Saturday, December 17, 2011

It Certainly Sounded Intriguing...

"DesCours is an architecture and art event that invites internationally renowned architects and artists to create ten architecture installations within 'hidden' locations in the heart of New Orleans, locations normally unseen, inaccessible or unused by the public."

So, Dick and Karen Allsing and Kate and I signed up for the tour that would cover seven stops between Lee Circle and Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans.

"DesCours is unique in that it provides a platform for experimentation within the architectural field, showcasing architecture installations that use new materials, methods, technology and interactivity."

We met the tour group at the site of the first installation.

"Vector Knot (Casey Hughes and Hiroshi Jacobs, archi-tects)... studies the relationship between dimension-ality and flatness. The installation utilizes the individual and combined potential of each dimension, exploring how lines can suggest surfaces, and how surfaces in turn can suggest volume and enclosure.

"The perception of volume from a series of closely spaced lines is echoed in mathematics. Vector Knot's spaces are composed of doubly ruled surfaces (hyperbolic paraboloids)--which by definition can be described by infinitely tangent lines in two opposing directions.

"Vector Knot specifically studies the 3D spline curves that are created by the bungee connections to the wire guide cable. Conventionally, a spline is a device for drawing complex curves. It consists of a long strip of flexible wood that is fixed at a number of vector knots (weighted points) to hold a smooth curve. The spacing, direction, and force of the bungee connections determines the curvature of the spline guide cable.

Comment: I think the work was probably complex and intricate (with 6,000 feet of black bungee cord), but against a background of orange light and different structures of the room it was difficult to get the full impact of this creative design.

"Hydrofield (Travis Bost, architect) is an effort to make visual,...the interconnected field of hydrology and humanity that is the Mississippi Valley. It presents this otherwise hidden dynamic system through real hydrological data, an altered temporal and spatial condition that makes palpable the movement of water between the cities of New Madrid, MO; Memphis, TN; Helena, AR; Arkansas City, AR; Vicksburg, MS; Natchez, MS; Baton Rouge, LA; and New Orleans, LA as well as the influence of human development on the system.

"As the lights of the field of modules flicker rapidly, the installation begins telling the story of the 2011 flood through the heights of the river gages in each of these cities starting November 1, 2010. Every two seconds, the balloon of each station is raised or lowered based on the level of the river at the given day in history, and the severity of the river's height is reflected in the gradient from blue to red. The flood crescendos in the middle of the year and slowly recedes to its low condition at the last reading on October 31, 2011.... Visitors are invited to proceed through the field of balloons where their presence impacts the function of each module, thus implicating human presence with the worsening flood conditions."

Comment: Maybe it's me, but to depict the flooding that occurred with the opening of the Morganza Spillway near Baton Rouge diverting massive amounts of water into the Atchafalaya Delta, "sacrificing" homes, farms, businesses in the area to save New Orleans through a display of party balloons, seems insensitive.

"Wetlands Immersion (Drew Shawver, Jonathan Marcantel, and Allison Bohl, architects and designers) is designed to bring occupants into direct contact with properties and processes of the Louisiana wetlands. It is a spatial and multi-sensory manifestation of this viscous environment, heightening occupant awareness of the hydrological landscape we inhabit at drastically varying scales. It simultaneously accommodates an active sedimentation filtration system, vivifying the underlying process responsible for the formation of Louisiana's topography by the Mississippi River; an iridescent wall of swamp water and floating aquatic plants, exposing a glowing cross-section of the wetlands' underbelly; and a translucent double-skinned humidity wall, making visually apparent the presence of water in the air.... The overall experience is one of overlapping and contrasting vantages. It is simultaneously up-close and distant, physically engaging and visually compelling, a visceral exposition of perceived landscape phenomena and a diagrammatic representation of the complex processes that shape them.

Comment: Or you could say: "Here are some plants we dug up in the wetlands."

"Bayou-luminescence (Igor Siddiqui and Matt Hutchinson, architects and designers) fuses material surface, structural volume and lighting effects into an immersive spatial experience. Its title is a play-on-words that refers to biolumi-nescence, a phenomenon whereby living organisms produce and emit light. Like a strange creature in the night, the installation glows from within, casting intricate shadows far beyond its envelope.

"Cast from translucent urethane rubber, and highly differentiated in its pattern geometry, the ornamental synthetic skin is stretched over a double-curved steel framing system. The resultant lace-like pattern expands the range of opulent surfaces found in the New Orleans region, from the alligator skin and tropical vegetation of its natural landscape to the wrought ironwork and provocative lingerie in the city.

"...Composed of two conjoined forms...the overall volume suggest that, in morphogenetic terms, it may be a part of a larger, cellular condition...."

Comment: Or, more simiply, isn't it similar to a lampshade?

"Rendez-vous (Scott Berger, Rebecca Miller, and Kevin Muni, architects)is an interactive installation which explores the relationships between spatial planes--ceiling twists into wall, seating, then floor--blending the space into a singular three-dimensional experience. The translucent canopy is made of an aggregate of compo-nents, joined together by an over-lapping of material, similar to a formation of migrating birds. Rendezvous is a place for people to gather, a specific place and time for people to assemble and present themselves."

Comment: I would have liked to enjoy this site longer, but the tour was running late. The artist/ architect seemed to be saying: "Here are some interesting shapes that change their features with changes in color, enjoy your time here."

"We see the night sky as a flat plane punctuated by intense pinpoints of starlight, mostly unaware of the vast distances reach that light has traveled to our own planet.

"Starfield (Jennifer Harmon, Spencer Kroll, Benjamin Thomas, architects and designers) recreates the constellation Draco and presents us with a new view of our night sky, providing a three-dimensional lacework from the stars that cast their light upon us.

"Starfield's triangulated structure creates a unique mesh derived from the relative positions of the stars surrounding the constellation Draco. Each star becomes a point where the structural members meet. By filling the roofless void of a courtyard, the flattened image of the sky is replaced by a new reality."

Comment: I marveled at this work. The design work and the calculations that went in to specifying the relationships between the stars was amazing. However, with the structure hanging so low that viewers could not see the constellation (the stars were represented by white lights) among other stars (the blue lights) and with a spotlight shining in the courtyard, the constellation could not be viewed as it was designed.

This installation did not have a description presented on the webpage. You are invited to write your own.

Some of the works were clever, others beautiful, and others triggered a memory of Hans Christian Andersen's fable about the king and his new clothes.

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