University of Manitoba architecture students rank in Barge 2011 design competition

Four projects by second-year undergraduate students in the Environmental Design Program at the University of Manitoba Faculty of Architecture ranked within the top 27 at an open international design competition entitled Barge 2011, which was organized by shiftBoston. Capullo, the project designed by Jason Ejzenbart and Kara Burman, was selected as one of the top 6 finallists.

In the interest of exposing beginning designers to the issues of “adaptive reuse,” the three-week studio, entitled “Retooling,” adopted the competition, which challenged architects, artists and designers around the world to create a public space on a barge, with installations that could foster sensorial experiences. Other University of Manitoba students included in the top 27 were Jagtar Singh, Kristin Defer, and the team of Jessica Bergen and Robyn Arnarson.

Ejzenbart and Burman’s Capullo is a space that was created to interact with rain, wind and natural and artificial light. Its undulating form is created from fibreglass rebar, plastic wrap and other basic construction materials. Rainwater washes over the plastic surface down through the funnels and under users’ feet, allowing for a visual and aural affect. The layers of plastic skin distort the view of the city from the interior, allowing users to experience the city in a more abstracted way. The lighting wraps around the funnels and allows the space to glow and be an attraction from far away. While moving through the space, the surroundings vary from large, open spaces to small, tight spaces, creating not only general public space but also an event and/or gallery space.

Jagtar Singh’s project, Mimic, involved a responsive surface that was created on the deck of the barge that would become a place of meditation, reflection and calm. Precedent research on early Boston revealed that the city was once covered by swamp and marshes with tall grass. Tall grass mimics the actions of waves on water when responding to wind. Wanting the participant to gain more of a sensorial experience, Singh decided to remove the physical interaction of the individual completely from surface of the barge, instead creating a platform where he could walk above the surface and observe. Winding up through a series of ramps, the individual is enticed, and becomes “sensorial-charged” by what lies ahead. Walking further down the platform, the cantilevered plank slowly lower itself – similar to a diving board – drawing the individual closer to the sea of tall grass. The movement of tall grass on the surface of the barge essentially blurs the boundaries of where the barge ends and where the water begins, creating a seamless surface of water and grass.

Refraction, Kristen Defer’s project, created a reflective barge that intends to be a manufactured leisure space for both Bostonians and visitors, which replicates an organic element in its form. Mirrors and glass arranged as a droplet of water ripple across the barge from its centre. The materials are able to reflect the image of the surrounding environment and of oneself across the space of the barge. Intertwining the façade of the barge with the channel and the towers of downtown Boston, the result is a distorted image on the surface of the barge of the surrounding Boston cityscape that dissolves the barge itself into its surroundings.

And finally, Robyn Arnason and Jessica Bergen’s Calma san Scaileanna is described thusly: As one moves through the space, the light bulb structure becomes denser, leading to the end where herons’ fountains, blended in with the rest of the structure, complete the cleansing experience. The shadows created by the sun will project the complex and intricate structure down to the ground, enveloping the people in the space and removing them from the surrounding city. At night, city lights will engage with the space refracting the light causing the light bulb structure to glow. The intension of this installation is to create a calming space within the urban setting of Boston by reusing light bulbs and reclaimed wood.

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