Specular Associations_Rendering Through Shades and Shadows

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Specular Associations_Rendering Through Shades and Shadows

Sierra Helvey_Southern California institute of Architecture, M. Arch1



The project examines the properties of transparent material in order to consider the indexical logic within the basis of irregular geometry.

A recreation center for visiting scientists, the building is set on the site of the Kitt Peak Observatory in the Arizona Mountains. Focusing on the way transparent objects deny themselves of formal articulation in order to provide a more clear depiction of what is seen behind they trade transparency for formal pronunciation. This phenomena parallels the nature of indexical form itself in that both transparent materials and indexical form create a specific relationship between what is seen, and what is unseen.


Who influences you graphically?

For the project Specular Associations I was interested in 1970s-style representation of the future.  Specifically, I was looking at various dated scientific images and astronomical maps.I was attracted to Superastudio’s collaged realities,  the contemplation of the finite and the infinite in Hiroshi Sugimoto, Different Oceans, Same Portraiture photographic series, and  Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s use of land in creating indexical form. (I tend to have periodic obsessions with different aesthetics, though I’m sure there are common threads in my attractions.)


What is the effect and purpose of monochromatic images with relation to the materiality of the proposal?

Shade and shadow are the primary tools used to render form in imagery. The monochromatic pallet allows me to focus on how light interacts with the project to define an atmospheric drama in relation to material.

You juxtapose rendered images with line drawings (i.e. for background texture), how do the two complement each other?

The combination of the technical rhetoric of line work and the volumetric space of renders creates an interactive relationship between the two drawing types.  Consequently a visual flatness occurs where the seams of each style or is exposed.  As a result, the collaged image holds an element of mystery. In bringing together languages of drawing, the work becomes visually layered. Through miscommunication intrigue is created.

The image specular associations, is very poetic and in a certain sense transcends scale. What is the purpose of the geocentric lines offset from the moon?

In this elevation of the site I wanted to show the relationship between the spheres of the telescope’s structures and the geometry of constellations.  Like children looking up to their mother, the geocentric lines create a focus on earth’s nearest astronomical mass, the moon. The lines also allude to a measuring system, though unlike a grid, one that radiates from a central point like vibrations, or sound waves.  The gaze and quantification of space are fundamental to how a telescope operates. Thus the drawing ties between the telescope (man’s convention for looking into space) and space itself.  The geocentric lines allude to how this technically occurs by seeing through distance..

Photorealistic renders work well when ‘accidents’ happens and certain properties of the proposal and or material are revealed to produce some very textural images. How could the incorporation of these have helped you in exploring the atmosphere of your buildings?

The ‘accident” or undetermined detail which occurs in photo realistic renderings is a kind of computational texture which draws parallels to the grain of real life that are difficult to capture or draw.  Incorporating this gives life to a drawing in the way that anything that is noticeably incomplete gives space for the unconscious mind to complete.  One could think of it as the lack of control that gives a drawing ‘room to breath’.

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Sierra Helvey was born in Los Angeles. She holds a Bachelors in both Fine Art and Architecture from U.C. Berkeley where she graduated with honors, and a Masters in Architecture with Distinction from the Southern California institute of Architecture. Sierra has worked as a fine artist and muralist collaborating a with a number of designers internationally. She is dedicated to the creation of ideas inspired by the phenomenological possibilities of materials and space; and believes at this level the body acts as a unique tool of translation, propelling experiences into design decisions.


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