Award-winning, full-service design and research office Variable Projects have created the Centennial Chromagraph, a life-size representation of the history of the University of Minnesota School of Architecture. The team used 8,080 colored #2 pencils and 100 robotically-routed plywood ribs that make the installation look like a DNA double helix.
Description by Variable Projects:
The Centennial Chromagraph is a life-size representation of the history of the University of Minnesota School of Architecture. The project is an exercise in data spatialization: using computational design tools to generate formal and spatial constructions with large quantities of data—in this case, information collected over the 100-year history of UMN’s architecture school.
The installation consists of 100 robotically-routed plywood ribs, joined together with 8,080 colored #2 pencils. The curvature of the ribs expresses major historical eras and periods of the School—the tenures of its leadership, the buildings it has occupied, the colleges it has belonged to—while the color of the pencils reflects the changing composition of the School’s degree programs over the past century. For example, the tenure of Ralph Rapson as head of the School of Architecture is evident in the large thirty-year curve that swells out in the center of the piece. Similarly, the prevalence of the Bachelor of Architecture degree, which began in the 1930s and lasted until the late 1990s, is legible in the large number of red pencils that extend across that 60-year period.
The piece will occupy the central courtyard of Ralph Rapson Hall (the School’s home for the last fifty years) during the Centennial reunion party on Friday, October 25. Throughout the weekend, pencils will be available to alumni and friends of the School as souvenirs of the celebration.
The project began in a graduate Architecture as Catalyst studio taught by Adam Marcus (with Nathan Miller of CASE) in March, 2013. Students in the four-day workshop explored digital techniques of using historical data to generate form, and they also developed several different material strategies for representing this information tectonically and spatially.