Posts tagged with "Ball Nogues Studio":

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How Ball-Nogues Studio crafted this sculptural steel pavilion for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

The Max Factor Building—built in 1974 by A.C. Martin & Associates as an extension to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles—has never really been well-loved. The forlorn hospital complex is made up of a trio of institutional towers placed atop a pair of parking structures that are arranged around what should be a courtyard but is actually a five-lane boulevard that delves underneath the main tower. In a 1992 review of complex for The Los Angeles Times, critic Aaron Betsky described the black glass and limestone-clad structures as an example of “purposeful blandness” and labeled the hospital an “anti-urban bunker of bad form.” Flash forward to 2017: The towers remain unchanged in their appearance but stand renewed along the podium terraces that flank either side of Gracie Allen Drive, where AHBE Landscape Architects and Ball-Nogues Studio (BNS) recently completed work on new healing gardens and a pavilion, respectively. According to Calvin Abe, principal at AHBE Landscape Architects, the terraces had been a forgotten public space at the hospital for many years, a fact Abe hoped his interventions could shift by reorienting the way patients and visitors arrived at Cedars, as they made their way from the parking structure to the hospital proper. Benjamin Ball, principal at BNS, explained that the neglected terrace “had not been given much consideration as public place for the hospital” when originally designed, a fact worsened by its sensitive location sandwiched between air intake grilles and operating rooms. The arrangement meant that any construction activity would have to be undertaken rather silently and without generating much dust. To boot, the site’s existing structural arrangement meant that improvements would need to be vigorously studied in order to guarantee that new loads were being resolved without disrupting the podium’s original structural grid. As a result, the project team came to consider the site as more of a performative skin than a static structure. The surface-level project tries to heal the “epidermis of the complex,” as Abe explains, referring to the outermost public region of the hospital, by “grafting a piece of living, breathing landscape above the existing parking decks.” To achieve this goal, the firm re-designed the two terrace areas as a series of multi-functional outdoor garden rooms—what they call “portable gardens” due to the fact that the structural requirements forbade permanent installation of these new planters. Even so, Abe was able to soften the edges of the terraces with wide swaths of tall grasses, wooden boardwalks and benches, and ancillary, succulent-rich beds framed in three eights inch thick stainless steel sheets. Along the north arm of the terrace, sinuous benches made from kiln-dried Brazilian hardwood pop in and out of their surroundings, sometimes nestled into supple berms, at other times sitting proudly under the sun above the boardwalk. The planted areas are mirrored in a more minimal and integrated fashion across the way, where the edges of the wide, wavy beds seamlessly transition from stainless steel border to wooden bench and back again. The north arm of the terrace is organized as a tripartite band of terraces, with a large wooden boardwalk sandwiched between the grassy precipice and succulent bed. At the center of the run, the path bulges out to make room for BNS’s pavilion, a looming husk crafted by humans and CNC machines out of woven networks of stainless steel tubes. Ball explained that his team wanted to contrast the prototypical architecture of the medical towers with a sculptural pavilion that could stand out on the improved terrace. To counter the geometric, stone-clad exposures of the towers, BNS designed a multi-lobed shade structure that would be inspired by self-supported concrete shell structures but be constructed out of CNC-shaped steel tubing. “We tried to develop a language that could only be achieved using this type of machine-shaped caged shell,” Ball explained. Ball described the pavilion as having “no hierarchy in terms of structure,” a quality that would instead be lended by the pavilion’s billowing forms, which themselves were finessed by the quotidien requirements of the structure’s lateral loads. The billowing form wraps over the walkway on one side and frames a smooth, J-shaped bench underneath a parallel and transversal lobe. When seen from the boardwalk, the structures appear squat and wide, a quality that disappears entirely when the pavilion is viewed from the opposite edge, where the shells rise proud of the boardwalk and slip past one another. BNS, working with local fabricator Hensel Phelps, worked to meld into reality a form that not only faithfully represented the computer-generated mass—Rhino and Maya were used, among other programs—but that also reflected what the CNC machines could ultimately produce. Ball explained that the design and fabrication teams had to work iteratively to establish limitations for the structure, adding that  the back-and-forth process ultimately “outlined the aesthetics of the project—It created the rule book, not the other way around.” The structure was eventually fabricated off site, assembled in its entirety prior to installation, and finally craned into place. Ultimately, the structure came within a two centimeter tolerance of the digital model, due in equal measure to the digital tools and the highly skilled craftwork of the fabricators. Ball explained finally: “To get a project like this to look polished and highly crafted, you need hand skills.”
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Support Ball-Nogues Desert Drama

