For centuries used as a fundamental form of geometric rationality, and perhaps now used as a reaction to the various types of topological / fluid formal regimes that have emerged globally over the last ten years, Platonic solids remain an originary if often neglected source for contemporary architecture. Squashed Platonics are irregular, mutant forms of the most basic solid forms. They respect for the most part an organization that is axially or radially repetitive in plan while offering sectional deformations that in an economical way, produce a less “knowable” form. A good example of this is the Allianz Arena by Herzog-deMeuron. In plan, the project is a cross between a square and a circle (SQUIRCLE) while its ETFE bubble wrap facade makes the project a super-scale object of industrial design more than architecture. On a much smaller scale, Paul Nelson’s Bubble Lamps come to mind. And in terms of pure geometry, superellipse / oids are an example of how adjusting parameters of curvature can produce a wide variety of primitives.
This project investigated the relationship between graphic design and formal architecture. Utilizing concepts such as high and low contrast, and linear versus painterly, the studio became a thinktank for envisioning the performance of formal architectural composition in a strictly tamed graphical communicable composition. With an emphasis on geometry, structure, and envelope, the studio focused on the design of a center for graphic and industrial design on a specific site in Tokyo, Japan. The outcome of the studio was to be excessively documented buildings including the design of the structural system and envelop details. As a museum dedicated to the work of one of the most respected industrial designer pioneers of the 20th century, the project aims to produce an architectural object with distinct legibility and elegance. As a starting point the studio’s intention called for a design that builds from the principles of graphic and industrial design (“formagraphics”). Ideas of contracts, immediacy, flatness, and clarity are utilized to create the aesthetic and spatial character of the project. The implications of the “stroke” and its ability to index flatness (or anti-flatness) are explored in the contrast and negotiation of the adjacent facades. Contrast in the spatial and visual elements of the exhibition spaces create a unique three-dimensional experience of the graphic world in the heart of the museum.
Beginning with an analysis of meiji era woodblock for understanding of the use of linear and color for direct contrast, the project looks at how during the Meiji, artists were able to develop hierarchies of shape and form that superseded others in a methods of high and low contrast. Of particular inspiration to the project was the idea of the inner and outer world of the picture plane; as explored by the meiji master’s. The Tale of Genji represented in the 17th century was the foundation for this tradition where the clouds both emphasized an exteriority that belong to the viewer and the world without while also suggestive that those clouds were a part of the inner rhetorical world of the painting and simultaneously the barrier. This project sought to find a system to create that “both and” complexity distinction to describe the wrapper as a part of the external urban world but also intrinsically a part of the inner world of the painting.
The design for Tokyo’s Sori Yanagi center herein embraces the rhetorical understanding of a surface as an element that has both a positive and negative side which can only be experience in isolation. The project uses this concept and investigates the continuousness of that single surface in its description of the entire museum. The project unfolds by separating program between two sides, of public and private, and reveals the duality of the system through a series of singularities within the project. One of the greater challenges of the single surface project becomes the stair geometry and vertical circulation. In lieu of allowing for another floating element within the smooth geometry of the composition, this project sought to systematically incorporate those vertical functionalities into the formal composition of the experience of the museum.
The museum confronts the vertical punctuations into the surface geometry through the use of the Riemann surface, In mathematics, particularly in complex analysis, a Riemann surface, first studied by and named after Bernhard Riemann, is a one-dimensional complex manifold. Riemann surfaces can be thought of as “deformed versions” of the complex plane: locally near every point they look like patches of the complex plane, but the global topology can be quite different. For example, they can look like a sphere or a torus or a couple of sheets glued together. a minimal surface which has an embedded helicoidal geometry, suitable for stairs within a surface system. This central stair becomes the main access and central spine of the museum, the floors become a descriptor of the public private nature of the program using either the solid tissue geometry on one side versus the more illuminated ribbon glass exteriors of the public program. In addition the stair though depriving the system the right to a full aperture provides it again by the open tread system which allow for light and vivid color to pass through the surface system; viewers of the museums are aware of the other world while not completely being able to attain or reach it.
The project’s facade becomes an interlocking duality between the two worlds. The public world described by the ribbon windows flows around the heavily filletted cloudy floating world of the galleries. The ribbon windows which snake through the galleries vertically to meet the other floors are the areas where the helicoids skip a floor, providing visual connections from one gallery to the gallery two stories below. The interior is described in duo-tone color of CMYK for the public spaces and white for the galleries, this provides both the exterior impression and the section with a vivid contrast that further demarcates the difference between the two sides of the program. The user can enter the system from either side, the public system via the gift shop from the corner entry, and the lobby and museum gallery system from the raised plaza behind the museum. The gallery program is dedicated on the lobby entry, third floor and fifth floor, while the public program of seminar rooms, cafe, and gift shop, are in the lower level, second floor, fourth floor. The two program side co-exist on the upper sixth floor where a singularity allows the user to break the system and journey back into a loop on the other side.
Controlling curvature was a strongly needed exercise for such a project with continually wrapping surface geometry. The project conceived of a few methods that controlled the fillet sectional curvature as well as the planometric curvature. Defined initially by the parking radius for the cars into the subterranean level this curvature is what is used to wrap the outer edges of the building and becomes the vice for allowing the ribbons to draw the eye around the museum object. The fillets in many ways act as a series of trim to guide the eye, inspired by Alexander McQueen’s fashion design, the trim serves as high-contrast end to the formal resolution of the aperture in lieu of a modern clean break, the trim underscores the material and formal transition.
This 3dimensional curvature trimming was developed as a series of grasshopper scripts that could be instantiated on a contnuous unrolled surface allowing for the manipulation of the greater form and the application of the fillet like a piece of fabric trim. Structurally the museum uses an exterior steel member cage system that tracks the forces down and around the entire building. encased in a diagrid within the solid walls the members that pass behind the windows as steel tubes are another graphic method of allowing the eye to track the curvature of the building as the forces do not travel directly downwards but actually around the curvature of the building. This was expressed and developed by unrolling the facade of the building as if a series of endlessly repeating wallpaper wherein the structural pieces were initiated in alignment. The exterior materiality is a composition of reflectivity in the trim of the windows for the public area as well as a white non reflective metal in the gallery program, this provided a high contrast bringing in the exterior environment into the system and allowing for the visual demarcation of the two aspects of the system. The project was chosen for Harvard Graduate School of Design’s annual platform publication and exhibition as an example of exemplary work done in the Formagraphics Studio.