Woodbury Presents Calibrating Viscosity: Techniques for Negotiating Earthen Materials

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Woodbury Presents Calibrating Viscosity: Techniques for Negotiating Earthen Materials

October 5, 2016 @ 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm


Please join us October 5th from 6:30 to 8:30pm for a panel discussion with faculty members from the Woodbury University School of Architecture to discuss the potential of working with earthen materials in contemporary design practice. Berenika Boberska, Donatella Cusma, Anthony Fontenot, and Matthew Gillis for short presentations and a discussion moderated by Joshua G. Stein.

This event is FREE and open to the public. Light bites and refreshments. Free valet parking at the corner of Helms Ave. and Venice Blvd. or take Metro Expo line to Culver City station, one block west of the Helms Design Center.

Calibrating Viscosity

A sea change has occurred in design and planning based on a new intense mediation of our material context. As an ecological paradigm becomes increasingly embedded into the fundamentals of architecture practice and education, so too has the technological capacity to negotiate these complexly physical systems. Cities are now mapped according to resource flows and management as much as abstract grids and idealized geometries while the discrete and (supposedly) static components of architectural construction are increasingly replaced with dynamic mixtures, organic or mineral, that often move during their production or over the life span of a building. In this new context, the role of the architect tends more towards the complex orchestration of ingredients, many of which are viscous and difficult to predict in their behaviors.

This panel discussion will examine earthen materials across various scales, from ceramic building components to volatile environmental contexts, with the intention of identifying techniques and concepts for negotiating rather than limiting their complexity. From the movement of ceramic materials during the firing process to the mapping of sediment flows, how do we build with the vitality of the earth without confining its qualities to that of just another stock material, easily quantified into specification charts? What are the necessary techniques for dealing with and influencing unstable matter, either as context or as medium? Could these techniques define a new domain of knowledge that might encompass issues beyond material behavior alone?

About the Panelists

Berenika Boberska is the founder and principal of Feral Office, based in Los Angeles, an experimental practice engaged in architecture, installation art and urban provocations. She also teaches architecture at Woodbury University, in upper division design studios and topic studios (recently: The Rural Fantastic! and Solar Baroque ). Berenika graduated from the Bartlett School of Architecture in London, under professor Sir Peter Cook. She also received her Master of Fine Arts from the Royal College of Art in London. Prior to starting her own practice she worked as a Design Architect for 6 years at Frank Gehry’s office, where she developed an attitude towards a more expressive, sculptural way of working through analogue models in parallel with sophisticated computer modeling and constructability.

Donatella Cusma is co-founder of Claret-Cup, a multi-disciplinary collaborative project with Bojána Bányász combining architecture, fashion, and graphic design. The two, along with multiple other projects, have co-authored a series of site specific installations such as “Greeting from the Los Angeles River” and “I love L.A.” Ms Cusma’ is a board member of R.I.E.A (Research Institute for Experimental Architecture) founded by visionary artist and architect Lebbeus Woods. With R.I.E.A. Donatella participated as faculty in several International Architecture Workshops in Sweden, Hong Kong, Switzerland, and Italy. She currently is teaching Design Studio, in the Interior Architecture department of Woodbury University.  In 2013 Cusma and Banyasz launched Map-a-Porter a project that links their passion for mapping the city and object making. The result is an ever-expanding series of active functional objects designed to spark conversations about cities. Ms Cusma is an AIA international associate since 2008 and a member of the Italian Board of Architects-Messina Chapter since 2004.

Anthony Fontenot is a Professor at Woodbury University School of Architecture. He was awarded a Getty Fellowship for 2010-2011 and the Fellowship of the Society of Woodrow Wilson Scholars at Princeton University in 2009 and 2010. He is the author of numerous publications including New Orleans Under Reconstruction: The Crisis of Planning (Verso, 2014), “Gregory Ain and Cooperative Housing in a Time of Major Crisis” in Making A Case (Princeton Architectural Press, 2012) and the forthcoming books Non-Design and the Non-Planned City (Chicago University Press, 2017) and Gregory Ain: Low-Cost Modern Housing and the Construction of a Social Landscape (UR Books, 2017). He was a co-curator of the 2011 Gwangju Design Biennial in South Korea and the exhibition “Clip/Stamp/Fold: The Radical Architecture of Little Magazines 196X – 197X” (2007). He holds a professional Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Louisiana, a Master of Architecture degree from Southern California Institute of Architecture, and a Ph.D. in the history and theory of architecture at Princeton University.

Matthew Gillis is the principal of the research and design practice G!LL!S. Gillis holds a Master of Architecture degree from the UCLA and Bachelor of Design in Architecture degree from the University of Florida. After working in the offices of Coop Himmel(b)lau in Guadalajara and Griffin Enright Architects in Los Angeles, before starting his own practice. In addition to design projects, Matthew is committed to research and publication; he currently sits on the editorial board for the Los Angeles Forum for Architectural and Urban Design. He taught at SCI-Arc, OTIS College of Design and currently is an assistant professor at Woodbury University.

Joshua G. Stein is the founder of Radical Craft and the co-director of the Data Clay Network, a forum for the exploration of digital techniques applied to ceramic materials. Radical Craft is a Los Angeles-based studio that advances design saturated in history (from archaeology to craft) that inflects the production of contemporary urban spaces and artifacts, evolving newly grounded approaches to the challenges posed by virtuality, velocity, and globalization. Recent projects engage earthen materials that resist easy manipulation, whether in raw or consolidated states. He has taught at the California College of the Arts, Cornell University, SCI-Arc, and the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design. He was a 2010-11 Rome Prize Fellow in Architecture, and is currently Professor of Architecture at Woodbury University.


Helms Design Center
8745 Washington Boulevard
Culver City, CA 90232
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