him to evaluate. We all were asked for our opinions and we architects thought one thing and Serra and the curators thought another. They were right. The Torqued Ellipses are monumental sculptures. I love this image. These works weigh something like 45 tons each, so it is fascinating that he so seemingly casually positions the works in plan with masking tape and then thirty very conscientious workers make certain that the pieces are located precisely per this plan. The works’ monumentality is partially dependent on the amount of space around it, how tightly it fits in the space. Serra and the curatorial team recognized what we initially resisted, that the higher floor level would better amplify the effect of the work in that particular space. At Beacon, it was the tactical partnering of precisely edited spaces, materials, and light with specific works of art that does approach an operative logic that can be linked with the notion of absence as a series of quiet relationships that together have something of the sublime. The architectural deference, the restraint, amplify the art to give the space a sense of permanence and timelessness. For us, a measured architecture in which all that is there, and all that is not there, is essential. Shifting to New York City, we designed a new home for the Parsons School of Design: The Sheila C. Johnson Design Center. Parsons found itself in a strange situation. They were in an extremely vital creative institution in the middle of a vibrant Greenwich Village neighborhood, but they were completely cut off from it. The goal for our project was to reconnect with the city, to make a common space (they had no space where all the different schools of Parsons could congregate), and to create a new contemporary identity for the School. This is an image of the existing building. It is hidden in the urban fabric with these dilapidated bay windows and is completely closed off from the street, so it was no mystery why no one knew where it was. We energetically went to work to create this new identity — very exciting to create a new identity for a
in important design school — but we quickly realized that this was not the right approach and that the problem was the very idea of applying an identity to this building. We opted instead, for this creative institution, to maximize views into the space, to the student life within, and to work toward creating visual depth at the façade. We worked to make the façade visually porous all around and opened up the 300 linear feet perimeter. We performed some surgery on these large granite sills that we admired, but then cut out. We lowered the sill height to a more “lounge-y” seating level and created new windows that function as indoor-outdoor seats. We were happy with this new direction, the idea that somehow Parsons’ problem of not having presence in the city could be solved not by complicating or adding to the façade, but by visually dissolving it — and with it the distinction between inside and out. And by further undermining the border by making it occupiable. Here the façade performs as a lens to the student life within, and we set up opportunities for students to display their work at an urban scale. We created what we called pedagogical billboards that wrapped each existing stair and elevator core, in this case a photograph by a fine arts student who at that time was working as a manager at Starbucks. So he was pretty thrilled to have a public exhibition of his work at this scale. Works are changed out over time and the school is constantly evolving its image. We also made that corner of 5th Avenue at 13th Street a space for design reviews, so that it is not only the product of design but also the process that is put on display and constitutes the school’s identity. We needed signage, but the zoning restrictions along 5th Avenue only allowed for 12 inch high characters (we were looking for something more substantial), so we extruded these four foot high letters to a 12 inch depth and then turned them on their sides to make a kind of graphic canopy. The four buildings of the campus block each had separate entries and there was no interconnection except through a trash alley. We created this extremely sophisticated diagram locating the center of the complex and found that it had some resonance with the idea of a traditional campus quad — a space
Sheila Johnson Design Center at Parsons-central quad with diagrid daylight roof, mesh elevator, connecting ramp and bark wall, ÂŠ Michael Moran
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
where people will come together, surrounded by the elevators and stairways that provide access to all 12 floors of the complex. Our diagram became this: scooping out a very messy center to reveal the juicy programmatic fruit around. This is an image of the actual scooping-out process. There was a one-story shed in the center that we demolished and this is the same view afterwards creating a daylit core in the middle of the complex. From this open center, all the other programs — gallery, archives, auditorium, more galleries, orientation center, and that little pedagogical critique area — are accessed. Overhead, we covered the space with a diagrid-framed glass roof that opens the space up vertically and provides it with daylight. The framing is supported by beams that connect two different building grids, interweaving with an irregular spacing that makes explicit how these two logics are being bridged.
in service of the other so neither of them remains silent. This image illustrates this balance of the strength of the existing masonry construction and the new drywall and construction of the gallery.
