The Bone Studio

I claimed once before that the best standardization committee in the world is Nature herself. –Alvar AaltoNature has been a touchstone for architects and theorists to legitimize their work through biological metaphor or quasi-scientific rationales. Recent formal and theoretical trends in architecture would appear to be well positioned to reengage the topic of biomorphic structures and materials in substantive ways. New technologies offer a seemingly unlimited set of possibilities for the retooling of building systems and materials. Nevertheless, contemporary architectures still seem trapped in formal and metaphorical representations of theories of bio-morphology that prevent the realization of its potential.The Bone Studio will focus on what Manuel DeLanda calls the vast \”mineralization\” of human construction in the form of cities and infrastructure by tracing the path of calcium compounds through biological processes and human technology. The studio will explore the use and development of concrete and other cementitious materials now nearly ubiquitous in contemporary construction. The studio will also explore the concept of accretion as a way of understanding morphogenesis.Historical Context:Concrete construction, one of the fundamental components in contemporary building technology, is also one of the most ancient. The use of concrete reached a zenith in the Roman Empire with the construction of the Pantheon and its ribbed concrete dome that remains one of the most inspiring large span structures in the world. Over the last 150 years concrete has undergone significant technical developments that have led to new architectural theories and practices. Twentieth century architects and engineers were able to push the structural possibilities of concrete to astonishing levels of sophistication. Modernist architects and engineers like Marcel Breuer and Pier Luigi Nervi collaboratively developed expressive architectural and structural systems in concrete by emulating natural forms.Since the 1960s, the Institute for Lightweight Structures in Stuttgart has developed a series of seminal studies on structure and materials. Frei Otto\’s holistic understanding of form and structure includes a theory of the role of pneumatic, tensile, and compressive structures in biological evolution. IL 35, published in 1995, documents the structural and chemical foundation of organic tissue and makes a compelling link between the evolution of soft pneumatic tissues and the development of bone. IL 28 explores the structure and biology of Diatoms, or microscopic siliceous algae.At the beginning of the twenty-first century, architecture finds itself at an odd disjunction between architectural theories and formal inventions, and the science and technology that may be applied to their realization. The Bone Studio will attempt to bridge between the disciplines of engineering and architecture by focusing on concrete as a material and the design of a relatively simple concrete building.Project Context:In 1957, Saint John\’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota commissioned Marcel Breuer to master plan and design a new campus. Breuer\’s architecture is known for its monumental modernist forms often cast in concrete. Included in the commission was the Abbey Church that has been hailed as one of Breuer\’s best American Projects. The Abbey Church was designed in collaboration with Nervi and combines a folded plate concrete shell with a range of other materials that provide a counterpoint and detail to strong concrete forms. Breuer also completed a large number of other academic buildings and dormitories on the campus. Saint John\’s University has one of the most complete ensembles of Breuer buildings in the world. Project Specifics:Saint John\’s University is currently planning a spiritual retreat called the Guest House to be sited adjacent to the Church accord