I do have one excuse as to why I have been neglecting this blog as of late. For the last month I have been working on a competition with my friend and colleague Dale Suttle. We submitted our entry on Monday and as the deadline has now passed I wanted to share some details about our entry. The competition called for a contemporary reinterpretation of a folly to be built in Socrates Sculpture Park . The main purpose of a folly is to orient and focus one’s attention on important views and paths through a park or garden. Being along the river in Queens, the primary view in Socrates Park is across to the island of Manhattan. The inspiration for our folly came from this distinctive city skyline.

The folly places itself within the pattern of the distant buildings, revealing a direct formal relationship to the skyline. Here the folly appears to be a fractal of the city, a repeated sawtooth pattern overlapping and collapsing in on itself. However, the relationship to the city skyline is not only formal, but systemic as well. The folly was developed using a similar logic to the growth of the city. It is an organic growth within a rigid grid. The patterns of solid and void are an emergent result of this simple organic growth, just as the pattern of the skyline is not explicitly designed, but emerged from the organic way in which the city grew.

The pieces that are placed in the grid are something that I have been interested in for some time. They are pentaminos, similar to the tetraminos seen in the game Tetris, except that they are made up of five congruent blocks instead of four. In fact, Pentaminoes come from an ancient puzzle game which was actually the inspiration for the game Tetris. The challenge of the pentamio puzzle comes from the pentamio’s resistance to being organized into uniform patterns. It is this quality that we use to generate a pattern of solids and voids which reflect those of the city. While doing some research for this project, I was surprised to learn that I am far from the first to connect the pentamino puzzle with patterns of cities. During World War II, a pilot from New Zealand looked down at the old European cities from his plane and was inspired to create his own puzzle game which he called ‘Cathedral’. His game involves placing pentamino and tetramino shaped ‘buildings’ onto a grid to build a city. It is still in production today and is considered a classic. Hopefully our folly will be viewed in a similar light by the competition judges and Dale and I will get the opportunity to explore the pentamio as a building material as well.

Old and New

Well its 2012 now. I managed to go through the whole month of December without updating this site, an unfortunate lapse on my part. However, this update is not the result of some new year’s resolution. I found out yesterday that, in the bustle of the holidays, I missed the news that Anne Tyng had died on the 27th of December. Tyng taught at Penn Design for 30 years and is probably best know for her work with my favorite modernist, Louis Kahn. She retired long before I attended the school, but I do indeed have one connection with her work. As part of my first history and theory course at Penn, I, along with another student, built a interpretive model of a house she designed.

Tyng was fascinated with geometry, and its capacity to define occupiable space. The house we were tasked with interpreting was based upon a triangular tessellation which can be seen both in plan and in elevation. We decided to build a model which demonstrated the projection of this tessellation by transforming from the flat pattern, into a 3D model of the form of the house. The result was very successful and I was quite pleased with it. I don’t have many models that I have built uploaded here yet, and it can be hard to find the appropriate context with which to share a model built for a History and Theory class. So, I can think of no better reason to share it than in memory of the person I learned so much about in order to understand and interpret her work.