| Authors:Noah Medlinsky, Shuxin Wu
| Tutor: Simon Kim
| University of Pennsylvania, PennDesign Graduate Architecture
Ecdysis aims to explore a new architectural typology through the creation of a new underground world in Queens, New York. As the city continues to grow vertically, we must seek new possibilities for architectural intervention other than just farther up towards the sky. New spatial experiences and agendas can be explored through this proposed multi-agent system, using semi-autonomous boring machines to create underground spaces with possibilities for theaters, galleries, and even new ecologies. Through the introduction of bio-concrete panels infused with mycelium into the tunneling process, we can create new architectural spaces within new synthetic natures and ecologies cultivated completely underground. This indeterminate subterranean world allows for different types of architectural intervention, combining technologies that are already in place.
Preliminary Spatial Design:
The design of the theater and the subsequent galleries in our proposed design are based off of three main principles, atrium, spine, and then eventually inversion. By looking at a variety of performance spaces based on either a circular or irregular geometry focused on a central point, we were able to extract ways in which a circular space could function as both theater and atrium simultaneously. Through an examination of gallery organization, looking at both the intersection and convergence of space, as well as how those spaces are connected to a greater macro circulation, usually centered on an atrium, we deciphered ways in which both the theater as a central void can act as the main circulatory spine by which to wrap gallery spaces. Through this coupling of architectural motifs, we were able to integrate these spaces through vertical and horizontal circulation, therefore creating transparency and solidity between the two, fusing the arts into a unified and centripetal organization that could promote both growth and further organization through this subterranean conception.
Our material studies focused on the interaction of varying materials, with a myriad of malleability, setting, strength, and solubility, and aimed to catalyze both reactions and rejections through the induction of heat. By testing a plethora of combinations of materials in the form of various objects, we were able to decipher different phenomena that occurred both while setting the materials as well as introducing the catalyst of higher temperatures. We employed different types of wax, such as soy, liquid crystallized, and chemicals that prolong burning of wax. In addition, we also used rubber mixes. To aid in the spread of heat, we employed gauze strips and cotton balls, as well as steel wool. By both setting wax and rubber, and placing it in plaster, mixing plaster with wax and/or rubber, and also creating plaster with only rubber or wax, we were able to extrapolate the exact phenomena of each material and how the mixing and isolation of these products creates specific results that we have realized in a list of self-defined vocabulary.
In addition to these main studies, we studied the use of mycelium as a both a structural material as well as an autonomous agent of growth. Through various studes of growing the mycelium, which is usually ended through the baking process in order to produce a static solid, we were able to observe how the mycelium could create a solid, structural form, while still retaining its livelihood through the retention of its moisture. By allowing the mycelium to continue to grow, we found that different variations such as coloration and hairyness began to occur, a phenomena that is limited to the type of mycelium we were testing and hold varying and interesting potential results in other types of mycelium.
Multi-Agent System for Indeterminate Subterranean Worlds:
Through our material studies, we began to theorize on how material variability and transformation through autonomous growth and agency could be applied to the subterranean proposal that we had conceived of with our theater and gallery spaces. Rather than thinking of the spaces as highly integrated as we had designed before, we began to think of theater, major circulation, and gallery spaces as separate entities that could coexist through human intervention, but still all have their own agencies that could only coexist with a third-party intervention. Thus, the idea of our domus area, our precast and cast-in-place concrete interstitial realm, and the tunnels created by autonomous boring machines began the distinct realms in which materials could react and interact with their own agencies.
The proposed boring machines, acting autonomously in a network amongst themselves, create new spatial order underground that is created and utilized at a nonhuman scale, but facilitates architectural intervention at a human scale. By infusing the panels of the boring machines with different biomaterials and organic materials with reactive agency, we are able to allow for a constructed space to live and grow past the point of its conception. Therefore, these spaces change with time, temperature, humidity, and inhabitance, becoming spaces of not only autonomy but also life with their own agency based on their individual susceptible conditions. This dynamic creation and growth of a new, synthetic nature, allows for a new understanding of underground space, as well as allows for a whole new architectural language of intervention for what we perceive as the realm of the underground. This conception of incessantly growing subterranean synthetic natures, in tandem with the burnt sensations of the domus area around which this underground environment is created to prosper, creates a whole new spectacle the preconceived attractions of the contemporary metropolis, and allows for a totally new development of concepts of architectural intervention.