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Dora Epstein, in ARCH'IT files, observes the work of Elena Manferdini and Alexis Rochas, instructors at SCI-Arc. In particular she looks at the VISIONS WALL installation, described here below, designed and built on the occasion of the ninth edition of the BEYOND MEDIA festival, as a cue for reflection. A continuity between experimentation and design, between research and formal control are at the center of Alexis's and Elena's didactic activity which allows the students to keep innovating and tuning in with the new digital researches in architecture. [PG]

"Vision Wall" is part of an extensive research on the role of scripting, fabrication and new material affect that SCI-Arc is leading in the field of architectural education.

Non dissimilar from Escher illustrations, the installation was designed following general rules of planar tessellation. "Tessella" is a small piece of glass used to make mosaics.

The design of the components was obtained running a script that blended two primitive figures along the axial plane of the wall with no overlaps and no gaps. A basic dia-grid anchored the size and the rhythm of each cell.

[22 novembre 2009]

Unfold drawings of the 53 cells ready for the laser cutter.

Diagram of unfolding techniques of each cell into planar elements.

Scripting blending primitive figures along the longitudinal axis of the wall.

The script was not based on the logic of the Penrose algorithm, which relies on 2 modules to tile the entire plane. Instead the script was engineered to follow a linear deformation of one cell into another. Therefore each component was perfectly interlocking with each other into the grid but it was different from the surrounding ones (see image 1). As a result of this variation the final mathematical drawing displayed a tension between the visibility of the figure and the logic of the field.

Assembly process of the 53 cells on site.

This initial two-dimensional plane was then used to create a system of three-dimensional cells and Booleans openings that constituted the final wall (see image 2). Constructed by a total of 53 self supporting folded cells complexly connected together, each cell was obtained by 3 custom laser cut panels (see image 3). The plastic used to build the components was laminated with 3M radiant foil, a light polarizing surface treatment that changes its color depending on the viewing angle of the surface.

The highly faceted geometry of the wall along with the optical material laminated on its surface created a deep play of reflections and chromatics effect. The surrounding images that are reflected by the radiant facets interfere with each other to crate fantastic distortions of the light colors into an array of different shades.

Elena Manferdini

Vision Wall is a SCI-Arc installation made by Elena Manferdini and Alexis Rochas and their students for the 9th edition of the BEYOND MEDIA festival (SPOT ON SCHOOLS exhibition curated by Paola Giaconia) in July 2009 at the Stazione Leopolda in Florence.

Instructors: Elena Manferdini and Alexis Rochas

Students: "Vision Wall" was fabricated by a team of SCI-Arc students (Loke Chan; Christy Coleman; Robbie Eleazer; Sona Gevorkyan; Kristofer Leese; Jaitip Srisomburananont; Jairo Vives) who contributed to the cost analysis, structural behavior, unfolding and laser cutting of the wall. Students have been exposed to a broad range of experiences in this workshop leading to a better understanding of potential relationship of design and fabrication logics.

Fabrication: Laser cutting at SCI-Arc, Down Town LA, CA
Alexis Rochas (BArch 02, Cooper Union) is the founder of I/O, a Los Angeles based practice focusing on the development of dynamic architectural methodologies integrating design, technology and advanced fabrication techniques. His recent work includes SYNTHe, an adaptable synthetic environment managing air pollution and storm water runoff; the sPARK network, a resource generation infrastructure for the City of New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward Parks and Community spaces; and the AEROMADS project, which outlines an architectural system that combines air pressure and high-strength intelligent fabrics as a tectonic solution for the creation of minimal mass, self-sustaining structures. A member of SCI-Arc's design faculty since 2003, Rochas has headed projects through the Community Outreach and Design Build Program, including the FAB Arts Market Temporal Gallery, LINC Housing community grounds prototyping, SCI-Arc's Lecture Hall Acoustical Treatment, and the LAMP Community's Sun Shelter Pavilion.

Elena Manferdini (Civil Engineering UNIBO, M.Arch UCLA) graduated from the University of Civil Engineering (Bologna, Italy) and later from University of California Los Angeles (Master of Architecture and Urban Design). Her work is based on a multi-scale work methodology and embraces the philosophy that design can participate in a wide range of multidisciplinary developments that define our culture. The firm is highly visible advocate of design excellence and has been recognized internationally for its ability to create imaginative architecture, fashion and object design. Recently Atelier Manferdini has collaborated with numerous industries: MTV, Fiat, Nike, Alessi, Ottaviani, Moroso, Valentino and Rosenthal are selected examples. In 2006 she was invited to design the West Coast Pavilion representing USA at the Beijing Biennale in the Chinese Millennium Museum. In 2008 she curated the USA session of the Beijing Biennale exhibition. In addition to leading her design practice, in the past 5 years Elena Manferdini has been teaching architectural design studios and technology seminars at the Graduate and Undergraduate programs at the Southern California Institute of Architecture.




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