Light Wells, or “I’m Underground – I Need Light!”

With a preliminary parti and a site location, now I had to deal with the actual structure. I knew that I wanted to have the residency merge from/into the surrounding landscape, but how to accomplish this? Since we were modeling in Maya at this point (and for the rest of the semester pretty heavily), I decided to quite literally take the landscape into Maya, and drag/drape it over the parti to create the building’s massing. Once again, this was a very crude and unsuccessful method (and I very quickly changed it), but at this point I was a bit lost as to how to proceed.

This draping technique, and the fact that a lot of the rooms were underground, led to another problem – light. How could those underground see without using tons of artificial light? My answer? Light wells, or “whirlpools” as they became. This was also a great opportunity to try and re-introduce some of the design elements of the Antoine Pevsner sculpture and my generative reforming of it. This using of our previous sculptural explorations was also part of the assignment, and something that I had yet to properly address.

I also decided to elevate the studio spaces, in an attempt to allow them to see more of the landscape/site, and also to prevent the public that may be milling about to peer into their private space. This also allowed me to bring the public spaces out from behind the rest of the spaces by putting them down below the studios and gathering spaces.

The second version of my preliminary siteplan (left) and a basic wireframe parti (right), this time with light wells.

The second version of my preliminary siteplan (left) and a basic wireframe parti (right), this time with light wells.

Interior rendering of the first version of the residency (massing only)

Interior rendering of the first version of the residency (massing only)

Exterior rendering of the first version of the residency (massing only)

Exterior rendering of the first version of the residency (massing only)

 

 

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Choosing a Site Part 2: The Parti

One of the biggest challenges I had to face with the designing of the artist residency was dealing with the parti – in other words, how the building and site are organized. How should people move into, out of, and around the space? Where should the different programs be located? What kinds of governing geometry should be used?

Not really knowing how to begin challenging these questions, I started with a simple box-frame of spaces inserted into the landscape. This approach was very crude and in hind-sight perhaps should not have been used. However, up until this point I had yet to actually design a proper building with specific programmatic requirements. While the “brute-insertion” technique may have ultimately been a poor choice, I learned a lot from the process and how I might better approach it in the future.

To begin, we were all provided with a list of the different programs needed within the space, and what kinds of (rough) square footage they required – this included things like living space, museum spaces, parking, administration, bathrooms, etc. Each project had to include housing for eight artists. Each artist needed at least 400 sq ft of living space, and a 400 sq ft studio. I originally wanted to have two large, shared studio spaces, with four living quarters clustered around each. In the center of the two would reside the dining and communal spaces (such as a computer lab). We also had to include public space as well, where visitors to Storm King might go to see examples of the artist’s work, etc. I wanted to make sure that these spaces were kept separate, as I did not want the public to disturb the artists. Originally, I was unsure where to put the different exhibit rooms, and so I essentially just stuck them under the ground behind the main building. Clearly a poor choice, but this is just the start of the project you must remember.

I knew from the get-go that I did not want my residency to be the “main attraction” of the site. Artists who came would come because of the beautiful Storm King at large, and so I felt that my building should help facilitate this (and their subsequent work) and not intrude on their experience. Ultimately (with the help of my professor – otherwise I may have built something extremely timid), this changed a bit, although the basic idea of making it meld into and form from the landscape stayed throughout the project.

Below I have attached some preliminary drawings that I attempted to put together to illustrate my intentions. As the project changed quite drastically over its tenure, these drawings were never actually used in the final presentation – however, I have included them here to help illustrate my point.

Preliminary siteplan (left) and a basic wireframe parti (right)

Preliminary siteplan (left) and a basic wireframe parti (right)

Beginning Phase 2 – Choosing a Site

At this point we had completed the “Sculptural Analysis” portion of our 3rd studio semester – now it was time to dive into the second portion: designing an artist residency. This section of the class consisted roughly of two phases – one before our midterm, and the other between midterm and finals. The first of these two (phase 2 of the semester), was driving mainly through our exploration of a “parti”. This included attempting to interpret what a parti consisted of and how such a system might integrate into our previous sculptural explorations of phase 1.

