16 hrs, a dead winch, chain hoist and a bent pully later...
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
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.
The students have completed the Formal Research & Documentation phase of the project. PDF files can be downloaded and viewed: www.snapdrive.net username: studiokiesler password: grotto
On January 26th, during Ben Nicholson's first visit to Houston, we had the opportunity of meet and interview Mrs. Owen about Kiesler's Grotto and related subjects. She spoke at length about the circumstances surrounding the commissioning of the project, its demise and our renewed interest in this important work by a visionary architect. She described the influence of Paul Tillich on the genesis of the project: The Cave of the New Being. We will all travel in a month to visit the utopian town of New Harmony. We'll tour the original proposed site for the Grotto, the adjacent Roofless Church by Philip Johnson and walk the town with Ben.