We connected the 13th Street and 5th Avenue entries and there was something else — not a little thing. We negotiated something like 12 different existing floor levels in the project. This is the trash alley that used to occupy the center of the space before. The “after” shot is this, where the end of the trash alley used to be. It is worth mentioning that the graphics of the space, with the exception of the canopy, were integrated into the fabric of the space — not applied signage, but rather carved into the surface of the architecture.
From the street, the gallery was completely embedded and we opened it up as the articulated box you see here. You can see the beams of the original building above this box, which maintains a sense of strength around the new lighter construction. This new proscenium also creates a very close relationship between street and gallery. In the back of the gallery, we did not want to lose a sense of place within the existing structure. We tipped up the ceiling, the lid, of the gallery box so there is a glimpse the existing building beyond. A walkway winds around the back of the gallery, so if you need power or AV you just drop your cable down that into the gap and walk around and plug it in the back. There are no outlets on the gallery side of the walls.
There may be something to say here about absence. We wanted to make sure that in the Johnson Center that you know what you are not seeing. In other words, if all the structural and mechanical systems were hidden away there would be no way of knowing of being conscious, that they exist. In this room, where we are tonight, I do not know where the structural and mechanical systems are and it is sort of impossible to know. On the other hand, if everything is exposed a space may take on an specific industrial character. So here we wanted to suggest how the building worked, but retain control of how we respond architecturally to each of the programs, very conscious of the dialectic between the existing building and the new intervention. These two components, existing and new, have become partners, but one does not exist
We conceptualized each programmatic component in relationship to the existing raw shell, treating each as a half shell, liner, box-in-a-box — a different strategy for each element, and we worked opportunistically to tease the most out of the sectional variation that we inherited. It was remarkable in this space that the Meeting Pod came out of this room which is one of my favorite “before” slides, a former housekeeping closet that was positioned to overlook the campus quad. And it now does have a spectacular view. We just cantilevered the space out, enlarging it to seminar room size. You can see the contrast between the new and the old supporting each other.
In the auditorium, both the bamboo shell and rear graphic wall are perforated to control the acoustics of the space. At the front wall, we used a slate that performs doubly as a chalkboard and as a surface that helps to project a speaker’s voice. The bamboo shell is treated as an insert within the raw shell of the building. In the archives, we created a bathtub-like sound sink. The space has a lining of felt with rubber athletic flooring and a ceiling that is open to expose a series of existing masonry arches and mechanical systems. By dropping this datum of lights, we were able to bring down the scale of the space.
Sheila Johnson Design Center at Parsons, new 13th Street entry, pivoted window seat faĂ§ade and graphic canopy, ÂŠ Michael Moran
Back in the quad, we aggregated all of the systems that connect from the basement to the upper floors around an existing elevator and wrapped it all in an aluminum mesh so the systems are semiexposed. We liked the idea of having a traditional campus clock in the quad and because the New School has a regimented three-hour class schedule, we were able tweak the idea to create a countdown clock. So when you arrive and it says plus 13 minutes, you know you’re running a little late.
