Designed by the Laboratory for Visionary Architecture (LAVA) the Martian Embassy is an amazing new youth writing center created to inspire the children who visit. Created alongside producer Will O'Rourke and arts organization The Glue Society, the new center is built in Sydney, Australia and devoted to helping marginalized local children. The space is other worldly, mixing alien decoration with a architecture that makes visitors feel like they have entered the stomach of a giant whale.
iDesign talked to LAVA director Chris Bosse about the pleasure he gets from watching children enjoy the new writing center, and how he drew inspiration from both nature and science-fiction.
CHRIS BOSSE, DIRECTOR LAVA
Jacob Kleinman: What was your inspiration for the Martian Embassy?
Chris Bosse: The goal is to awaken creativity in kids, so the design aims to fire up the engines of imagination. For inspiration we travelled back to some great stories, think of "Moby Dick," H. G. Wells' "Time Machine" and "2001: A Space Odyssey" by Stanley Kubrick.
Our concept for this first diplomatic mission from inner space is a fusion of a whale, a rocket and a time tunnel. The result is an immersive space of oscillating plywood ribs brought to life by red planet light and sound projections.
It's an intergalactic journey from the embassy at the street entrance, to the shop full of red planet traveller essentials, to the classroom. By the time kids reach the writing classes they have forgotten they are in school.
Using a fluid geometry merging the three program components of embassy, school and shop, a computer model was sliced and 'nested' into buildable components. 1068 pieces of CNC-cut plywood were put together like a giant puzzle. The timber ribs create the space, shelves, seats, benches, storage, counters and displays and continue as strips on the floor. Edged with Martian green, the curvy plywood flows seamlessly so that walls, ceiling and floor become one element. Our architecture is not about decoration, it's about fusing structure, space and architectural expression into one single element.
JK: How does this design represent your style and vision as an architect?
CB: Our creative process is "Mankind, Nature and Technology." It's a good example of LAVA's practice of combining digital workflow, nature's structural principles and contemporary digital fabrication technologies with the aim of achieving more architecture with less material, energy, time and cost.
At LAVA we believe nature holds all the answers. The geometries in nature create both efficiency and beauty. Naturally evolving systems can create new building typologies and structures. Computation allows you to simulate this natural behavior. It is often misunderstood as superficial mimicry, but the potential is in understanding the principles behind nature, not only the appearance.
While the embassy is a smaller project we apply similar principles to the design of other projects at a much bigger scale. For us it's not the scale of the project but the opportunity to create inventive solutions. From small innovations we can create something great.
JK: How has the Martian Embassy been received by visitors?
CB: It was opened just a week ago. Cath Keenan, co-founding director, told me that the kids are stopped in their tracks, and stand there trying to work out what it looks like. A whale? A dinosaur? A tunnel? A cave? Then they want to know if the products really do come from Mars. I've loved watching how the children inhabit the space, crawl all over it and experience their own worlds within the Martian embassy.
JK: How did you become interested in architecture and design?
CB: I went to kindergarten opposite German architect Frei Otto's Institute for Lightweight Structures in Stuttgart in the 1970s. I remember it looking like a pirate ship from inside with its huge mast and membrane structure. Otto's form-finding experiments for the Munich Olympic Stadium remain a major influence on my thinking.