Everyone's favorite installation architects, Ball-Nogues Studio, are producing one of their most ambitious works to date: The Yucca Crater, a 24-foot-tall installation in the middle of the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree. The project's wavy wood shell will contain rock climbing holds on its interior, rising out of eight feet of water (the basin, the firm describes, is a nod to abandoned suburban swimming pools scattered across the Mojave). The wood will come from the formwork of another Ball-Nogues project, Talus Dome, in Edmonton, Canada. It is being built for High Desert Test Sites (HDTS), an initiative that invites artists to create experimental projects scattered among towns near Joshua Tree National Park like Joshua Tree, Pioneertown, Wonder Valley, Yucca Valley, and 29 Palms. Other HDTS installations have included The Crystal Cave Project, the recreation of a desert swap meet that had been discontinued by local government, and Untitled, a compilation of hovering doors and windows without a surrounding building. Check out a video of the Yucca Crater installation or donate to the project here. According to the firm donations through microphilanthropy group United States Artists need to be received by this Friday. So far they've raised just over half their goal, so pony up if you want to see this thing happen.
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Spruce Up a Parking Lot

Despite the frustration of having to drive everywhere, often sitting through interminable traffic, at least Angelinos can boast some of the prettiest parking structures in the country. One of the latest to the game is Pugh + Scarpa's dressed up garages for the redeveloped Santa Monica Place mall, garages that were originally designed by the same man behind the now demolished mall, Frank Gehry himself. Not content to simply dress up some old garages with a flashy new facade, the mall has dedicated space on each of the two parking structures for art installations As Curbed reported last week, the proposals, which include the above one by Ball Nogues and a tile mural by Anne Marie Karlsen, recently received final approval from the Santa Monica City Council. The plans had been kicking around for a few year, and frankly, we're a little surprised to see Ben and Gaston's Newton’s Cradle-inspired piece being realized, since Ben once confided in us some uncertainty on getting the gravitationally anchored sculpture to stay aloft. Then again, playing on this uncertainty is what much of the firm's work is all about. Bully for the young designers, though, and for Santa Monica for taking such a risk on this ballsy project.
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P!LA: Beers With Benjamin Ball

