Arch Students Build a Hive

Arch Students Build a Hive

By Linda Taalman
This semester I had the opportunity to teach the first studio for the new three-year MArch grad program at Woodbury University with Rebecca Rudolph, in coordination with Kelly Bair (who taught the Visualization seminar). Together we compiled a series of projects investigating architecture at a range of scales from the city to the detail. The final project of the semester is a collaborative project with all the students pitching in together to create a single installation at Woodbury’s Hollywood space, recently renamed WUHo, in an exhibition coordinated by Christian Stayner. The show, Super! Show, is on view until mid-January, along with a series of other exhibitions by Woodbury students; an installation by Molly Hunker and Greg Corson; an experimental film series programmed by Vera Brunner-Sung; and a project curated by Stayner and Jayna Zweiman entitled "13.3% is an exasperated reply to those who say: 'there are no women making architecture.'"

Our students, in teams of three and four, were given one week to develop proposals for an installation, the Threshold, that would be programmed as display space for their drawings and models and mediate movement of people and light. The proposals needed to take advantage of the schools new digital fab-lab (laser-cutting and CNC milling shop) and create a temporary space that integrated the program, circulation and lighting through articulation of the surface, specifically using the techniques of cutting and folding. And the installation was required to be made entirely out of corrugated cardboard so that it could be recycled at the end of the show. The winning design, led by students Henry Cheung, Ehson Hoarpisheh, and Austin Wilson, is based on the incredible hive structures created by bees, originating from Wilson’s experience of finding a bee colony under an old couch.

"When thinking of inspiration for the threshold (now called the "hive"), I recalled an event from my early adulthood," says Austin Wilson. "A few years ago my roommate and I needed a place to live, and the only place we could afford was a small house in Canoga Park. The interior wasn't fancy, but it was clean and cozy. The backyard was a different story. Several years of neglect had turned the back into a jungle of weeds. Hidden among the weeds were relics of parties past: tiki torches, propane tanks, and other items left to fend for themselves. Among these relics was an old couch. The previous tenant informed us he did not dare venture into the backyard, because bees surrounded the couch." "My roommate and I, young and reckless as we were, decided to investigate said couch. We angered the bees several times, but were finally able to slowly prop up the couch without disturbing them. We were not prepared for what we saw next. Thousands upon thousands of bees had constructed an enormous bustling bee-city within the confines of the couch. The beehive conformed to its surroundings perfectly, almost as if its waxy structure had been cast in between the underside of the couch and the bare ground beneath. A series of arcing panels constructed of thousands of mini-hexagons provided the structure (and storage of their precious honey). The precision and organization necessary to make a structure like this was astounding. Thousands of little creatures each contributed a small part to create a structure many times their size. Without blueprints or plans, they were able to create a cohesive mega-structure with accuracy and craftsmanship that would be envied by humans." "When given the task of designing an installation in which my entire class would build, I thought of these bees.  All of us, working together, each doing our own small part, could collectively build a structure far beyond the capabilities of individuals. As a group, we were able to construct a cohesive structure that conformed to its surroundings—but remained a flowing, organic structure.  I hope the bees would be proud." The final installation utilized the talents of all the students, each tasked with a specialization and together in the final two weeks they constructed a beautiful space in the south gallery of WUHO that had previously just been a store room and hallway to the bathrooms and parking lot. The students built a digital 3-d model of the project, and then came up with a series of drawings to help translate their vision to the full-scale installation. Each hexagonal component was cut by hand and riveted to the adjacent pieces with metal spacers that can be re-used for future projects. The Threshold/Hive gallery draws one through the space, moving the visitor from a low compressed and dark space to a high open and brighter space. In the daytime natural light is filtered through the honeycomb structure. The hex panels, laser-cut with a changing pattern and coated with gold paint, mirrors the speed of movement through the space and highlights our visual scope. The spiraling structure of the hive opens up to allow sunlight to beam down into the area where the models and drawings are on display. At night the panels are backlit using a combination of incandescent string lights and fluorescent lights that highlight the movement path and illuminate the drawings in the exhibition. Small push lights from a 99-cent store illuminate the models from the competition proposals. The dark space doubles as a small projection space, where a film made by the students screens, showing the fabrication and installation process.  Each cell of the honey comb structure is programmed to respond to needs of the installation, offering structural support; drawing and model display; seating; facilitating the transition at the thresholds; and providing a new spatial experience. It was an incredible way to end the semester and see the entire studio come together on this massive collaborative project, successfully coordinating production, fabrication, infrastructure and installation. For their first foray into the realization of a full-scale project, we thought it was quite impressive.

Threshold / HIVE
WUHo Super! Show
WUHo Gallery / 6518 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90028
A collaborative studio project by Grad Studio 1  / Woodbury University School of Architecture
Grad Chair: Barbara Bestor
Instructors: Kelly Bair, Rebecca Rudolph and Linda Taalman
Design Team: Henry Cheung, Ehson Hoarpisheh, Austin Wilson
Fabrication and Design Specialists:
Documentation and Curating: Julia Amouyal and Gerardo Huerta
Drawing & Cutting Coordinators: Sunny Lam and Aroutioun Grigorian
Detail Development/Construction Coordinators: John Epperly and Israel Castillo
Panel Articulation: Ana Del Longo-Silberstein and Michael Kuroda
Materials Research: Junko Takeshita and Kemi Esho
Lighting Design: Aydin Naghibi
Fabrication and Assembly: Vaagn Grigorian and Martin Garcia
Quantity Surveyor/Material Procurement: Kevin Molin


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