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Cybernetic Assemblages in Chicago, Illinois by Nikita Troufanov
December 7th, 2012 by Sanjay Gangal
Article source: Nikita Troufanov
The proposed Dance Center explores the idea of superimposition and cybernetic assemblages. By combining and overlaying organic, natural, smooth systems with machine-like, synthetic, rigid ones, a deeper experience of architectural space is achieved. Cyborg as an idea and image has informed much of the process where new nature, transformation and time are central themes. Through exploitation of cyborg vocabulary such as plug-ins, prosthetics, new skins and add-ons an architectural Cyborg is developed.
The 4 dance spaces are conceived as organic chambers or organs, for organic activity of the body. These spaces are connected by a ceremonial staircase of machine character – a prosthetic device much like the retrofitted fire escape stairs on buildings from 19th century. Each dance space / organ is shaped to cater to each unique dance style in terms of size, interior finishes and relationship to the site. The Tribal dance space embraces the primal nature, defined as a primitive cave. It is placed underground and finished with stone and fur. The Flamenco dance space embraces the intimate and vernacular nature of the dance. It is sized as the smallest dance space in terms of both ceiling height and floor area and is clad with natural materials such as wood. The Flamenco dance studio is located on the 2nd floor, cantilevering over the sidewalk and engaging the street via views in and out of the space. The Ballet dance space is seen as a formal, exuberant, large space – a miniature version of a Proscenium Theatre. The space capitalizes on natural light and has many large openings in it’s envelope to fill the space with sunlight. The Modern dance space is conceived as a flexible universal space. It is located at the top and connects to the sky through the large skylights on the roof.
The Dance Center captures and expresses cyborg nature of the surrounding buildings with their mechanical ‘plugins’, escape stair ‘prosthetics’ and curtain wall ‘new skins’ – as a Cyborg in a neighborhood of Cyborgs. The organizational system of the Dance Center borrows the 10’x11’x15’ grid of the directly adjacent ‘Transportation Building’ and expresses it on the east facade, lining up with the units of build of its neighbor. The massing of the building is determined by 2 goals: free up the ground plane and maximize sunlight exposure. Most of the mass is placed at the top of the building, touching the ground lightly at street level. The cantilevered mass is then carved to allow sunlight to penetrate deep under the building. The resulting open space is turned into an urban plaza and outdoor garden for the community. The paving of the plaza is seen as new urban skin which not only covers the plaza but also the blank wall of the neighboring building to south as well as the south facade of the Dance Center.
The structural system is comprised of a series of expressed steel truss buttress columns that tie back through a series of horizontal trusses back to the 2 structural cores. The dance space volumes are framed with steel ribs that are tied into the horizontal trusses. The dance space volumes connect to the buttresses in a cyborg-like fashion through articulated sleeves. Exterior surfaces of the dance volumes are clad with flexible mats of small terra-cotta tile. This cladding system contributes to the haptic experience of the building and is an efficient way to clad complex curved surfaces. The ‘urban skin’ is patchwork of various materials and functions. When it covers the plaza it is made up of stone paving, grass patches and glass (skylights over the underground tribal dance studio). As the skin begins to crawl up the adjacent building to the south, the plain stone paving transitions to stone panels injected with moss spores. As a north-facing wall, always in shade – it makes for a perfect surface for moss growth to bring more greenery to the plaza, covering the blank brick wall. As the skins begins to crawl up the south facing facade of the Dance Center, it transitions from stone to perforated metal panels. The perforated metal skin acts as a rain-screen and sun-screen to enhance the building’s thermal performance.
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