Reticulated Form: United States Air Force Academy

RETICULATED FORM:UNITED STATES AIR FORCE ACADEMY Today an architect must operate as a force of organization, a fulcrum from which new questions are asked and new arrangements are tested as responses to these new questions …Method is everything, data is nothing. — S. KwinterThis research and design studio will focus on parametric explorations of reticulation: division, marking and assembly with the intention of forming a network. Reticulated surfaces — like the patterned skin of a giraffe or a python — have non-repeating patterns comprised of lines and surfaces that generate networks conforming to the predetermined programming of genetics. Using this process of form-making as inspiration, our work with reticulation will aim to systematically engage building and landscape as self-generating, multi-dimensionally connective systems. We will be working within an existing social, political and spatial domain of considerable merit and aura: the US Air Force Academy in Colorado. The buildings and grounds of the cadet campus at the USAFA are arranged in a field condition designed by Walter Netsch of SOM in the 1950\’s. (The first cadet classes began at the Academy in 1958.) At an unprecedented scale, this campus stands as one of the greatest examples of mid-century modernism and the International Style. It offers a powerful and articulate armature from which to depart. Netsch\’s own \”Field Theory\” is at work here insofar as a series of cellular structures delineate the patterned MAT buildings and campus (ref. Le Corbusier, Aldo van Eyck, Hertzberger). MAT building is an open-ended system that is inherently generative; its forms repeat at different scales and its regular, open assembly of spaces provide an environment that reflects and reinforces behavioral protocols of marching synchrony and flight formation that, in this case, its military mission dictates. Characteristically, this dynamic of repetition in form and motion suggests that MAT buildings can proliferate and evolve endlessly. The syntax of parts — self-contained cells, both interior and exterior — allow for addition and subtraction over time, combining to produce a built environment that is always evolving — a work in progress, remaining in process. It is a syntax of part-to-part and part-to-whole. Yet MAT building as it was conceived in the 1950\’s was limited by the manufacturing tools and processes of the day; its cells are standardized and rectangular in all dimensions. Exploring reticulation as a significant evolution of the rectilinear formal language of MAT into a more open-ended universe of form-making, we will introduce a non-standard building type into the Academy. Primary program will include two Desdemona flight simulator/disorientation trainers, and their associated research and support spaces. The focus of the studio will be to perform original and comprehensive interventions within rigorous assemblies of building cell and void. Site selection, within the constraints of what Alison and Peter Smithson would call the \”charged void\” of the campus quadrangle, will be at the student\’s discretion. The genetic basis of reticulation in nature and the technical and form-making opportunities of this studio lend themselves to parametric modeling. Though not a requirement, students with knowledge of CATIA are encouraged to apply, and those with limited CATIA knowledge will be given the opportunity and time to explore its potential. We will also travel to Colorado to tour the Air Force Academy campus first-hand during the week of October 13th.