The sculpture by Jesse Lott with heavy lifting by Blumenthal is complete and installed next to the light rail line on Scott St. The layering of engineered pipe assembly making up the "bones" and Jesse's additional "visera" made from thin wall stainless tube was well integrated into the final work.
We have wrapped up the last stages of assembly of the "Cloud Tower" aka Drizzle Grove with the addition of high-pressure mist plumbing and LED lighting in the collars that wrap around the pipe columns. The work in Houston concluded with the tower placed in one piece on a truck and shipped to El Paso. The installation is underway at the ballpark and final hookup to utilities will follow in a few weeks.
The UH Stadium project with Jim Iserman is complete. Stay tuned for images from the drone.
We just completed another project with Randy Twaddle, Artist, with these three benches installed on the new mound constructed in Herman Park at the new Centenial Gardens designed by Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects. Based on a Fibonacci series with three figures extracted and developed spatially as sinuous objects. We worked with Escobedo Construction and their 5-axis OMAG robot to fabricate the benches from solid limestone. The stone is anchored into the flat work with a fabricated stainless steel pan embedded in the concrete with a consistent 3/4" reveal maintained over 9', the length of the largest monolith bench.
Installation of the 3 benches at Herman Park with Randy Twaddle and Escobedo Construction. Congratulations to Escobedo for their Texas Society of Architects Artisan Award.
With two rain delays we were happy to see art panels for Jim Isermann's "Cougar Walk" to go in smoothly in one day by Gate Precast. The 19 panels (4 on the wall and 15 on the ground) are 8'x8' and each weighs about 1500lbs. The effects of the red glass and black onyx were nice to see relative to the colors of the metal panels on the stadium itself. All will be done by game day later this summer!
We are working with Matthew Geller, the artist who we teamed with on Open Channel Flow, for a new project in El Paso near the new ballpark. The tower of pipes will emit a misting fog with integrated lighting to create atmospheric effects in the public plaza designed by SWA/Los Angeles. Fabrication will begin soon and installation will be before then end of 2014.
We are working with RE:site, the team that we worked with on Memory Cloud, on a new project at Houston Animal Adoption Center. In the main entry foyer a canopy of catenary forms will hang over the vistors to the facility on their way to the adoption area. Dog Leashes will be used to create a quilted pattern of forms. We are using Grasshopper and Kangaroo to simulate the global geometry and different sorting algorithms to study the color patterns using standard 4', 6' and 8' leashes.
We visited Escobedo Construction to view the first of three unique park benches. Designed with Randy Twaddle, artist, the benches are being cut on a 5-axis OMAG robot in Kyle, Texas. No two benches are the same and none of the exposed faces are planar. This entry into robotic fabrication is exciting for us after attending the Robots in Architecture conference recently and now having to opportunity to apply this technology to a permanent installation for a new feature on top of a landscape in the renovation of Herman Park in Houston. The benches are made out of Lueders Limestone in three sizes the largest of which will be monolithic, extending over 9' long and will weight over a ton. The smallest one has been milled and will be finished by hand at this point with some faces left with the toolpath marks. Each bench will have an inscription and the robot will engrave the text along the topological surface after the final round of finishing. The tooling diameters range from 16" down to 1/8" end mill bits.
At Griggs and MLK on the SE Metrorail line in Houston
We made the trip up to Gate Precast recently to view and approve the first prototype for the UH Stadium public art project by Jim Isermann. Metalab is providing design optimization, fabrication documents and project management. We developed custom aggregates of red glass and black obsidian for the main U and H figures in the field. Gate tells us that this is the most complex project they have taken on other than the Perot Science Museum by Morphosis.
The three sculptural signs from Paul Kittelson have been installed at the Magnolia station on the East End MetroRail line on Harrisburg at Wayside. The three assemblies of extreme way-finding where developed with an algorithm that sorted name lengths, directions and distances and packed the signs into a close arrangement while avoiding self-intersection. When the trains pass by the signs will become urban scaled wind chimes. Merge Studios fabricated and installed the signs with shop fabrication drawings and full-scale alignment templates provided by Metalab. The columns are festooned with unique weathervanes designed by the artist and fabricated out of stainless steel with iconography representing Houston, Texas and the World. We worked for Houston Rapid Transit who are building all the lightrail extensions in Houston with great support from Sara Kellner as the public art administrator.
