RELEVANT SKETCHBOOK PAGES
Before we were let anywhere near the quantities of chipboard required for our final projects, the brief for which was to create a cliffside habitable space, for a person of a given profession, based off our bas-reliefs, we made maquettes. The box shape is meant to suggest a section of the cliff face, which extends indefinitely to
To get an initial sense of what I wanted to do, I combined photographs with chipboard structures. The
hope I had was that I would be able to recreate the rhythm of the bas-relief, with its fragmentation, on the cliff face. What made this difficult was that the sheer complexity of my model required that I first break it into manageable features that could then be rearranged to create a habitable space, with places to walk, lounge, and move from level to level.
Since my "client" was a geologist, my initial thought was to build something along the lines of a geode. I could use aspects of my bas-relief, like the fans, to create a crystalline structure, which would then be encased in a protective shell of rock. This would simultaneously integrate the structure with the cliff, a nod to the inhabitant's profession and to the site.
That is when I made my first, and crucial mistake. I began building with an eye for aesthetic, and forgot about system, and what came
out might have been pretty, but in hindsight didn't read effectively. On the one hand, certain compositional elements greatly appealed to me. The rock wall folds out in a series of triangular facades, which create a visual union between the interior and exterior of the building. On the other hand, the way I was working with the chipboard, when applied to stone, would have been unnatural, having largely relied on tension
and suspension, rather than utilising the compression forces that stone is strongest in. Furthermore, the structure lacked a clear progression of spaces.
In my second model, right, I attempted to ratify some of these issues by centring the construction around a series of grooves cut into the cliff. These would work as a means of transition from the base to the top of the cliff, allowing excavation of spaces at the bottom as well. Here, the fans could be reinterpreted as steps cut into the rock. I also made them the main structural component, paying less attention to the geode concept. Still, I was conceptually too removed from the bas-relief, and the model struck me as overly simplistic.
I made the final model, left, in my spare time over the weekend. I felt that there was unrealised potential in the previous attempts, and attempted to take their best features and combine them, paying particular attention to retaining a human scale.
Though the underlying structure was satisfactory, bringing in a second material undermined and confused the underlying system.
The Final Maquette. In recognition that sometimes the best things cannot be taken at face value.
Our last chance was given in the form of a day of extension, and I committed myself to returning back to where I'd started, the bas-relief that I had abandoned in favour of more fantastic goals. So, I began to wrap its chipboard structure around the cliff. To represent the complexity of the source material, I built the structure modularly, including several fine craft details and omitting the fan structures entirely. The details could be interpreted as walls, but a problem which increasingly bothered me as I worked, was where the inhabitable spaces were, amidst this assemblage of construction and forms.
Late that night, I turned it around, and took a picture... and found the answer. What I wanted was right there.
My guideline for building the final piece was "Keep It Simple, Stupid". First, I picked the best parts from my bas-relief and blew them up to a macroscopic scale, so that I would not get caught up in the details. Those could be added back later. Further, I sketched out my design so that I would have a clear pattern to follow. The key construction method came from that nighttime realisation: the volumetric and excavated parts of the model are the exact same, just reversed. Hence, I could create two completely
different structures using the same time-effective method.
One of the central features was the line of action down to the base, which I excavated using the aforementioned method rather than by building fans. The fractal shapes throughout also recalled the crystalline concept of my earlier models, retaining the connection to the client's profession.
Once I had completed the primary system, I began considering secondary and tertiary system. As I did not want these to distract from the base, as in previous attempts, I used different materials. In real life, the grey chipboard could perhaps be reinterpreted as coloured glass, reinforcing the fragmented shapes below. The use of sticks differs significantly from that in my maquette as they serve a distinct purpose, rather than being integrated into the primary system, and thus enhance rather than detract from the overall structure.