Emerging Systems, Technologies & Media Post Professional Program

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Marcelyn Gow / The imbalancing act of entropic architecture

Elena Manferdini / Painted Canvas

Tom Wiscombe / Thick Skins, Deep Cavities, and Surface-to-Volume Transformations

Marcelo Spina / Tenuous Equilibrium

Peter Testa / Real-Time

Hernan Diaz Alonso /



Studio: Vertical
Semester: Fall 2011
Instructor: Elena Manferdini
Teaching Assistant: David Bantz
For centuries the relationship between canvas and pictorial space has been the site of vigorous exploration in Western Academies: with the Renaissance the use of perspective became the accepted system of constructing a sense of space, replacing the previous guesswork of the painter. The viewpoint became the anchor for crucial proportion calculations, which achieved the illusion of depth, while the chiaroscuro created the effect of lights and shadows on a volume. With the nineteenth century this exploration shifted from the spatial composition towards atmospheric and chromatic effects: Impressionism and Pointillism replaced the chiaroscuro with the use of primary colors directly onto the canvas; Futurism and Cubism adopted, instead of a fixed viewpoint, shifting overlapping planes that unfolded multiple object’s sides simultaneously onto the image plane. The first to break the rules of Western Academies was a group of Impressionist painters: small, thin, yet visible brush strokes were used to emphasize on the accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities. Painting was not any more about the masterful representation of realistic proportions, composition of balanced volumes in a natural viewing angle, or intricate details and believable materiality. They portrayed overall visual effects instead of details, human perception and experience became the protagonist of the canvas. We can say that painting became subjective matter, not a mode of imitation.

The relationship between chromatics techniques (colore) and geometry (disegno) has become especially interesting in the past decades, since architecture has drastically amplified its way of representing the architectural subject, learning a new set of media, upgrading geometric palettes, and rendering conventions to the new standard introduced by the use of computers in our field.
“The Italian word “disegno” (in English drawing) is thought to be work that began with the drawing of an outline or the form of a figure, while the word “colore” in English (color) was meant to suggest the importance of color, which took whatever form it needed without any a priori formal content or contour. Disegno, from the very beginning, was seen to be more rational and conceptual, while colore was seen as more emotional and expressionistic. The activity of disegno always had an a priori objective; that is, the maintenance in the work of the original formal outline, the pre-painting or cartoon to which the final aspired. While the idea of colore did not have such an objective, its enactment was not without rigor. In its most generic sense, disegno was the synthetic and proper relationship of parts to a whole, while colore might be thought of as the blurring of the parts in relation to a whole, for example, the blurring of the edge between figure and ground”. Peter Eisemann
This studio will take the specific issue of the relationship between geometry and color as its mission statement and will try to advance the discourse through a highly directed technical approach that begins with the problem of creating an impressionistic architectural envelope through the use of excavated geometry and chromatic applications.
The class will begin with a detail analysis of the shift from realism to atmospheric representation that characterized the impressionist movement. In these early experiments the thin boundaries between real and ethereal became blurred. Most of their artistic investigation in fact revolved on the optics, discussing the ways in which objects are not only visually perceived but also sensed. Departed from the traditional pursuit of reproducing an illusion of real space in paintings of academic subjects, they chose instead to exploit the possibilities of paint to explore the fleeting effects of nature and the visual sensation in, for the most part, rapidly executed works. The most conspicuous characteristic of Impressionism was an attempt to record visual reality in terms of transient effects of light and color.

Course Objectives:
This studio will borrow some of the techniques developed and mastered by impressionism, and will apply them to an architectural project. The work of the students will aim to extend the potential of architectural envelope and massing to produce hyper-realistic and ethereal experiences through the invention of new breeds of artificial effects. Students will investigate the modes of impressionistic techniques to induce novel sensuality in architectural envelopes.
“… Many lament the age of authentic color when architecture was always in some sense green-in the nature of materials (and their various colors). But the redness of brick or the whiteness of whitewash, while perhaps full of eternal values of some kind, have none of the timeliness of avocado Formica or the Pantone chip dujour. Color’s mediation by color experts, industrial trends, and the mechanisms of designed obsolescence urgently engage the now. By virtue of the material, technical and cultural emulsion through which it operates, color is the most implicated phenomenon in architecture’s current effectiveness”. Sylvia Lavin; “What Color is it Now?” in Perspecta 35 (2004) 98-112.
The goal of the class is to broaden students’ intellectual and critical understanding of how architectural envelopes are perceived, while increasing their range of technical skill sets. Although the studio will utilize digital techniques such as Maya and Zbrush, one of the ambitions of the studio is that these digital procedures will not be clearly visible in the final project, but the viewer will wonder how such things could be designed.
“As for techniques and processes, as seen in the works themselves, neither public nor artists will find anything about them here. Those things are learned in the studio and the public is interested only in the results.” (Charles Baudelaire, “The Salon of 1846″)
Made with the aid of computer technology, each project will collapse reality and artifice, and propose that contemporary architectural effects are often a mutation from the “original” producing a world in which fact, fiction and fantasy co-exist.
Course Organization:
During the first part of the studio students will work on a series of choreographed experiments on the RouenCathedral.  These 17 paintings by Monet capture the façade of the building at different times of the day and year, and reflect changes in its appearance under different lighting conditions. Students will select one of these canvases and use the chromatics and textural qualities to invent new breed of ethereal and hyper-realistic surfaces through the use of several software technologies (ZBrush).

