Art Center College of Design
Media Design Practices MFA Program
suckerPUNCH: Describe your project.
Art Center College of Design, Media Design Practices MFA Program with Tim DURFEE & Andrew KRAGNESS: The 12/8 Tower was developed and built as part of a four-week workshop for first year graduate students in the MDP taught by Tim Durfee (of Tim Durfee Studio and amp) and Andrew Kragness.
This project was an experiment in the integration of media—in this case music—and architecture. We started by studying composer Steve Reich’s seminal early work Clapping Music (1972). Set in 12/8 time, Clapping Music has two performers repeat the same rhythmical motif, with one of the performers eventually offsetting the sequence one eighth note beat at a time. The piece concludes when the shift has occurred 12 times, thus restoring the synchrony of the two performers.
We also investigated two precedents—the bell tower and the pipe organ. The bell tower is an architectural form that both houses the physical instrument of a carillon and serves as multi-directional “speaker” for the acoustical broadcast of the chimes. A concert organ has pipes which—due to their variety of size (large for low frequencies, small for high)—have inherent physical qualities that can be physically arranged to produce form (as with the organ at Gehry’s Disney Concert Hall, for example.)
The idea of this project was to collapse the “bell tower” and “pipe organ” conceptually to the point where the physical form of the tower itself is the “pipes” (in this case, panels to be struck to make a “clap” for Reich’s piece.) With this logic in mind, we used Steve Reich’s musical score as an architectural drawing, informing us of both the rhythm of each row of clapping panels, but also of the offset as the rows ascend to eventually match the original pattern at the top.
While this structure is currently a test of the translation from the rhythmical “architecture” of Reich’s piece to the physical architecture of a tower (with each row having exactly 12 panels—one per beat), the second iteration will transform the tower into a performing musical box, in which the white panels will be equipped with servo-driven mallets to produce a “clap” and the dark panels (without mallets) as “rests.” As it performs, 1 row will “clap” the repeated rhythm and every other row will clap its respective pattern in an ascending sequence until the piece is complete, at the top of the tower.
Design and Fabrication team: Daisy Bao, Elaine Cheung, Katie Duffy, Margo Dunlap, Jay Hong, Leah Horgan, Qing Yi Li, Morgan Marzec, Faith Oftadeh, Shan Shen, and Inae Song.
sP: What or who influenced this project?
TD & AK: James Gamble Rogers; Étienne-Louis Boullée; D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson; THEVERYMANY; Tom Sachs; Andrew Kudless; and pineapples and artichokes.
sP: What were you reading/listening to/watching while developing this project?
TD & AK: Reading: George Plimpton, The Best of Plimpton and James Gleick, The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood. Listening to: Steve Reich’s phase music; Dawn of Midi; King Sunny Ade; and Tim Hecker.
sP: Whose work is currently on your radar?
TD & AK: Mark Allen/Machine Project and Yuri Suzuki.
Additional credits and links
[Video: Elaine CHEUNG]
This workshop was one of the several parts of the year-long Creative Technology sequence (coordinated by Phil Van Allen) required for all 3-year MFA students at the MDP.
Huge assistance, as always, by Casey Anderson and Kevin Wingate.
The independent research and course initiatives (of which 12/8 Tower is one) conducted by Tim Durfee at the MDP are part of amp: an on-going body of multi-modal projects exploring the changing relevancy of architecture in the age of media. amp might be an acronym for Architecture and Media Programs, or Amazing Mediated Peripheries, or possibly: Architecture, Maybe? Precisely!