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  • Thick Wall

    Jonathan LOUIE, "Thick Wall." Photo: Francesca LING.
    syracuse NEW YORK

    Too small for a room but too thick for a wall, Thick Wall investigates form and domesticity through construction in the graphic project. Not just a flat drawing, the line thickens into a series of interlinked wood spindles set to a skeletal figure. . . .

    The Balloon Frame belongs to no one person; nobody claims it as an invention, and yet it in the art of construction it is one of the most sensible improvements that has ever been made. — G. E. Woodward, Woodward’s Country Homes.

    Too small for a room but too thick for a wall, Thick Wall investigates form and domesticity through construction in the graphic project. Not just a flat drawing, the line thickens into a series of interlinked wood spindles set to a skeletal figure. Resulting in an overlay of projections that destabilize the legibility of the frame-like composition.

    From poche to hung textile1 the Wall has been the subject of architectural investigation through volume or more recently as a point for new technologies in fabrication. Despite being an important component in domestic growth of the American west. Light frame construction has found itself left out as an object of experimental inquiry.2 Thick Wall posits that balloon frame construction has value through the investigation of the grid as formal generator. Built for a pop up exhibition, Graphic Form, the installation is produced from 70 self-similar spindles set 2’ on center. Thick wall spans 18’ in length and rises 14’ in height. Aligning itself with the second floor of the Atrium in Slocum Hall.

    While walls are often thought of as serving a function of weather barrier or enclosure, Thick Wall proposes the possibility of the space within the walls cavity. By expanding commonly hidden interior volumes Thick Wall is in search for opportunities for the framework to serve as a design device as well as a device to be designed on. Destabilizing the reading of the figure are a series of applied graphic shapes. Each singular in its definition and part of a larger combination of forms and colors.

    Marking the point at which industrialization began to penetrate housing balloon framing converted wood construction from a craft into an industry.3 Through construction speed and material optimization allowing builders to enclose a large area with minimal cost. New formal variants may be established by adding intersections and overlays to the repertoire of positions set up by the primarily horizontal and vertical skeletal members resulting in a range of enclosure types inherent within the graphic pattern.

    By denying cladding and hung paneling, the 2” x 2” wall studs in Thick Wall are lain bare exposing a light skeletal framework gone awry. Angles and planes intersect, crop, and penetrate the grid. Defining a range of overlapping volumetric forms that combine into a figurative whole. Simultaneously framing the space within and the elements beyond. Unlike its wall type counterparts, decoration and adornment are denied in favor of framework, pattern, and form.

    Installation Design: Jonathan Louie
    Installation Team: Anrai Pearson, John Bryant, Nathan Russell, Daniel Mabie


    1. 1. In der Stil Gottfried Semper deduce the origins of the wall as a device for hanging decorative textiles that communicate program through adornment. 

    2. 2. The invention of Balloon Frame construction is attributed to George W. Snow. Economy and abundance play a large role in the value of light frame construction. The use of minimal structural materials in standardized dimensions allows builders to enclose a large area with minimal cost, while achieving a wide variety of architectural styles. It was also known as Chicago Construction. 

    3. 3. Gottfried Semper, Space, Time, and Architecture, 269. 

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