After winning one of the top prizes at the Solar Decathlon competition, SCI-Arc and Caltech's CHIP House is returning to Los Angeles for a victory lap. The unique net zero structure—with quilted, vinyl-covered polyester insulation stretched around its angled exterior—will be open to the public at the California Science Center in LA's Exposition Park starting on Tuesday. It will stay there through the end of May. CHIP House took home first prize in the Decathlon's energy balance category. Its 45 solar panels generate three times more electricity than the home uses, powering, among other things, an Xbox Kinect system that has been turned into a master command center, allowing residents to control lights and appliances through hand gestures. The house took more than 100 students and $1 million to complete. Tours will be available weekdays from 10am to 1:30pm, and weekends from 10am to 4pm.
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For the last several years, SCI-Arc's Studio 1A has given new students the chance to literally make their mark by producing projects that become permanent fixtures at the school. On Friday, this year's class revealed a project that started as a piece of clothing, then became a wire model, then became a mockup, and finally ended as a new undulating and faceted canopy and wall. Made of a recycled carbon fiber called Nyloboard, the project's more than 2,000 pieces were all hand cut and, somehow, none are exactly alike. They're attached with Gorilla Glue, nails, and screws. "It's something that exists at the scale of the world, which can take years for an architect," said Nathan Bishop, who along with Jackilin Hah Bloom and Jenny Wu led the studio.
SCI-Arc held its graduation ceremony on Sunday in the parking lot in front of its building in LA's Arts District. And they did it in style: in front of a billowing 60 x 110 foot canopy designed by LA firm Oyler Wu Collaborative, whose principles Dwayne Oyler and Jenny Wu are both SCI-Arc professors. SCI-Arc director Eric Owen Moss traditionally asks one of the school's faculty to design the pavilion. For the last four years architect Alexis Rochas has done the honors (check out his design from 2009), but this year he gave the job to Oyler and Wu, who have made a name designing ambitious installations around LA and elsewhere. The team, with the help of both SCI-Arc students and their staff, built a billowing canopy consisting of a steel truss armature wrapped in a a changing grid of knitted rope, interwoven with a slightly translucent nylon mesh material. The structure was built to shelter 900 people. The firm began planning the structure in their graduate seminar this spring and started building it in June, welding, knitting and fastening virtually every day since they started. The rope's gridded pattern was made possible through an old-fashioned knitting technique, in which the team developed giant pegs to recreate what old ladies have been doing for centuries. The ropes' loose loops allowed them to contort the web's shape so it stretches along its edges and takes on varying profiles throughout.The combination of steel rope and fabric somewhat resembles billowing sails on a ship. And the fabric, which creates intriguing shadows as well as providing shade, was angled just right to provide solar protection specifically at graduation time: 5 p.m. Other Oyler Wu installations include Density Fields at Materials & Applications in Silver Lake, Live Wire and Pendulum Plane at WUHO Hollywood, and reALIze at LA Live. But the firm wanted to try something new, working with new materials like rope, mesh and even steel (they had worked primarily in aluminum). Their next goal is to erect an actual building, and it looks like that will happen with a new 16 story residential tower in Taipei. Construction shots of the graduation pavilion below:
Little Tokyo Design Week, which launched last night in downtown Los Angeles, captures a glimpse of the future city through the eyes of innovative designers and companies inspired by technology from Japan. The four-day celebration takes place in one of the country's few remaining Japan-towns and includes panels, exhibitions, parties, pop-up stores and even pub crawls. It opened last night with a forum from LA architecture school leaders Hitoshi Abe, Qingyan Ma, Ming Fung, and Andrew Zago, an outdoor screening of Hayo Miyazaki's beloved anime classic My Neighbor Totoro, and a discussion of urban life as a customizable, sustainable existence with Tim Durfee, Ben Hooker, Keiichi Matsuda, Jon Rafman and Sputniko! Basically, this design week is about how to face the future of a more populated globe. Familiar names like Toyota and Daiwa House stand out above the city lights with displays based on alternative energy and what happens when housing meets technology. But have no fear – designers are still the heart of design week. This includes Professor Tatsuya Wada's exhibit of interactive robots by Flower Robotics, Honda, Toshiba, and Sony called Robot Box; Brandon Shigeta's 3D photography ArtCube; and Victor Jones' and USC students' Food Futures (suspended nylon particles and rice representing the relationship between data and food production). The week's most tantalizing exhibits feature Stan Sakai's (informally known as the Japanese Stan Lee) Usagi Yojimbo, an eye-catching geometric behemoth by UCLA's Hi-C program, and a section dedicated to 1960s Japanese housing projects. An Astroboy-themed awards presentation featuring Tokyo/LA House Container and local theatre group East West Players will crown the most visionary designs and speculate on a “Future City." Little Tokyo has not forgotten its Japanese roots, including a photojournalism gallery at the Japanese Cultural and Community Center about the 2011 tsunami and earthquake. Festivities will help support Japan Platform, an organization helping Japanese earthquake and tsunami victims, and are made possible with help from the US Japan Earthquake Relief Fund. But wherever you decide to spend your time, use it wisely. This is “Carmageddon” weekend and the freeways will be packed. And isn't design week one more step towards sustainability and away from an urban nightmare?