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
Okay, so enough with renovations. We needed to do some major ground-up work, so we entered the competition for the Museum of Polish History. When we got the brief we were a bit surprised to find that the site was in this beautiful historic park that is currently bisected by a highway. Like an open wound, it cuts right down the park’s middle. The site has a cliff, or Scarp, alongside it, a historic castle here, and a lot of small-scale historic houses adjacent to the park. This is our site plan. The program suggests a scale that is huge in comparison to the existing structures, and so we responded by hiding all of the programs below grade, allowing just these six points to push up into the landscape to capture light for the enormous spaces below. So we deferred to the landscape and to the historic structures and scale of these buildings around — and we covered over the highway here so that the park is restored and can flourish in and through our project. It is more like planting a seed and letting it sprout up through the earth, than burying the program underground. This diagrams the earth cut that is necessary to accommodate the building and its relocation as fill over the highway, creating a vehicular tunnel. At the Scarp, we were able to create access for both museum levels and on top create a public forum space. You can see here this excavation work, parking below, and then the six major programmatic elements clustered around it with a contemporary art gallery, two permanent galleries, an entry, education space, and office and visitors tower. There are large oculi to admit daylight in the common indoor forum space. The landscape folds down into that space at the park entry. The lawn, the park,
remains intact. At Beacon, walking on the roof through the glowing monitor skylights is a magical experience and here in the park, we created these seven foot high monitor skylights to provide daylight to the permanent galleries below and to create a park level maze. Inside the galleries below, this maze is inverted and creates unique gallery character and lighting. Each gallery has a specific lighting identity. Here is the exterior public park forum that is perforated with light cells that illuminate the contemporary gallery below, which offers a full glazed wall view of the city from its position overlooking the Scarp. Sadly, our scheme did not win. An architecturally challenged scheme did, but it thankfully looks like it is not happening. MOCAD, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit, is a project we are currently working on, and it is only in the early stages of development. It involves this very raw building by Albert Kahn. Originally, it was a car dealership and has been renovated multiple times. You can see on this map; downtown Detroit is here. Woodward Avenue constitutes a cultural corridor leading up to the Detroit Institute of the Arts. MOCAD is located in midtown, which is currently undergoing a revitalization with a new pedestrian green belt under construction around that area. For us, developing the site, one question is what is MOCAD’s contribution going to be to that green belt and how might the loop contribute to MOCAD? MOCAD has robust art and event programming that will resonate with and help revitalize this neighborhood as this project moves forward. And it is adjacent to this Sugar Hill Arts District walkway that ties into the midtown loop along south edge of the property. MOCAD is situated on this southeast corner of Woodward at Garfield and the museum is working to acquire the property to the south. We are working with James Corner Field Operations, who designed, with DSR, the High Line in New York, to develop an exterior surround as a garden for outdoor art and events programming. We examined, from a logical perspective, different entry scenarios. The land to the south of the museum and the solar exposure are good to the south and the east. With those exposures that we have available, it makes sense to have a south entry rather than the north entry that they currently have. Also, it was clear
Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), new Woodward entry art garden, landscaped bleachers, and rooftop exhibition/event gallery © Rice+Lipka Architects and James Corner Field Operations
Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), new visitor desk and interior component of the Culture Hub © Rice+Lipka Architects
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
that the current annual exhibition cycle for the museum, which consists of three major exhibitions, and in-between, short-term closure (because they do not have enough preparatory space) does not work. So we need additional space to make continuous operation possible, about 130% over the current footprint. Aside from these logical steps, the list of desires from the client and users were contradictory — and we can understand why. They want to preserve the very down to earth character of the space; they want a new contemporary identity; they want to have a complexly flexible space, yet somehow a space that is determined specifically for each use. These conflicting desires, in a way, cancel out many possibilities. Henry Kissinger has said that the “absence of options brings with it great clarity,” and it is true. We did eliminate a lot of possibilities, which did make our path more clear in some ways. For the major planning effort, logic drove the concept. The building is bound on two sides, the north and west, by streets. The existing east parking lot and south parcel constitute the only areas available to develop a meaningful landscape or outdoor art zone. The corner of the resultant “L” shaped garden becomes