SuperBanal Grid Studio at Rice University School of Architecture, instructed by Neyran Turan in Spring 2015. Studio members: Wenqi Chen, Nathaniel Gange, Amelia Hazinski, Nora León, Maria Qi, Dylan Rinda, Sean Stevenson, Chongliang Tao, Anastasia Yee.
Houston's Downtown is merciless. Situated somewhere between a desert and a city, it is a bricolage of office blocks, garage towers, empty parking lots, and tunnels. How to make sense of this massive and deserted land of blankness? Despite this emptiness, an exquisite system is at play in Downtown through the overwhelming but equally inspiring presence of a seductively banal grid. As the ultimate familiar device of spatial organization, grids run horizontally and vertically―and ruthlessly―from the scale of the cubicle to the scale of territories in Houston's Downtown. Ranging from the column grid of the span to the curtain wall grid of the office tower, the vertical grid at once downsizes the architectural mass and acts as a device to stage and to frame the city from interior space. Ranging from the column grid of the span to the grid of the city blocks, the horizontal grid downsizes the floor and the land mass with its expansive and generic nature; but at the same time, it slows down or even stops momentarily when it is collapsed to a larger piece of land mass such as the George R. Brown Convention Center, Discovery Green or the Houston Bayou, and changes its pace of repetition.
SuperBanal Grids studio speculated on the aesthetic questions of these pervasive yet at the same time enticingly banal―horizontal and vertical―grids. Focusing on a fifteen acre property located immediately north of Houston's Downtown, an area with a rich industrial history, the studio experimented on slightly unfamiliar interpretations the most familiar element of efficiency in Downtown.
The studio work, along with the work of Jesus Vassallo's Rice Architecture studio focusing on the same project site, was exhibited at the end of the semester in one of the warehouses located in the project site.
Images: 1, 5, 6: Anastasia Yee; 7-8: Anastasia Yee, Nathaniel Gange; 9, 10, 27: Nathaniel Gange; 11-14: Amelia Hazinski; 15: Dylan Rinda; 16, 17, 21: Maria Qi; 18: Dylan Rinda, Maria Qi; 19, 20, 29: Nora León; 22: Nathaniel Gange, Maria Qi; 23-25: Wenqi Chen, Sean Stevenson, Chongliang Tao; 26: Amelia Hazinski, Sean Stevenson; 28: Anastasia Yee, Nora León; 2-4, 30: Exhibition photos from the work of SuperBanal Grids Studio, May 2015, photos by N. Turan.