Jennifer Bonner, Daniel Ibañez bring trees of opposite sorts to Design Biennial Boston

Among the four projects that Design Biennial Boston selected to adorn Boston’s Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway this summer and fall are works by Assistant Professor of Architecture Jennifer Bonner’s MALL and Doctor of Design candidate Daniel Ibañez’s Margen-Lab. Aiming to foster a rising generation of talented practitioners and to engage the public with imaginative ideas, the Biennial chose Bonner and Ibañez from among a pool of New England designers, and provided each with $10,000 and access to fabrication equipment provided by sponsor Autodesk BUILD Space.

Bonner’s “Another Axon” and Ibañez’s “Ways of Wood” each took up trees as a thematic, but applied wildly divergent approaches and materials.

Bonner’s “Another Axon” presents a cluster of 12 colorful, artificial trees made of traditional exterior building materials. As the project’s official description notes, “Another Axon” uses the conventions of an architectural axonometric drawing to generate three-dimensional space. The installation adds a series of angular art structures alongside the 12 trees, all of which rely on contemporary reproduction strategies. The art sculptures are taken from an open-source 3D warehouse and range from Donald Judd’s Untitled (1961) to Carl Andre’s Slope (1968), while the artificial trees are constructed by carefully tracing other tree drawings from a landscape catalogue.


From drawing to installation: Jennifer Bonner's "Another Axon"
From drawing to installation: Jennifer Bonner’s “Another Axon”

The selection of materials for “Another Axon” reinforces the constructed axon view but also places emphasis on the ordinary in architecture: three traditional exterior building materials used ubiquitously across the United States—vinyl siding, EIFS (a synthetic stucco), and synthetic turf—are playfully distorted through orientation, color, and application.

“Another Axon” also evokes further consideration through contrast: the bright pink and blue that dominate the project appear glaring beside the green-and-gray surroundings of the Rose Kennedy Fitzgerald Greenway and the surrounding main roads. Likewise, the strictly angular, deliberately reproducible shapes of the installation’s “trees” contradict organic natural form.

Trees of a decidedly more natural variety form the basis of Daniel Ibañez’s “Ways of Wood.” Evoking images of logs floated from forests to industrial sawmills, the nine horizontal logs that form “Ways of Wood” first direct attention to the material in its raw form. Then, through its design and manipulation of raw material, “Ways of Wood” suggests, if not illustrates, a narrative thread among the different states of timber’s industrial process, from raw material to highly designed object.

The installation transforms across its length from untouched logs—bark and all—into computer numerical control (CNC)-milled patterns that offer seating; one segment even has an intricate tufted-cushion pattern carved into it. The horizontal physical orientation of the project evokes simultaneously the image of logs floating downstream as well as actual seats, designed for humans.

"Ways of Wood"
“Ways of Wood”

Rejecting the association that wood is an ordinary or standardized material, “Ways of Wood” also brings together diverse regional wood species. Taken as a whole, the installation offers a both physical and symbolic reminder of the often overlooked natural sources of timber.

From raw material to design for "Ways of Wood"
From raw material to design for “Ways of Wood”

The 2017 Design Biennial Boston is sponsored by Autodesk BUILD Space, the Boston Art Commission, the Boston Society of Architects/AIA, the BSA Foundation, the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, over,under/pinkcomma gallery, and the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy.

Jennifer Bonner is Assistant Professor of Architecture at Harvard University Graduate School of Design and Director of MALL, as well as Program Director of the Master in Architecture II program. Born in Alabama, Bonner is a recipient of an AR Award for Emerging Architecture (Architectural Review), Emerging Voices Award (American Institute of Architects/ Young Architects Forum), and two Faculty Design Awards (Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture). She received a Bachelor of Architecture from Auburn University and a Master in Architecture from the GSD, where she was awarded the James Templeton Kelley Prize for her project Assemblage of Twins. She also was the GSD’s faculty editor of Platform 9: Still Life.

Daniel Ibañez is a Spanish-born practicing architect, urbanist, and director of the design firm Margen-Lab. He is currently a Doctor of Design candidate at the GSD, as well as editor of the GSD’s New Geographies journal and researcher at the Urban Theory Lab and the Office for Urbanization. He holds an MArch from ETSAM in Madrid, an MAA from the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, and an MDes in Urbanism, Landscape, and Ecology with honors from the GSD, where he was awarded the Dimitris Pikionis Award. Ibañez is also editor of a number of publications, including New Geographies 6: Grounding Metabolism (Harvard University Press, 2014), Third Coast Atlas (Actar, 2017) and Wood Urbanism: From Molecular to Territorial (forthcoming, Actar, 2018). He has also served as editor at urbanNext ( since 2015.

Ibañez’s “Ways of Wood” will remain on view at the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway through May 2018.