At the core of our proposal is digital fabrication as the contemporary mode of spatial practice. This is not a passing interest but an ongoing line of research now in its third semester with this group of students and faculty advisors. And of course that research is situated within a much longer trajectory of inquiry into fabrication at the GSD. We think this is important as the school considers which public statement to make through the first annual student pavilion competition. Moreover, we recognize the aptness of digital fabrication as an approach to tackling the ambiguous territory between the virtual and physical realms. Thinking about design as space making and communication as a spatial exchange, this argument is further reinforced.

In examining our own interests and mining the site for inspiration, we have returned time and again to the idea of the stock material as a site ripe for tectonic innovation. In this case the stock is a sheet of plywood. We think spatial syntax - tectonics - is a solid basis for rooting architecture in its site. Considering the Quincy/Cambridge corner, the space enjoys an urban visibility that requests a gesture back to the city. Within this in mind we intend a sort of self referential urban forum - that is, something porous to the city while creating a desirable amount of enclosure and privacy on a very public corner. You could say we are seeking a kind of private porosity.

Central to our line of research is the idea of the stock material as a site for tectonic invention. We are working with plywood for its underutilized potential and connection to Gund Hall’s material identity. This relationship is a way of tying the deep structure of Gund to that of our pavilion. Three double skin plywood shells shape an inwardly focused forum by day, externally visible theater by night. The Quincy/Cambridge corner space desires a response simultaneously site specific and publicly available - a self referential but urban gesture. DEFORMWORK engages and enriches the site’s existing spatial syntax by form finding from material behavior. In this way we propose a relation between site and pavilion based on embedded spatial logic.

We maintain a persistent interest in the capacity of the pavilion to promote aural communication in public space through the creation of a particular acoustic/visual environment. You could say we are seeking a kind of private porosity, or the flip the term on its head, what Giuliana Bruno has termed public intimacy. And in that context material enclosure becomes very important. Currently, the site is wide open, and while covered, completely disused. We think enclosure is a necessary part of an engaging intervention on this site. Furthermore, we argue that by privileging the visceral, the haptic, and the material in the architecture of our intervention, we can encourage personal, physical communication amongst the users of the space. It is exactly that type of interaction that we feel is needed to assuage contemporary digital detachment.

Complex curvature is achieved within the shells through a systematic incision of the stock sheet. The depth, angle, and location of the incision within the overall panel allow control over the amount of curvature. Increased curvature yields additional rigidity and enclosure, and these considerations are calibrated to site pressures and viewsheds. Eyelets at the end of incisions resist material failure. We call this strategic weakening. Separations between shells offer moments of openness to the corner context, thresholds engaging site circulation patterns, and a visual connection between the private and public domain. Concrete benches anchor lightweight, glowing, perforated shells - a stereotomic point of contact for users to engage the pavilion. The panel deformations and sensual concrete lounge forms provide a material environment which encourages aural communication by privileging physicality. Space within the double skin assembly amplifies acoustic exchange between users and houses AV equipment.

DEFORMWORK posits a return to materiality as a medicine for the woes of virtual alienation. By spatializing existing site tectonics, a deep structural relationship between Gund Hall and the pavilion is construed within the larger university landscape of public spaces.

Project Team:
Sean Leake [ M.Arch I '13 ]
Timothy Pingree [ M.Arch I '13 ]
Nicolas Rivard [ MAUD ]
Alex Shelly [ M.Arch I '13 ]
Nathan Shobe [ M.Arch I '13 ]
Emmet Truxes [ M.Arch I '13 ]

John Nastasi, Rachel Vroman

Production and editing: Emmet Truxes
Photography and storyboarding: Nathan Shobe and Emmet Truxes

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