We are working again with Jim Isermann and the University of Houston Campus Art and Facilities on a large outdoor public artwork on the new UH Cougar Stadium now under construction designed by Page Architects. The pattern of interlocking U's and H's is set within 8' square pre-cast panels that will be erected as walls and ground work at the southwest corner of the facility. The new Metro lightrail station will be online soon and the passage onto campus from that point will connect to the project. We have been working with Gate Precast, the fabricators of the pre-cast panels on the Perot Museum by Morphosis, to develop these unique panels with recycled crushed red and black glass to evoke the school colors. Our lighting product, Ringo, will also be included to illuminate the work. Installation will be June 2014.
Some shots of completed project from Matthew Geller
The installation of Greenway Blueway Byway Skyway.
Fabrication drawings for Nautical Swing with Matthew Geller to be installed at Hunters Point Shipyard have been completed. Looking forward to this one finally getting off the server in 2014!
We finally have the opportunity to collaborate on a bridge design or at least half a bridge. With Matthew Geller we are providing a cantilevered structure with viewing platform next to a hiking trail and over a ravine to be installed in North Carolina. The project is called Greenway Blueway Byway Skyway. The primary components have been assembled by Iron Access in Houston, the same fabricator who assembled the parts for Tumbling House. We'll be installing this at the site in mid-December.
Radiance at El Paso Airport Design Development drawings
Another HRT sculpture, this one for Floyd Newsum, is being fabricated at Blumenthal Sheet metal. Metalab reverse engineered the artist's model and rationalized the internal structure to allow horizontal structural plates to remain level as CNC cut parts project outward to produce the dynamic form of the columns. Pyramids are being fabricated as separate units to be placed on the main assembly once it is installed.
We've been working on three different sculptures to be installed on the new East End and SE lines on the new Metrorail expansion. Working for Houston Rapid Transit and Sara Kellner, Public Art Coordinator, Metalab is providing design optimization, fabrication coordination and managment of the works by created by Houston artists. Jesse Lott is known for his work with found materials assembled into beautiful constructions. This his largest work to date is based on a small sculpture that arrived in our office of hand bent wire with glass beads ornaments. It was our role to scale the work up to a size that would resonate with the area's high concentration of vehicular traffic along with the presence of the light rail. By working with Ingenium Engineers we divised a system of formed stainless steel pipe that could be engineered for structural stability that would form the "bones" on the sculpture fabricated by professional welder and the artist would provide the "skin" materials from their bricolage of found materials. Blumenthal Sheet Metal in Houston are providing the turnkey fabrication and installation services with Metalab authoring the digital files for fabrication. The work will be sited at Scott St. and Elgin St. near the University of Houston campus and the Third Ward community.
It was a nice day for some fall colors...
Installation is complete on the Market Kiosks at Greater East End Navigation Blvd Esplanade. Great work by Armando Arteaga (Metalab designer and PM), Merge Studios and Campo Sheet Metal.
It was a working dog and pony show yesterday on the Navigation Esplanade in the Greater East End of Houston. Installation was going on while the cameras were rolling from ABC13, The Chronicle, Swamplot and Culture Map. Work by artists Gary Sweeney (Faux Bois anchor and benches) and Anthony Schumate (letter-form benches, bike racks and bus stops) was placed along with Mercado Picado Kiosks, Ringo LED lights and solar generators. Thank you to the Greater East End, our enlightened clients, and The Art Guys (Lead Artist). To be completed in October.
We are working with RE:site again on another elaborate hanging piece for the El Paso Airport Conrac facility. The work uses the iconography from the mix of cultures in El Paso and translates them into a 3-dimensional Mandala made of colored and dichroic CNC cut acrylic to evoke the vibrancy of the sunset. We'll draw upon our experience in working with ball-chain to hang the components from a steel canopy similar to what we designed and fabricated for Memory Cloud. DWA, Inc., Building Architect.
