Archive for November, 2009

The Big Picture

November 30, 2009

A 5 day respite in the Berkshires. This little cabin was transformed into the Itinerant Home studio.

After a five day Thanksgiving Residency in the Berkshires, all of the detail work that will go into Itinerant Home is complete.  Now it’s just a matter of assembling the house.  In the meantime, Carey Clouse, MIT Architecture alumna and an Enterprise Rose Fellow at Providence Community Housing in New Orleans was kind enough to contribute the following insight about New Orleans post-Katrina:

Although Shrinking Cities have plagued the Rust Belt for several decades, the rise of natural disasters, growing foreclosures and a deepening economic crisis has fueled this effect throughout large and small American cities.  This changing growth pattern calls for innovative design tactics; empty lots, forsaken buildings, a loss of density and irregular rings of development offer exceptional opportunities for meaningful design interventions.

As communities look for new ways to integrate food production and localized fuel sources, useful infrastructure and changing lifestyles, this drosscape offers itself up as a panacea to the problem.    New Orleans has become a testing ground for new and innovative design tactics, and the post-Katrina landscape offers a unique set of geographic, cultural and physical conditions for these efforts.  Designers who work with this landscape must understand the issues that specifically affect shrinking cities, and the impact of this population loss on the environment, community, and built landscape.

With just 77% of its pre-storm population, a 50% average increase in rents, and over 60,000 vacant homes or empty lots, housing, density and land use have become major factors in the redevelopment of New Orleans.  Though troubling, these statistics provide designers with real parameters for retooling the landscape.  For better or worse, New Orleans has become the target of innovative and sustainable design work, ranging from bioremediation efforts to re-casting the subdivision, scattered-site farming to local power generation strategies, land banking and radical community building efforts.

Many thanks for the insights Carey.  Keep up the good work!

On a side note, I already miss this little sewing table.


Giving Thanks

November 27, 2009

In honor of Thanksgiving, let’s give thanks for the “often translucent and usually malleable and soft… bubbles, spheres and inflatable structures” described in my Thanksgiving reading, Thin skin:

Thanksgiving is a time to read and reflect on the things for which we are grateful.

The following are a collection of snap shots of images of inspirational pieces from the “Thin Skin” exhibit.  This exhibit sought to identify “some of the reasons behind this resurgence of the bubble [in contemporary art] and its various spin-offs…”   Carin Cuoni, the exhibit’s curator, eloquently provides the following reason:

“In our mediated environment we have developed a new spatial sensibility, tailored to in between spaces neither virtual nor real, that finds its artistic expression in installations involving bubbles, balloons or translucent cocoon-like environments.”

Thanks to Carin Kuoni and the Independent Curators International for putting togethether such an inspiring exhibit.  I highly recommend its catalog, where many of the following images appear in much higher resolution and quality accompanied by fascinating essays and critical theory.  I’ve taken the liberty of making a few of my own curatorial additions, as well.  Those are noted as such.

An amazing translucent egg found on the site "Design Considerations for Inflatable Structures". Click on this image to link to the site.

Cuschicle, by Michael Webb. I first saw this in a lecture by J. Meejin Yoon at the MIT Visual Arts Lecture Series.

Photographer Unkown. Thin Skin, p. 19

Lee Boroson, "Slurry" (2001), from Thin Skin, p. 24

Annika von Hausswolf, "Attempting to deal with Time and Space" (1997) Thin Skin, p. 38

Ernesto Neto, "Crossing over, over... over" (2001), Thin Skin, p. 46

A Flaming Lips Concert. Click to watch video.

Roman Signer, "Electric Pylon No. 53B" stills (1996), Thin Skin, p. 61

Fiona Tan "Lift" (2000) Thin Skin, p. 53

Progressing. Slowly.

November 25, 2009

Perhaps it’s exhaustion, but the current stage of construction is very slow and somewhat frustrating.   Yesterday I completed only one of these:

In fact, that cape is a wall.

Just lounging around.

Earlier in the evening, another exhaused person stopped by to say hello. Here is Erica Weiss, taking a nap with the first pinned bodysuit.

You really had to be there

November 24, 2009

It’s unlikely that you understand the sheer ecstatic joy that accompanies:

completing! 16! inflatable! legs! 16! inflatable! arms! and! 8! inflatable! portholes!

Resting on my laurels.

Legs & Eggs

November 22, 2009

Currently constructing body-parts.  All heads complete.  8 legs (unfortunately not 8 pairs of legs) finished.  A few photos below:

A found template (the top of a stool) for the circular windows. Windows are made from the same thin clear vinyl people use to cover and protect their upholstery. At $1.99 / yard, it would be a bargain at twice the price! This stuff is available at most fabric stores, but I purchased mine at "SewFisticated" on the Cambridge/Somerville, MA line.

Perfect circles. Perfect, thanks to the steel stool top and the Olfa Rotary cutter.

Pinning circular windows to (already seamed) 6" wide strips of ripstop nylon. I would like to know if I am making this seam correctly...

A quick polyethylene template for the leg. I measure off of my own body. Pattern-making 101.

An even quicker cardboard template to trace onto the fabric. I separated the foot from the leg so as to waste less fabric when cutting out the pattern. The cardboard template is bigger than the polyethylene prototype in order to account for 1" seams.

Tracing the pattern onto a top sheet of ripstop. I have four sheets below for high-speed cutting.


all the pieces for legs.

Hours of pinning and sewing... but a long story short: a pile of legs. Voila! That little rounded strip above the ankle is velcro, which will attach to the vinyl boot.

Signs of Life

November 20, 2009

Sewing Masses of Voluminous Ripstop Nylon

A window, emerging from the pile of fabric.

An inflatable spot for a foot.

An inflatable place for a foot.

Lots of sewing ahead...

... lots of sewing ahead.

Jessica Warner Visits the Inflato-lab

November 19, 2009

Jessica and me inside of Prototype #1, a polyethylene, heatsealed, double-membraned inflatable. Photo by Eric Spang.

Photo by Eric Spang.

Itinerant Home’s Home

November 19, 2009

Itinerant Home's Site, the rooftop pool area of the 1201 Canal Street Condominiums.

Street view of the 1201 Canal Street Condominiums, a department store renovated by Matthes Brierre

First Steps Toward Finalizing Things

November 16, 2009

This may seem like an odd title for a blog’s first post.  There will be flash-backs to prototypes and process that predate the blog’s birth date : 11/16/09.

Today was a big day.  I finished a digital model, laid out my patterns in AutoCAD, cut down all of my ripstop nylon, and sewed my first seam.  Photos below recount a bit of today’s progress…

vinyl montage copy

This is 9 yards of black 14 mil vinyl ready to be cut down and ultimately sewn to create the floor of Itinerant Home. Typically 18 mil vinyl is what professionals use for floors. I find it hard to tell the difference between 14 and 18 mil though. And 14 mil vinyl is a couple dollars cheaper per yard.

ripstop montage copy

I am using 1.9 oz breathable ripstop for Itinerant Home's "superstructure". I've been assured by those in the know that this fabric will stay inflated so long as I maintain a constant source of air. If I'd like it to hold air better, I can spray it with polyurethane. This is a cheaper solution than buying polyurethane impregnated ripstop.