A Joint Effort….?

Oh boy, here it goes….the ol’ start-out-a-blogpost-with-a-quote-or-definition-cliche…..

Well, too bad….It’s happening.

Webster’s dictionary gives the word “joint” the 3 following primary definitions:

(1) : the point of contact between elements of an animal skeleton with the parts that surround and support it.

(2) : a place where two things or parts are joined.

(3) : a shabby or disreputable place of entertainment.

For this exercise, we will explore Definition 2.

And well, there’s a fourth, but you can probably use your imagination for that one.  Also, included beneath Definition 1 is the following:

(c) : a large piece of meat for roasting.

Considering, we will have a pig at the upcoming Movie Premiere event, I thought this last definition was quite important as well.

But I digress….

Joints in architecture are what it’s all about.  When I think about the beauty of a design/build studio, the real meat of it all is what we, as students, learn about how the built world “comes together” or how “two things or parts are joined.”  To elaborate on Ms. Ranson’s previous post, the biggest struggle in Project II is the understanding (or lacktherof) of joints.  In the first Marion Square project, we took a design concept, which consisted, on a very basic level, of one single joint used in many different ways.  Many.  Many.  Many, different ways.

This was a joint that we were all confident, because of our innate abilities to intuit, would work….and work well.  There was little doubt, when agreed upon an overall layout of walls and connecting pieces, that the information center structure would stand on its own.  The dado would rule, and the method of stacking wooden members WITH dados, would provide a very solid, compressive structure.  Throw in some steel cables for added tensile support and some sweet steel X’s, and you’re home free.

Not the case for Project II.  Due to the rigorous exploration into the idea of how to create a structure that unfolds into a self-supporting and screen-supporting travelling movie screen product, we are left to figure out the best way to make every joint move and unfold with precision and stability.  How will the large structure transform from a collapsed material object into a functional and beautiful hinged movie screen holder?  How will each joint move between the others?  What kind of joint will be best to tautly hold the movie screen in place between the two large arms?  How will the outriggers support the main frame of the structure and hold it down to the ground?  How can each joint be elegantly locked into place and, at the same time, resist tensile, wind, and lateral forces?

When I compare the two projects, they really could not be MORE different.  One is a temporary, small scale project made up of small scraps of wood locked into place.  The other is a potentially permanent, large scale project, made up of larger beams and moving parts.  They are both, however, architecture.  They both have joints – just very different joints.  They also both have the potential to be very powerful and really exciting….Project I has already attempted to turn that corner….

There is no doubt that by the end of this project, we will all have learned a great deal about joints.  I know that during my whole first year of architecture school, professors have looked at my drawings and then held up their two hands in an “L” -shaped manner and asked, “How are these two things going to come together?”  “What materials will meet each other at a particular joint, and how will they react?”  These are all questions we are currently asking ourselves as a studio.

When two things or parts are joined together, how will they react?  Are all joints going to be strong just because they are held together with glue or fasteners?  Sometimes, there needs to be more to hold two things together, and as Studio V proceeds to Thursday’s presentation, we will be able to uphold our design strategy with solid joints.

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