Four Boston design firms fill the Rose Kennedy Greenway with art at the intersection of architecture

(Courtesy Design Biennial Boston)

Marginal by Landing Studio. (Courtesy Design Biennial Boston)

Through September 25th, emerging architects and designers are being celebrated in Boston’s 4th Design Biennial. The program features installations, created by four, jury-chosen design firms, exhibited along the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy.

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Architects will soon suspend this cellulose fiber canopy made from discarded paper in Boston

(Image courtesy of Bigger than a Breadbox competition)

(Image courtesy of Bigger than a Breadbox competition)

Recognizing architects’ increased use of installations for experimentation and prototyping, the “Bigger than a Breadbox, Smaller than a Building” competition awards project proposals that use the medium for spatial exploration.

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This netted, aerial sculpture above Boston’s Rose Kennedy Greenway looks like lace but is stronger than steel

(Courtesy Melissa Henry)

(Courtesy Melissa Henry)

A multicolored aerial sculpture lords over the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston in spiderweb fashion, casting rippling shadows over the pedestrian-friendly highway topper.

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On View> Artist invites viewers to walk through steel at the New Museum’s 2015 Triennial

Art, East, On View
Monday, March 9, 2015
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(Courtesy of Kriska Decor)

(Courtesy of Kriska Decor)

Streaming from the ceiling like colored rain, Daniel Steegmann Mangrané’s steel curtain installation is far less delicate than it appears. Up close, the completely see-through curtain of steel mesh looks like raindrops stitched together, whose straight-down free-fall is punctuated by geometric and and insect-like laser cutouts framed in powder-coated steel.

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MCA Chicago unveils new logo, plans for image overhaul with help from Johnston Marklee

Architecture, Art, Midwest
Friday, February 20, 2015
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MCA Chicago, 220 E. Chicago Ave. (Peter McCullough)

MCA Chicago, 220 E. Chicago Ave. (Peter McCullough)

Change is underway at Chicago‘s Museum of Contemporary Art. At a press conference Friday MCA officials revealed that the institution is working on a new image, new programming and even a new master plan for the museum’s space led by Los Angeles–based design firm Johnston Marklee.

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The Principals Make Music with Mylar

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Ancient Chaos, a sound reactive installation designed by The Principals with musician Dev Hynes, debuted at Neuehouse last fall. (Bryan Derballa)

Ancient Chaos, a sound reactive installation designed by The Principals with musician Dev Hynes, debuted at Neuehouse last fall. (Bryan Derballa)

Collaborative installation translates sound into motion.

When Brooklyn-based design and fabrication studio The Principals began collaborating with musician Dev Hynes on Ancient Chaos, a sound reactive installation commissioned by speaker company Sonos, they had only a vague sense of the project’s goals. “The general concept was that we wanted to create an architecture that was fluid like sound, and to create sounds that were architectural,” said co-founder Seskunas. “We wanted to have an installation that was both of those things but neither—a very ephemeral, nebulous concept of what sound and architecture could be.” Then Seskunas went surfing with a friend, and, in between sets, found himself mesmerized by the ever-changing play of sunlight on the ocean. “Could we create an architecture that had this quality to it?” he questioned. Constructed from 6,000 individual pieces of Mylar set in motion by high-powered stepper motors, Ancient Chaos answers Seskunas’ question in the affirmative. The installation, which debuted at New York’s Neuehouse last year, is a moving meditation on the relationship between sound and space.
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Digital Incan Masonry by Matter Design

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Matter Design's Round Room was inspired by the Incan wedge method of masonry construction. (Courtesy Matter Design)

Matter Design’s Round Room was inspired by the Incan wedge method of masonry construction. (Courtesy Matter Design)

Architects update pre-Columbian building method with modern tools and materials.

Matter Design‘s latest installation, Round Room (on display at MIT‘s Keller Gallery last fall) was born of a “marriage” between two of the firm’s ongoing interests, explained co-founder Brandon Clifford. First, Clifford and partner Wes McGee had long hoped to work with Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (AAC). Clifford, moreover, had been impressed during a trip to Cuzco by the Incan wedge method of masonry construction, in which precisely-carved stones are aligned on their front face, then backfilled with mortar. “This seemed like a tremendously rational way of building,” he said. “Ever since then we had been wanting to do a project that translates that process into digital design.” With Round Room, designed and fabricated in cooperation with Quarra Stone, Matter Design did just that. Though inspired by pre-Columbian building practices, the installation firmly situates the wedge method in the digital age.
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Pratt Floats Student Work on a Mylar Cloud

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A cloud-like Mylar net supports architectural models in Pratt's annual graduate school exhibition. (Courtesy Michael Szivos)

A cloud-like Mylar net floats architectural models in Pratt’s annual graduate school exhibition. (Courtesy Michael Szivos)

Installation inverts conventional relationship between architectural models and images.

