03.03.09 Susanne Zottl's (E)motions of Concrete @ SCI-Arc

Vienna-based architect (and SCI-Arc grad) Susanne Zottl’s installation “A Styrofoam Lover with (E)motions of Concrete” germinated out of the question: Can issues of program and use be resolved via an efficient, formal structure (for example, the wall)? It’s not a new question, in fact, its one of the oldest in Architecture. But Zottl tackles her proposition with a fresh and unpretentious vigor and Zottl takes the piece one step further too, interrogating the issue of energy efficiency. It’s a good time to consider the “green” consequences of the problematic program-meets-form concern.

Styrofoam Lover’s tectonics and materiality are based on an idea of elasticity that is rarely afforded in energy efficient renovations of existing buildings. So it’s a pragmatic proposition too. The load-bearing walls derive their shape from membrane-lined casting moulds (also on display, thankfully). The casting medium combines a boring old concrete pour with millions and millions of little styrofoam balls (boring too in their life as banal packing), but together the concrete and foam achieve a simple yet innovative peanut butter-in-my-chocolate moment. The walls are now both load-bearing and thermally insulated.

But back to the issue of program. These concrete/styrofoam walls are populated with punctures and undulating projections into the gallery space. One can imagine that these manipulations in the form might accommodate a seat, a shelf, a closet or threshold. But that’s about all the piece really offers on the issue of program, coming up short on the promise of a transformative program-to-formal resolution. On the other hand, SCI-Arc students helped with the design, fabrication of casting materials and installation, and that reminds us that SCI-Arc – despite the tangled cyborg buildings represented in Maya-generated 3D renderings that cover the walls there – is still the best place for students to get their hands dirty in real material and construction experimentation.

Exhibit ends March 8

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