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)

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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 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.

Joint Exploration – Various Drawings

Following the transformation and construction of our joint (and the subsequent drawings illustrating our process), we were asked to explore the nature of our joint through two new 30″ x 30″ drawings – one showing multiple views of the joint (plan, section, elevation), the other a more “abstract” perspective drawing. I chose to include a blue color-scheme beyond the simple gray tones because I wanted to emphasize the central connector piece, similar to my choice to construct the piece out of wood for the physical model.

A perspective exploration of the joint. I chose to explode the pieces to emphasize/show the inner and outer natures of the joint.

A perspective exploration of the joint. I chose to explode the pieces to emphasize/show the inner and outer natures of the joint.

Another exploration of the joint, utilizing various views (section, plan, and elevation).

Another exploration of the joint, utilizing various views (section, plan, and elevation).

We were also asked to explore the model we had built through photography, experimenting with camera placement, lighting, and various “construction” methods, i.e. organizing the parts of the joints in systems they may not have originally been designed for.

The four final, edited photos, showing various viewpoints and configurations of the joint.

The four final, edited photos, showing various viewpoints and configurations of the joint.

EDIT 06.25.13: added updated drawings.

Final Site Model – Stage 1

Following the exploration of the previous joints and drawings, we were tasked with our final project of the semester – to create a 16″ x 42″ model of our Martian site as constructed from our previous explorations. This “site” model was to be created based on our previous joints/concepts we had developed, using repetition/mirroring/scaling to take our pattern and extend it for the full 42 inches. Like our previous joints, this model would consist of parts that could be removed and put back together, and would also continue our color scheme. The idea was to take the patterns/spaces we had already developed and extend them to the Martian landscape, exploring how a society might move through and exist within the space (or lack of space) created. Thus, the creation was not a “building” per se, but rather an exploration of form and space as it might pertain to its inhabitants.

Using various sketches I created a design based on the two joints I had constructed out of basswood (and subsequently painted), allowing the two joints to alternate, as well as mirror and rotate, throughout the design. Various pieces of the original joints were merged or skewed to allow for the new model to flow and become one part out of many.

From these sketches, we were tasked to take our model and construct it in Rhino, to allow for proper planning of its construction. Below you can see the model during its conception within Rhino, as well as multiple renderings created of the concept (using plugins within the Rhino interface).

A screenshot of the Rhino interface, with the model in its various parts. The model had been copied many times to perform various operations, such as sections and plans, as well as separated into it's individual pieces in an attempt to organize the parts for construction. The colors represent parts that lie within different "layers" within Rhino and do not represent the final coloring of the model.

A screenshot of the Rhino interface, with the model in its various parts. The model had been copied many times to perform various operations, such as sections and plans, as well as separated into its individual pieces in an attempt to organize the parts for construction. The colors represent parts that lie within different “layers” within Rhino and do not represent the final coloring of the model.

A rendering of the conceptualized site model.

A rendering of the conceptualized site model.

Site Plan Rendering 2

A rendering from a different angle, to show where solids and voids may lie.

The model was required to incorporate some form of slope into the design – I attempted to accentuate this via a “growth” of the pattern as it traversed the model (scaling). One of the largest difficulties I faced was finding a way for the two different joints (one being very angular and horizontal, the other linear and vertical) to work and flow together. Thus, certain portions of the model were also extended or removed in various directions to attempt to accentuate the conflicting horizontal and vertical as well as angular and linear tendencies of the model. I feel that this also is representative of a society, which may consist of many differing and perhaps conflicting parts or ideas, but yet they still all come together to allow for a functioning whole.

The model was conceived to sit on a “base” or ground, from which the various parts would arise. This ground would become the locking mechanism for the parts. A secondary locking system consisted of various “mask pieces” (a continuation of the mask from previous models) which would sit over portions of the model. These masks became the second concept behind the model – certain parts of a society are readily visible to an outside observer, but other portions are hidden, and certain parts must be removed in order to see these inner workings.

Time for Some Digital Drawing

After the creation of our initial two 3″ square joints, we were asked to choose the two most interesting moments or “spaces”, and then expand them into 4 3″ x 3″ x 9″ joints, utilizing rotation, reflection, scaling, and shearing (I’ll post photos of those once I find my camera). We also learned how to render them in 3D using Rhinoceros 5, and having taken multiple “views” of these renderings (sections, plans, and/or axiometric views), construct two digital images (two joints per image) that incorporated our mars landscape*, two grids, and the views of our joints. These images were constructed using Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop (with the joint views coming from the 3D renderings in Rhino), and have gone through many iterations. I’m not completely satisfied with them, as I have discovered that I approached them with a more artistic lens, sometimes forgetting that architectural drawings such as these also have to objectively portray information about their subject matter. That has by far been my biggest struggle – drawing with both the “subjective” artistic and “objective” engineering viewpoints simultaneously.

The first of the two 36″x36″ digital drawings, incorporating our two grids, multiple views of two of our four larger joints, and the martian landscape we had chosen earlier.

The second of the two 36″x36″ digital drawings. This one has a more vertical layout to accentuate the vertical nature of my 4th joint.

*The overall goal of our project is that we will be creating some sort of space/structure that deals with the terraformation of the martian landscape. This is not strictly a “building” as we are not focused on the practicality of the space but rather how a society might move through and interact with the space, as well as it’s interactions with the various parts it consists of and the landscape it is situated on. At the beginning of the semester we chose a particular mars image which will eventually become the site for our final structure.

My chosen Mars landscape.