Bayou-luminescence, one of ten site-specific installations commissioned by the New Orleans chapter of the American Institute of Architects, was a collaboration between Igor Siddiqui, the principal of the Austin-based design practice ISSSStudio and Matt Hutchinson, the principal of San-Francisco-based firm PATH. The project was included as a part of DesCours, the annual architecture and art event on view at various locations in city from December 2 through 11, 2011. More images and architects’ description after the break.
Bayou-luminescence is an architectural installation that fuses material surface, structural volume and lighting effects into an immersive spatial experience. Its title is a play-on-words that refers to bioluminescence, a phenomenon whereby living organisms produce and emit light. Like a strange creature in the night, the installation glows from within, casting intricate shadows onto adjacent architectural surfaces. Temporarily sited at the end of a dark residential alley in the Marigny neighborhood of New Orleans, Bayou-luminescence invited passersby to cross the otherwise accepted boundary between the public sidewalk and the private space beyond, in order to experience its intensely haptic surfaces, both inside and out.
Cast from translucent urethane rubber, and highly differentiated in its pattern geometry, the ornamental synthetic skin is stretched over a curved steel framing system. The resultant lace-like pattern expands the range of opulent surfaces found in the New Orleans region, from the alligator skin and tropical vegetation of its natural landscape to the wrought ironwork and provocative lingerie in the city. Scaled so that it is larger than a single body, but smaller than a conventional room, the self-supporting volume is both a temporary skin for the individual inside and a lantern that through intricate illumination transforms a larger social space. Composed of two conjoined forms – one which embraces viewing from outside and another which is to be walked into – the overall volume suggest that, in morphogenetic terms, it may be a part of a larger, cellular condition, and that it is thus a part of a greater system. Structurally, the volume utilizes the tension between the elastic rubber surface and the rigid metal frame.
Experimental in intent, the project is a result of the collaborators’ mutual interest and ongoing research into opportunities afforded by digital design and fabrication and their impact of analog assembly and material properties in architecture. The outcomes from Bayou-luminescence – namely the results from material tests, fabrication methods, the ever-increasing digital expertise as well as ability to closely fine-tune the produced atmospheric effects – link up to both of the designers’ broader bodies of work, at scales that are both smaller and larger the installation itself. In terms of fabrication, details incorporating self-jigging and self-aligning components make assembly for a fairly complex form a straightforward process. At the scale of products, namely lighting, the designers are currently exploring how small objects of similar nature can have maximum spatial impact as they project intricate pattern geometries far beyond their footprint. At the scale of buildings, on the other hand, the aim is to innovate in the realm of tensile structures, to produce continuous, but highly differentiated custom membranes that respond not only to particular performance external criteria, but also allow for the embedding of multiple interactive technologies within. Integrated connections serve to reduce the number of separate pieces, while keeping a consistent tectonic throughout the piece.