Tara Donovan part 2

November 10, 2008


In architecture we are currently obsessed with self similarity and flexible modularity. Many would chalk this up to the increasingly generic study of parametric design; I however see this as an ethical conundrum that promises to help architecture evolve out of the current serial digital hegemony. Donovan work is a meditation on the capacity of aggregation to achieve a whole that is far greater than the sum of its parts, thereby making the part even more profound. She allows the physical elasticity and flexibility of her chosen component to manifest its inherent properties through structural forces and environmental forces present in her composition. Many contemporary parametric practices fail in their pursuit of an industrialized mode of production because they create idiosyncratic cellular designs that are little more than assemblage of unique snow flakes. This ethos runs head long into issues of efficiency and conceptual rigor. It is far easier to create module that shape-shifts than it is to create a self same unit whose behavior is informed by a property of its structure or dimension. And while this may seem like splitting hairs, in production it is the difference between generating a thousand totally unique pieces from scratch, and creating a thousand similar pieces that has a limited repertoire of operations performed on them.

The generative geometry of Tara Donavan’s work is an inspiration to many practicing architects. Donovan controls the sphere in two remarkable ways, her paper plates sculpture is derived from the folding and halving of typical paper picnic plates, the “thickening” of the scalloped edge enables Donovan to create an angular offset of perhaps 1 degree, when aggregated these 1 degree steps create a sphere of variable completion, it is an architecture of wedges. Donavan’s second spherical sculpture is composed of mirrored Mylar sheets that are rolled into cones of equal height. The effect is a conical aggregation that supplies only a tracery definition of the sphere’s surface. In each of her works Donovan shows a remarkable capacity to take a single geometric operation, and when aggregated en mass it transforms the material into something incomprehensible and beautiful.


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