Anticipator for Matthew Geller has been installed at the Florence Griswold Museum in Connecticut. Design and fabrication in Houston with Crow Corp and Merge Studios. The art work consists of three prostetic limbs laser cut from Corten steel, attached to a felled tree lying prone on the ground. It is plumbed with misting heads and LED lights to create a whimsical display of fog. This anticipates the Miami Zoo Project we have been working on with Matthew for three 32' misting trees permanently installed in the Children's Play Area. We'll be starting the parametric design and digital fabrication of those soon.
We used Rhino + Grasshopper to develop the geometry of the Memory Cloud. Beyond qualitative spatial and aesthetic criteria the tools were used for developing quantitative data sets for the lighting purchase orders and assembly inventories. The waffle structure of the diagrid canopy was developed using FEA software at Insight Structures and feedback from that analysis drove the varying depth of the profiles. The notches were calibrated based on a full scale prototype that tested the material welding. We especially benefited from the use of the Lunchbox plugin for Grasshopper developed by Nathan Miller of CASE, Inc. The diagonal structure tools created clean data structures that retained their organization as the geometry was projected into the cloud.
Some installation photos of Memory Cloud
Memory Cloud finite element analysis model from Insite Structures, Brad Dougherty and Justin Smith.
16 hrs, a dead winch, chain hoist and a bent pully later...
Each tube assembly is made up of a different quantity of modules determined by the algorithm that originally shaped the cloud. Disk luminaires starting to go in.
After a pause to reset the winch we lifted the canopy, installed the first LED tube modules and tested for power and data continuity.
We developed a custom interlocking raceway system aligned to allow the LED tubes to canilever off the rib canopy to suspend through the voids into the space below. The raceways manage high voltage, low voltage and data cables through a network of power and data distribution arranged in "universes". These arrangements are then used to program the pixels in the cloud into DMX data lists that the 3D animation get mapped into. All layers of the cloud can be used with a singular animation sequence or each can be programmed separately as distinct layers.
Memory Cloud installation is well underway at TAMU MSC. We offloaded Monday morning, assembled and test lifted by noon and had the raceway system installed by the end of the day. TyART did the heavy lifting with us.
Last progress images this year before a break. Canopy fully assembled and tested at Campo Sheet Metal on Telephone Rd. More to come in 2013.
The monuments to the first men in space were dedicated today. Mayor Annise Parker officiated with members of the Russian community present as well as visitors from the RF. Notable attendees were Charles Bolden, the current Administor of NASA as well as Yuri Gagarin, the grandson of the cosmonaut.
Two pioneers in human space flight, Yuri A. Gagarin and John Glenn are memorialized in contrasting media, a perforated stainless steel halftone image of John Glenn rendered as a contrast to a bronze of Yuri Gagarin donated by the Russian consulate. Metalab, working with Architect Ron Witte and Artist Randy Twaddle developed a custom algorithm to render John Glenn’s iconic image aboard the Mercury Capsule by perforating the shape of the capsule in a staggered pattern with varying sizes to render light and dark tones. The image panels are delicately suspended on thin standoff rods connected to a powder coated steel frame. Each figure stands on a shallow plinth edged in cor-ten steel, in an historic dialogue on the site of NASA’s first manned space flight headquarters, now occupied as the Houston Parks and Recreation headquarters.
We've been asked by Houston Arts Alliance to provide architectural and fabrication consultation services as well as construction management on a project that lies at the crossroads of the history of the space program in Houston and beyond. A bronze statue of Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, has been gifted to the City of Houston by a Russian donor. A matching monument to the first US astronaut in space, John Glenn, has been produced through a collaboration between Ron Whitte, Randy Twaddle and Metalab. Based upon an image of Glenn in his capsule during his historic journey, an algorithm produced a gradient perforation pattern made up of tiny Mercury capsules. The 8' x16' panel accompanies the bronze statue and is sited at the COH Parks Department headquarters which used to be the US space agencies main offices in Houston before the JSC was built and NASA was formed.
