Fantasy – SCI-Arc at Coachella: Elastic Plastic Sponge

SCI-Arc at Coachella 3The title “Rock and Roll Fantasy” might be a little misleading for this SCI-Arc studio project lead by Ball Nogues‘ Benjamin Ball, Gaston Nogues and Andrew Lyon. While the program was 100% rock and roll, the practical lessons learned during this collaborative design-build experience were far from fantastical.

The goal of the studio was to develop an iconic architectural installation for the popular music festival Coachella. The students had to work within the tight constraint of a single semester to design and build a structure using a budget of only $15k.

Ball Nogues’ studio is across the street from the Archinect HQ in downtown Los Angeles, so I was fortunate enough to follow the progress of this endeavor since the conception, prior to the start of the semester. I caught casual stories and occasional development drawings during my lunchtime visits with Benjamin. It kept me very curious and, honestly, a little doubtful that they could pull off such an ambitious undertaking. The result, as you will see, proved me wrong, but the story of the process through which this project took form is what I find most inspiring.

– Paul Petrunia

SCI-Arc at Coachella 1

Elastic Plastic Sponge
The Elastic Plastic Sponge was created by students from the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) led by Benjamin Ball, Gaston Nogues and Andrew Lyon of the Ball-Nogues Studio. The Elastic Plastic Sponge is a large scale installation and can be twisted, arched and curled to form different types of space including a lounge, a theater, or a large sculptural Mobius strip. In the desert heat of Indio, the architectural installation will provide a respite from the sun by making shade and mist while at night, each “cell” within the Elastic Plastic Sponge supports a fluorescent tube–the tubes shift in orientation relative to each other to create the effect of sweeping motion. The motion effect is evident from close-up as well as impactful from across the vast festival grounds–an important asset in an environment of throngs of festival-goers and competing spectacles.

The Elastic Plastic Sponge is a unique structure. In architecture terminology, the phrase that describes a system whose form is derived from its material properties is “form active.” These types of structures are difficult to study using software. They often require architects to explore their designs by testing full-scale mock-ups, and using that empirical information to help inform the process of digital modeling, which is studied in the studio rather than in the field.

The Elastic Plastic Sponge is comprised of 250 cells, each fabricated using custom jigs designed by SCI-Arc students. The cell module is a very effective way of constructing a temporary structure: each can be transported as a flat unit to the Festival and rapidly assembled on site.
From the Festival’s standpoint of an event spanning several days, the Elastic Plastic Sponge can be rapidly reconfigured to create unique spatial arrangements; its flexibility allows the designers to adapt to changing crowd, climate and site conditions. From a pedagogical standpoint, the Elastic Plastic Sponge’s mutability enabled students to examine its unique structure at full scale; working and reworking its shape as they would a digital model.SCI-Arc at Coachella 4

original link by Archinect


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