This October, for the first time, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon—a biennial competition encouraging schools from around the country to create affordable, solar powered, Net Zero houses—will be held outside of Washington D.C. The new location, in the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California, gives SCI-Arc and Caltech a distinct home field advantage. The team of 16 SCI-Arc and 20 Caltech students is creating a fascinating structure, called DALE, which stands for Dynamic Augmented Living Environment (their last entry was called CHIP.. get it?) that could only be possible in the moderate Southern California climate.
SCI-Arc is hosting a competition—called 40/40—open to all graduates for the design and construction of an installation capable of digitally presenting the work of the school’s alumni. The installation will celebrate the school’s upcoming 40th anniversary. To tie into the April 11 Downtown Art Walk, the exhibition will first be installed—or rather the winner of the competition has to figure out how it will be installed—in the lobby space of the monumental downtown Farmers and Merchants Bank. It will subsequently move to SCI-Arc for the 40th Anniversary Celebration Weekend of April 19-21, 2013.
Once upon a time, being at SCI-Arc meant development was a four-letter word, and developers were akin to the destroyers of cities. Eric Owen Moss, SCI-Arc’s director, played a significant role in changing that perception by working with developer Tom Gilmore, who, since 2001, has also been on SCI-Arc’s board of trustees. Mr. Gilmore, founder of Gilmore Associates, is a former architect, so he has a great appreciation for architecture’s potential, especially in formerly blighted areas of Downtown Los Angeles, where his vision has been unfolding since the early 1990s. This might explain why he recently included SCI-Arc in his estate plans by setting up an endowed chair to the tune of a cool $1 million, the first gift of this magnitude the institution has ever received.
The gift will fund the Gilmore City Chair, a position dedicated to supporting educational initiatives focused on the dynamics of urban development around the world. Moss, in an expression of gratitude quoted Machiavelli, saying, “I believe the greatest good to be done is that which one does to one’s own city.” Further details regarding the scope of the Gilmore City Chair will be forthcoming and may even be revealed by Mr. Gilmore himself when he presents a public lecture at SCI-Arc this Wednesday, February 13 at 7:00 p.m.
Our favorite new naming triumph: SCI-Arc’s “Hispanic Steps.” The new indoor amphitheater, paid for in part by a recent ArtPlace grant and located in the middle of the SCI-Arc building in Los Angeles, is used for lectures, performances, symposia, film series, and community meetings. At a recent meeting to discuss SCI-Arc’s Arts District plans that are also part of the $400,000 ArtPlace grant, officials posed on the newly completed steps for a photo. Included are SCI-Arc’s Chief Advancement Officer, Sarah Sullivan (front center) and Chief Operating Officer, Jamie Bennett (upper right).
We just got our first look at next year’s SCI-Arc graduation pavilion, League of Shadows, by Los Angeles-firm P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S. Whoah. The pavilion, which will seat 1,200 people, will be built in the SCI-Arc parking lot for graduation events in spring 2013. The three-fingered structure will be made up of multi-story, angled frames (ahem) patterned with dark, vaulted, and layered multi-colored fabric strips, with seams like sails. The pavilion’s significant height will provide long shadows (hence the project’s name) and its location on the south end of the SCI-Arc parking lot will make it a sign for the school. Entries from the four competing architects will be on display in the SCI-Arc Library Gallery from October 19 to December 2.
Last year we showcased Oyler Wu’s SCI-Arc graduation pavilion, a swooping steel, fabric, and rope construction that floated above the event like a billowing sail. For last week’s graduation the firm added a small addition while making significant improvements. The addition, which sat school directors and special guests, became a stage for diploma presentation. Made of a torqued steel shell fitted with twisting fabric (Wu calls it a three dimensional twist), the addition is no replication: it creates a simpler, more unified complement to the original, which involves a more complex web of fabric and roping. As for the original pavilion, they replaced its (disturbingly) dirty fabric with darker material and re-oriented the whole thing toward the school itself. Next year’s pavilion will be designed by Marcelo Spina. We can’t wait.
835 North Kings Road
West Hollywood, CA
Through August 12
The SCI-Arc Media Archive, comprising four decades of lectures, symposia, and events from many of the most creative contemporary architects and thinkers, is scheduled to go online this fall. In anticipation of this resource becoming publicly accessible, the MAK Center (above) presents selected material from the archive curated by architects and architectural historians, each composing a singular argument out of their selections. Focusing on Peter Cook’s record 11 talks, architect Roger Sherman presents “Cook Off,” portraying the architect as a SCI-Arc “doppelganger” and lens through which the school may consider its “alternative” status. Scholar Dr. Paulette Singley offers “Teasers, Ticklers, and Twizzlers,” a look at interdisciplinary performance and architectural research. The architect, historian, and curator Anthony Fontenot presents “City Talk,” reflecting on the evolving dialogue on cities at SCI-Arc with a monitor dedicated to excerpts from each decade. Architect Marcelyn Gow investigates the role of drawing in architectural practice with “Drawn Out,” focusing on its evolution in our era of computational design.
Ball-Nogues Studio: Yevrus 1, Negative Impression
960 East 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA
June 1–July 8
On display at the SCI-Arc Gallery is Los Angeles–based architecture practice Ball-Nogues Studio’s Yevrus 1, Negative Impression, which attempts to call into question the current fashionability of abstracted and digital forms. Through an assemblage of non-architectural objects represented very literally, the project represents a new type of site survey. The objects selected to be part of the structure were picked from the Los Angeles suburban landscape (a pool, above) and become the elements of an installation. The architects used digital scanning technology to make biodegradable paper-pulp castings of 1973 Volkswagen Beetles and speedboats for a lookout tower in the gallery. Yevrus (“survey” spelled backwards) is a new technique pioneered by the firm that rethinks the site survey by utilizing it not as a tool for construction and engineering, but as a methodology of deriving form, creating structures, and realizing meaning.
After winning one of the top prizes at the Solar Decathlon competition, SCI-Arc and Caltech’s CHIP House is returning to Los Angeles for a victory lap. The unique net zero structure—with quilted, vinyl-covered polyester insulation stretched around its angled exterior—will be open to the public at the California Science Center in LA’s Exposition Park starting on Tuesday. It will stay there through the end of May.
For the last several years, SCI-Arc’s Studio 1A has given new students the chance to literally make their mark by producing projects that become permanent fixtures at the school. On Friday, this year’s class revealed a project that started as a piece of clothing, then became a wire model, then became a mockup, and finally ended as a new undulating and faceted canopy and wall. Made of a recycled carbon fiber called Nyloboard, the project’s more than 2,000 pieces were all hand cut and, somehow, none are exactly alike. They’re attached with Gorilla Glue, nails, and screws. “It’s something that exists at the scale of the world, which can take years for an architect,” said Nathan Bishop, who along with Jackilin Hah Bloom and Jenny Wu led the studio.