Los Angeles' often-mobile A+D Architecture and Design Museum, which has been displaced from its perch on Museum Row by Metro's Purple Line Extension, has found a new home in city's Arts District. Its new building, at 900 East 4th Street, is across the street from SCI-Arc. It features 8,000 square feet of space, brick walls, and a bow truss ceiling. The museum's two year lease began this month, and they hope to complete buildout by May. The effort will be led by Gensler, RTKL, and Matt Construction, but others will soon get involved, explained Executive Director Tibbie Dunbar, who appears thrilled to be out of limbo, despite regrets to be leaving the city's museum center. "It feels terrific," said Dunbar. "I'm excited to be near SCI-Arc, and I'm excited about what's going on in the Arts District. We'll be a big part of attracting people to the area." The A+D will be the burgeoning neighborhood's first museum. They also plan to sublease space to a design-focused tenant, such as a retailer or cafe. The museum, which depended on pro bono spaces early in its life, has a history of traveling. After starting in the Bradbury Building, its trajectory has involved a lot of numbers: 8560 Sunset Blvd, 5900 Wilshire Blvd, and 6032 Wilshire Blvd. After the museum's lease expires, it hopes to join forces with the AIA's Center for Architecture and Urban Design (CALA), which is still undergoing a search for its home.
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[Editor's Note: The following comment was left at archpaper.com in response to “Eavesdrop> SCI-Arc Expected to Tap Diaz Alonso to Succeed Eric Owen Moss” (AN Blog 06.20.2014). Opinions expressed in letters to the editor do not necessarily reflect the opinions or sentiments of the newspaper. AN welcomes reader letters, which could appear in our regional print editions. To share your opinion, please email email@example.com. ] In both the immediate SCI-Arc community and Architecture as a whole, a condition has emerged where all those involved have become a shattered group of individuals, unable to join cohesively in order to communicate about the issues directly at hand. This threatens our position as a student body, as we are inherently responsible for the progression of the field of Architecture we stand to inherit. In a way, it is our duty to consolidate our many abilities so that we can actively take some action in the events that emerge before us. This letter is therefore a call to the student body to gather productively to discuss how we may engage ourselves as a constituency of Architecture. SCIarc Students
Occasionally we can't cover an exhibition until it's too late. But we want to share some excellent shows that recently closed in Los Angeles: Heather Flood's Punk'd at SCI-Arc Gallery and WUHO Gallery's Linear City and The Big Atlas of L.A. Pools. For Punk'd, Flood and her team arranged strips of interlocking, twisting aluminum into spiky configurations to demonstrate how two-dimensional graphics could be translated into three dimensional construction, as if the gradient grid of colors were textiles. Its bright red and white color palette was taken from the British Royal Family's Balmoral tartan, a slightly subversive Punk Movement shout out. "I wanted the graphic pattern to emerge out of the logic of construction, explained Flood, who wanted to move away from the common use of graphics as appliqué. In Linear City, photographer Lane Barden captured three of LA's most iconic linear stretches — the Los Angeles River, Wilshire Boulevard, and the Alameda Corridor Railroad Trench--in their entirety in a sprawling visual progression along one of the long gallery's walls. The immensity of these infrastructural projects came to life, revealing the sprawling scope of the city's midcentury engineering ambitions. Details like LA River's wildlife, and Wilshire Boulevard's stunning tectonic and programmatic diversity changed perceptions of viewers used to seeing these urban staples from a much more static and singular perspective. On the other wall in The Big Atlas designer Benedikt Groß and cartographer Joseph K. Lee mapped every neighborhood in Los Angeles through methods such as crowdsourcing, outsourcing, and geo-mapping to chart 43,123 swimming pools. Their effort—presented in volume after volume of booklets laid out on a long table—didn't just illuminate for the first time where all the city's swimming was taking place, but it explored alternative methods of harvesting very specific (and incredibly voluminous) data in the city.