Students will investigate the formal potential of a brush stroke using various geometrical techniques. Each team will develop various recursive operations and formal strategies to give three-dimensional shape to their impressionistic canvas. The work of the class as a whole will question the ideological and formal implications of various digital representational modes.
During the second part of the studio students will work singularly and will design a new painterly envelope forSan LorenzoinFlorence.
Project Overview:
Considered a milestone in the development of renaissance architecture, S. Lorenzo Basilica was built around 1420 under the direction of Brunelleschi. In 1515 the Medici pope Leo X gave Michelangelo the commission to design a façade. The work remained unbuilt, but it represented an interesting take on the problem of mis-registered façade.

In august 2011, the City ofFlorencere-visited the question of completing the outer facade according to Michelangelo’s designs by the beginning of 2015. But this endeavor doesn’t come without controversy especially when the 36 years old Mayor of Florence proposed to build the façade out of contemporary techniques and synthetic materials.
As yet, no decision has been made on the project, and a popular vote will decide on this matter, but the on-going discussion demonstrates that after 500 years a building façade remains the site of politics, orchestrating not only the building’s spatial relationships but also engaging with its social context, historical evolution and associated meanings in relation to theories of perception and representation. Students will be asked to take on this problem and re-design a new painterly envelope forSan LorenzoinFlorence, borrowing some of the chromatic and geometrical techniques developed and mastered during the first part of the semester. The work of the students will aim to extend the potential of architectural envelope to produce ethereal experiences through the invention of new breeds of artificial effects.

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Thick Skins, Deep Cavities, and Surface-to-Volume Transformations

Studio: Vertical
Semester: Fall 2011
Instructor: Tom Wiscombe

Building on previous research on surface-to-strand morphologies, this studio will focus on surface-to-volume morphologies. The intent will be to explore extreme fluctuations between two-dimensionality and three-dimensionality, producing the effect of appearance and disappearance of volume and depth across architectural surfaces. Surface, like skins of organisms and certain geological formations, will be understood as always having complex poché space rather than zero depth; surface thickness will vary wildly, both in response to figural as well as various instrumental criteria. Cavities, apertures, and transparencies will be used as ways of increasing depth effects. Sectional qualities will be revealed which will force consideration of deep cavities, interiority, and the unfurling of space.

Surface patterning, color, relief, and materiality will be used to heighten the sense of irresolution between flatness and depth as well as correlate graphic/pattern effects with mass inflections. Studies will include stuffed surfaces, nested figures, delineation of multiple materials/components, multilayer shell formations, depth effects through variable opacity, missing centers, and implied outer shells. Deep manifolds and free-form contours will replace clear building edges often produced by conventional “massing” techniques.

These experiments will exceed simple expressionism towards the tectonic, material, metabolic, programmatic, and urban potentials of surface-to-volume morphologies. The bias toward interiority, and loose, unfurling configurations of space on the one hand has implications for the city, in terms of creating microclimates and public spaces, and on the other hand, mysterious and enthralling architectural atmospheres.

Project 1: Surface-to-volume Experiments
Begin with two surfaces that involute or bulge to create volume, evolve to multiple surfaces. Reveal and obfuscate interior figures. Create massive difference between thin and thick. Create massive difference in depth of interior spaces. Pattern and add material features including variable opacity and color. Use primitive bounding box.

Project 2: BCAM Redux
Extrapolating on design features explored in Project 1, Project 2 will deal with building design. The project will be a redesign of the BCAM (Broad Contemporary Art Museum) at LACMA in Los Angeles. The intention will be to pose alternatives to the Renzo Piano project which create interiority and unfurling in search of a more activated public space. While certain aspects of the Piano project such as its relation to the East and West buildings will be reconsidered from scratch, elements such as its covered public plaza will be considered for their proto-unfurling character.

