DIFFICULT PYRAMID

Academic Project    |    2019

Design Studio Project at SCI-Arc
Instructor: Andrew Zago

AT: Benjamin Weisgall

The studio created alternative proposals for the planned David M. Rubenstein Forum at the University of Chicago. The current design is by Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Of the project, the university writes: “The building, which will be a center of intellectual exchange, scholarly collaboration and special events, will provide the University with much needed meeting spaces for workshops, symposia and lectures, among other activities.”

The Coal Breakers in 1870s, Pennsylvania

Coal breakers which were essentially coal preparation plants housed in buildings on site often as close to the mine opening as possible for economy and ease of operation.  Over the next 150 years coal breakers numbering in the hundreds spread throughout the anthracite region.  Some had colorful local names; others were simply numbered.  However identified the coal breaker was essential to the operation of the mine.  Often dominating the landscape around the various coal patch towns, they were what I like to refer to as monuments to king coal.

Oxford Coal Breakers

Our studio referred to the postcards and the photograph and built 14 coal breaker models in 1/16” scale. The Oxford Coal Breaker is my reference. We held an exhibition at school to showcase our work, sharing our perspective and the bizarreness of these out-dated gigantic buildings. What the coal breaker attract me most is the bizarreness of the contruction logic. Unlike the horizontal logic of a pyramid, the coal breaker is more about verticallity. It has layers and each layer has different profile.

Coal Breaker    /    Massing

Bigger at the top, smaller at the bottom or small at the top, smaller at the bottom? We dicussed this question a lot in our studio class. The vertical logic of a coal breaker is a reverse of thinking. I also tried to reverse spacially. An upside down coal breaker be put inside a pyramid, precicely, a pyramid-like shape as a void. So the pyramid, which is bigger at the bottom, smaller at the top, becomes a shell. An reverse coal breaker becomes an atrium, a public space to gather people inside.

© Jack Wang, 2020