A thin shell pavilion with an audio feedback program invites engagement.Apertures, the amorphous pavilion designed and fabricated by Baumgartner+Uriu (B+U) with students from SCI-Arc, challenges two of architecture’s defining dualities: the distinction between wall and window, and the division between exterior and interior. “Conceptually, we were looking at objects that are multi-directional and have apertures as their main theme,” said partner Herwig Baumgartner. “That was one aspect of it; the other was the barriers between inside and outside and how we can dissolve these. We’re interested in architecture that’s responsive through either movement or sound.” As visitors pass through or otherwise engage with the 16-foot-tall, 1/8-inch-thick structure’s many rounded openings, attached heat sensors trigger sounds based on human bio-rhythms, creating a feedback loop that encourages active exploration of the space. In addition to the themes of apertures and inside versus outside, B+U were interested in investigating the technology of thin shell structures. “How can you build something that’s over ten feet tall and very thin, and what’s the minimal material you can get away with?” asked Baumgartner. The architects used digital modeling software including Maya to determine the pavilion’s form, then constructed a series of mockups in different materials. “We’d be working with consultants, or we’d ask fabricators: how would they build this?” recalled partner Scott Uriu. “We were thrown quite a few interesting ideas. A lot of them wouldn’t quite pan out, but we were always working back and forth between digital and analog design.” The designers originally tried building Apertures out of acoustic foam. “It was interesting for us because it creates an absorptive environment, but it was very weak,” said Baumgartner. They considered supporting it with an egg-crate structure. “But in the end we said, ‘Let’s get rid of the structure and make the surface the structure,’” he explained. They landed on heat-formed plastic, a thin material that becomes self-supporting when molded into certain shapes. “We did a mockup and we really liked it,” said Baumgartner. “It’s glossy and shiny on the outside, but the inside was matte. It has a very different interior and exterior.” Matt Melnyck, a principal at Nous Engineering, worked closely with B+U to insure the pavilion’s stability. With 35 students from SCI-Arc, B+U CNC-milled polyurethane foam molds for the pavilion’s 233 panels. At Warner Bros. Staff Shop, they poured the hot plastic resin over the molds, then cut out and painted the components. Reveals and guides milled into the molds indicate attachment points; the panels are joined with aluminum rivets. On site at SCI-Arc, the design team assembled the panels into nine sections of 30-40 panels each before lifting them into place. Designed for easy assembly and disassembly, the structure “breaks down into 233 panels and nests well,” said Uriu. Media artist Hannes Köcher developed Apertures’ audio program based on B+U’s concept. “If you stick your head through the apertures or you walk through them, the majority of them have sensors. Different sensors trigger different sounds—we basically made a thermal map of the object,” said Baumgartner. “When you’re in the space and especially when there’s multiple people in the space, it heats up. The sound starts building up over time, almost like a polyphony thing.” Because the audio is delivered through transducer speakers, visitors feel as well as hear the rhythms. During its spring showing at SCI-Arc, the result was exactly as B+U had hoped, Baumgartner reflected. “People started interacting with it, entering into a sort of feedback with the sounds.”
A collection of anonymous students at SCI-Arc calling themselves SCI-Arc Community have taken to Tumblr to express their concern over the hiring process for future school director Hernan Diaz Alonso. Their biggest complaint: the "extreme secrecy of the Director Search Committee." According to the group, the committee, after determining that only one of the two candidates for the position—professor Wes Jones and Graduate Programs Chair Diaz Alonso—was "viable," never followed through on its promise to broadcast Diaz Alonso's presentation via live webcast. "SCI-Arc was founded in 1972 by Ray Kappe in the spirit of 'institution without walls' literally and metaphorically, but it seems in 2014 we now have 'walls, floors, and stairs' due to the lack of dialogue," the students have said. "The SCI-Arc community, especially the student body, should be engaged in this process...We would like to see at minimum level, both candidates be given the chance to present to the entire SCI-Arc community." SCI-Arc spokesperson Georgiana Ceausu said the Director's Office had no comment on the group's letter. She added that the search committee received it, but "no other actions or new decisions have been taken as a result." Diaz Alonso has been recommended by the school's search committee to be SCI-Arc's next dean, but the choice will not be official until the school's board makes an appointment, likely in the next month or two.
It's not official, so don't tell anyone we told you it was. But… It looks like SCI-Arc Graduate Programs Chair and Principal of Xefirotarch Hernan Diaz Alonso is going to be the next director of SCI-Arc, taking over for Eric Owen Moss in September 2015. According to SCI-Arc spokesperson Georgiana Ceausu, the school's Executive Search Committee yesterday recommended Diaz Alonso to the school's board, which is now "in the process of making the decision." There won't be any official appointment until July or August. Diaz Alonso's mesmerizing, fluid, alien, and digitally-based images and installations have been featured in museums around the world, including SFMOMA, the Art Institute of Chicago, the MAK Center, and the FRAC Center. But he will be the first SCI-Arc director to have not built a building (despite numerous competition entries), perhaps signaling a new direction for the school. We'll have more on Diaz Alonso, and the future of SCI-Arc, if and when the appointment becomes official.
