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Lenticularis // 2010
Sci-Arc, Los Angeles, California, United States

© Joshua White

Len-tic-u-lar-is
// 2010
Project Title: Len-tic-u-lar-s
Sponsors: Machineous
Location: Sci-Arc, Los Angeles, California, United States
JACCC
Size: N/A
FabriTec Structure
Use: Installation
Japan Foundation
Client(s): Sci-Arc
Hinerfeld-Ward Inc.
Consultants:
John A. Batchelor Co. Inc.
Collaborators: Buro Happold - Los Angeles
Epson

Status: Completed, 2010

Len-tic-u-lar-is: A lens-shaped cloud formation that occurs at high altitudes as strong winds blow over and around rough terrain and mountains. This tension between moisture, changing wind conditions, and the rugged terrain below produces a myriad of atmospheric phenomena, but a very particular formal effect characterized by often striking symmetry, ephemeral smoothness and transparency. Each cloud formation is a unique visual index of the dialogue between atmospheric conditions, geography and the terrain of a particular place at a particular moment in time. In this sense, lenticularis mediates the sky and the ground, and unites them.

Exhibited at the SCI-ARC Gallery is a 1:7-scale-model of a proposed light weight roof structure over the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center Plaza designed by Isamu Noguchi. For this Plaza, Noguchi created a singular landscape inspired by a Zen-garden that isolates itself from the surrounding townscape. However, the Plaza, which is a very important place for the community, is too exposed to the climate of Los Angeles to host various activities; and the walls which enclose the Plaza conceal it from the neighborhood and make it invisible to the city.

A roof is proposed to enhance the functional and symbolic value of the Plaza for the community by providing a climatic shelter expressing the existence of the Plaza to the urban condition. In order to accomplish this, what needs to be realized is a large-scale roof floating above the Plaza, which will not touch Noguchi’s Zen-garden, nor will it isolate Noguchi’s terrain from the Los Angeles sky; but instead mediate them.

The proposed scheme is an extremely lightweight membrane structure that behaves, in concept, like a bicycle wheel. This lenticularis-like giant roof, spans One-hundred and eighty six feet and includes a fifty foot overhang that makes it possible to cover half an acre of the Plaza’s surface without touching Noguchi’s Plaza. It consists of a five-hundred and twenty foot long perimeter ring beam supported by four sets of columns that fall outside of the extents of the Plaza. Fifty-six tension cables extend from the ring beam and are gathered at a central sprocket, surfaced with mirror-polished stainless steel panels creating a “Cloud-scope.” The Cloud-scope provides visual transparency towards the sky and enhances the openness of the Plaza, while its unique sectional profile reflects both the sky and the terrain and fuses the boundary between them.