The final portion of our pavilion project was to continue our digital drawings throughout the process, making similar drawings but in relation to our final pavilion design. This included, like at previous stages of our project, various sections to scale, an abstracted perspective, and a couple photographic shots to illustrate lighting and multiple, perhaps unapparent angles.
At this point, with the entire pavilion designed in Rhino, it was time time to build it! Originally I was going to build the model at 1/4 inch scale (1/4″ = 1′), but I decided that, at such a small scale, it would be hard to fully realize the space and forms of the pavilion. I felt that the model would become to constricted and hard to read. So I decided to up the scale and build at 1/2″ = 1′. This resulted in a truly large model, much larger than I had anticipated, with the long side reaching almost 6 feet long!
To help solve the inevitable problem of how I was to move such a model, I designed it such that it could be easily disassembled and reassembled. Each of the six pods were sat in a slight indent in the base, and were locked in with their respective keys/anchors. The base itself then folded up into a 3.5’x3.5′ box.
I started construction with the pods. All the pods were made with 1/16″ taskboard – this insured that there were no color variations between different parts of the pods or between the pods themselves. The taskboard was used because it was cheaper, readily available, and didn’t take as long to laser-cut (which, with each student’s limited amount of laser-cutter time, was absolutely essential. I simply didn’t have the time necessary to cut the entire structure out of, say, basswood). I also cut each pod’s “anchor” out of basswood, in keeping with my previous models. You can various views of some of the pods below.
Following the pods, I began construction on the base. This proved to be the most challenging, but definitely my favorite part! Solving the task of how to put it together and support the entire structure was a welcome challenge. I ended up dividing the base into three sections (due to the maximum size of the material), which were then painted and grided, and then attached using various strips of taskboard below. This section of the model was mainly constructed with coldpress, as it was slightly sturdier than taskboard and could support the loads of the pods on top. The entire surface of the pavilion’s ground was elevated about 3″, to allow for the sections that “sank” into the ground, and to give the model some depth. I have included some images of the base below.
And below you can see the completed model, fully assembled.
I have also included a basic render from Rhino/V-Ray which places the pavilion on its site in Troy.
With a basic design in hand, there was only one more major hurdle to tackle: how should I make this into a pavilion? I had an idea – an inhabitable, interactive pod built from modules and locked in place by a centralized key – but now I needed to think bigger. How many of these pods should I have? How might they engage the site and each other? How then should a complete pavilion be formed?
At this point, the process simply boiled down to refining the design, and then expanding it to fill the site. I decided that even more opening needed to be done – the pods were still too constricted, and there was still too much wasted space. I blew up the scale – each module now sat at 6′ tall, 3′ wide, and anywhere from 6′ to 24′ long. After stacking these modules 2 to 4 stories high, I removed even more surfaces, opening the interior up further and allowing for a more natural flow through the space. I added stairs for accessibility to higher levels. Even the keys themselves changed – I created only one design, which was then rotated to sit differently within each pod. I found that the distinct modules slowly began to disappear, allowing for a more consolidated design within each pod.
Next came the site – I needed a way to activate the pavilion’s location, allowing for a complete and thorough interaction between ground and structure. Yet the decidedly rectilinear forms of my pods continuously clashed with the rigid triangle of the site. And then it hit me: Rather than fighting this juxtaposition, perhaps that’s how the pavilion wants to be. The reason the site is so triangular is due to an external conflict – that of the two main grids of the city. Most of the city follows a distinct grid pattern – north-south along the Hudson River. But in this section, the river turns slightly to the west, resulting in two conflicting grids. Why not capitalize on this? I laid out five or six pods across the two grids, creating a centralized area encircled by my structures. To help the pods interact even more with the site, I abandoned the idea of them being strictly movable (as that would require a flat and ultimately boring site plan), allowing some pods to sink into or rise out of the ground itself. This created a natural wave across the site, again following the two grids.
Time for some renderings! These are always helpful for me to visualize exactly what I am going to be building before I go ahead and create the final model.
Next up: Construction Time!
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).
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.
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.
Beyond the creation of our field model, we were also asked to explore our surface through drawing and photography, similar to our exploration of our original joint. These drawings consisted of a diagrammatic study (two 30″ x 30″), a second abstract perspective exploration, and four new photographs. Once again I utilized the blue/grey color scheme, which at this point had become part of the work and was a great way to give unity and clarity to the entire project.
All of our second semester work up to this point created our body of work for our midterm review.