On April 11, Los Angeles–based firm B+U will open their latest installation, called Apertures, at SCI-Arc Gallery. The structure, already assembled inside the space, is 16-feet-tall and made up of 233 1/8-inch-thick plastic panels. Its warped shape resembles a natural organ or organism (a heart? a strange alien plant?), and in many ways it acts like one. Its thin shell structure relies on its molded surfaces for support. Each of its CNC-milled, heat-formed panels is unique in shape, and, through seven heat sensors, it responds to visitors via sound, which will be directed from the floor. The piece's name—Apertures—refers to the many varied (both in size and shape) openings in the structure, which act, as B+U principal Herwig Baumgartner described, "not as punched openings, but as three-dimensional objects." Baumgartner noted that installation makes a good case for thin shell structures in architecture, a field that colleagues like Tom Wiscombe and Greg Lynn are also exploring with industries like shipbuilding and aerospace: "Why do we have this approach with so many layers? Why can't we reduce them and make them do more?" said Baumgartner. The structure was engineered by LA company Nous.
Austria comes to Los Angeles with a lecture series dubbed “Viennese Week in LA.” The talks will take place at SCI-Arc as part of the Wolf D. Prix/COOP HIMMELB(L)AU design studio. Prix himself is the headliner, with a lecture on Raimund Abraham happening on March 5 at 7:00p.m. In “Visions in Exile or: Before we were so rudely interrupted,” Prix will talk about his mentor and friend’s influence on the early works of COOP HIMMELB(L)AU. He will also probe the digitization of architecture practice, asking how architects like Abraham would have designed using the tools available today. On Monday, March 3 at 7:00p.m., architect Gregor Eichinger will talk on “Remembering the Future.” Eichinger co-founded Eichinger oder Knechtl in Vienna in 1985 after studying architecture at the Technical University in Vienna. He has been design principal and CEO of Eichinger Offices, also in Vienna, since 2005. Eichinger has taught at a number of international schools of architecture, including SCI-Arc, the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, the ETH Zurich, and, most recently, the Academy of Applied Arts in Munich, Germany. Also tonight at 7:00p.m., multimedia artist Peter Kogler will present “Light and Flat.” Educated at the HTL Bau + Kunst in Innsburck and the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, Kogler has taught in France, Austria, and Germany. His work has been exhibited around the globe. Friday, March 7 at 7:00p.m., structural engineer Klaus Bollinger will speak on “Open Systems and Structural Design.” Bollinger received both his undergraduate degree and his PhD in Germany before establishing Bollinger + Grohmann, now with offices in Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Vienna, Paris, Oslo, and Melbourne. The firm provides structural design services on both architectural and civil engineering projects, often collaborating with internationally-renowned architects. Bollinger, who has taught in Vienna and Frankfurt, is a member of the European Academy of the Sciences and Arts. For more information, see the SCI-Arc website. Lectures are free and are broadcast live here.
“Actually, the box isn’t magic, so don’t be disappointed you didn’t get ahold of Merlin the Magician,” Eric Owen Moss said at the start of a recent interview. Moss, director of the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), was referring to the school’s new digital fabrication lab. Dubbed the Magic Box, the two-story, prefabricated steel structure will be constructed at the south end of the SCI-Arc building. But Moss didn’t want to focus on the laboratory itself, which was designed by several architects affiliated with SCI-Arc (including Moss's own firm). Instead, he said, “the game is, what’s inside is magic. It’s not so much the object, but what the object contains." The Magic Box will house state-of-the-art tools for digital prototyping and fabrication, including CNC machines and 3D printers. Together with a remade Analog Fabrication Shop and the existing Robotics Lab, the Magic Box will be a key component of the school’s new RAD (Robot House, Analog Shop, and Digital Fabrication Lab) Center. According to Moss, the Center is designed to teach students how to interrogate the technologies and materials they encounter. “SCI-Arc is not interested in producing people who can just go into an office and use digital tools,” he explained. “We’re interesting in producing students who have a critical and intellectual perspective on this.” As an example of the kind of creative discovery he expects will take place inside the Magic Box, Moss cited the school’s Robot House, the 1,000-square-foot laboratory comprising a five-robot workroom and a Simulation Lab. “Robots are usually used in [a chronological sequence], but we don’t use them that way,” Moss said. “The robots evolve: as the program changes, the robots start to do something else.” He also pointed to the history of CATIA, visualization software originally marketed to aerospace engineers but now in widespread use among architects. “A lot of these [digital] tools have been made by other characters that may have different motives,” Moss explained. “We want to make sure that the imaginative motive is introduced as part of the [architect’s] education.” In the end, Moss said, the new workspace at SCI-Arc is named the Magic Box to reflect the optimistic spirit in which it is being introduced. That storyline will begin next spring, when construction on the Magic Box starts. The 4,000-square-foot space is expected to be ready for students at the opening of the 2014-15 school year.
