• Round Room

    Matter Design & Quarra Stone, "Round Room." Interior.
    cambridge MASSACHUSETTS

    Matter Design and Quarra Stone has announced the release of Round Room, an installation on exhibit at the MIT Keller Gallery.

    What would the Incas create today with their advanced knowledge of precision stone carving and our contemporary technology? Round Room is a translation of the Inca wedge method into a digital process that manifests in the Baroque tradition of the interior model. . . .

    This mash-up of cultures and times productively reconsiders how we define space—volumetrically.

    Round Room is composed of unique units carved with a water-fed robotic arm from Autoclave Aerated Concrete; each unit aligns with its neighbor on the visible (interior) edge. Following the Inca wedge method, the exterior edge (hidden in the poché) opens to allow mortar to be packed in from behind. In contrast to typical masonry construction of in-situ adjustment that employs mortar for tolerance, this method of neighboring alignment relies on precision carving to inform the assembly. In this case, the mortar is fill. Inherent to this process is a direction to the assembly—an interior and an exterior condition—thus re-engaging a ubiquitous type in the history of volumetric architecture—the rubble-fill wall—whereby precision is visible, and fill is utilitarian. This method is anti-isomorphic. The perimeter vermiculated box contrasts with the voluptuous interior, each rendered as mass and volume.

    While this project samples knowledge from the Incas, it advances this knowledge by rolling their method into three-dimensional space. The complex figure of Round Room is assembled without the requirement of alignment jigs or formwork. The purpose of this research is not to revert to this antiquated architecture, but rather to re-inform contemporary practice with the knowledge of the past. These performative volumetric methods consider alternative spatial opportunities.

    As Clifford and McGee explain, “We have a pre-occupation with the translation of ancient and often lost methods into contemporary culture and practice. Round Room is a product of an ongoing research agenda that centers on volume as an area of architectural exploration.”

    Matter Design is an interdisciplinary design practice founded in 2008 by Brandon Clifford and Wes McGee. Their shared interest in design coupled with proficiency in the means and methods of production have led Clifford and McGee to collaborate on a range of experimental projects which break conventional disciplinary notions of scale. Matter Design was recently awarded the Design Biennial Boston award and the Architectural League Prize for Young Architects + Designers. In addition, the principals are currently faculty at the University of Michigan and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

    Quarra Stone Company is a leader in digital fabrication of natural stone. Using laser and light 3D scanning technology together with large scale robotic and CNC milling, Quarra provides international commercial and fine art production. Current projects include the Collier Memorial to be constructed at MIT.

    Additional credits and links:

    Matter Design: Brandon Clifford & Wes McGee with Austin Smith
    Quarra Stone: James Durham with Logan Cudd, Lincoln Durham, and Frank Haufe.
    Structural: Simpson Gumpertz & Heger (Matt Johnson, Juhun Lee, and Rebecca Lubrano).
    Project Team: Myung Duk Chung; Sixto Cordero; Patrick Evan Little; Chris Martin; Dave Miranowski; David Moses; Alexis Sablone; and Luisel Zayas.
    Graphic Design: Johanna Lobdell.

    Acknowledgements: This project is funded in part by the Council for the Arts at MIT and the Belluschi Lectureship.

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