Bennett Oh @ University of Waterloo [Professor John McMinn]
Maelstrom is conceived as a crossbreed between architecture and urban planning. Embracing the intersection of various systems, demographics, programs, and activities, the building simply manifests the complex nature and needs of urban living condition. Formed like as amalgamation of buildings, project results in an internal microcosms which constellates in chain reactions of unexpected events and situations.
To further this concept, means of vertical movement has been varied. In order to avoid the mistakes in the planning – “The fact that city blocks serve no purpose other than as space to pass is the eponymous character of urban corridor.” Programs and activities are exposed and closely juxtaposed to weave intricate network of public spaces that every journey between levels becomes a spectacle on its own. This act of extreme juxtaposition of abjects can take mundane ingredients found in the context of liberty village and elevate them to the state of fantastic.
Each program block size for its optimal floor plate, ceiling height, and facade that expresses its nature and purpose. Public spaces enclosed within these blocks of program blocks become urban living rooms with living wallpapers. These rooms are scaled in between urban and architecture, enabling a new public strata for interaction and meeting for visitors and inhabitants alike.
Structure adheres closely to the main concept of amalgamation of low to mid rise building comprising a fantastic mixed-use high rise. Goal was to emulate the hectic urban experience while keeping hierarchy of program and visitor navigation intuitive and clear.
The structural concept for the building has been considered and developed to best achieve the architectural vision for the project, balancing between the ease of construction and cost.
A steel frame system is implemented to expedite the construction and prefabricated open web steel joists are used to allow a potential complex structural arrangement to be realized efficiently. Deep foundation is used to counter the vertical cantilever due to the height of the building.
The overarching structural scheme is collection of structurally autonomous blocks skewered by common cores and columns that are strategically braced by horizontal program blocks. These blocks span between multiple cores and braced with exposed mega trusses.
Who influences you graphically?
My past employment experience has had great influence over my drawings, each office profoundly shaping rather specific kinds of drawing. In terms of conceptualizing and communicating projects, I have picked up blunt, clear and expressive diagrammatic approach used by companies along the lineage of OMA. Standard orthographic drawing style was a product of developing firm standard presentation graphics at Revery Architectsh. As for rendering, I had hope to mimic Scandinavian sentiments. MIR’s atmospheric and elemental renders have given me the leads in perspective renders. In my brief career, I’ve learned to view each drawing as a work of art or a painting.
How important was the foam model in developing the project?
It is difficult to undermine foam model in my design process. Aside from their advantage of effortless sizing and reassembly, foam models effectively give volumetric prototypes that cannot be mimicked on a computer screen. Maelstrom in particular is a very compositional project. Numerous iterative models were generated in various scale and decisions were mostly intuitive. Speed and effectiveness of foam model was a key leverage in tuning the overall gesture of this piece.
What prompted the use of the LEGO as a means to explore the programmatic distribution?
I’m always on the look out for trying alternative forms of designing. I am a firm believer that tools have subliminal impact on the process and (inevitably) the result. I realized use of LEGO is somewhat ironic in a sense that LEGO has inspired generations of architects in their childhood, yet in academia we deem it childish and primitive. There is so much we can learn from LEGO, namely modularity and programming. I can rave about LEGO all day. (chuckles) Returning to project, Maelstrom is designed as an assembly of autonomous program blocks. These building blocks were important not only as a design tool but also as a means of communicating the distribution of color-code programs that comprise the building.
What case studies and contemporary structures inspired and influenced the project? (the interlace?)
Interlace and Axel Springer Campus were more of the structural and aesthetical influences. However, I would say Hep Five in Osaka and ‘Made in Tokyo’ by Atelier Bowow has given me more confidence in my allegations. A hybrid of belt truss structures commonly found in highrise structure and suspension steel frame found in Vancouver’s Cube Apartment provided vital pieces of clues to make this plausible. Last but not least, numerous case studies and examples my professor Terri Boake, a pioneer in defining architecturally exposed structural steel, has shown us were pointer in searching for the right solution. The project was the winner of Excellence Award from Canadian Institute of Steel Construction. I hope it’s evident that considerable time was put into researching and figuring out the structure despite how it may seem at the first glance. (chuckles)
If you had to collapse the project in one image what would this be?
It would be that collage of landmark buildings. It does an excellent job illustrating the architecture not being an icon due to form or structural acrobatics, but gaining a life of is own through the act of assembly that transforms the individual pieces into a fantastic Frankenstein. I had hope to communicate the idea that urban experience could never be achieved by a single building. It is this silent dialogue between architects and civilians through decades and centuries that this project strives to embody.
How did your lack of site influences and effect the project?
The act of detachment was a conscious and deliberate step in order to conjure a somewhat out-worldly phenomenon. Maelstrom’s special site condition has allowed excellent experiential narrative akin of that of amusement park where visitors and residents are severed from their everyday city, and arrive at a place that runs in a different set of logic. In this project, however, residents and visitors engage in regular routines that are rendered unusual through the shaping of their environment. Division in a sense works in both ways: on one hand, it inoculates Maelstrom from becoming contaminated by mundane urbanity; on the other hand, it quarantines overly optimistic ideologies from entering the established urban environment.
Bennett is an architecture student at the University of Waterloo currently enrolled in his fourth year of his study. His past experience includes internships at OMA, Revery Architects, and 3XN. He enjoys participating in competitive projects, and is always looking for opportunities to make everyday a little more interesting.