A team of SCI-Arc–trained architects establish a sweet set up in Southern California.Liz and Kyle Von Hasseln wanted to bake a birthday cake for a friend but, unfortunately, their rented apartment didn't have an oven. Not to be deterred, the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) alumni hit upon a solution that would leave most bakers scratching their heads: They decided to 3D print one. Earlier that year, the couple had been awarded the school's inaugural Gehry Prize for their work on Phantom Geometry, a 5-axis fabrication study of UV-cured resin within a shallow vat system that responded to real-time feed back and feed-forward mechanisms. "In our graduate work, we were really interested in the way free form fabrication would influence architecture," Kyle recently told AN. "We thought a lot about the potential for the intersection of culture and technology that would be accessible to the public, so printing sugar was that." The Von Hasselns began working on a combination of SCI-Arc machinery and printers they built themselves. The initial ambition to 3D-print the entire cake was scaled-back to 3D printing just a sparkling cake topper made only from sugar, a process that Liz likened to a micro architectural challenge. As with any material, working with sugar presented inherent propensities and limitations. However, Liz said the process of working with food had its own distinct challenges. "Because it's a food object, we've found it becomes important to consider those inherent characteristics," Liz said. "People have expectations about what food looks, tastes, and feels like, and its really important to hit those notes, otherwise you have a cool design that might not look like dessert." Once the designers embraced the inherent qualities of the material, they developed a proprietary 3D-printing process capable of fusing sugar crystals together without deforming or discoloring them. The finished product is as white and sparkling as a sugar cube. Though they missed the birthday by a long shot, the end result spelled their friend's name in a cursive scrawl made entirely from sugar. Sugar Lab, the Von Hasseln's company, has yet to build an entire town out of sugar like the utopian village brought to life by Richard Brautigan in his novel In Watermelon Sugar, but the couple has received hundreds of inquiries from around the world. They are also excited about the role of the designer in the 3D printing revolution. "We think what will move the field forward in the future is not solely additional technological enhancement, but how artists, architects, and designers utilize those capabilities," Liz said. "A 3D printer is a tool and what comes of skilled artisans wielding that tool is what will make the technology resonate with people, and make it culturally relevant."
While you might not make a habit of visiting parking lots for the fun of it, if you haven't been to SCI-Arc's parking lot lately, you're missing out. Installations dot a big chunk of the concrete expanse, including Oyler Wu's billowing Storm Cloud installation, which was built for the school's recent graduation; the steel frame of P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S's gigantic League of Shadows installation, which will be done by September, and the wooden frame of DALE, SCI-Arc and Caltech's entry for the Solar Decathalon, which is being held this year at the Orange County Great Park. DALE, which measures about 600 square feet, has now been outfitted with steel tracks so that it can open up on wheels and provide outdoor spaces, including a small yard and even a reflecting pool. The furniture inside the net-zero home will also move to create varied spatial arrangements and configurations. DALE will be completed by September, then it will be reassembled at the Great Park by October 3. Some staff and students have complained about the lack of parking at SCI-Arc right now, which is understandable. But we hope this will become a regular attraction. Maybe they'll build a parking structure and make the whole parking lot an architectural display space someday?
After creating their 2011 and 2012 graduation pavilions for SCI-Arc, Oyler Wu has once again produced a striking structure LA-based school, this time on the occasion of their 4oth anniversary. Dubbed the Storm Cloud pavilion, the structure salvages the existing steel from the 2011 Netscape, which served as the school’s graduation pavilion two years ago. Looking at Storm Cloud, one can hardly tell it shares much of the bones that made up the older pavilion. “Since the event is in the evening, we wanted create a canopy that has a lantern-like effect when lit, so we came up with the idea of creating funnels that we can place lighting inside of them,” said Oyler Wu principal Jenny Wu of the pavilion’s inspiration. Though the idea was elegant, the couple was challenged by the nature of the stretch fabric itself, which didn’t lend itself to shapes other than a simple rectangle or circle. Oyler Wu overcame this challenge by adopting a “splat” strategy. “This allows us not to have to pattern it,” writes Wu. Instead of cutting uniform, predictable shapes, the pair cut waves at the bottom of the fabric and stretched over the steel structure. Wu provided a clarifying seam drawing explaining her point. The result was a dynamic shade structure that undulated at its based and stretched taut meeting the sky. Lit with colored lights at night, the pavilion was a fitting structure to emphasize the school’s experimental bent and couple’s continually surprising investigations into form.