Gladstone Market

Deep Formations Lab

University Of Waterloo
Porosity and flow combine to create an experimental public square in Toronto’s West Quarter
Team Members: Myles McCaulay, Miguel Sanchez, Dennis Tang

Deep Formations Lab is a studio predicated around the study of movement through fluid, creating a form and developing a type of architecture. A main pillar of the studio revolves around the concept of ‘material consistency’. The concept explores ideas regarding building material and its control layers as uniform. The sameness of material must be consistent between wall, floor, and roof. Like marble, the Gladstone Market began as a series of exercises and experiments to carve a new form and avenue of architecture.

The studio began with experiments, then tests, and finally into physical prototyping before resulting in the elaboration of an architectural design proposal. Students split into teams of two or three, and began experimenting by injecting syringes filled with ink of varying viscosity into a water tank for documentation. Such documentation resulted in the elaboration of an architectural form for further analysis.

As mentioned, each team experimented with inks and syringes, and injecting them into water. Each team constructed their own tanks with the dimensions of their choice. With three cameras directed at each of the orthographic directions, the devices successively photographed the ink against a grid-backdrop for analytical clarity.

We conducted formal analyses by digitally compiling each frame into an overall form. To create a viable architecture, the ink drops must exhibit porosity to indicate openings within the architecture, as well as articulations to present their structural form. This meant the ink drop must not be too runny, yet move too slowly. The prefect result required a balance of speed and concentration. Above, the resultant form came from a series of tests and trials.

After the formal analysis, we generated a porosity diagram. Using a single colour, the varying shades dictated the shifting permeability of the form. The lighter the colour, the more openings the architecture held. As the colour darkened, the more enclosed the architecture became. Thus dictated the type of architecture the form held.

The next step is digitisation. Importing every frame into Rhino prepares the form for processing. By placing a point on every major corner, those points connect along its successive location in the tank. Thus, a form built upon digitisation.

With this framework, prototype analyses can begin. Through a series of tests through lofting, webbing, and adjoining, our work in Rhino creates a manually constructed algorithm in which the architecture is articulated. Every analysis differs from the last, as an attempt to create more complex and perfected architecture congruent with the concept of ‘material consistency’.

Perfecting an algorithm requires many person-hours and logistical thinking. Our result and perfected algorithm must be versatile enough to be adapted to all conditions of the site, based on the varying porosity diagrams and formal analyses. With that, the architectural body forms, and our proposal takes shape.

To test the plausibility of experimental architecture, prototyping is important. In order to create useable methods of construction, rethinking the design is pertinent. Thinking in a new light, we approached the design as a series of assembled parts, rather than amorphous lava of matter.

Utilising tools like Grasshopper, we began to construct a series of mouldable cells and joints. Every component contained typical components, while unique in every instance. Every slight change became a Futurist recording of the former ink drop the architecture beckoned.

As a team, we decided the model must be lightweight and durable. Fibreglass quickly became the unanimous decision, with the prototype’s fabrication process predicated by the material. Milling, sanding, moulding, and pouring became habit. Soon, the resin settled, and each cell was milled and sanded before assembling.

The result became a delaminated exoskeleton, which housed an indeterminate program. The architecture proved quite sturdy, and withstood many external forces due to its webbed structure. However, the experiment was only a small foray into this ‘material consistency’ concept.

The final component in the lab was implementing the prototype as an architectural proposal. We had free reign of any location across the globe, but we decided to stay in a space more familiar. Queen Street West in Parkdale is a bourgeoning cultural corridor in Toronto, and its lack of public space and amenity left the location free for implementation. Set across from the Gladstone Hotel sat a small café ahead of an elongated lot. Our implementation would provide a structure of public congregation as well as the introduction of a public piazza adjacent the rail corridor.

The proposal resulted in a farmer’s market placed in the heart of Parkdale, appropriately named the Gladstone Market. Through this process, our team learned about an alternative method of producing architecture unlike current contemporary practices.

The notion of ‘material consistency’ appears to be an idealised concept, however noble in its pure form. However, building behaves much like complex beings, rather than simple amoeba. Conduits, inner and outer skins, skeletal structures, and resources are all parts of building, which proves difficult to achieve in simple organisms. Ultimately, this approach to architecture was an interesting foray into an uncharted land; architecture takes on many forms and processes.

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© Dennis Tang 2017