Moving Forward – Choosing a Design and Running With It

Through the multiple weeks that I spent laboring and stressing over how my final pavilion design would come together, I found myself constantly going back to one simple problem – accessibility. My previous field study, the “inhabitable” wall/surface, just wasn’t cutting it. I had designed it with the intention of allowing the user to interact and interpret the form on various levels – it seemed I was more interested with the user’s reaction than my own. But the problem was that there was too much “stuff” – The design was too thick, to convoluted, too unwieldy, and frankly any respectful user would be more distressed and confounded by the design than I was hoping for. “KISS” – Keep It Simple, Stupid. The question was, how? I kept trying to make the structure more interactive by adding on new parts, trying to make the whole system movable or transformable. But the over-complexity of the design, coupled with an inability to get my rectilinear forms to marry with the triangular site, kept sending me directly into a wall. I decided to take my original idea regarding the modules that would be stacked to form the inhabitable surface, but rather than “adding material”, I was now looking to take away.

Now the design had become a hierarchy of parts. The various rectilinear planes would come together to create various forms of “modules”. These modules, just as before, were then to be stacked in various configurations to form a “pod”. Each pod had a centralizing “key” or anchor, evolved from the wooden key of my original design, around which the pod was formed. Once stacked, various planes were shifted or even removed completely, with the intention of opening up the interior so that each pod could then be entered. This created a juxtaposition between interior and exterior, and thus naturally addressed the problem of public vs. private which was handed down to us as part of the assignment. My intention was that each key could be removed from the pod, and then the pod moved to a different location on the site. This meant that multiple pods could be placed together to form a larger surface/structure, or each pod could be its own separate entity. Clearly the moving of such a pod (which now stood at anywhere from 12′ to 16′ tall) was not a feat that any normal person could attempt. But as this entire design was much more conceptual and idealistic, I felt that such an issue was not as important at the time (not to mention that this is only my 2nd semester we are speaking of!). I have held that while the physical world can and will limit what you can build in real life, it should not ever limit what you can construct in your mind.

Below I have attached a rendering of my original pod design. Two sample pods are shown, both separate (at the top) and then combined in various configurations (on the bottom).

The first draft of my pod design. The drawing shows two sample pods from various angles (top), as well as how they might fit together in multiple configurations (bottom).

The first draft of my pod design. The drawing shows two sample pods from various angles (top), as well as how they might fit together in multiple configurations (bottom).

A First Look at Site Design

At this point in our project, our professor instructed us in our first attempt at dealing with a site. Up until now, our design process had been removed from any real sense of location – we knew the pavilion was to be located in downtown Troy, NY (the location of RPI), but we had yet to properly explore how the site was integrated into the surrounding city.

The site chosen (which was the same location across the entire 1st year studio) was located at the end of a block, along one of the main streets of Troy. It had a triangular shape to it, which we had not expected. This unusual shape, and the subsequent layout of the surrounding buildings, streets, and river, posed some interesting challenges. Many of us wished that we had been introduced to the site sooner in the design process, as now we were struggling to marry a design to a seemingly arbitrary location. It was as if we were trying to inject this design into the site, which was not only difficult but felt unnatural. Of course, much of this was probably due to our lack of experience of dealing with a physical location for our designs. The first time is always the hardest. And while being introduced the site mid-design posed it’s own challenges, no doubt we as 1st years would have been even more confounded were we asked to consider it from the beginning.

The site in Troy, NY; photo-credit Andrew Kim

The site in Troy, NY; photo-credit Andrew Kim

The site in Troy, NY; photo-credit Andrew Kim

The site in Troy, NY; photo-credit Andrew Kim

The site in Troy, NY; photo-credit Google Street View

The site in Troy, NY; photo-credit Google Street View

Up until this point, my design had been extremely rectilinear, and the task of attempting to mold this to a triangular space was not easy. For multiple weeks I sketched out different designs and tried to figure out how the entire pavilion would and should come together. I visited the site multiple times, taking pictures and sketching, and each time came away with a new and different idea only to then cut it up and remold it back in the studio. I suspect that this whole procedure is indicative of the design process itself, and while there were many moments of frustration and a loss of how to proceed, overall it was quite enjoyable to work through the entire project and see it’s evolution to a finished pavilion.

To assist us with our site considerations, we were asked to draw up a “Site Drawing” that would explore the various parts of the site and how they might relate to our design. Using a birds-eye view/plan of the site, we then addressed the various movements of the site using different types of lines – this included things like city grid, pedestrian and vehicular flow, light and shadow, and finally how they might be married to our own movements. It was an exploratory take on how the movement of the site and city might meld and form with the movement of our design. Needless to say, many of us found this very difficult, and due to time constraints some of us (myself included) were unable to finish the site drawing. I have uploaded my drawing here to give a sense of my exploratory process, with the caveat that it is far from a completed state.

The Site Drawing, attempting to explore the various movements of the site and how they might relate to my design.

The Site Drawing, attempting to explore the various movements of the site and how they might relate to my design.