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Crunch and Gloss


Exploring extreme surface textural differences as a semiotic tool in architectural massing.

Crunch and Gloss :: Popcorn Formalism

SCI-Arc Vertical Studio :: Fall 2015

Instructor :: Hernan Diaz Alonso

Contemporary architecture’s embrace of animation software as a design tool has opened up a whole new range of communicative logics. Where NURBS modeling, parametric tools, or BIM libraries previously shaped an object-oriented attitude towards architecture, the tools of animation software are less ‘geometric’ than ‘characterful.’ This project test the organizational and communicative capacity of these new tools by abandoning recognizable formal logic and amplifying texture, material, and freeform patterning to a grotesquely exuberant level.

Consider popcorn - an object that has no real shape, no definite silhouette, no digestible form, yet is instantly identifiable through its unique “character”. Popcorn is legible as a discrete object, but resists formal resolution or geometric breakdown. What would a contemporary architecture icon be that operates less in form and geometry, in the “real,” definable object, and more in one’s constantly shifting contact with the characteristics of the “sensual” object?

This project pulls from these qualities to imagine a new kind of iconicity, one that prefaces character, behavior, impression, and quality over absolute form or unique figure. Where contemporary architectural icons tend to rely on silhouette or figuration to to define themselves, this project operates in textural qualities, ambivalent thresholds, material frictions, and ambiguous thresholds -- captive objects whose objecthood is difficult to define, and inner worlds whose thresholds are difficult to mark -- to exert itself as an architectural icon.


Textural Studies :: Popcorn Surfaces

We first studied caramel corn as an object with distinct characteristics and indistinct forms.


Massing Study

These fed into a massing study for an amphitheater-like pavilion, where spaces are defined not by forms but by extreme textural differences.

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