then the new hot spot. We knew we had to add 30% more building and we obviously cannot do this in the street or in the garden, so we are proposing to add it on top of the existing building, and we wanted to privilege that most desirable southeast corner so we are sliding that addition to the “L” corner. Now you cannot really align the foundations in that way, so we offset the rooftop addition further to the southeast, to avoid the existing footings, and thereby creating an in-between zone between the existing and the new — a new colonnade with columns that incline to encourage or accommodate circulation in particular spots. This is important in another way as well. One of the most significant programmatic spaces the musuem’s board is interested in is this this large event space, what we call the culture hub, which can sponsor music eventsof up to 1,000 people. MOCAD wants to have a more defined space for those programs, yet they still envision these housed in the raw industrial context of the existing building shell. So this corner layering
offers both a new identity via the colonnade and the overlap into the existing space. The galleries then are essentially where they are now, but supplemented with adequate support areas here, and these galleries are subdivided to create three scales of space: a large gallery, a gallery half that size, and a gallery that is half again that size. So everything falls together in that way. We are not even at schematic design at this point and our work thus far has been to provide a roadmap and vision for the hopefully near future. On the rooftop level, the new exhibition and event pavilion is extended to an associated roof terrace and garden. Directly below, the Culture Hub is conceived of as an indoor/outdoor space that opens into the exterior garden to create a thickened threshold where inside and outside come together. You can see in this view of the east side how the border conditions are rendered indistinct in a field of columns and trees and glass. So when different events are staged in that space, from concerts to car shows even, those spaces can bleed to the outside. The threshold then becomes not at the building line, but at the street, opening out and extending the threshold of the museum to the neighborhood. People can spill out and in on a daily basis. The Culture Hub space hosts the normative welcome desk and smaller events, music events, and café. Extending out to the garden, where we are working with Field Operations to develop ideas like these landscaped bleachers for the screening of outdoor films and events, we retain the gritty character. We do not scrub it. We retain the the character and actually add to the accumulation of previous renovations, of artwork, and more. We add to those previous cuts and encourage future modifications and additions as well to this building with an evolving identity. On a smaller scale back in New York City — these projects are getting smaller in scale so I will go through them a bit faster — we renovated a single floor of this McKim Mead and White Carnegie Library. His libraries were built in the early part of the 20th century, and today the third floors of these libraries are sometimes, if not often, unused. This floor was abandoned as well, but it was a beautiful, light-filled space. We set up for ourselves
Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), new Woodward entry art garden, neon graphics, and urban-scaled landscape/portrait windows ÂŠ Rice+Lipka Architects and James Corner Field Operations
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
a generative rule: a “no partition” rule. We did not want to clog the space with partitions, so we said whatever we do to break the space down, it had to be done without adding walls. In this existing space, we relied on independent programmatic elements to keep it open and organized and to keep light filling the space but also to unhide these teenagers so that they interact with one another and to encourage hangingout. Each one of those elements suggest a zone around it, without having walls. These step bleachers bring the space a sectional characteristic and we stepped up these bookcases and dropped the ceiling in the middle so we create this inverted valley section here. The “L-bracket” seating is movable for performances, which you will see. In that dark zone, we have the ideal projection condition for film screening. Compositionally at the façade, McKim Mead and White set the sills about seven feet above the floor, so the bleachers actually allow kids to go up and look out those windows. They can hang out on the bleachers or use them for performances.
There were certain site characteristics upon which we could base our project, so it is not entirely true that we had nothing to go on. We knew we were in the desert and we wanted to, as a response, privilege landscape. So we pushed the exterior site into the interior of the house via three interior courtyards. We sliced the roof to respond to the southern exposure due south — it is quite cold there in winter. And then we still have this kind of sticking point with the program. We came to associate the lack of user input with the notion of drift. We thought about the word and Situationists’ notion of derive, of unplanned journeys within the house, and we worked to prompt unconscious acts of domestic migration. The owner, whoever it might have been, is encouraged to wander from space to space, floor to floor, depending on the time of day and time of year. Not in a stratified organization where you are living on one floor or another, but rather where all floors are considered living space. All floors have kitchens, all floors have living rooms, and all floors are sleeping areas.
