suckerPUNCH: describe your project.
lonn COMBS + rona EASTON: the story of the rise of stained glass use in religious gothic architecture served as an important analogy for our design approach. we were intrigued by the idea that stained glass was a material technology which was much older when it was first experimented with as a window material. it was the desire to extend the idea of painterly narrative across the window portal that lead to a breakthrough in it’s use and widespread subsequent adaptation in religious (collective) gothic architecture. hence, without the need for social narrative to extend the painterly surface of architecture across the window portal of the gothic church the breakthrough of material innovation and novel application would not have taken place then.
we were interested in our design picking up on the narrative capacity of color, luminous space and visual field effects to suggest new environmental conditions. we were attracted to the possibility of the architect as an ‘environmental curator’. given the nature of the site and program we found that the intersection of environmental performance and the production of ‘atmosphere’ provided a real opportunity to construct a dynamic spatial canvas that could be staged for playful, intimate and collective occupation.
the main proposal consists of an approximately 100‘x70’ canopy structure 15’ high. our idea of the ‘architect as environmental curator’ addresses the connection between atmosphere and environmental performance and centers on nine nested rooms or spatial chambers that are dispersed throughout the canopy system. these chambers are similar in scale and geometry but achieve very different character of social arrangement and mood due the their solar orientation, polychromatic differences in their surfaces, and the way they open to the larger canopy space. this constellation of factors set up a dynamic shift of color and environmental effect, thus bringing an ever changing play of atmospheric and environmental readings to the space and social-scape. for example, a predominately blue chamber may infer coolness or wetness but the orientation and solar exposure may produce a very different environmental sensation depending on the time of day and weather. given the larger field of chambers and the migration of surface color, the actual environmental effects and projected atmospheric conditions will dynamically shift throughout the day, and along with this the social dimension of the structure will rearrange accordingly.
sP: what or who influenced this project?
lC + rE: we have been looking at the structural innovations from the 60’s and 70’s with fascination for quite some time. robert lericolais declaration around the idea of ‘infinite span and zero depth‘ has interested us not as a literal challenge but a kind of impossible game for an architectural proposition. so we were interested in entering a territory of material and performance that one would not expect to correspond with one another. as well we were drawn to buckminster fuller’s challenge to architects in his famous question ‘how much does your house weigh?‘ our entire structure ended up weighing less than a few cars. we were really interested in the tension of such a light and colorful but expansive and thicket-like architectural proposition.
sP: what were you reading/listening to/watching while developing this project? we were always watching
lC + rE: reading: ‘alice and wonderland’ by lewis carroll and ‘a little history of the world’ by e.h. gombrich
listening: autechre, stockhausen and a little opera from time to time.
sP: whose work is currently on your radar?
lC + rE: i pay allot of attention to my son’s artwork these days.
project team: lonn combs, rona easton, aaron white, sebastian misiurek, paul langley, tai li lee, scott sorenson, mehnaj tabassum, lukasz szlachcic, jun pak, alex drabyk, patrick donbeck, matt krupanski
structural consultant: robert otani, thornton tomasetti
environmental consultant: ajmal l. aqtash