We've installed the latest project for Matthew Geller in Albuquerque, NM called "The Huddle". It is a small stainless steel pavilion canopy held up by three columns with tactile surfaces created by Haden Garrett here in Houston who led the assembly fabrication. It in the front entry to the New Mexico School for the Blind and Visual Impaired. The design features a public swing with handicap accessible seating. Metalab provided architectural design, digital fabrication and construction management on the work. The installation was finished in an hour!
We were invited to be panelists at the Public Art Network pre-conference to the Americans for the Arts convention in San Antonio. Our panel was titled Ops and Apps: The Art of Technology and was moderated by Martha Peters, Public Art Vice President of the Arts Council Ft. Worth. The event was held at the Pearl complex and we convened in the historic Stable hall.
Our first collaboration with Jim Isermann has gone well and is being installed in a courtyard at Ohio State University. We worked with Deep South Plastics, the same roto-mold fabricator we worked with on PV-POD. Jim's work is a fascinating combination of repeating geometric patterns, intense use of color and inventive architectural products.
We have moved to 1824 Spring St., Suite 220. Our new conference room is the new home for the Ceiling Cloud
TOLERANCE Jaume Plensa’s TOLERANCE is a set of seven stainless steel human figures, each kneeling atop a boulder placed along the banks of Buffalo Bayou just outside of downtown Houston. All of the figures are taken from the same model, but each is composed of a distinct set of characters taken from a mix of languages including Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Greek, Latin, Hindi and Cyrillic. At night, the figures glow from within, creating a “constellation of beacons.” Metalab, working on behalf of the Houston Arts Alliance, provided construction management and installation services, and fabrication of a custom foundation system that allowed for rapid placement of the sculptures on site.
WOOZY BLOSSOM Woozy Blossom (Platanus nebulosus) by Matthew Geller, Artist commissioned for Katonah Museum of Art. This sixteen-foot-high perforated steel tree produces a continuous fog, inviting visitors to be engulfed in its mist and revel in its cool, moist air. The fog is in a constant state of flux, sensitive to the slightest changes in wind, temperature, and humidity. Simultaneously eerie, unexpected, and playful, Woozy Blossom transforms the Katonah Museum of Art Sculpture Garden into an ever-changing, otherworldly environment. Metalab contributed digital parametric design and fabrication. The project was built as a kit of parts that can be disassembled, packaged and shipped to its location. Installation took one day.
CLOUD CODE “Cloud Code” in the City of Houston Permitting Center is a conduit and real-time display of the occupancy, activity, and air quality in the building. The interaction of occupants within the physical space of the public areas is measured and displayed as civic art. A rear-projection display of animated graphics is generated by a network of meshed micro-sensors housed in custom fabricated enclosures. The occupants feed data to processing software that Metalab coded for the project. The activity creates a cloud-like indication of indoor air quality in the first floor public area of the building. In addition to air quality and occupancy, other qualitative aspects of the building such as movement and ambient sound are graphically represented in an abstracted floor plan.
"Cloud Code" in the City of Houston Permitting Center is a conduit and real-time display of the occupancy, activity, and air quality in the building. The interaction of occupants within the physical space of the public areas is measured and displayed as civic art. A rear-projection display of animated graphics is generated by a network of meshed micro-sensors housed in custom fabricated enclosures. The occupants feed data to processing software that Metalab coded for the project. The activity creates a cloud-like indication of indoor air quality in the first floor public area of the building. In addition to air quality and occupancy, other qualitative aspects of the building such as movement and ambient sound are graphically represented in an abstracted floor plan.
Dennis Oppenheim visited the site for the first time since the three Radiant Fountains were erected at IAH airport. The LED lighting arrays are installed and will be connected to their power and data feeds to be animated into fluid showers of multi-colored light. Each tower is 60' tall.
Matthew Geller, Artist, shared these images of the fog emitting tree called Woozy Blossom (Platanus nebulosus) that we designed and built here in Houston. It will be exhibited at Katonah Museum of Art until Oct 2010. "Matthew Geller’s sixteen-foot-high perforated steel tree produces a continuous fog, inviting visitors to be engulfed in its mist and revel in its cool, moist air. The fog is in a constant state of flux, sensitive to the slightest changes in wind, temperature, and humidity. Woozy Blossom is simultaneously eerie, unexpected, and playful, transforming the Sculpture Garden into an ever-changing, other-worldly environment. Woozy Blossom is a project of Creative Capital."
