A Step in the Right Direction – Incorporating Pevsner

After struggling through the past few weeks trying to create something resembling a building, I brought my project to my section critic to ask for some guidance. His first response: “Where’s the Pevsner?” And that’s where it hit me – After spending weeks analyzing and exploring our given sculptures, I had moved on to creating the building and parti from scratch, with no consideration to our previous project. Where was the Pevsner indeed?

With a new direction, I returned to the drawing board so-to-speak, and recreated the massing from scratch using my generative version of the Pevsner sculpture “Developable Column.” I used my initial parti to guide the placement of four “columns”, which I them melded and merged and mushed together in Maya (ahh, alliteration), using the shape of the generative model to create the forms and spaces, and also the voids or “light wells.” The interior spaces of the model became tunnels through the center of the massing, allowing for circulation through the building. This gave me the idea of using these interior spaces as circulation paths for the public visitors, allowing them to enter, move around, and then exit the building without ever moving into the spaces of the artists. Thus, I added one more large depression at the rear of the building, with the intent of creating a “whirlpool” to pull visitors down into the building from the main museum building and Storm King facilities above.

Two contour drawings of the 2nd iteration of my residency - one in plan showing various circulation paths, the other in elevation (from the front).

Two contour drawings of the 2nd iteration of my residency – one in plan showing various circulation paths, the other in elevation (from the front).

A preliminary section of an uncreased (no hard edges) version of the residency, to begin illustrating the interior tunnels.

A preliminary section of an uncreased (no hard edges) version of the residency, to begin illustrating the interior tunnels.

The next step of the project was to build a model for our midterm review. I used the same process as the previous Pevsner sculptural exploration – a stacked model made of 1/16th taskboard. This created a massing model of the building that nicely illustrated my intention to have it flow directly from the site and surrounding landscape.

Residency v2 - Massing Model (front)

Residency v2 – Massing Model (front) (photo credit Andrew and Christian)

Residency v2 - Massing Model (rear)

Residency v2 – Massing Model (rear) (photo credit Andrew and Christian)

I also created a few preliminary renders to help illustrate the form – one from the exterior, and one inside the tunnels.

Residency v2 - Exterior Render

Residency v2 – Exterior Render

Residency v2 - Interior Render

Residency v2 – Interior Render

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.

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

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.

2nd Year Studio – An Exploration into Artist Residencies

The project of our 3rd semester here at the SoA consisted of exploring, designing, and, at least theoretically, actualizing an artist residency. For the first time, we had to consider how the building would exist in real space – how would it stand up? What would it be made of? We also had to consider our design – what was our process? How can we use external designs and environments to influence and drive our project? How does circulation direct the flow of the building? We were actually designing a building as if it might actually exist, and as with any new process, we found ourselves in the midst of a lot of excitement and confusion and wonder. Looking back upon my work, I am still amazed at how much we all accomplished in just 14 weeks. 14 weeks! And that on top of all our other classes and projects. Sometimes I am surprised I even survived it all.

For this project/semester, I found myself in a section of 13-15 students (numbers changed as students dropped) instructed by Prof. Andrew Saunders. Prof. Saunders not only was teaching a section for studio, but also was tasked with coordinating the entire 2nd year studio. He also is in charge of publications at the School of Architecture, and on top of that still has time to design his own buildings. Although sometimes we (naturally) found ourselves confused and a bit bewildered by his direction, ultimately each project in his section was extremely strong and his teachings were invaluable.

The 2nd year studio consisted roughly of three stages; An analytical phase, where we were each given a sculpture from a sculptor (chosen by the section professor) of which we were tasked with describing it’s form (and perhaps the sculptor’s intent) digitally, both through 2D drawings and 3D modeling/rendering; An exploratory phase, where, having been given a site to work with, we had to take our sculpture and explore how it might influence and push a design for an artist residency – how might it be inhabitable? Given a rough sq. footage of program, we had to incorporate a parti system into the design, such that we began to explore how circulation might come into play as well; And finally, a refinement stage, where we took the explorations from the previous phase and attempted to consolidate them into an actual, inhabitable structure, that met all the programmatic requirements and was structurally sound as well (at least roughly). This is where we really had to take into account things such as openings (doors/windows), circulatory space (public gathering/hallways), parking, and possibly even materiality. It was a long and intense process, but the final result was certainly complex and interesting.

I will spend the next bunch of posts describing each of these phases – using text to describe my design process, along with accompanying imagery of drawings, renderings, and photographs of models.

Final Pavilion Part 1: The Design

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!