But before we could begin any of this, first we needed a site. This particular artist residency was set to occupy a space at the near-by Storm King Art-Center. Located in New Windsor, NY (~2 hours south of Troy, NY / RPI), Storm King is essentially a sculpture garden, but laid out over nearly 500 acres of woods and fields. Most of the sculptures are permanent to their site, with many built/designed by the artist specifically for Storm King. Currently their exhibit boasts over 100 sculptures, including pieces by noted artists Alexander Calder, Louise Nevelson, Henry Moore, Richard Serra, Andy Goldsworthy, Sol LeWitt, and Roy Lichtenstein. You can find out more at their website: http://www.stormking.org/

For our particular section, we were instructed to choose a site situated near the main museum building. This was intended partly for ease of access, but also because the museum building sits on a hill overlooking the rest of the fields, and working with such a hill would require us to take into consideration other landscape factors.

Part 2 of this post will discuss my approach to choosing a preliminary parti /organizational system for the residency.

First Look at Construction Systems: The Retaining Wall

While we all moved along with our analyses of various sculptures, we also dove headfirst into our Construction Systems class. Here we were taught about the various systems that go into building a structure, mainly focusing on super structures (wooden framing, structural steel/concrete, accretive (masonry) systems), and the systems that might build off of them. This included questions like “How does the structure connect to the ground?” (foundation systems), “How do cladding systems attach to the super structure?”, “How about corners? Roofing systems? Openings for windows and doors?”. The class consisted of five large projects in which we tackled these questions. Four of the five projects were to be hand-drawn, allowing the class to also function as a drafting class.

Our reference material for most of these projects consisted heavily of Francis Ching’s “Building Construction Illustrated.”

For the first of the five projects, as sort of an introduction to the world of construction systems, we were tasked to develop a retaining wall system, and then illustrate its parts in section and plan. The section had to be hand-drawn, while the plan was constructed digitally through Rhino/Illustrator. We also had to draw how our wall dealt with the three main modes of failure: overturning, sliding, and settling.

Construction Systems - Retaining Wall Section cut of a generic retaining wall, showing all parts as well as how it deals with the various forces (hand-drawn).

Construction Systems – Retaining Wall
Section cut of a generic retaining wall, showing all parts as well as how it deals with the various forces (hand-drawn).

Construction Systems - Retaining Wall Plan, Section, and Axon of the designed retaining wall (digital)

Construction Systems – Retaining Wall
Plan, Section, and Axon of the designed retaining wall (digital)

Construction Systems - Retaining Wall Diagrams showing how the designed wall deals with the various forces/modes of failure (hand-drawn).

Construction Systems – Retaining Wall
Diagrams showing how the designed wall deals with the various forces/modes of failure (hand-drawn).

Phase 1, Part 3 – Generative Model

At  this point in our 3rd semester, we had all not only thoroughly examined and interpreted our sculpture, but also explored how it might be changed and reformed to meet different needs. Our various analytical and generative drawings attempted to express this clearly. But of course, only so much can be communicated through drawing, and so it was time to build our first model of the semester. In my section, we were all tasked to reconstruct the generative 9 ” cube models we had designed digitally, using a particular stacking method. This was most easily done through a program called “123D Make” – a free program put out by Autodesk that allows you to create physical models from digital ones with relative ease. Import a .stl file (which can be exported from either Rhino or Maya), and the software calculates one of various construction methods, including stacked slices, interlocking grids, and polygonal folding (click here to check out the website). The program will then create the cut files, ready to be sent to the laser cutter (although the settings on our laser cutters require a bit of tweaking first).

For this particular model, all 15 of us in Prof. Saunder’s section used a vertical stacking method, with 1/16 Taskboard as our construction material. Using this software coupled with the laser cutter, model preparation time was extremely quick. And given the ease of assembly with this particular system, actually constructing the model was even quicker. These models were prepared and then constructed in probably 2-3 days. The hardest part was finding a time when the laser cutter was open!

Below are a few photographs of my generative model. All photos taken by classmates Andrew Kim and Christian Gartland.

EDIT 01/13 – Images now correctly show.

