Sunday, December 7, 2008

PATHWAYS, EDGES, BOUNDARIES: phase three: oasis: open critique

The morning of the presentation, I helped set up our installation.  We tried to clear away the messy leaves and straw from the path to better show it and ended up with more stepping stones than we needed!  

I think that the open critique and presentation went well.  Along with my section and plan drawings of a couple of the stones that I made, I was in charge of the Oasis blog with help from Hannah.  I documented our process with photos from each day, each experiment, each failure, each success, and each idea in order to explain our work.  

Our guests walking through the oasis brought up things like considering how much the stones will set in the ground - if we need to actually dig a little to place them down in the ground or to just let them settle themselves.  The question about where the circle and square idea came from.  Most caught onto the squares relating to the parking spaces and building, but some questioned the circles relating to the ventilation tower, the light posts, the trees, and the curves of the islands.  But everyone had something good to say about our design.  They all liked the outlining of the path rather than a literal path, some called it clever.

I though our inside presentation turned out good as well.  The models looked nice, the photos and drawings gave a lot of information, and our oasis leader, Cassandra, did a very good job as a part of the class presentation group.  


While placing our stepping stones on the site, we noticed that we would need to make so many more to create an actual pathway that stretches from one side of the oasis to the next and is wide enough to be a pathway.  So we came up with the idea of outlining a pathway instead of making an actual pathway.  We arranged the stones along one side of the pathway up the the middle, then arranged the rest on the other side of the path the rest of the way, pretty much in the same spots we wanted to place the pillars.  We're considering filling in the actual path with some type of rocks or pebbles.


We continued casting stepping stones until the last workday.  We decided that since the pillars would take at least a month to dry to even be able to test one, we need to focus on finishing the stepping stones for the open critique and to leave the pillars for next semester if we keep them in the design.

While casting, we attempted several different textures.  First, we experimented with the crete myrtle leaves and shavings.  Then we tried to create patterns in the stones that resembled the bark of the Crete Myrtles by cutting out similar shapes from craft foam and gluing them in compositions on the bottoms of the molds.  But this idea didn't work because the foam was too thin.  After a few other attempts at texture, we finally decided that since we had so many pieces to make that we simply couldn't make elaborate molds.  Instead we needed to come up with simple ways to make and mass produce some kind of texture.  I really liked the contrast between  some of the smooth stones (from the plastic desk organizer molds) and the rougher surfaced stones from some of the cardboard molds.  I thought that this related to the contrast between the smooth bark of the trees and the ground-up pine straw/leaves on the oasis. We decided to incorporated this contrast in our development of texture.  We also allowed some of the circle stones to have a wavy texture, similar to the crete myrtle bark and the desert's texture, that we created by trial and error with wet, warped cardboard molds.  I really like our assortment of texture - I think that it not only ties in the textures of the surrounding islands, but it creates yet a greater contrast between our geometric pathway and the organic sense of the rough perlite and wavy cardboard textures.

We eventually produced enough stepping stones of varying sizes of rectangles and circles.  


Keeping the patterned pathway of circle and square stepping stones, we eliminated things like benches and bird baths, and decided to border the path with cylinder pillars.  We played around with different ideas for the size and placement of the pillars and eventually decided on only bordering one side of the path at a time, with pillars on one side half way, then on the other side the rest of the way.  We also decided that they should be about 8in in diameter and 2ft high.  I suggested that we make the four pillars at the center of the path (2 on one side, 2 on the other) have 12in diameters at 2ft tall to allow subtle seating, and the group liked it!

 After deciding our materials and estimating a cost, we decided to reduce the number of pillars from 13 or 14 to 8 total (4 bordering one side, 4 bordering the other).  See model.



We decided to save money and recycle: we planned on using cardboard boxes for the square stepping stones and the remains of the cardboard tube molds (for the pillars) for the circle stones.  

Everyone brought in an assortment of boxes.   We used duct tape to reinforce weak joints and repair holes.  Then we were ready for casting!
First, we tried using sawdust from the shop as an aggregate, but it made the concrete too crumbly.  Then we came up with using Perlite, which worked out great!
Corregated cardboard left a ridge texture in the concrete and pieces of it became stuck to the stepping stones.  And boxes with flaps on the bottoms or sides left deep imprints in the concrete.  But shoe boxes worked really well - the concrete popped/slid right out of them, and they gave the stones really smooth surfaces.


After the research phase of this project, the class was divided into five different groups: Gateway, Oasis, Mirage, Desert, and Living on the Edge.  I was a part of the Oasis group.

The "oasis" is the biggest island that this project involves; it's more square than rectangular, and has three Crete Myrtle trees arranged in a triangle.  Along with the rest of the class, we observed our islands and produced throw up sheets.  

We immediately noticed the existing pathway in the oasis created by foot traffic so we quickly decided to design something to enhance that pathway.  We threw out other ideas such as seating and bird baths as well, but they were turned down during our first critique.  

PATHWAYS, EDGES, BOUNDARIES: phase one: traffic and circulation

As part of the Environmental group, Meghan, Illiana, Ellie, and I, the Traffic & Circulation Group, observed and recorded the patterns of cars and people in the STAC parking lot and the environmental factors that effect those patterns.   

We each took a role in observing the lot for a week and recorded our data on copies of the plan of the parking lot.  My responsibility was to record the patterns of people walking through the lot during the day, whether its from their cars in the lot, their cars parked on Oakland Ave, Tate Street, and Highland Ave, and from their homes along Lee Street.  I noticed that most people weaved in and out of the parked cars and islands in attempts to find the quickest path.  A few people chose to walk down one side of the lot to the aisle in which their car was parked, but almost everyone stepped over/cut the corner of at least one island during their walk.  And not everyone's path lead to the STAC building just like not everyone came from cars parked in the STAC parking lot - some kept past the Gatewood, across Highland, and toward the Cury Building, down Highland to Spring Garden, or in between Graham and the Weatherspoon to get to other parts of campus.  

I also noted that when it rains, most walkers change their path to not only get to the buildings quicker, but also to avoid puddles created by the empty, shallow islands, the mud in other islands, and to avoid the risk of cars throwing water at them by staying on the sidewalk beside the building.  I also noticed from a photo that I took that the incline of the parking lot seems to be a lot more noticeable when walking on the sidewalk than when cutting across the lot - a possible reason why not many people use the sidewalk.  

The other members observed patterns of drivers during the day and during the night, and the circulation of walkers at night.  They noted things like how the cars search for a spot, where they enter and leave, that some cars only use the lot as a shortcut from Oakland to Tate, that some areas of the lot are really tight for cars to move through, which parts of the lot fill up first/last, and that people still find the quickest route at night.
Illiana and I explained all of our research during the Environmental Group's powerpoint presentation.