Moving Forward: Triangulation

Well, it’s been quite a while. About two months ago I said I was back for the summer, but then new commitments started up (namely work around the house as well as an internship at TIA Architects in Amherst, MA) and I just haven’t gotten around to the blog. Perhaps I should just give into the fact that I’m not going to be able to update this consistently, and that’s just how it will be.

At any rate, I would like to try and finish up my 3rd semester’s work so that I can actually move onto the 4th semester before I start my 5th in September. Holy moly, time flies! Let’s see if I can’t get back into the swing of things.

After our midterm with our artist residencies, we all returned to our desks to begin puzzling out the interior of our forms. I had created and organized the exterior shell around a basic space plan, but now I needed to actually see how I might  fit things into the interior. How would I address vertical circulation? Windows and other apertures? What about entrances? These are things that I really hadn’t thought about, and now I needed to.

My first step was to figure out how to meld the existing form for more shape and solidity. Up to this point, the project had been constantly fighting the “mayonnaise plague”, i.e. becoming so goopy as to no longer be recognizable. I needed to really grab the building and lift it out of the slop once and for all. The most drastic change I performed on the structure was a triangulation of the entire surface. I left the surrounding landscape smooth, and allowed this smoothness to bleed onto the surface of the structure at various points, namely the roof (which I imagined as a green roof, a grass-covered extension of the hill behind it. I was trying to capture the idea of “viewing platforms” that the owners of Storm King had mentioned during our tour) and the interior tunnels through the building.

I then created a sectional model to illustrate this change in exterior, as well as to give a peek into how the interior might unfold. Since I wanted the structure to smoothly rise from the landscape, I kept the entire “skin” of the model one material.

Sectional model of Storm King Residency, after triangulation. MDF skeleton with Bristol Board skin.

Sectional model of Storm King Residency, after triangulation. MDF skeleton with Bristol Board skin.

I also began to think about how I might lay out the interior, particularly the upper level with the living spaces for the artists. Following a similar triangulation pattern, I came up with this basic layout seen below. Though this ended up being adjusted fairly drastically as I created windows and vertical circulation, it was a decent place to start.

A preliminary plan for the 3rd floor, where artists in residence would live.

A preliminary plan for the 3rd floor, where artists in residence would live.

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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)

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.

Final Project Part 3: The Drawings

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.

Final Sections Final Perspective

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.

Field Study – Drawings

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.

The first of the two 30" square studies illustrating the structure through to-scale plan and section. This was our first usage of human figures to illustrate scale, and while originally I was a bit apprehensive, I soon grew to enjoy them.

The first of the two 30″ square studies illustrating the structure through to-scale plan and section. This was our first usage of human figures to illustrate scale, and while originally I was a bit apprehensive, I soon grew to enjoy them.

The second of the two 30" square studies.

The second of the two 30″ square studies.

The second abstract perspective drawing of the semester, which, like the first one, I used to attempt to explore the exploded nature of the structure.

The second abstract perspective drawing of the semester, which, like the first one, I used to attempt to explore the exploded nature of the structure.

Four photographic studies of the final field model/surface.

Four photographic studies of the final field model/surface.