Architect-researcher-conceptual designer-provocateur Francois Roche was recently invited to give a lecture and exhibition at SCI-Arc relating to the work of his firm R&Sie(n). However he canceled both, revealing the reasons in an open letter, after the jump. Much of it is in self-described "Frenchglish," but you get the idea. He's not so happy with what he characterizes as the school's arrogance, its narrow focus on design, and its "lack of interest for politics and attitude." Them's fightin' words... Meanwhile SCI-Arc spokesperson Georgiana Ceausu tells AN that Roche's summer exhibit didn't work out because he wanted to display something he had already shown, which is against school policy. Dear Sci-Arc Staff, "I have no other way than to cancel the Sci-Arc exhibition in the Gallery (scheduled in May 25) and the lecture (scheduled the April 6-2011). The gap of point of view, and the lack of interest for politics and attitude, reducing the architecture process to a unique design agenda cannot fit with our scenario of production and scenario of speeches. Our works and attitudes are toxic, animal, dangerous, regressive, politic and computational. Architecture is mainly an affair of resistance and self-defense, against hypocrisies and “in”voluntary servitude, to quote La Boetie. It cannot be reduced to a design goal, exclusively dedicated and trapped by tooling. I disagree on the way the knowledge is framed by and for predictable professional, without any potential to corrupt and desalienate through educational procedures the “coming out” of neoplagiarism and neocopism, which remind me the Beaux Art symptom and syndrome. I ‘m French and know perfectly the stickiness of this sliperring addiction. I just want to precise that this voluntary abandon, cannot be understood as a “tantrum or capriccio” against the Sci-arc students pool, but it is at the level of Sci-Arc staff arrogances and ignorances, which seems to shrink architecture purpose to a simple affair of design agenda." My best F Roche / PS Speaking and writing are done, here, in my Frenchglish dialect / I let you the opportunity to translate it in the Shakespeare “mayonnaise”.
Finally. After 39 years of wandering around Los Angeles and trying to convince its landlord to sell, SCI-Arc today announced that it has bought its building in LA's Downtown Arts District. The 1,250 foot-long Santa Fe Freight Yard Depot building, a reinforced concrete structure designed by architect Harrison Albright, stretches seemingly forever along Santa Fe Avenue. Students like to bike or skateboard inside it to get to class. The school moved to the former rail depot 10 years ago after a 2001 renovation by architect Gary Paige. The school's opening came when building owner Meruelo Maddux Properties filed for bankruptcy—meaning it really needed the money. The school bought the property for $23.1 million. Other homes for the school have included Marina Del Rey and Santa Monica. But now it finally has a real home. And their edgy, coarse and lively corner of downtown, as SCI-Arc Director Eric Owen Moss has pointed out, is where it's always wanted to be. "SCI-Arc is absolutely committed to Downtown," he told AN in a recent interview, adding that the area is a laboratory for architectural and urban development. "We are staying Downtown. Period."
Why doesn't landscape architecture in Southern California get the same attention as architecture? That's one of the questions that will be answered at Friday's Landscapes for Living conference at SCI-Arc. The event, organized by the Cultural Landscape Foundation, will focus on Post War Landscape designs in the region, which have largely stayed under the radar. For instance, who has heard of Ralph Cornell, who designed legendary landscapes like the Torrey Pines preserve near San Diego, Beverly Gardens in Beverly Hills and the Civic Center Mall and Music Center plaza in Downtown LA ? Other subjects will include Ruth Shelhorn, the only female architect to work on the original plans for Disneyland, and designer of the park's entrance and Main Street; Bridges and Troller, who designed Century City; Lawrence Halprin, better known for his parks in the Pacific Northwest but also active in California; and of course the legendary (but under appreciated) Garret Eckbo.
Architectural exhibition openings are hardly known for their cool vibe, but that’s apparently because they're not usually put on by LA-based Barbara Bestor Architecture. On April 1 SCI-Arc opened Bestor’s Disco Silencio to a crowd very eager to party. The installation at the SCI-Arc gallery is a demi-dodecahedron formed in plywood meant to be a silent retreat for frazzled SCI-Arc architecture students (at least when the DJ isn’t spinning and disco lights are whirling). At first, the installation is extroverted and very, very gregarious. Using a technique applied to mislead enemy bombers about the size, speed and direction of warships in World War I, a bold black graphic stripe across the plywood brings the eyes to and from everywhere. The strategy works as well on the dance floor as on the battlefield. Mirror ball fragments embedded throughout the self-described “polyhedron of hedonism” capture and refract the sunlight coming from the gallery’s clerestory windows, only adding to the space’s energy. Standing in the middle of the semi-opened dodecahedron, one feels a like a gift slowly being unwrapped, dare we say let loose (?) as the structure unfolds and opens skywards, laying right against the SCI-Arc gallery walls. But Bestor hasn’t forgotten her clients: bleary-eyed SCI-Arc students and looking for a place of respite. Despite its hoppin’ ambiance, she creates opportunities for introversion. Underneath, between and beside the demi-dodecahedron’s bold presence, the firm creates pink-tinged tunnels and a little bunk bed built into the negative space. It’s a welcome discovery for tired wanderers. When empty of partygoers, the space also reverts to a more serene version of a disco dancefloor. Its any three intersecting planes make perfect cubbyholes to just get away from it all. Disco Silencio will be on exhibit at SCI-Arc Gallery until May 15. On April 8, 7pm, catch an exhibition discussion with architect Barbara Bestor and SCI-Arc Director Eric Owen Moss.