Three 60' towers will soon be rising at Houston IAH under the direction of Dennis Oppenheim Studio, Artist/Fabricators and METALAB, Architecture and Construction Management. The stainless steel pipe assemblies will be animated with LED light arrays that will simulate the flow of water through the structures.
Metalab has designed a tree that will emit fog for Matthew Geller, artist. Designed in parametric software and digitally fabricated, the kit of parts assembles into a 16' tubular structure with perforations for material removal to allow hand forming to exact profiles. The tree will be outfitted with copper tubing and fogging nozzels as "twigs". We'll be trying out the system this Friday and then ship the parts to New York to be exhibited next month at Katonah Museum of Art. Laser CNC by Crow Corp, assembly fabrication by Haden Garrett, sculptor in Houston
NEW HARMONY GROTTO The Grotto for Meditation proposed in 1963 for New Harmony, Indiana commissioned by Mrs. Jane Blaffer Owen was the culmination of the work of the avant-garde architect Frederick Kiesler. Through the UH College of Architecture and the Kiesler Foundation, we engaged in formal research and tectonic resolution of the project employing contemporary digital modeling and fabrication technologies at our College and in our city. Our university has opened the door to the opportunity that our reinterpreted Grotto become a permanent fixture in a Garden dedicated to New Harmony on the campus next to a pond that it is currently under construction. The proposal included a steel trellis based on Kiesler’s Grotto, the original gate and a bridge that curves in plan and section.
TWIN GROVES WIND FARM LOOKOUT The project is a public landscape installed at Horizon Wind Energy’s Twin Groves Wind Farm in central Illinois. The concept of inscribing the outline of a 70 meter wind tower at full scale in the ground was conceived by ttweak renewables, a strategic communications and design company. Metalab digitally models and fabricates the components as a kit-of-parts made in Houston and transported to remote sites via a modified shipping container and assembled with minimal site work and labor. The Lookout is being repeated at Horizon’s other wind farms in Minnesota, Texas and New York.
With accuracy and efficiency the wind tower’s scale and form is realized as a concrete surface with stainless steel edging that will last as long as the life span of the wind farm. The Lookout serves as an information center and viewing platform for Horizon to explain wind energy to the public. Its construction process is uniquely parallel to the manufacturing and assembly of the wind tower that it represents.
OPEN CHANNEL FLOW Open Channel Flow is a sculpture by New York based artist Matthew Geller, that was commissioned by the Houston Arts Alliance as a permanent piece for the City of Houston Art Collection. Turnkey architecture, custom component fabrication, and construction management helped to realize this commission as a kit-of-parts that was assembled on site efficiently with the quality and finish of a manufactured product. Located next to Buffalo Bayou, the structure emerges from the landscape of a Houston Water Production Station to a height of 60’. Inspired by the strange protrusions of plumbing infrastructure, the colossal pipe works features a public outdoor shower activated by a hand pump. A nearby skate park ensures that a steady flow of skaters and passersby will indulge in a refreshing spritz on Houston’s infamously humid afternoons.
All components have been formed and the "tail" section bolts together in 45 minutes.
The full pipework assembly, drain grate with hand pump, bench and landscaping are done Matthew Geller, Metalab and family gather at high noon for a spritz Avery cranks the hand pump Joe takes over to achieve full CFM on Open Channel Flow and Luca looks on with cool delight
Ten hours of crane time over two days was what it took Metalab to assemble the Open Channel Flow sculpture. Three major vertical supports were first placed that set the datum 21' above grade upon which the tripod assembly was placed with the boom crane extended. On a bucket lift we placed the fasteners with relative ease. The accuracy of this maneuver was carefully orchestrated but ultimately was possible through the digital fabrication of a jig that exactly set the bolt pattern in the concrete footings placed in the ground below prior to the delivery of the steel pipe components. View from the bucket lift... A safe landing, skate park and Houston skyline looking on Looking over the shower head... Camera tilt to fit it all in... not the bucket lift Matthew Geller, Artist Some of the crew: MG, Joe, James the Crane and Juan in hardhat. Shower head cantilever extension Open Channel Flow topping out at over 50', that's AV down by the steps
The foundation (3 pier footings) for the Open Channel Flow sculpture have been placed. The assembly shown is the jig that Campo Sheet Metal built to locate the bolt plates on which the pipe work will be installed.