After Mike the Poet finished his set Thursday night, I found Benjamin Ball of Ball-Nogues Studio still in the crowd. He had been the second to last presenter, mostly talking about the firm's work, and he was now taking compliments from admirers and shooting the breeze with friends. I, never not working, asked about the teepee in Woodstock he'd mentioned, though Ben was more interested in chatting me up about the paper, Venice, and my bowtie. Soon enough, a group of us found ourselves in the lobby, but the drinks being overpriced, we hit the street. The five of us--Ben, three of his artist friends, and myself--deliberated on one of LA's countless quiet street corners. The establishment across the street, Library Bar, was deemed "too USC" and abandoned. Where to go? A loud, hipstery joint, Bar 107 was settled on some blocks away. This being LA, everyone split up, with two headed for a car, another to her bike, and Ben and I on foot. As we make our we across town, I begin to interrogate Ben, especially about his adopted home, a place, during my brief stay, I find to be incredibly fascinating. Not very far into the conversation, we pass through Pershing Square, a park in downtown LA redesigned in the '90s by Ricardo Legorreta and Laurie Olin, a place Ben is not exactly fond of. "God," he says, as we cross the street and enter the park, "they need to bulldoze this shit. It's a perfect example of how stale thinking was in the 90s." Still, this hasn't hindered the development of downtown, a movement Ben is very much a strong believer in, having moved his and partner Gaston Nogues' studio into a loft building in the area. "The rent is still dirt cheap," Ben said. "You can get a place for less than a dollar a square foot, which the developers are happy to do because they know you'll pave the wave." When I pointed out that the streets were dead and devoid of many necessary amenities, he conceded that this was true, but as with all gentrification, bound to change--if you build it, they will come. When we arrived at 107 it was seemingly swamped with teenagers, so we opted for the adjacent Pete's Bar & Cafe, a neighborhood institution that seems like it's been there forever, with its lush interior and old black-and-white prints of the downtown of yesteryear, even if it opened less than a decade ago. I stepped out to find an ATM, something that took 20 minutes of wandering around desolate downtown blocks--like I was saying about those amenities--that, despite the postindustrial charms of the area, had me longing for a New York City bodega. By the time I returned, we had been joined by Ben's artist friend Beverly, who had arrived on her bike. Like Ball-Nogues, Beverly uses the computer to create much of her art, and the two got into a long conversation about the various design and rendering programs out there. As we shared Pete's delicious cheese fries, I sat back to revel in the excitement these two shared. My eyes glazed over due to jet lag, but it was mistaken for disinterest. Trying to bring the discussion back around, Ben expressed his frustration that all the SCI-Arc kids who only conceive of computers as a means to an end--usually some overly slick building--and not just another tool to realize a clever building. "It's why, in the end, we try and build everything by hand, to do all the fabrication ourselves," Ben insisted. "Architecture always has been, and always will be, a craft." Salut!
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P!LA: Painting Sound, Ben Ball, Vampires, & MMOs, Oh My!

Though I already gave Mike the Poet pride of place, he was far from the only show in town Thursday night at Postopolis! LA. When I walked into the conference room--things had moved inside because the roof bar had been buffeted by a freezing wind all day--I saw a cluttered screenshot from World of Warcraft, something that had my inner-geek (aren't we all?) terribly excited. Indeed, Ben Cerveny of Stamen Design was talking about, among other things, deriving real life planning and tracking systems derived from more mediated sources, like MMOs. The talk was rather technical, and combined with my tardiness, I was kind of lost. Still, the potential is intriguing, especially after poking around Stamen's website. One of the examples Cerveny gave was the potential of cellphone apps. He proposed a program that would project one's preferences onto a wall, usually calibrated to some set of sounds and colors. When one person comes into proximity with another, it would create a cacophony or a melody between the two, depending on their settings. Another was a replacement for the personal library. As books decline in the digital age, Cerveny proposed a projection, ironically or not, the projection of one's digital self. "We're losing out real digital culture," he said. "Book-lined walls are being replaced with blank white ones, maybe a few modernist baubles." Whereas Cerveny and Stamen's work is about as technical as it gets, Steve Roden's is almost ambivalent to its very existence. A trained painter, Roden is seemingly obsessed with transforming one mode of experience, one sense, into another. His first, and probably best, example is how he found a piece of sheet music in his grandmother's attic. "I've never been able to let go of it," Roden said. But Roden does not play the music. Instead, he meticulously broke it down into its component scale--E-G-B-D-F, etc.--and then came up with a numbering scheme. That then gets plugged into a paint-by-numbers system that developed dozens of paintings. "I don't know how to read or play music," Roden emphasized. And yet, another major project was his installation for Alvaro Siza's Serpentine Pavilion in 2005. Roden, with the help of lay assistants working at the pavilion, mapped the structure in a rainbow of five colors, then transformed it into a painting, which, when he looked at it, resembled the scheme on a Tyco xylophone. He decided to turn the painting into a "player piano strip" that led to a recording played over an hour in the space. He played a minute of the composition. It had a haunting beauty for someone who seemed as though he could care less about what he was doing. Perhaps that was the genius of his art. Someone who cared very much, perhaps too much, was Gary Dauphin. An LA resident, Dauphin apologized for giving a presentation largely about New York, namely his home-hood of Fort Greene. As a gentrifier myself, Gary's talk about the cultural vampirism of gentrification really hit home. Dauphin argued that gentrifiers, specifically in Fort Greene but also beyond, are not always (white) outsiders, but generally ethnic (black/Latino) educated returners who make way for their new friends and thus feel guilty for it. The same goes for vampires, at least in the popular culture of Buffy/True Blood/Twilight/Blacula. More often than not, the story is about the "good vampire," the vampire who is trying to get beyond his vampirism, drinking synthetic blood or animal blood and not that of humans. When I asked if there was a solution to either problem, the answer was no. Finally, Benjamin Ball of Ball-Nogues Studio. I shared a beer with Ben afterwards--more on that later--but his talk was mostly on what he's done and everyone knows--Maximillian's Schell, P.S. 1, Venice--and what's yet to come--a teepee in Woodstock, a bird installation at Johns Hopkins Children's Hospital.
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Biennale Opens