The Media Vitrine idea inverts the normative idea of the typical “media room” and what we have seen built in other branches. These rooms are where kids come and play Guitar Hero and Wii, etc. These loud gaming systems that teens love to engage were hidden away in completely enclosed ancillary spaces. We worked to put on display the physicality of these activities and literally showcase them. That worked. We specified Holosonic speakers that project sound straight down rather than dispersing the sound as conical speakers do. It creates a sound shower that drains into carpeted floor. If you are standing under the speaker array it is very loud, but if you are standing just to the side, it is not so loud. So you get to see these kids going crazy while there are other people having quite conversations and looking at books right next to them. We tried to keep the scale down, more in line with the user, keeping the bookcases low and wrapping the space with a constellation graphic and graphic wall that enlivens the space and helps further break down the scale.
The ground floor is incised in the landscape and has more active programs. It tends toward the physical. It has bedrooms and kitchen. The courtyards start here along with a kind of super-stair, which we considered a vertical room itself — a social space, a very gentle but large stair, about 20 feet square. It is essentially a spiral stair that has been cropped based on the building’s geometry. The courtyards shape the spaces and these spaces are not so much defined by walls, but rather with these nature voids, the internal volumes and the outer shell, and between the internal volumes themselves. And here, on top, is a living space on the occupiable roof.
I referred to this project, a residence, earlier, built on nothing. 100 Architects were invited to design houses in Inner Mongolia. Our site was lot 007.
Some smaller scale works: an exhibition called Beyond the Catwalk that we did outside of Seattle in Steven Holl’s museum. This was a show that featured the work of compelling contemporary fashion designers, and it was divided into five curatorial sections: substance, statement, science, spectacle, and structure. Again, like the teen center, we made a rule where we cut a normative element of most fashion exhibitions, the mannequin. So this problematized the project and our understanding of the body and the garment is intentionally disrupted.
Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), new rooftop art/event terrace with green roof surround ÂŠ Rice+Lipka Architects and James Corner Field Operations
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
For some sections, we did not have access to actual physical garments. In this case it was a Viktor & Rolf nested doll dress. We just had images of it and we designed an apparatus where visitors could see the detail of the garment. These panels were folded in against the light box, but they could flip out to show the dress’s many layers in relationship to one another. Viktor & Rolf have other complex ideas. They created a blue screen dress series where, in their actual runway show, they staged a line of dresses superimposed with stock footage of planes taking off and more. So we recreated this condition with live blue screen technology in this, what we called a U-turn runway apparatus. This long table display was created for a group of designers whose work was critical of the fashion industry. Their works did not have too much do with the garments, so we created this split light examination table, which is illuminated from above and below to reveal the objects in light all around. We created this specimen container in response to the Science Section that focused on the technology of garments and fabric. We obscured most of the garments so you never see the garments’ forms in totality. View windows, some with magnifying lenses, focus on the detail of fabrics within, obscuring the whole and emphasizing the part. For the Spectacle Section, we went to London and filmed an Alexander McQueen show from five different camera viewpoints and then recreated the show virtually in the gallery to manufacture the sense that you can never experience everything simultaneously. Each screen documents a unique perspective, something different going on, so viewers are constantly turning to avoid missing something. This was the feeling of the show — that there was more going on than could be fully registered. Finally in the Structure Section, which featured a Margiela’s flat panel series and a Kawakubo’s bump series, we had to come up with an apparatus that could accommodate both thin and thick works. So we designed these X-press collapsable displays that are fully expanded for the bump dresses and very compressed for the flat panel dresses. When we needed to refer to the body, we only did so using photographs rather than mannequins. We also created diagrams of garment