We are working with Matthew Geller, a sculptor from New York City, who has been commissioned by the Houston Arts Alliance to build a civic art piece next to the Buffalo Bayou. The structure will emerge from the landscape next to the Houston Water Works on Sabine St to a height of 60'. Inspired by the strange protrusions of plumbing infrastructure relentlessly painted blue (to "blend in" to the background), he proposed a colossal pipe works that will feature a public outdoor shower activated by a hand pump. A nearby skate park will ensure that a steady flow of skaters and passersby will indulge in a refreshing spritz on Houston's infamously humid afternoons. We're on schedule to install this summer on the hottest day of the year as per Matthew's request.
We are contributing the final chapter to a book about New Harmony, Frederick Kiesler and the Grotto for Meditation. Our essay will be called "New Harmony in Houston" and will discuss the work of our studio at UHCOA with Ben Nicholson that has become a project called the New Harmony Grotto and Garden. The book will be edited by Ben and Michelangelo Sabatino with contributions from Stephen Fox, Monika Pessler of the Kiesler Foundation among others.
"What would you build if it were possible to build anything at all?
That wild question bedevils architecture professors trying to give their students an appropriate challenge. 3-D design software and digital-fabrication equipment mean that the old rules no longer constrain their students. Walls need not be straight. Corners don't need to meet at right angles."
We've been invited to present the Grotto at the upcoming ACADIA Conference in Minneapolis this week. We co-authored the paper with Ben Nicholson our visiting critic for the studio that initiated the project. It will be in the conference juried exhibition as well.
We are working with Buro Happold to analyze the Grotto's structure to determine where we need to be concerned about deformation and torsion in the frame. Some preliminary feedback shows the tendancy to deflect toward the curled side.
"Inspired by nature, University of Houston Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture fifth-year students re-imagined Frederick Kiesler’s Grotto for Meditation, originally commissioned in 1963 by Jane Blaffer Owen as a quiet and relaxing environment in the arts community of New Harmony, Ind." Read the article
"Concrete walkways at Twin Groves Wind Farm's new Lookout visitors center are the same size as a 67-meter (221-foot) turbine tower and a 39-meter (128-foot) blade. The walkways lead to a stationary pair of binoculars that can be used to get an up-close look at nearby turbines."
From Campo Sheet Metal Works' 12'x60' Water jet cutter to the Keeland Building at UHcoA. The parts for our 1/4 actual size model have been received with a ONE DAY turnaround from our friends at Campo. We must label by hand because the water jet can not etch the parts. The part names and bends are determined by interacting and referencing the 3D model in realtime in order to dynamically control accuracy to the virtual Grotto our students modeled in Rhino software.
Our process as culminated to a point that we feel is a definitive interpretation of Kiesler's Grotto adapted to our context here in Houston through the eyes and hands of our talented students using contemporary design tools. Come by on Friday, May 2nd from 5 to 7pm in the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture Atrium for the exhibition opening and see the adjacent proposed site for the project next to College, the new Keeland Building and the University's new Koi Pond.
Rosalia is leading the effort to assemble a complex assembly of parts extracted from the digital models. After days of preparation and negotiating the queue at the laser cutter, the model goes together in ONE DAY!
We are now coordinating the form of the shell, core and groundwork with the structural patterning. The cellular system is derived by points projected along the z-axis onto the surface. This produces regularity in the top while creating elongated cells in the wall area. As the shell approaches the Cartesian plane it lineates into ribs that extend along the surface of the existing slab on the west side and curl under to support the seating core on the east side of the grotto.
