This project is a design for a freshwater educational center on Brunot Island in Pittsburgh, on the Ohio river. It aims to reflect the process of construction of the building. We believe in the alienation of material, liberating them from their conventional references. Contrasting between different levels of finesse, between crude and pristine, monolithic and delicate, textured and polished. Concrete for example, is presumed to be massive, but are rendered as thin, tapering plates. Each of these antitheses becomes a rhythm through which one experiences the architecture’s relationship with the site. Each procession through the building is an experience of its own creation, from a series of operations.
First is the subtractive process of boring into the foundation. Any building starts with excavation, involving precision & aggression which provides a conversation between existing and new. This part of the building is treated in a very rustic manner, With partially controlled yet unpredictable methods of casting and excavation.
The shells provide a mediation between the building and the island, gently elevating the gallery space as if by lifting the topography. This space creates a mediation between the rustic entrance and pristine gallery.The gallery space is the main program of the building, and is treated as a piano nobile, an experience elevated from the untamed soil. The treatment of materials at this level is pristine and controlled, contrasting from the foundation. The material of the offset panels is alienated because of its unpredictability. From afar, it is heavy and monolithic, but close up it becomes apparent that it is thin and light. It is a wall, but it is also earth, and it is a surface on which water falls and trickles down, therefore it also embodies a performative aspect.
Concrete is our choice of material because it is inherently something that is man-made but is still perceived as an authentic material, appropriate for the site, which is man-made, but authentic with the markings of the passage of time. It is conventionally considered as mass, as heaviness, and has a very corporal presence, but it always starts off in fluid form. Concrete therefore, is the marriage between earth and water. Water brings concrete to life, then immortalizes its form when it leaves the cast.