Skull/Dragon surface unfurling over volume, Romulan ship missing middle, Boulee’s Cenotaphe mass/poché, Bernini’s Sant Andrea poché, Mazda Furai and deep apertures, Glass Frog translucent depth, Vampire squid volume-to-cape membrane, Flying squirrel wings, onions, cocoons, geodes, Ruth Asawa nested figures, not Russian Dolls, not Renaissance flatness, composite construction, strange fruits

unfurling, implied outer shells, multi-shell configurations, stuffed surface, nested figures, variable opacity, interiority, razor-thin to bulbous, vacuum-sucked, deep surface, deep cavities, figural apertures…

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TENUOUS EQUILIBRIUM Accretion, Clustering, Excess & The New Loaded Whole

Studio: ESTm Vertical Studio
Semester: Fall 2011
Instructor: Marcelo Spina
Assistant Teacher: James Vincent

Moving a step beyond from what we now perceive as a process of cohesive formal homogenization in the last two decades, the studio aims to revisit the organizational and aesthetics possibilities of the pile, towards perhaps a difficult and unexplored regime of inconsistency [incongruity as Jeff Kipnis likes to describe]. In such a regime, excess still means equilibrium. Accumulation does not simply lead to simple stacking but to a complex accretion and a lumpy mass. This isn’t plain collage, which all too often means a collision of two or multiple opposites to produce a static visual effect. What the studio is after are controlled degrees of accretion, globular mass and clustered volumes without the necessary layer of homogenization produced by overall topology. Furthermore, the studio is interested in the specific material behavior, crumbling boxes or saggy wrinkled bags, a direct formal consequence of the extreme and disproportionate material buildup.
The studio is interested in exploring the uneven, the lumpy and the pile, as well as the effects of towering loads and primary nature of totems. Beyond the obvious formal exploration, the assumption of the studio is that these cumulative figures constitute a potential new symbol for a contemporary post urban landscape, all too often the consequence of the repetition of high-rise ad infinitum.
Specifically, the studio will take on a building wherein the footprint is smaller than its overall volume. Of a different aggregate nature, the studio should not rely on pure self-similarity but on random piling of familial and yet differentiated stuff.  The distinction is not so much on the process but on the final solution. Instead of absorbing difference and embedding volumes within surfaces, the studio will seek to foreground heterogeneity by restoring a volumetric coexistence within a loaded mass. This is not the end of the surface, but a more complex state of being between surface and volume.
One of the main problems of recent developments within the discipline and especially evident in today’s state of the profession, is that the building envelope receives most of the attention. Without denying the obvious relevance of the architectural envelope as a site for investigation, the studio’s tradition and current interest will be dedicated to the construction of architecture as a formal whole of surface, volume and mass. Of especial attention will be the problem of grounding a large building, by redefining the ground, through a figural matrix of embedded, nested and disparate volumes.

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Studio: ESTm Vertical Studio
Semester: FALL 2011 & SPRING 2012
Instructor: Peter Testa
Assistant Teacher: Jonathon Stahl, Curime Batliner
Research Fellows: Brandon Kruysman, Jonathan Proto

‘Real-Time’ instantiates a new architectural paradigm at the convergence of computational materials, and collaborative robotics. The studio is pioneering a next generation multi-modal design, simulation and prototyping platform interoperable with SCI-Arc’s Robotics Lab. This unprecedented virtual and physical design environment offers a real-time interface that challenges Euclidean space and geometry. Projects in the studio integrate simulations and new modes of representation with synthetic material behaviors and system logistics to create new form languages, building systems, and morphologies. In the studio the robotics lab is approached as a new conceptual framework – an alternative site for understanding and potential investigation of architectural actions and operations. In this way the studio sets out to reconstruct, retool, rewire, and redesign the architectural code into a 21st century form. Students work individually and in small teams to develop specific design research projects within the scope of the studio and as a platform for thesis and post-graduate degree projects.

The Fall 2011 studio is offered in conjunction with an intensive research seminar Synchronous Robotics with a focus on Maya rigging for robotics; advanced animation and motion control; image capture, match moving and After Effects.

The Spring 2012 studio is offered in conjunction with the Freeform Fabrication research seminar. Software workshops are offered as an integral part of the studio: Esperant.0 Motion Control; Python Bytes for Designers; and RealFake, and advanced animation, image capture, and film making module.

Course Web Site: Machinators.org
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SCI-Arc's ESTm post-graduate program is a rigorous, experimental post-professional degree platform focused on data-based and physical investigations into the rapidly evolving fields of digital design, innovative fabrication methodologies and new building systems.


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