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A site-specific installation at the SCI-Arc Gallery transforms a musical composition by Ken Ueno into a digitally realized built environment.A robot, a composer, and an architect walk into a gallery. It could be the start of a corny joke, but instead it’s the captivating formula for Patrick Tighe’s new exhibition at the SCI-Arc Gallery. The composer is Ken Ueno, recipient of the Rome and Berlin Prizes, and the robot belongs to Machineous, the Los Angeles-based fabricator hired to realize Tighe’s architectural representation of Ueno’s music. The installation, entitled Out of Memory, brings together sound, material, light, and technology to create an extra-sensory cave within the school’s gallery space. Tighe began the work by creating a spectrogram of Ueno’s site-specific musical composition, translating the frequency map into points and vectors, which ultimately provided a basis for the digitally modeled 3-D surface. After a framework of forms and thin plastic sheeting was in place, layers of closed-cell foam (for structural support) and open-cell foam (for acoustic value) were sprayed onto the wall assembly. Provided by insulation manufacturer Demilec, the vegetable and soy oil-based foams created a self-supporting parabolic structure as they expanded. There were few transportation costs involved, said Machineous founder Andreas Froech. “It was extremely efficient, and an incredible statement for construction—that you can take construction material in liquid form to a site and expand it there.” Plus there are no seams. Once the foam was in place, Froech’s six-axis robotic milling equipment did the work, using the musical data Tighe created to carve the cave’s interior walls. On the exterior, some surfaces were left untouched, creating a textural play between the carved sonic contours and the natural disorder of sprayed-on foam. Working with lighting designer Kaplan Gehring McCarroll Architectural Lighting and acoustical engineer McKay Conant Hoover, Tighe then transformed the cave into a environment for listening to Ueno’s work. Custom sound software creates an ever-changing musical performance that visitors hear in a series of contrasting chambers, all the while experiencing a newly discovered frontier in digital fabrication.
After years of trying, it looks like SCI-Arc is finally going to own its building in Downtown LA's Arts District. According to the school the project should close escrow before this May. According to blogdowntown, the school will pay $23.1 million for the 100,000-square-foot building and its surrounding 4.75 acre lot. The deal had been held up because of property owner Meruelo Maddux's continuing bankruptcy, but the company just settled with its debtor, Legendary Investors Group, which has pledged to honor the deal. "We don't want to be renters anymore. SCI-Arc is absolutely committed to downtown," SCI-Arc director Eric Owen Moss told AN when recently discussing the project. Interesting facts about the building: The quarter-mile-long Santa Fe Train Depot was converted into the school's campus in 2000. Built in 1907, the depot was designed by Harrison Albright. At 1,250 feet long, if it were upended, it would be as tall as the Empire State Building.
37 first year SCI-Arc students have just finished a mesmerizing new installation in the school's parking lot called Sway. The project is made of 228 thin bundled steel rods, bolted into the ground and joined via flexible (and wild) wire units above. The vast and tightly-packed array of bendy rods are responsive to subtle changes in wind force (and not-so-subtle pushing by visitors), enabling the structure to move around like trees in a forest, or a collection of organisms. At night they catch the light in changing and surprising ways. The 1A Studi0—which produces a large installation every year— was led by professors Nathan Bishop, Eric Kahn and Jenny Wu. Bishop accurately called the piece an "encompassing environment." Which is what makes it so great: the chance to walk right into the art and interact with it.
For you last-minute types, the deadline to register for AN and SCI-Arc's Clean Tech Corridor Competition is the end of the day tomorrow. The competition asks architects, landscape architects, designers, engineers, urban planners, students and environmental professionals to create an innovative urban vision for Los Angeles' CleanTech Corridor, a several-mile-long development zone on the eastern edge of downtown LA (which includes a green ideas lab and a Clean Tech Manufacturing Center). Entries should look beyond industrial uses; creating an integrated economic, residential, clean energy, and cultural engine for the city through architectural and urban strategies. That could include not only sustainable architecture and planning, but new energy sources, parks that merge with buildings, new transit schemes, and so on. While registration is due tomorrow, entries are due on September 30. So get a move on!! You can download the brief here.