structures and designed how to physically support the garments so they visually floated within these cases. Next are two art works on which we collaborated with artist Ben Rubin. He is a fantastic artist who invited us to work with him the New York Times lobby, which he completed on his own. The first idea we had was for a kinetic sculpture that consisted of columns of implied text on this interior curtain wall — virtual columns and texts — that were only revealed by these scanning devices that track up and down the mullions in a choreographed dance, mining the information they display from the New York Times daily database, so it is all about today’s news. The LED displays scrolled text at the same speed, but in the opposite direction that the units were moving, so the text stands still. The units move to reveal the invisible column of text, the absent content made present with these devices. At the end of the day, these units were put to sleep, but allowed to “dream” by periodically waking to display not the day’s news, but news from the paper’s past — archived news from the database. The second work for which we were short-listed is this installation for the Fulton Street Transit Hub that is just about to open in lower Manhattan. It was designed with Ben and graphic designer Lisa Strausfeld. There were three site components. One was this domed closure through which people move quickly, the Dey Street passage, and at several subway platforms. I do not know if you are familiar with Craigslist and Missed Connections? Missed Connections documents those lost moments when you are on the subway and making eye contact with the guy or woman across from you and there is some perceived chemistry between you and then they get off and you realize that, OMG that was it, she/ he was “the one.” So as a last ditch effort, people go online and post these beautifully composed texts trying to reconnect with these people in hopes that they might, too, be looking for that lost connection. This is a minitragedy played out in very beautiful and public way. The idea was to reconnect these people by making more public their postings. We looked at the likely receptivity for each site of the project, so at the
Dia: Beacon Northwest perimeter gallery with John Chamberlain partial installation view ÂŠ Richard Barnes
SUMMER 2013 ABSENCE
dome we knew there would be very low receptivity with people moving through the space, while on the platforms there would be very high receptivity because people were static, just waiting for their train. In the dome space, we post highly edited headline snippets to somehow mark the collective loss that is happening in real time. This LED display grid would be connected back to servers and Craigslist database. This would be constantly changing like the normative rail departure board. In the Dey Street concourse, a very long, wall-mounted, single-line split-flap display also using the normative transit signage, displays a longer version of the texts. For the third site, on the subway platforms, a kind of hard copy of the full texts that are mined from the Craigslist database. This was actually fabricated by the subway signage people and for an exhibition sponsored by the Whitney. And finally — we could not resist attempting to actually manufacture new Missed Connections in some way — we created these stillness areas opposite each other on the platform, such that if you stand across from someone for more than 10 seconds, a little audio alarm goes off on the platform and a frame mounted between the tracks is illuminated to draw your attention to that person standing across from you — an LED time/ date stamp provides you with the information they will need to post online to help find out who you are. The year 2000 marked the end of the Votomatic voting machine — it was used in the Florida elections. You may not remember this, but this was the device that affected the presidential election and their use was soon discontinued. A curator in New York got hold of these voting machines and asked a group of artists and architects to do something with them for an exhibition on democracy. Our response to this potential loss of the Votomatic, which is a completely dysfunctional machine that historically had thrown elections, was not to attempt to fix it, but rather to amplify its dysfunction in order to raise public consciousness of the power that these machines have in our democracy. Rather than making something else out of it, we proposed to extend its life as a voting instrument, but tailor it and market it to different demographic regions of the country that shamelessly
wish to ensure culturally consistent election results. We named this new fictional line BuyUs Brand Reconditioned Voting Booths, booths with a built-in cultural bias. We built only one physical version for the exhibition. Here we produced attributes that would help sell this model in a conservative Texas market. This particular model, the American Sportsmen, has a strong cultural resonance with rural conservatives. The rifle format is familiar to most hunters and sportsmen and the adjustable target range affects the legibility of the target, which is key. The target is any given year’s election ballot and voters shoot for their candidate, the target. Conservatives are allowed to shoot from 50 yards, while liberals are made to shoot from 100 yards making it a little less likely for them to hit their intended target. We also made a model for California, the Zen Zone model. This comes with a yoga mat and candles. Liberals are allowed to light a candle for their candidates right away, while conservatives are asked to meditate for 60 minutes before lighting