Raphael de la Fontaine
The Liquid Threshold Between Order and Chaos
This seminar explores the design of complex three-dimensional structural systems. Through discussions on existing projects, including some of the instructors’ own, and also modeling and testing new systems to destruction, both physically and digitally (using tools such as Karamba 3D), the seminar intends to foster a deeper intuitive understanding of structures. At what point do you know a structure is at its limit?
New Haven Basilica
Nomination, H.I. Feldman Prize
The original mission of the Catholic Church, from its Greek word catholicus, universal, was to negotiate and unite the dispersed Christian cultures. The church’s original agenda was to capture and manipulate existing public space in order to assert its place within the community. This operation linked the notion of the sacred with the notion of space. The Roman Basilica, a recognizable public building, transformed into the symbolizing archetype for the Catholic Church-- a sacred space with clearly defined directionality and movement. The critique of the church in this project is represented through a reversal of this process. The mat building surrounding the sacred spaces, recaptures the church and by that reveals the interdependency between the church and the public.
The Catholic Church has always dealt with the crisis of representing the ineffable and the project seeks to answer how this is pertinent within today’s urban paradigm. The project’s site, located between two incompatible rationalities, acts as what Marc Auge defines as a Non-Place, a space with an unattainable narrative. Thus, the site becomes perfect ground for the project that seeks for the ineffable. The site is located between two clear structures of reason, the dominant New Haven nine-square grid based on ideal planning proportions of Solomon's temple and the peripheral non-linear grid of Wooster square driven by its contextual boundaries. As the site has not revealed an attitude towards which neighborhood it belongs, it is located in a space of ambivalence. Due to that fact, the site becomes fertile ground for a homogeneous mat building type which is inherently self-driven with an internal organization and growth structure spreading outwards towards the site limits.
Sacred space is produced via an interruption of this rational homogeneity. The symbolism of the church has traditionally been achieved using an unpredictable/figural mass and juxtaposing it to an otherwise homogenous and predictable context, I.E the displaced church/plaza as an interruption of regular space. Our reinterpretation of the church is achieved through a similar process. The introduction of irrational heterogeneous space (the church) as an interruption to the highly rational mat building typology (the apartment building). The mat buildings offers homogeny and the possibility of continuity while reserving clear structure and reason. Through the juxtaposition of regular against irregular, the intuitive against the rational, the project negotiates the idealistic notion of democracy as seen with a non-hierarchical building type and the ideological notion of sacrality associated with intuition and the irrational.
PIT - Public Infrastructure Terminal
The public infrastructure terminal (PIT) acts as a public foundation, supporting and negotiating two thousand new residential units in Central Square. The PIT borrows principles from the success of Boston’s great streets and vast landfill projects of the 19th Century. Utilizing the underdeveloped superblock located North of Massachusetts Avenue, the project proposes a 60’ deep excavation, allowing for 8 full stories of residential housing, while maintaining the relatively low elevation of the existing streets. The underground terminal is connected to the existing infrastructure of the T-stop and streets. Moreover, the terminal redefines the public realm by interlacing all degrees of public program including transportation, parking, shopping, recreational park and residential lobbies. The hybridized program creates a new active park-scape that mediates between public and private areas. An integrated cultural performance venue is activates the site at night. Situated at the end of Main Street, it creates a more definitive square that is visually connected with the urban fabric across the Charles River.
Computation and Fabrication
The parabolic sunshade creates focused multidirectional lighting. The 2” deep surface follows evenly the geometry of the back to back parabolas. The consistently distributed holes along the surface have various sizes. The size of the holes is determined by their sectional location. The further the hole is towards the concave part of the surface, the smaller the diameter of the hole. Additionally, the directions of the holes remain always perpendicular to the surface at their location. To accentuate the directionality, perpendicular hollow “plugs” with different sized openings are extruded from the holes.
The surface was initially modeled in 3D Rhino. Thereafter a Grasshopper parametric script was developed to produce the holes consistent with the rule set. For the fabrication process, a 3-axis CNC mill was programmed with various sized drill bits, utilizing the “flip milling” technique to accomplish the consistent thickness. Finally, the plugs where swept in Rhino from the geometry of the holes, derived from the earlier parametric script. Once modeled, the plugs were 3D printed in the plaster printer and finally glued on to the surface of the foam.