Living in Shelters The Future of the Cavern Opening: Thursday, February 28th, 2008, 7.30 pm Mariahilfer Strasse 1b se 1b, 1060 Vienna/Austria Duration: February 29th, 2008 - March 18th, 2008 Opening hours: Mo – Fr: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Do: 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. http://www.kiesler.org/cms/index.php?lang=3&idcat=88
For the first time in an exhibition, the Kiesler-foundation confronts the two models Grotto for Meditation and Endless House. Both concepts are characterized by the artists research for a form, which attempts to satisfy both practical and spiritual human demands, in order to provide men a livable and adequate environment.
Working on a construction (which was close to Philip Johnsons Roofless Church in New Harmony, Indiana) for the successors of Robert Owen (1771-1858), an early socialist and founder of the cooperative system, Kiesler found in 1962 an opportunity to verify his co-realistic theories in the built practise. The design of the Grotto for Meditation refers to the history of the social-reformatory movement of the location, but first of all, it should represent a room of meditation, a universal form beyond all religious denominations.
Similar to the Endless House, Kiesler gets inspired by morphologic formal vocabulary and chooses the motif of a spiral, for the artist a symbol for change and assimilation. The centre of the complex is built in form of a snail. This form combines the centrifugal power, the expansion to the infinity, with the centripetal power, which approaches the individual towards contemplation.
We are exploring the idea of building a contemporary interpretation of the Grotto in Houston next to another Philip Johnson building... the UH College of Architecture. This proposal will take the project from its original spiritual context and reframe it into architectural pedagogy that will provide a place for rest and contemplation on the campus. UH Facilities is serendipitously building a "Meditation Pond" adjacent to an existing slab next to the architecture building. We are in discussion with their landscape team on how we can integrate the project with their efforts using some of Kiesler's earthwork forms. We have been invited to submit our proposal to Campus Planning for their review... Here are some images that describe the larger context of the project within the UH Arts Precinct and the new quad beginning formed with the Grotto as its focal point.
The aerial view shows the Roofless Church at the Northern edge of New Harmony. The group of trees to the east is Paul Tillich Park with its adjacent pond. We are building a scale model of Kiesler's model in its originally proposed context and will present it as a gift to the Blaffer Foundation in New Harmony.
The students made the architectural pilgrimage to New Harmony, Indiana to meet with Ben Nicholson and visit the original site for the Grotto. We listened to Ben read the address Paul Tillich gave at the dedication of the park and proposed project...
"I have seen the model of the new park and the Cave in it. It was sent to me in bronze, a very heavy package, and was immediately powerful in its symbolic character, even in the diminished form of a model. So I look forward to one day when Mrs. Tillich and I might be here again, to see the work as it is finished. In any case, my impression of this place is an impression of something astonishing, surprising, great in itself, in its past, and in its present. And my wish is that it may remain great also in its future."
Across the street is Philip Johnson's Roofless Church also commissioned by Jane Blaffer Owen. Johnson introduced Kiesler to Mrs. Owen which led to the conception of the Grotto. He subsequently told Mrs. Owen that it could not be built and the project was abruptly ended. We had our review in Ben's studio space. The teams were able to see their collective efforts in one space for the first time outside of the Architecture Building in Houston. St. Louis is the closest airport to New Harmony so we had an opportunity to the Saarinen's Arch. Its exquisite stainless steel structural skin was a profound experience for the group as we consider the materiality of the Grotto and its potential for permanence in the Houston climate. The subtle integration of the monument into its landscape pedestal is just as impressive.
A series of studies involving different patterns projected, mapping or generated along a surface. The fact that a patterned surface can perform as a minimal structure opens the possibility to us that Kiesler's Grotto might be constructed using a frame rather than a homogeneous amorphous mass. This moves us toward an assembly of rigid parts instead of an arrested liquid such as concrete.
This series of sketches exemplifies the exploration of Kiesler's spaces through the medium he used consistently throughout his career. The expression of topological space formed by a closely measured presence of the body is one point of departure for our current work.
Kiesler and his various drafting assistants produced several versions of the Grotto in section. An important task is to compare these original studies at a common scale to see what the essential qualities were in development and how they contradict each other.