theirs. If you are in a swing state we thought we should give you the opportunity to get your state off the fence by gambling away your vote with the Good Odds model. Here voters have the potential to gain up to 35 votes if they are lucky. And of course a model for New York, the Capitalist Elite. This works using an ATM format where voters could buy votes, or sell them if they are feeling disenfranchised. A little LED ticker shows voters the current trading value of each candidate. The last project I will show is a garden pavilion that we created for the Philbrook Art Museum in Oklahoma. They have beautiful, newly reconstructed grounds and they commissioned a series of temporary garden pavilions. We quickly realized that we had only about a quarter of the money that we needed to build a full pavilion, so we decided to build a quarter of a pavilion and edit the most expensive component, the floor which would need to support the weight of visitors. What we were left with was a head-shell that serves as a viewing device, adaptable to various terrains. We experimented with different sites on the museum grounds. Essentially, the installation is a doorless elevated box where non-child visitors have to duck to get inside and then look out through pairs of mirrors that recombine the landscape. The back
is a sky viewer that has a full-width mirror mounted at a 45 degree angle to frame and multiply the sky and tree canopy above. Here is an amazing image of how we first imagined the mirroring effects, but that is Photoshop, and in real life, the optics do not work like this at all, so we traveled to the site and mocked it up full scale and identified an appropriate site. In this installation photo, you can see that only this bit is the actual view of the landscape, and this is a single mirrored view, and that is a mirror image of that mirror, and to further left is a little bit of the mirror of the mirror of the mirror image. In terms of absence, we take what is essentially an object in the landscape and conceive it as a viewing device that manufactures a fictional view of the landscape a fake that raises the awareness of the original. At least that is the idea. One example of how that works is evident with the sound of an existing waterfall which emanates from the left, from a place where the view of the falls is replaced by an image mirrored from another spot. To the right, visitors see the water fall and to the left, they can hear it. It disturbs the normative and these breaks with reality, making you more aware of your surroundings. Looking back into the hillside, one expects to see the opposite landscape, but instead visitors see the sky and the tree canopy above. An overview here shows the contrasting horizontal form of the viewer itself registering the irregularities and slope of landscape above which it sits. I am sure I demonstrated tonight that absence is not a theme that we have consciously explored in our work. Still, foregrounding ideas of absence in reading the work does inform it. The theme that I see repeating here with regard to absence is that we often rely on the full, potential, or partial withdrawal of something, a controlled absence, in order to disrupt the normative. We remove some piece or part of a project or project program, and through this intentional disruption, no matter the scale, something new is revealed to us.
Lyn Rice founded Lyn Rice Architects (now Rice+Lipka Architects) in 2004, developing an iterative design approach that takes pleasure in teasing out unexpected project potentials by inventively embracing their practical constraints. Rice was selected as one of the Architectural League of New Yorkâ€™s Emerging Voices in 2002 and named part of the 2003 Design Vanguard by Architectural Record. His work has been published widely and recognized with ten American Institute of Architects Design Awards, the Architectural Review Future Projects Award (2013), and a NYC Public Design Commission Award (2012), among others. Rice was a design principal-in-charge and the architect-of-record for Dia:Beacon, a 300,000sf contemporary art museum while a partner of OpenOffice art+architecture collaborative (1999-2004). Rice holds a Masters in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University and is a LEED Accredited Professional. Rice currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Architectural League of New York and has led design studios at the School of Architecture at Princeton University, Columbia University, Barnard College, and The Cooper Union.
Summer Institute for Architecture Journal School of Architecture and Planning The Catholic University of America Dean:Randall Ott, AIA Director: Julie Ju-Youn Kim, RA AIA
Editor: Ariadne Cerritelli Journal Design: Ariadne Cerritelli + Amirali Ebadi
John Garvey President James F. Brennan, Ph.D. Provost Cathy R. Wood, M.F.A. V.P. for Finance and Administration, treasurer Michael S. Allen, Ph.D. V.P. for Student Life Frank G. Persico, M.A. V.P. for University Relations and Chief of Staff John J. Hannan V.P. for Enrollment Management Lawrence J. Morris General Counsel Victor Nakas, M.Phil Associate V.P. for Public Affairs
This is the journal for the 2013 Summer Institute for Architecture at The Catholic University of America. It includes student work from the...