[Editor's Note: This post was written Sunday.]

It is two days before the opening of the Venice architecture Biennale and as commissioner of the United States pavilion I have been in Venice for a week mounting the exhibition. The Biennale opens on Wednesday for “important media” and the next three days for the rest of the press and anyone else that can find a ticket. This always sets up a huge scrum at the entrance to the grounds between the haves (those with passes) and the have-nots in the media.

But yesterday I was invited to the roof of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection to watch the Venice regatta . The regatta is supposed to be a race of gondolas but is really a great Sunday afternoon passeggiata of colorful boats paddling down the Grand Canal.

Back at the U.S. pavilion we are still not quite finished and I decide to walk around the biennale ‘giardini’ grounds to test the stress levels of other curators. Directly on axis with the U.S. pavilion somebody has constructed a nearly a 40 foot high solid steel building out of scaffolding floor slats. It’s just next to the Spanish pavilion but no one seems to be around to explain the amazing structure?

In the “Old Europe” corner of the giardini the Swiss pavilion will include a brick laying robot named R/O/B but he/she is still in a shipping container. The British curator Elias Woodman shows me through his pavilion which features housing designed by architects that Peter Cooks at dinner last night labeled "the Whisperers.” But Elias has created a fantastic catalog on the history of British Housing--compared with similar events in Europe. In the front of the Brit’s pavilion an enormous yellow steel pipe shoots out of the Russian pavilion and makes it way towards the west. It is apparently the creation of the Estonians who mean it to suggest the connection of oil or natural gas from Russia to the rest of Europe.

The Japanese have created a beautiful glass greenhouse in front of their pavilion but it must have cost as much to fabricate and build as the entire U.S. pavilion’s budget? Next to the ours is the most beautiful pavilion in the giardini--the Scandinavian, created by Pritzker winner Sverre Fehn.

Then lunch at Trattoria dai Tosi where a really good 4 course working mans lunch is 15 Euros--well that’s 12 Euros for Venetians and 15 for everyone else. You can try sitting in the far back of the hot Venetian dining rooms to get the better price but then 3 euros is a small price to pay for this perfect little spot.

Back to the Italian pavilion, curated by Aaron Betsky and EmilianoGondolfi, which is still nearly empty as I walk over the meet ‘Stalker’ Lorezo Romito.Lorenzo is creating an I Ching room to determine the future of architecture. I am supposed to be throwing the I Ching“to determine the future of American architecture.” But Lorenzo is nowhere to be seen, his room empty.

Walking through this enormous pavilion I run into Gondolfi who shows me around the few displays that are in construction. I did come across L.A. architects Benjamin Ball and Gaston Nogues, alums of last year's P.S. 1 summer pavilion, up on a scaffold carefully weaving draped string into an inverted baroque dome. The crew in the U.S. pavilion must be missing me, so I head back to the building in the center of the giardini. Back to work on Monday and then maybe a trip to the Arsenale.