Noah Medlinsky, Shuxin Wu @ University of Pennsylvania, PennDesign Graduate Architecture [Second Year M.Arch I Students]
Ecdysis aims to explore a new architectural typology through the creation of a new underground world in Queens, New York. As the city continues to grow vertically, we must seek new possibilities for architectural intervention other than just farther up towards the sky. New spatial experiences and agendas can be explored through this proposed multi-agent system, using semi-autonomous boring machines to create underground spaces with possibilities for theaters, galleries, and even new ecologies. Through the introduction of bio-concrete panels infused with mycelium into the tunneling process, we can create new architectural spaces within new synthetic natures and ecologies cultivated completely underground. This indeterminate subterranean world allows for different types of architectural intervention, combining technologies that are already in place.
Preliminary Spatial Design:
The design of the theater and the subsequent galleries in our proposed design are based off of three main principles, atrium,spine, and then eventually inversion. By looking at a variety of performance spaces based on either a circular or irregular geometry focused on a central point, we were able to extract ways in which a circular space could function as both theater and atrium simultaneously. Through an examination of gallery organization, looking at both the intersection and convergence of space, as well as how those spaces are connected to a greater macro circulation, usually centered on an atrium, we deciphered ways in which both the theater as a central void can act as the main circulatory spine by which to wrap gallery spaces. Through this coupling of architectural motifs, we were able to integrate these spaces through vertical and horizontal circulation, therefore creating transparency and solidity between the two, fusing the arts into a unified and centripetal organization that could promote both growth and further organization through this subterranean conception.
Our material studies focused on the interaction of varying materials, with a myriad of malleability, setting, strength, and solubility, and aimed to catalyze both reactions and rejections through the induction of heat. By testing a plethora of combinations of materials in the form of various objects, we were able to decipher different phenomena that occurred both while setting the materials as well as introducing the catalyst of higher temperatures. We employed different types of wax, such as soy, liquid crystallized, and chemicals that prolong burning of wax. In addition, we also used rubber mixes. To aid in the spread of heat, we employed gauze strips and cotton balls, as well as steel wool. By both setting wax and rubber, and placing it in plaster, mixing plaster with wax and/or rubber, and also creating plaster with only rubber or wax, we were able to extrapolate the exact phenomena of each material and how the mixing and isolation of these products creates specific results that we have realized in a list of self-defined vocabulary.
In addition to these main studies, we studied the use of mycelium as a both a structural material as well as an autonomous agent of growth. Through various studes of growing the mycelium, which is usually ended through the baking process in order to produce a static solid, we were able to observe how the mycelium could create a solid, structural form, while still retaining its livelihood through the retention of its moisture. By allowing the mycelium to continue to grow, we found that different variations such as coloration and hairyness began to occur, a phenomena that is limited to the type of mycelium we were testing and hold varying and interesting potential results in other types of mycelium.
Multi-Agent System for Indeterminate Subterranean Worlds:
Through our material studies, we began to theorize on how material variability and transformation through autonomous growth and agency could be applied to the subterranean proposal that we had conceived of with our theater and gallery spaces. Rather than thinking of the spaces as highly integrated as we had designed before, we began to think of theater, major circulation, and gallery spaces as seperate entities that could coexist through human intervention, but still all have their own agencies that could only coexist with a third-party intervention. Thus, the idea of our domus area, our precast and cast-in-place concrete interstitial realm, and the tunnels created by autonomous boring machines began the distinct realms in which materials could react and interact with their own agencies.
The proposed boring machines, acting autonomously in a network amongst themselves, create new spatial order underground that is created and utilized at a nonhuman scale, but facilitates architectural intervention at a human scale. By infusing the panels of the boring machines with different biomaterials and organic materials with reactive agency, we are able to allow for a constructed space to live and grow past the point of its conception. Therefore, these spaces change with time, temperature, humidity, and inhabitance, becoming spaces of not only autonomy but also life with their own agency based on their individual susceptible conditions. This dynamic creation and growth of a new, synthetic nature, allows for a new understanding of underground space, as well as allows for a whole new architectural language of intervention for what we perceive as the realm of the underground. This conception of incessantly growing subterranean synthetic natures, in tandem with the burnt sensations of the domus aurea around which this underground environment is created to prosper, creates a whole new spectacle the preconceived attractions of the contemporary metropolis, and allows for a totally new development of concepts of architectural intervention.
Who influences you graphically?
My Bachelor of Arts was in Art History, especially with classes in Dutch and Italian, Renaissance and Baroque painting, so there are underlying compositional influences from the likes of Caravaggio, Gentileschi, Pozzo, Rembrandt, Van Ruisdael, Van Eyck, Van Goyen with all my work. However, at the time of creating the project, I was heavily influenced by my Instagram feed, especially by the likes of @matteomaurostudio, @beeplecrap, @empire_of_the_future the art curation of @sophiegunnol, the photography of @photocriticgalery, and of course accounts like your platform that showcase the talents of my peers worldwide. The aforementioned accounts played heavily into the creation of the aesthetic in the renderings. In addition, Shuxin drew influences from the work of Jean-Jacque Lequeu.
What references did you look to when articulating the proposal?
When we were given the prompt based around a theater and galleries, we came to a conclusion that we wanted to head down into the earth, rather than up. Essentially, we wanted to challenge the verticality that is assumed for large structures in New York. This stipulated that we look at precedents and references pertaining to subterranean organization and excavation, and organizational principles pertaining to intersecting spaces connected by large pedestrian arteries. This moved us towards precedents such as the Domus Aurea in Rome, Igualada Cemetery in Barcelona, the Church of Rock in Helsinki, the Guggenheim in New York, and the Trapholt Museum in Kolding. In addition to these architectural precedents, we studied extensively the technologies surrounding excavation, especially that of the boring machines, with an aim towards creating human and non-human spaces through the use of the machines and technologies.
In what space did the project develop- sketch, 3d or 2d?
This project preliminarily started as a 2d drawings to ensure it passes basic architectural requirements set forth by architectural laws and regulations, then went into 3d both as physical modeling with unusual materials and digital modeling with Rhino, Maya and ZBrush, experimenting with how different affects, both spatially and aesthetically, could be realized in a hyperreal representation.
How important are the technical detailed scaled drawings in the level of resolution of the project?
When exploring an idea as radical and unknown as autonomous boring machines creating non-human spaces for human architectural intervention, it’s really important to show that a basic architectural knowledge is at the foundation of these speculations. Thus, scaled drawings showing details at the smallest of levels, as well as spatial considerations at the largest level, show that this hypothesis is not just purely an imaginative venture, but one grounded in a realism and actual feasibility.
To what extent could the project have been solely articulated through the section?
Since the project maintains a vertical organization, focused around the node of the theater, this project can obviously be most read purely through its section. However, we believe that the plan plays a big role in understanding the auxiliary spaces of the galleries in the boring machine tunnels, because something like this really cannot be understood through simply section. These spaces I believe become more freeform in the x, y, and z axis, so they must be shown through at least two of those realms.
How important was the model as method of representation? Where does it sit in comparison to the drawings?
The model was very important in the development of an aesthetic that would fit the aspirations that we had for the project. When you try to supersede the traditional materials in favor of newer ones, you really have to show a tactile understanding of your new ideas, not simply to show that you have created a fully realized great new material, but to show that you have considered the actual limitations for the aesthetic potential of the proposed materials. Therefore, the model encapsulated those aesthetic and material explorations in essentially a recreation of the section. However, the model is also not considered completely considered a direct correlation of the project itself, but through the philosophy of the studio, should be created as a beautiful and strange object on its own.