“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.
Posts tagged with "SCI-Arc":
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.
For those of us who grew up in the 70s and 80s, it's time to feel old. As part of its "Curating The City" series, the Los Angeles Conservancy is tomorrow hosting an amazing tour called Venice Eclectic: Modern Architecture from the 1970s and ’80s. The event features looks inside whimsical buildings by, among others, Frank Gehry (Indiana Avenue Houses/Arnoldi Triplex), Steven Ehrlich (Ed Moses Studio), Brian Murphy (Hopper House, above), Frederick Fisher, and Frank Israel. Yes, it's time to appreciate these decades for more than disco and Madonna. After the tour there will be a panel featuring Ehrlich, Fisher, and Murphy. And that's just the beginning of a busy weekend for LA architecture and urbanism buffs. There's also SCI-Arc's 40th birthday party on Saturday night and CicLAvia—with an expanded route going all the way to the ocean for the first time—on Sunday. Get going.
This October, for the first time, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon—a biennial competition encouraging schools from around the country to create affordable, solar powered, Net Zero houses—will be held outside of Washington D.C. The new location, in the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California, gives SCI-Arc and Caltech a distinct home field advantage. The team of 16 SCI-Arc and 20 Caltech students is creating a fascinating structure, called DALE, which stands for Dynamic Augmented Living Environment (their last entry was called CHIP.. get it?) that could only be possible in the moderate Southern California climate. The 600-square-foot home splits in half and rolls apart on rails at the push of a button, creating a large central courtyard. Photovoltaic panels project from the rooflines to provide shade for the courtyard and the home’s steel and lumber frame is wrapped in a tight vinyl covering. Keeping up with the net zero efficiency demands of the competition, the house will utilize solar thermal heating and energy star rated appliances in addition to the rooftop solar panels, but its small size is one of the greenest things about it. “It would be great to show people we don’t need to live in enormous McMansions in Southern California,” said team member Paige Chambers. The project is being funded by several sources, including the Department of Energy. A mockup is being built in the SCI-Arc parking lot and should be finished by August. The decathlon, which includes 20 teams, will take place from October 3-13.
SCI-Arc is hosting a competition—called 40/40—open to all graduates for the design and construction of an installation capable of digitally presenting the work of the school's alumni. The installation will celebrate the school’s upcoming 40th anniversary. To tie into the April 11 Downtown Art Walk, the exhibition will first be installed—or rather the winner of the competition has to figure out how it will be installed—in the lobby space of the monumental downtown Farmers and Merchants Bank. It will subsequently move to SCI-Arc for the 40th Anniversary Celebration Weekend of April 19-21, 2013. The competition will be accepting entries until March 18. According to the website, “The total budget for design, construction, assembly, and disassembly is $1,000, and will be payable to the winner upon project completion.” Since this budget has to include production, fabrication, installation, and de-installation, entrants will have to be VERY creative and efficient.
Once upon a time, being at SCI-Arc meant development was a four-letter word, and developers were akin to the destroyers of cities. Eric Owen Moss, SCI-Arc’s director, played a significant role in changing that perception by working with developer Tom Gilmore, who, since 2001, has also been on SCI-Arc’s board of trustees. Mr. Gilmore, founder of Gilmore Associates, is a former architect, so he has a great appreciation for architecture’s potential, especially in formerly blighted areas of Downtown Los Angeles, where his vision has been unfolding since the early 1990s. This might explain why he recently included SCI-Arc in his estate plans by setting up an endowed chair to the tune of a cool $1 million, the first gift of this magnitude the institution has ever received. The gift will fund the Gilmore City Chair, a position dedicated to supporting educational initiatives focused on the dynamics of urban development around the world. Moss, in an expression of gratitude quoted Machiavelli, saying, “I believe the greatest good to be done is that which one does to one’s own city.” Further details regarding the scope of the Gilmore City Chair will be forthcoming and may even be revealed by Mr. Gilmore himself when he presents a public lecture at SCI-Arc this Wednesday, February 13 at 7:00 p.m.
Our favorite new naming triumph: SCI-Arc’s “Hispanic Steps.” The new indoor amphitheater, paid for in part by a recent ArtPlace grant and located in the middle of the SCI-Arc building in Los Angeles, is used for lectures, performances, symposia, film series, and community meetings. At a recent meeting to discuss SCI-Arc's Arts District plans that are also part of the $400,000 ArtPlace grant, officials posed on the newly completed steps for a photo. Included are SCI-Arc's Chief Advancement Officer, Sarah Sullivan (front center) and Chief Operating Officer, Jamie Bennett (upper right).
We just got our first look at next year's SCI-Arc graduation pavilion, League of Shadows, by Los Angeles-firm P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S. Whoah. The pavilion, which will seat 1,200 people, will be built in the SCI-Arc parking lot for graduation events in spring 2013. The three-fingered structure will be made up of multi-story, angled frames (ahem) patterned with dark, vaulted, and layered multi-colored fabric strips, with seams like sails. The pavilion's significant height will provide long shadows (hence the project's name) and its location on the south end of the SCI-Arc parking lot will make it a sign for the school. Entries from the four competing architects will be on display in the SCI-Arc Library Gallery from October 19 to December 2.
Last year we showcased Oyler Wu's SCI-Arc graduation pavilion, a swooping steel, fabric, and rope construction that floated above the event like a billowing sail. For last week's graduation the firm added a small addition while making significant improvements. The addition, which sat school directors and special guests, became a stage for diploma presentation. Made of a torqued steel shell fitted with twisting fabric (Wu calls it a three dimensional twist), the addition is no replication: it creates a simpler, more unified complement to the original, which involves a more complex web of fabric and roping. As for the original pavilion, they replaced its (disturbingly) dirty fabric with darker material and re-oriented the whole thing toward the school itself. Next year's pavilion will be designed by Marcelo Spina. We can't wait.
Frank Gehry has won every architecture award you can think of, from the Pritzker to the AIA Gold Medal. Now he has one named after him, thanks to his $100,000 donation to SCI-Arc. The Gehry Prize will be awarded annually to the school's best graduate thesis. The first prize will be handed out this Sunday at SCI-Arc's graduation. Gehry has been a SCI-Arc trustee since 1990, and has been involved with the school since its inception in 1972. Which reminds us: SCI-Arc will be 40 next year.