We were invited to submit a proposal for an installation in the outdoor courtyard gallery of Materials & Applications [M&A] in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles. We were asked to use and play with a specific material within an architectural narrative. Inspired by yurts, zoo cages, and bent-wire furniture, we developed an experimental bent steel tube structure entitled La Cage aux Folles which explored the craft of pipe bending in architecture and joins form, computational procedures, and fabrication processes. Using steel tubes, the installation explores the construction of parametric surfaces through variable fields of linear strands which simultaneously define a number of spatial conditions in synchronicity with structural needs. The tubes are organized in shifting and layered continuities, using bends to transfer loads and rigidify the structure at the same time as conveying a sense of space and form. The members are looped and variably arrayed through a generative algorithm we used with Rhino and free scripts available online. As each loop crosses others, connections are made to take advantage of triangulation while in others, space is made to turn inside out.
Once built, ‘La Cage’ actively engages the neighborhood by opening the courtyard to the sidewalk as a type of pocket park - providing a space for the community for both unscripted use and curated performances. We wanted to engage the neighborhood in the making of the piece as much as possible. We organized 13 volunteer workshops in the winter and spring which focused on all aspects of working with pipes. And in the summer we curated 7 performances incorporating music, performance, video, theatre, and dance. Public participation in the making and subsequent use of the piece was an important part of La Cage aux Folles as a project.
Warren Techentin Architecture (WTARCH) is an award winning, multi-disciplinary office which believes that architecture and urbanism must embrace design strategies that fulfill the needs of their clients while also considering the larger design context, community and environment. Their work explores the unseen conditions of a site and seeks to uncover and leverage its latent possibilities to create buildings that aspire to be site-specific, atmospheric, unique, and surprising.
The interdisciplinary method of WTARCH draws from and seeks new ways to integrate materials, construction techniques, and technology into architecture to provide freshness to form and space while simultaneously balancing immediate and future needs for energy, maintenance and upgrades. WTARCH seeks connections between outside and inside - in visual, physical, and cultural terms - while also employing as primary architectural elements strategies for new methods of introducing natural ventilation and light alongside passive techniques of heating and cooling. WTARCH recognizes and promotes the interdependence of buildings within their expanded context, and asks broader questions about their role in the life of the community, and of their long-term sustainability.