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Taubman College makes big impression

By Amber Lacroix

A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Planning Dean Monica Ponce de Leon, Professor Craig Borum, Assistant Professor Catie Newell, and Lecturers Maciej Kaczynski, Adam Fure and Ellie Abrons present works at ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, which runs through Oct. 9.

Taubman College faculty projects include:

LOOSE FIT: Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning Dean Monica Ponce de Leon creates a walk-through structure & a place to inhabit in collaboration with college Lecturer Maciej Kaczynski. Three 11-foot gracefully tapering skins of multilayered, membrane-like-structures create space that invites guests to move through. The components were digitally designed and cut, but built and assembled by hand. The exhibit is the culmination of over 10 years of work on the impact of digital technology on understanding the craft. Her work, exhibited at New York’s MOMA & Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art, explores the relationship between the precision afforded by digitally guided equipment & the imprecision of manual assembly. Installation collaborators include student project leaders Lauren Bebry, Matt Nickel, and Mark Meier as well as help from other students & faculty. The structure was originally part of an interdisciplinary exhibit at the University of Michigan Museum of Art, exploring the relationship between media & physical bodies. Location: Kendall College of Art & Design, 17 Fountain St. NW, Grand Rapids.

STORM GLASS: Created by Taubman College Professor and Director of the Master of Architecture Program Craig Borum and Julie Simpson, M.Arch.’10, Storm Glass, a nineteenth century weather-predicting instrument, is a sealed glass container with a mixture of distilled water and chemicals, which forecasts weather with various precipitant formations within the glass. Invented by Admiral Robert FitzRoy and used on Darwin’s voyage on the HMS Beagle, these glasses create different crystalline forms that range from general transparency to small flakes to spiraling threads from top to bottom, all of which correspond to variations in local weather conditions. The storm glass operates as a perpetual index of conditions that include fog, thunderstorms, snow, frost, wind, and clear skies. In addition to being an index of the weather, each unique crystalline form has different levels of transparency, ranging from clear in clear conditions to mostly opaque in stormy conditions. Storm Glass attempts to forgo the architect’s obsessive desire for pure transparency. Here glass is used to produce spatial effects through weather. Location: Grand Rapids Art Museum, 101 Monroe Center, Grand Rapids, Mich. A gallery talk about the project will occur Sept. 25, 4:30 p.m., at the museum.

SALVAGED LANDSCAPE: Created by Assistant Professor Catie Newell and framed by the setting and pace of demolition, Salvaged Landscape reappropriates a Detroit house hit by arson to create a translation of the original volume and materials, using intricacy, mass, and intentional darkness. Keying into the opportunities present in its own timeline Salvaged Landscape was constructed with the demolition of the house occurring around it. Leaving the existing stable walls of the house as formwork, the salvage charred wood was configured piece by piece into a new, denser volume that explores thickness, texture, and occupation. The wood was slices on one end to expose and contrast the raw conditions against the depths of the char. With the exposed end on the exterior, the dark bulbous lengths were suspended inward. As an installation it projects new volumes and a constructed inhabitable passageway through wall thickness and throw. The work includes photographs of the process to reveal a larger part of its story. Viewers are permitted to walk through it; the house’s heart. Location: Grand Rapids Art Museum, 101 Monroe Center, Grand Rapids, Mich. A gallery talk about the project will occur Sept. 25, 4:30 p.m., at the museum.

THICK-IT: Created by Lecturers Adam Fure and Ellie Abrons, Thick-It is comprised of a thin structural frame lined with a thick, woody interior. Custom steel panels, equipped with an integrated hanging mechanism, combine to create a thin, yet sturdy, taut shell. Thousands of recycled wood pieces are oriented perpendicular to the structure, hanging from the ceiling and projecting up from the floor. The hanging pieces are fastened in a way that allows a gentle swinging when touched, much like wind chimes. Patterns generated by algorithmic scripting govern the orientation and length of each piece, creating gradual swells of volume that envelop the body. The cave-like interior frames the body above and the unsteady ground destabilizes the occupant from below; one is simultaneously sheltered and unsettled. The participant walks through the middle of the space on an uneven, but navigable path that connects the two entries. The natural textures of the wood and the various marks of its manufactured origins beckon the touch of those who pass through. Location: Grand Rapids Art Museum, 101 Monroe Center, Grand Rapids.

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For more about the projects, display locations:

Amber Lacroix is director of communications at the A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Planning at the University of Michigan.