Saturday, April 14, 2012

Venice Hospital: Concrete Materiality

As you walk, you trail your fingers over the concrete at your side: friable and gritty, the surface scratches your fingertips lightly, exciting in its uneven regularity. A seam passes, the protruding globule of a moment of concrete flow rendered eternal. Once past this frozen imperfection, the surface becomes smooth, almost soft as your hand moves over its extensive gloss.
When a material has been "subjected to any kind of treatment, its primitive type will be
modified...the type no longer rests at its primary stage of development, but has passed through a more or less distinct metamorphosis. When from this secondary or, according to the circumstances, variously graduated modification the motive now comes into a new material transformation...the form emerging from it will be a mixed result, one that expresses its primordial type...and all stages of modification that preceded the last formation." (Gottfried Semper. Style in the Technical and Tectonic Arts, p258)
In order for a project the scale of the Venice Hospital to move forward in a city as historic and phenomenally particular as Venice, consciously creating a legible connection between the haptic qualities of a space and its methods of formation is completely essential; disconnect between methods of creation and methods of habitation will doom the Hospital to obscurity once again. To that end, a series of studies into the materiality imbued by various sorts and configurations of formwork and finishing; these studies have been entrained into my process of design and detailing for several months.

form: bass- and balsa wood, longitudinal arrays
form: pine rods, arrayed normal to concrete surface

form:  fiberglass reinforcement mesh

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Venice Hospital: Generative Formwork

Concrete formwork is the oft-invisible figural negative to the concrete objects we know and love. While some architects succeed in allowing this object of formation to remain legible in the final product, the formwork marks are more often plastered over, sealed, hidden as carefully as possible, erasing the process from the final object.

This series of details stemmed from the desire to turn site-cast concrete formwork from something which is ritually obfuscated after its primary function is complete into an organizational datum which facilitates multiple processes after the concrete has cured and the form been removed.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Venice Hospital: Synthetic Ground

Venice raised foundation batter piles hospital ground void space

For a project investigating Venice, the original city of synthetic land, the complex ground condition merits a uniquely detailed solution. If this detail is to be reducible to the design team which created it, as the overarching claim of this thesis posits, the design must be facilitated by a productive cooperation between architect (yours truly) and a professional who understands the complexity of grounding --- in this case, a geotechnical engineer. With the help of reports from the Universities of Padova and Bologna, USC, and the American Society of Civil Engineers with a soils specialist to unpack them, I've created a design for grounding the reinvigorated Venice Hospital.

jay austin formative complexity batter pile raised foundation detail

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Le Corbusier's Venice Hospital

Venice: first city of engineered ground. Equal parts Iron age naval power and Renaissance cultural icon, it has for hundreds of years attracted artists, architects and engineers intent on changing the way humanity interacts with the world around us --- from the original builders who first reinforced the 115 islands of Venice then constructed completely new ground around them to the specialists now erecting the MOSE project to protect the city from rising tides and aquifer collapse.

Venice is also the site for one of the most (in)famous examples of unbuilt high modernity, in particular Le Corbusier's proposal for the Venice Hospital. This seminal project promulgated so close to Le Corb's death is perhaps the first and best described instance of the building typology we call "mats, fields, grounds, carpets, matrices, [which answer the] recurring calls for efficiency in land use, indeterminacy in size and shape, flexibility in building use, and mixture in program. It expresses architecture's increasing encroachment on both city and landscape and the open exchange between structure (building) and infrastructure (context)." (Sarkis, Hashim. Case: Le Corbusier's Venice Hospital. 13)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Aranda - Lasch / Seattle Public Library (geometrically-driven design)

Despite the multifarious entities with some partial claim to authorship of a large construction project, the architect remains at the forefront in terms of formulating public legibility as the player empowered to decide both the structure of the organization giving rise to the project and the overarching aesthetic rules under which they operate. 

"[If a] system is dynamic there has to be the ability to exchange information all the time. At all scales data is fed through and transformed...what begins as a small set of instructions is multiplied into a complex web.” (Cecil Balmond, Element, 7)

What happens when the small set of instructions that begins the design process is purely formal, rather than being about the discreetization of use (as was OMA's plan for the Seattle Public Library)? How does might the evolution of a façade progress when the rules are geometrically derived, not program-based? In order to explore this question, I imagined that OMA was fired from the Seattle Public Library project after the team was assembled but before schematic design had progressed; Aranda-Lasch was brought on board to promulgate a recursively geometrical formulation for the library. This formulation I took from their Tooling volume of Pamphlet Architecture; the two geometrical rulesets I extracted (cracking and tiling) are summarized above.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Magnusson Klemencic Assoc. / Seattle Public Library (integrated local project)

For my second transformative (re)vision for OMA's Seattle Public Library I wanted to make a marked difference in the functioning of the project team; in this case, questioning the utility of the transnational scale at which the design organization functioned seemed like the most decisive change. Rather than transforming the project by inserting new specialist firms into the organized assemblage, what if OMA had utilized the particular skills already present in the core local design team?

Magnusson Klemencic Associates' built portfolio is full of truss systems. Their deployment of this typology is a particularly engineered response to design problems; hybridizing this vernacular with the program-driven partí from OMA and its deformed skin allows for a new structural vocabulary to overtake the project, drawing attention to the complexity and differentiation of use which is generalized and obscured by the existing façade.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

FRONT Inc / Seattle Public Library (facade reiterates diagram)

FRONT Inc. is a façade and storefront specialty firm known for their sophisticated manipulation of varied structural and formal systems; that is, rather than having a standard response to a given design problem they endeavor to manipulate the systems provided them per project so as to create elegant solutions arising directly from each project.

Given the folding of the "self supporting" façade around the OMA-designed programmatically composed library mass which dictates the form of the building from every urban perspective, the addition of compound folds for structural stability is a logical extension of the overarching design diagram to address lateral structural requirements as well as programmatic ones. If properly deployed, the FRONT-detailed compound reinforcing fold could act like a break in sheet metal, creating stability through the multi-planar diaphragms of the fold.