12 November 2008

Live Blog: Leor Lovinger on Designing with Stone

Design with stone - Butler College as a case study
Leor Lovinger, Michael van Valkenburgh Associates

Theme: Using bluestone to explore and experiment with ways that it works while leveraging its geologic connotations

The project is part of larger efforts on campus, which struggle to deal with the fact that the campus has grown to 5 times the size of it historic boundaries. As the campus builds down to the "natural feature" of Lake Carnegie, they are using it as an opportunity to build the natural landscape back up into campus. Sustainability was a subtle theme in Beatirx Farrand's original design work and remains an inspiration for MVVA today.

Some of the Butler Campus work has been focused on specific projects at Holden, Wilson, Butler, and Whitman Halls but also around Scully and Bloomberg Halls (see the campus map). They refer to their work there as inventing within the traditional. For an amphitheater design, they began to use straight lines as their datum, with the shaping of the landscape as a contrast.

From an early point in the process they collaborate with the quarry to ensure that their uses of the stone are authentic and not contrived. The two kinds of blue stone are Portage and Hamilton, but the Hamilton is stronger and is what they work to get. But you still have to cut the rock carefully and with explicit expectations to get the right colors. And the cut impacts the different effects, like the horizontality and variety which is a key element in the design for their amphitheater wall. And, while the construction details determine how water travels down the wall, the rock cut also plays a role. Scale models are key for getting the seating and personal experience right.

New ideas were integrated. The sloped footing was an innovative solution for the site. Even the plants for the project had to be prepared for months/years so they could be planted in a mature state up against the rock walls. And after all of this planning and design, they'll still return to the site to work the stone and match the feel to their design intent.

Students interested in stonework won't have to look far for good and bad examples of how this technique can be successful or not. And in the Q & A it was inevitable that someone would ask about Opus 40.


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