Exhibit stars Eli architects

“This one has a different composition.”

Dean Sakamoto ARC ’98, a critic and director of exhibitions at the Yale School of Architecture, points to a piece by Mahdi Sabbagh ’10 and Virginia Calkins ’10. Seemingly a single plywood structure, the piece can be split into two areas for people to sit on. From above, the shape is vaguely reminiscent of Paul Rudolph’s Art and Architecture Building, now named Rudolph Hall.

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Philip Hu
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“It takes the project to a fifth level — it’s an aesthetic and visual transformation,” Sakamoto said. “The way students solve the problem is always different.”

All the works currently on display in the empty storefront at 978 Chapel St. were made by architecture students in the “Methods and Form in Architecture” ARCH 251 class, a prerequisite for the architecture major. At a reception Monday afternoon, more than 40 members of the Yale and New Haven communities gathered to view the exhibition and ask students about their work.

The previous four levels to which Sakamoto referred were the prescriptions made in the project guidelines: the pieces had to “be made from a single sheet of 4’ x 8’ x 3/4” plywood, they had to be able to support a human body, and they had to have a gap of 3/4” molded by the human body.” In addition, the students were not allowed to use glue or nails while building the pieces.

Joyce Hsiang ’99 ARC ’03, who teaches the class along with Sakamoto, says it was great to see students’ work on display.

“Students were allowed to see their work at full-scale, which is interesting,” she says. “It’s nice to see your work in a gallery space, where it’s no longer a tiny model.”

The pieces on display, as Hsiang says, are indeed interesting — not quite works of furniture, not quite abstract structures devoid of any purpose. People visiting the space at the opening Monday afternoon are unsure whether they should sit on them or view them at a distance.

But the architecture students urge them on. As a demonstration, Kristin Nothwehr ’10 stands on her piece by the window. People crowd around her.

Her teammate, Josh Feldman ’10, says he thought the main value of the project was to see how, when grouped together, a design team’s “compound parts” work.

“There were a number of realities I had to face – what joints could stand and so on,” he adds.

The students were grouped into teams of two to complete the project, and the illustrations on the walls show one teammate demonstrating the ability of his or her piece to uphold a human weight.

Chris Mackey ’10, another ARCH 251 student, says he had been interested by the project’s 1-1 scale and the results of the students’ work, which ranged from furniture-style pieces to decidedly abstract structures.

“[The pieces] didn’t have to be a piece of furniture; they didn’t have to be comfortable,” he says. “The project taught us how to use the body as something which really needs to be addressed in the terms of an object.”

Kate Archibald ’10, who came to see the exhibition with friends, says she thinks the project was interesting because of the “diversity” of works on display.

The project is partially funded by architecture firm Pickard Chilton, whose offices are located above the empty storefront owned by Yale University. One of the firm’s founders, Jon Pickard ARC ’79, also helped critique the pieces.

Sakamoto, who is exhibiting his class’s work in the space for the second time, says displaying the works in a storefront “makes public the stuff that goes on in the studio.” He adds that Yale was able to fill a space that has been left vacant for 10 years.

This space is ideal for showing the current pieces: “They really warm up in the light,” he says.

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