Yale School of Architecture
critics: Greg LYNN & Brennan BUCK.
suckerPUNCH: Describe your project.
Constance VALE: Dams built in the 20th century utilized grand neoclassical facades to monumentalize the ingenuity of man. This proposal for a dam shifts the emphasis from the wall to the dam’s moving parts and the spaces they envelope. Two key moving elements, the lock and gantry, are reinterpreted in their means of motion and form, as a set of rotating conic volumes. . . .
One complete revolution of the lock causes the water level within it to gradually fill and conversely drain, allowing boats to reach both river levels through the course of a 360 degree turn. The rotation of the gantry serves to remove turbine’s from the hall for maintenance, while simultaneously opening the turbine hall’s massive front door. The effect of both large moving objects on the exterior is a temporally transforming facade. On the interior, an oculus in the turbine hall, and linear aperture on the lock, allow both spaces to perform as inconstant observatories, charting their own engineered cyclic motion and the natural cyclic motion of the earth in relation to the sun. This conflation of motion at multiple scales, and consequently time, alters the temporal perception of the viewer. Both forms embedded in the dam wall are the result of subtractive operations on the original conic volumes, causing these forms to be read both as their primitive geometric source and as a more complex set of derivative surfaces that avoid a simple scalar reading. Within its interiors, one is disoriented to natural space and time and reoriented to a sense of time based on the processes of the dam.
Sited along the Housatonic River, this dam is proposed as a replacement for two existing non-navigable dams. Consolidating these dams into a new dam with a lock will make the lower portion of the river navigable to the Atlantic while also connecting two currently isolated state parks. These parks meet the river on either bank and the top surface of the dam will serve to merge both existing systems of trails. Given its remote location, the dam need only relate to a geologic context. It’s isolation in nature, coupled with the extreme natural forces that it controls, and the massive scale of its interior volumes, locate this dam within the discourse of Edmund Burke’s sublime. One could equate its sublime qualities to those of a cathedral, presenting the question, how can architects engage infrastructure’s potential as a new kind of monumental public space? Could the government become a modern day patron of great works of architecture through its devotion to building infrastructure with a civic dimension?
Music excerpted from “Island” by Philip Glass, from Glassworks
sP: What or who influenced this project?
CV: Étienne-Louis Boullée—particularly his Pyramid—and James Turrell, Roden Crater.
sP: What were you reading/listening to/watching while developing this project?
CV: Reading: Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origins of the Sublime and Beautiful and Étienne-Louis Boullée, Architecture, Essay on Art.
Additional credits and links:
Thanks to Greg Lynn and Brennan Buck for their insightful criticism and support throughout the semester.