Each year, a group of Pratt Institute graduate students is challenged with pushing the boundaries of exhibition design as they curate the student work from the previous year. “The basic brief is for it not to be a show where it’s work on white walls, but that there’s an installation component,” said Softlab‘s Michael Szivos, who co-taught the 2014 exhibition course with Nitzan Bartov. The spring show coincides with the publication of Process, a catalog of student projects. “The book shows it in that more normative condition, year by year,” said Szivos. “The installation works in tandem with that. The hope is that the students come up with something different.” This year Szivos’ students passed the test with flying colors, constructing a floating display out of Mylar, medium-density fiberboard, cardboard, and Tyvek that upends the conventional relationship between architectural models and two-dimensional images.

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Radlab Makes Music with Moiré

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Radlab's Clefs Moiré brings life to the lobby of a Boston-area apartment building. (Courtesy Radlab)

Radlab’s Clefs Moiré brings life to the lobby of a Boston-area apartment building. (Courtesy Radlab)

Undulating birch walls create pockets of privacy in an apartment building lobby.

When Boston design and fabrication firm Radlab began work on Clefs Moiré, the permanent installation in the lobby of One North of Boston in Chelsea, Massachusetts, they had relatively little to go on. They knew that the apartment building’s developer wanted a pair of walls of a certain size to activate the lobby space, but that was about it. “Normally we get more information, so we can come up with a story—a concept based on the building and its requirement,” said Radlab’s Matt Trimble. “For this we pulled back and said, we have an opportunity to be a little more abstract about how we approach this conceptually.” Inspired by moiré patterning and a harpsichord composition by J.S. Bach, the team designed and built two slatted birch walls whose undulating surfaces embody a dialog between transparency and opacity.
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Pratt Students Raise an AAC Wall

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School of Architecture students designed and fabricated a portion of an AAC facade for display in the lobby of Higgins Hall. (Courtesy Lawrence Blough)

School of Architecture students designed and fabricated a portion of an AAC facade for display in the lobby of Higgins Hall. (Courtesy Lawrence Blough)

Installation investigates the future of facade design and fabrication.

Unlike some student projects, AAC Textile-Block v2.0 was shaped by both practical and speculative concerns. In back-to-back courses at Pratt, undergraduates designed and fabricated a prototype section of a screen wall system made from autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC). Co-taught by Lawrence Blough and Ezra Ardolino, the design studio and prototyping seminar encouraged students to look beyond their computer screens to real-world constraints including block size and light and air circulation. “The idea was that we wanted to make something that has an application later on,” said Blough. “It was more than a run-of-the-mill digital fabrication project,” added Ardolino. “It was really a comprehensive fabrication project.” Read More

PART Studio Plays Peek-a-boo with Plywood

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PART Studio designed the plywood Peek-a-boo Curtain to behave like fabric. (Courtesy PART Studio)

PART Studio designed the plywood Peek-a-boo Curtain to behave like fabric. (Courtesy PART Studio)

Louisville installation elicits fabric-like behavior from wood.

PART Studio designed and built their plywood Peek-a-boo Curtain in just four days, after a last-minute invitation from Louisville arts and business networking organization I.D.E.A.S. 40203. “We went to a meeting, talked about it, then drove to the plywood store,” recalled principal Nathan Smith. Luckily, the architects were not starting from scratch. Rather, Smith and partner Mark Foxworth seized the opportunity to build a full-scale mock-up of an idea they had been tossing around for some time: a curtain that, though built of wood, would behave like fabric. Staged at FirstBuild, a design and fabrication studio run through a partnership between GE Appliances and Local Motors, the exhibition also gave the designers a chance to explore the space between art and commerce. “With our piece we were looking not only to span the specific interests of the groups involved, but also to consider the relationships between product design, art, and architectural design,” said Smith. Read More

Red Deer Lights Up Burning Man

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As visitors climb on and around Luz 2.0, integrated sensors trigger an interactive lighting display. (Dustin Wong Photography)

As visitors climb on and around Luz 2.0, integrated sensors trigger an interactive lighting display. (Dustin Wong Photography)

Prismatic pyramid evokes desert mirage by day, Aurora Borealis by night.

Given that their pyramidal acrylic installation at this summer’s Burning Man was inspired in part by Pink Floyd‘s Dark Side of the Moon album cover, it seems safe to say that the architects at Red Deer “get” the festival’s vibe. “We try to get very intimate with our sites, so it was interesting to approach one that we hadn’t been able to visit,” said founding director Ciarán O’Brien. “Some of the primal forces we could see at play there were the heat of the desert and the way people interact with structures. Specifically, for us it was about light in all its forms.” The UK firm worked closely with the structural engineers at Structure Mode to design a transparent six-meter-tall structure comprising interlocking equilateral triangles, while New York Institute of Technology professor Charles Matz contributed an integrated light display based on the Aurora Borealis. “All kinds of imagery came to mind that held to the desert landscape,” said O’Brien. “By day, the concept evoked a mirage; by night, a kaleidoscope. One is ephemeral, a non-place; the other is specific, a beacon.” Read More

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