Under Magnitude

The latest work from art and architecture studio MARC FORNES / THEVERYMANY is Under Magnitude: a two-story tall permanent structure suspended in the atrium of Orlando's Orange County Convention Center, carving a three-dimensional impact into the vast space.

The piece further evolves Fornes’ invention of ‘Structural Stripes,’ as well as the fundamental premise of the studio to unite surface, structure and space in order to create a new kind of experience.

How could Under Magnitude be described to someone who cannot see it? It curves, it branches, splits, joins, re-splits. It is a limit, but not a limit. It has edges yet is edgeless. A provocation in the studio is that if a person is challenged to come up with new ways to describe a space, did they first have to come up with new ways to apprehend the space?

To each passerby beneath the suspended structure, a different kind of personal connection is forged, as the work provokes comparisons to the recognizable world, influenced by individual experiences and associations. A giant, smooth coral? A cloud-like barnacle? A woman’s floral swimming cap? Borrowing and mismatching elements from the world, pushing them out of scale and hybridizing them to the realm of the bizarre, the structure achieves a familiar yet mysterious quality, at once friendly and alien.

Shells from shells
Read as one element from far, Under Magnitude is the sum of many sub-elements: a network of branches unified by a single smooth and continuous white surface. The intricate curvilinear surface is also structure, forming a unified system of both ‘columns’ and ‘beams,’ aggregating to create a three-dimensional subspace. The open, tubular branches come together within a Y-shaped plan and reach upwards to form a shape that is both like a vault and a suction cup: a “shell from shells.”

It is an example of the studio’s invention and ongoing development of innovative ‘new minimalist’ digital assemblies — unique constructs that unify skin, structure and spatial experience into a single system.

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Intensive curvature vs. extensive curvature
The material thickness of Under Magnitude is just a millimeter, thinner than a credit card, yet the structure is strong enough to walk upon.

The studio builds upon and challenges the heritage of Frei Otto, the notion of ‘Extensive Curvature’ and the achievement of Otto’s Soap Bubble Model. Otto determined that a bubble, when blown up to the size of a room, is more structurally performant than a box.

The strength of Under Magnitude is achieved by ‘Intensive Curvature,’ which is the maximization of double curvature across the project while constraining maximum radaii. The result is a structure that has much tighter curvature with constant change of direction, and results in more structurally performance. ‘Intensive Curvature’ leads to the curly, tubular branching characteristics consistent across the studio’s body of work.

The origin of stripes
The logistical end of achieving ‘Intensive Curvature’ has been made possible by Fornes’ invention and ongoing pursuit of the last ten years: ‘topological-mesh-walking’ as a ‘Structural Stripe’-based material system.

Cut from flat pieces of aluminum, ‘Structural Stripes’ describe a construct as a set of precise parts; in the case of Under Magnitude, 4,672. A Stripe is analogous to existing units of building material, such as a brick, but unique in that it is specific to its position, and aware of its neighbors, each of which are also unique.

Fastened together in assembly, each stripe assumes high degrees of curvature individually and high degrees of double curvature in accumulation — amounting to extreme structural rigidity throughout the project.

The studio is continually developing this unique method through projects that have over the last decade grown in scale and complexity. Driving the work is the search for high curvature, optimization of assembly time and the desire to innovate upon architectural effect.

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The whiteness of Under Magnitude marks a return to past works such as Labrys Frisae for Miami Art Basel and non Lin / Lin at the Frac Centre in France. The single-tone coloration of the piece means it’s gradation depends on the play of light, which, in the large, window-filled atrium, is a copious element. Throughout the day, as light changes, the effect of the piece changes, its edges often falling completely away.

The Origin of Stripes from MARC FORNES / THEVERYMANY on Vimeo.

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