Installation Brief: Rawhide explores Hirsuta’s critically-acclaimed project Raspberry Fields, a residential project sited in northern Utah, focusing on its signature use of curled shingles as exterior cladding.
The Problem: Architectural Surface, From “Skin” to “Hide”
The architectural “skin” is, by now, a rather well-worn path through the conceptualization of built exterior surfaces. And as is typical of well-worn paths, this one has become hard and dry, no longer particularly interesting underfoot. Building surface as “hide,” however, seems a fresh new way to push the dialogue of cladding toward an expanded array of associations and models less well-known to the discipline. Possible interpretations abound: where the skin is bald and shaven, the hide retains its thick fur.
Photographs by Josh White
If the skin’s geometry is immediately and completely apparent, that of the hide only flirts with visibility, and only then after the luster and texture of its hairiness has been combed through. Skins are thin, so thin as to be insufficient unto themselves, requiring the “bones” underneath to carry some of the load. Nevermind that with hides; whether they require underlying structure or not is of little consequence to their luscious external reading. A good hide feels entirely self-sufficient, such that its prostration on a floor becomes the center of a room’s attention. Nothing more is required.
The Proposal: Cladding Stripped Bare
The satisfying abundance of the raw hide forms the core thematic of the gallery exhibition, displayed by laying bare the shingle-clad roof of Raspberry Fields at 1:1 scale. Imagine a bearskin rug the size of a building and you get the idea. The exhibition begins with the unfolding of the project’s exterior blanket according to its primary underlying geometries followed by its reconfiguration in the SCI-Arc Gallery.
A full-scale reconstruction of part of the roof of the Raspberry Fields house is the central piece in the gallery. Given the rural context of the original project and the conceptual connection sought between cladding and animal hides, the roof is surrounded by real cowhides refigured as abstract bodies.
The “curly shingles” that so delight fans of Raspberry Fields take center stage in this exhibition. In the original project, curling is achieved naturally through weathering, a process that will take years. Here, the compression of decades-long stochastic deformation is achieved through steam-curling to simulate the effects of decades-long freeze-thaw dynamics of the harsh northern Utah climate. When applied to the prostrate form of the relaxed roofscape of Raspberry Fields the lush coat of cedar shingles take on the quality of an animal hide par excellence, moving architectural cladding toward something more wild and feral…the becoming animal of architecture.
Host and Sponsor: Southern California Institute of Architecture
Installation Title: Rawhide or, The New Shingle Style
Client (of Raspberry Fields): Karel Kearl
Designer: Hirsuta LLC, Los Angeles, California (Jason Payne, Project Designer)
Shingle Contractor: Jamin Huber, Custom Cedar Solutions, Lake City, Florida
General Contractor: KnowHow Shop, Los Angeles, California