Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Boulevard of Broken Dreams

On Friday, I received word that I was not, in fact, selected as a finalist for the Salt Lake City Fluid Adagio competition.  Alas...

Regardless, below is the entry I submitted in collaboration with artist--and fellow Brooklynite--Jong Il Ma.  The winning project will occupy the future site of the SLC Ballet West dance company, to be built next spring with a budget of $46,000 for design, materials and labor.

View from Southwest

Rubato: Rhythmic flexibility within a phrase or measure; a relaxation of strict time.

This light, whimsical structure will embody and encourage a dynamic action and interaction with its inhabitants. Rubato might be employed by the ballet company—or other artists—for outdoor performances open to the public, either as a backdrop or as an integral participant in the performance.

A series of ribs created from segments of poplar lumber dance across the site, intertwined with an array of crisscrossing nylon ropes (a potential supporting structure for a canopy of snow in winter). Inspired by Salt Lake City’s mountainous surrounds and the grace of the ballet, the basic profile of the arch repeats itself throughout. The scale of the arches is modulated between three sizes. Each arch is a mirror image of the previous component and offset to varying degrees. Combined with the variation in height, this lends the overall composition a richness and complexity that belies its economical and repetitive elements. While visitors might experience a continuous winding procession through the arches, the structure pulls apart at alternating intervals to allow lateral passage. The composition and movement of the structure create large pockets of space ideal for performances, temporary merchant stands or simply relaxation and enjoyment.

Composed of readily available materials, the installation will tread lightly on the ground, directing its energy—and our attention—skyward. Taking cues from the rich landscape of the region, red gravel will be employed to blanket the site with a monochromatic stage from which the structure will spring. The ground plane of the site will be minimally disturbed with a series of concrete footings to support the poplar arches, mediated with steel plate and bolt connections. Light and ephemeral, when its temporary occupation of the site has run its course, the project may be dismantled just as swiftly as it arrives.

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  1. Max, it seems that there are a few PS1 influences in the manner that you treated the structural and shading systems. Was the likeness deliberate or is this aesthetic maybe somehow implicit in lightweight affordable structures?

  2. Matt-

    No, I wasn't considering the PS1 installations as I was designing, but it's interesting you should bring them up. I'm guessing you could be referring to "Canopy" by nArchitects, "BeatFuse" by OBRA, or "Liquid Sky" by Ball-Nogues. My thinking involved--yes--endeavoring to create a dynamic and compelling lightweight affordable structure... one that operated primarily overhead and touched down ever so lightly on the ground.

    If anything, I was thinking of the Tsunami memorial design that Maura, Peter and Hao built for the Asian Moon Festival 5 years ago. I'm not sure if you've seen it--I may post photos at some point. Anyway, for that, they had an even smaller budget, and even that was whittled down to next to nothing. They used readily available materials--plywood, lumber, wire and marker flags, and the final memorial was quite successful.

    A week before I submitted for the competition--and after the design was complete--Maura sent me photos of a colleague's installation for a party (DJ, art, etc.) in Williamsburg. It shared a lot of similarities to mine--there were no wood arches, but nylon rope was criss-crossed to form parabolic canopies spanning between masonry walls enclosing a courtyard. For the next day, I was completely deflated. "That was MY idea!" But then I realized it wasn't really the same... the arches were just as much of a central component as the rope canopy--they needed each other to work, and the structure was meant to be experienced from beneath, outside--above, even. And I liked my project, so why switch course?

    So that's a long way of saying that yes, I think it might be more related to the fact that it was a lightweight, affordable structure. Is it implicit in such a structure? Not necessarily. Is it a viable solution to such a scenario? Definitely. I noticed that one of the finalists' entries used rope (in a much different way... and I'm not exactly sure how it's strung), and another entry posted online used rope. Ahhh...

    One final note--in working with Jong (see link to his website in the main text above), I was forced to consider how much structure I really needed. He has actual experience in building temporary (up to 2 years) and lightweight wood sculptures. "Do those arches really need to be 6" wide and 18" deep?! I think they should be no more than 1 1/2 - 2" wide and 10-12" deep." In other words, Jong was great at restraining my heavy-handedness.

  3. Andrew! I just noticed that I called you "Matt" in the previous comment. Not too far off from "Manto", I suppose. That's what happens when you have a dog that refuses to recognize the legitimacy of daylight savings time... and wakes you up at 2:30.