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  • Fragmented Monolith

    Andrea BAENA & Sophia NOWINA-KONOPKA, "Fragmented Monolith." Model.
    los angeles CALIFORNIA

    SCI-Arc
    critics: Darin JOHNSTONE with Dylan KRUEGER.

    suckerPUNCH: Describe your project.

    Andrea BAENA & Sophia NOWINA-KONOPKA: The project is concerned with four primary dichotomies: the current paradox of “the object”, obscure masses and fleeting frames, mute assemblies and fuzzy monoliths, context and image.

    This project not only addresses the four dichotomies presented, but also establishes a relationship between all of them. Issues of mass, interior and surface articulation, tectonic assembly and building envelope argue for a specific design agenda and programmatic systems.

    The Obama Presidential Library presents itself both as a monolith and as a fragmented negative open frame. It reveals itself in the shadow of the near coherent mass and acts as a transition, between the dense city landscape and the open park. This project presents itself as a strong icon which paradoxically blends into the cityscape while expressing power and transparency.

    Our aim is to oscillate between a monumental monolith and a porous public environment. Visitors enter the building and ascend through an architectural stair, experiencing compression as they travel through the solid layers of private program (storage and offices), followed by a release as they arrive into a porous open gallery space at the top. The third floor acts as a semi-dense transition between private and public and is host to the auditorium, gift shop and outdoor-indoor café. The highly articulated perimeter of the open gallery space is accompanied by a series of podium blocks scattered around the space, a result of the monolith fragmentation process.

    We are studying a paradoxical cycle that consists of transitions between context, image, geometry, program, tectonics, and realism. The first shift from cityscape imagery to carved-out shadows within the mass is achieved through the dissolution of the monolith. Volume and structure are considered opposed through the rift between mass and frame. The grid makes its transition into frame through the articulation penetrating the exterior shell and manifesting itself inversely within interior spaces while also integrating itself with the program. This interior articulation then re-defines the exterior by creating apertures and displacing the external shell. The scale of the building not only provides a tension between monolithic conception and assembled construction, but also challenges the fixed aesthetic notions of beauty and legibility in architecture. Monolithic architecture is no longer positioned in formal opposition to that of the articulated assemblage, but primacy and expressionism are operating together to challenge hierarchy and part/ whole relationships.

    The more substantial question worth posing as an aftermath of the design process is whether this cycle (context-image-geometry-program) evolves into a formal pattern that has contextual, social and functional factors embedded in it.

    sP: What or who influenced this project?:
    AB & SN-K: Crystals and rock formations.

    sP: What were you reading/listening to/watching while developing this project?:
    AB & SN-K: Reading “Chicago Frame,” in Colin Rowe, Mathematics of the Ideal Villa and Other Essays.

    sP: Whose work is currently on your radar?:
    AB & SN-K: Olafur Eliasson

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