Antoine Pevsner - Sculptural Analysis 9" Generative Model (vertically stacked taskboard)

Antoine Pevsner – Sculptural Analysis
9″ Generative Model (vertically stacked taskboard)

Antoine Pevsner - Sculptural Analysis 9" Generative Model (vertically stacked taskboard)

Antoine Pevsner – Sculptural Analysis
9″ Generative Model (vertically stacked taskboard)

Antoine Pevsner - Sculptural Analysis 9" Generative Model (vertically stacked taskboard)

Antoine Pevsner – Sculptural Analysis
9″ Generative Model (vertically stacked taskboard)

Antoine Pevsner - Sculptural Analysis 9" Generative Model (vertically stacked taskboard)

Antoine Pevsner – Sculptural Analysis
9″ Generative Model (vertically stacked taskboard)

Antoine Pevsner - Sculptural Analysis 9" Generative Model (vertically stacked taskboard)

Antoine Pevsner – Sculptural Analysis
9″ Generative Model (vertically stacked taskboard)

Antoine Pevsner - Sculptural Analysis 9" Generative Model (vertically stacked taskboard)

Antoine Pevsner – Sculptural Analysis
9″ Generative Model (vertically stacked taskboard)

Phase 1 (Part 2) – The Generative Process

Moving forward from the analysis portion of our “sculptural phase,” the next task required taking our analysis and “generating” something new with it. Essentially this meant taking the form, movement, and intentions that we had learned about the sculpture from our analysis, and moving them forward with our own interpretation. For our section, this meant taking the form, and “extending” it to meet a 9″ cube. Antoine Pevsner and Noam Gabo utilized in most of their work the idea of a “developable surface”, i.e. a flat surface that could then be warped and turned to form a 3D object. This meant that, while the form has the intention of volume, it wasn’t actually voluminous. But for our 9″ cube, we had to give it thickness, forcing us to consider how volume and depth might suddenly be explored, while still attempting to use Pevsner’s and Gabo’s original intentions (but of course warping them a bit).

To help facilitate this 3D molding process, we were introduced to AutoDesk’s Maya, a 3D animation tool widely used for film and other animations. However, Maya uses a different kind of 3D modeling algorithm – mainly, it deals with polygons that approximate smooth surfaces, rather than Rhino’s calculus-based “absolute” geometry (NURBS – which apparently stands for “Non-uniform rational basis spline”, whatever that means). This new type of modeling took quite some time to get used to, and I still feel that I do not fully understand all of it. But it quickly became apparent that the software would be instrumental to our design process.

Below are the 4 boards from the previous post, but edited and re-formed to include this new, generative process.

Pevsner - Developable Column - Generative Board 1 Analytical views.

Pevsner – Developable Column – Generative Board 1
Analytical views.

Pevsner - Developable Column - Generative Board 2 Method of construction + Renderings.

Pevsner – Developable Column – Generative Board 2
Method of construction + Renderings.

Pevsner - Developable Column - Generative Board 3 Generative process.

Pevsner – Developable Column – Generative Board 3
Generative process.

Pevsner - Developable Column - Generative Board 4 Generative model.

Pevsner – Developable Column – Generative Board 4
Generative model.

Next up: The generative process model!

Phase 1 – Sculptural Analysis with Antoine Pevsner

The first stage of our overarching “Artist Residency” studio project took the form, as stated in the previous post, of sculptural analysis and exploration. This began with each section critique assigning to their students different sculptural works from a particular sculptor. Prof. Andrew Saunders, my section professor, chose the Russian Constructivist brothers Antoine Pevsner and Noam Gabo. After running through a couple of options, I finally settled on Pevsner’s Developable Column, which he made in 1942 and currently resides in one of MOMA’s collections.

With our sculptures, we were tasked with the envisioning and interpreting of the form through any resources we could gather (mainly photographs). This meant modeling the sculpture in 3D software – mainly Rhino, with some Grasshopper (a parametric rhino plug-in) as we were introduced to it. We then produced various analytical drawings from these Rhino models, showing various things like it’s imagined construction, diagramatic views, and even attempted renderings (w/ basic materiality). These came about after about 1.5 weeks into the project.

Pevsner Board 1 - Developable Column analytical views.

Pevsner Board 1 – Developable Column
Analytical views.

Pevsner Board 2 - Developable Column rendering

Pevsner Board 2 – Developable Column
Rendering.

Pevsner Board 3 - Developable Column method of construction

Pevsner Board 3 – Developable Column
Method of construction.

Pevsner Board 4 - Developable Column generative analysis

Pevsner Board 4 – Developable Column
Generative analysis.