Students started the design process in an abstract way, knowing nothing of the program, the intended project, or the intended function. The design was done in a series of steps, that could either be translated literally into the design or used as a learning process. The first of these steps was a figure ground drawing that was done using a tartan grid. Figure ground in itself refers to a visual phenomenon that occurs when there is an ambiguity as to what is in the foreground and what is in the background. We tend to have a visual bias towards the figure, so by making the figure interchangeable with the background students were forced to consider both. This consideration was carried throughout all the steps as the students moved to the final problem set, a Marine Mammal Care Center. The center has two occupants, the humans and mammals, whose needs must be met without comprising the other. A balance between two goals that must be both considered.
From the figure ground drawing students were asked to create a site with water and land using only the method of cut and fill. Cut and fill refers to the displacement of land, cutting the same amount of earth that you fill so none has to be removed or brought to the site. Using sustainability as a driver in design rather than a hindrance, students were asked to shade the site they created using perforated panels provided to them. The panels acted as a passive sustainable system to shade the water as well as an architectural element. Students then had to balance the sustainable aspects of the project as well as their intended design.
For the final problem set, each student presented their concept for the Marine Mammal Care Center to a panel of professors, who each teach a section in the studio. Debate of how the elements of the project: the shading structure, the building, and the site, relate to each other was one of discussions during midterm reviews. Questions on how the project related to the larger site around it and the Bolsa Chica environment were further raised
As an architect or designer, a balance between goals is essentially always the problem set (e.g. concept vs function). How does one fully accomplish both without compromising the other in the development of architecture? The students working on their rehabilitation centers attempt to address this balance in different and interesting ways. Students continue to grapple with their projects moving into the final weeks as they finalize their design.
Guest Author: Matthew Danna is currently a second year architecture student attending California Polytechnic University, Pomona from Santa Cruz, California.