Fortune cookies inform flexible formwork in students’ design

Architectural concepts for a gallery and product showroom for Alessi, the world-renowned Italian kitchenware company, developed by two Texas A&M University environmental design students, are featured on suckerPUNCH, a popular and important Internet design forum.

Shown in sketches and architectural renderings, the designs by students Adrian Cortez and Alex Holtzer provide “an interesting argument for sensibility and surface,” said suckerPUNCH critic Gabriel Esquivel, an assistant professor of architecture at Texas A&M.

He characterizes the work, titled “matters of sensation,” as “a modern interpretation of rustication,” a masonry technique that provides a rich and bold surface for exterior walls by cutting back the edges of stones to a plane surface while leaving the central portion of the face either rough or markedly projecting.

The individual, fortune cookie-shaped modules that combine to form the building’s exterior emphasize a performative skin that animates the structure “through deformation, dematerialization and aperture,” said Esquivel. Whereas the interior, he said, through its direct relationship with the skin, argues affect and sensation.

The gallery design, its creators said, was influenced by Greg Lynn’s innovative “Blobwall,” which redefined the brick — architecture’s most basic building unit — into a lightweight object made of colorful plastic and reinterpreted into modular elements.

Other influences, they said, included the work of Miguel Fisac, one of the first architects to use a flexible formwork in an architectural application, and, as evidenced by the modular components that form the structure’s conglomerate skin, fortune cookies, a staple at Chinese food restaurants.

posted January 31, 2012