Graduate students push boundaries at CaixaForum in Valencia, Spain
September 24, 2022
Architecture and construction graduate students were able to explore new research and design concepts with "La Caixa" Foundation through the CaixaForum project, which works to bring culture to all audiences and enabling them to experience it in unique, innovative, and accessible ways through physical infrastructure, site specific installations, and public programming.
In 2018, the "LaCaixa" Foundation chose the Agora building in the City of Arts and Sciences to serve as the location for CaixaForum Valencia. The project hosts numerous initiatives from groundbreaking art exhibitions, conferences, and concerts, to social days and family workshops, all with the goal of disseminating knowledge, culture, and science as catalysts of social improvement.
To further those same goals, graduate students in Ruiz-Geli's Architecture and Urbanism Laboratory 5716 travelled to Valencia Spain to finish and install a project seven months in the making. Throughout the semester leading up to the week-long trip in late April, the students were asked to challenge the existing design of the Cloud, and to develop their own ideas, research, and materiality.
The Cloud is one of several independently built elements of the intervention designed by Virginia Tech Architecture Professor Enric Ruiz-Geli, which features a broad projection surface for installations and gives the sensation of hovering off the ground. The final product of the semester and trip was a 3D printed exoskeleton, designed by Ruiz-Geli, Professor Luis Borunda, and the students in the class. While production was still underway, the team made good use of the available technology, mapping their videos, renders, grasshopper maps and process of thinking at a 1:1 scale, directly on the eighty food projection surface of the Cloud. The structure is now an impressively large permanent feature in the site, measuring over 75 feet in length and over 45 feet in width, and acts as a cladding that seamlessly merges aesthetics, innovation, and sustainability.
This trip allowed the students to learn by doing, to work within the complexity of the parallelism between the digital and the physical world. They were also able to engage with professionals in various trade specialties, such as Nagami, a Spanish furniture manufacturer specializing in 3D printing, and iGuzzini, an Italian lighting producer. Graduate student Chloe Abi Antoun described the trip as “open[ing] [her] eyes on the importance of collective intelligence and humanism on site and during construction.”
Ceramica Cumella, a Spanish ceramics manufacturer with a long history in architectural stoneware, funded the trip, enabling the build and installation of the structure, and allowing the group to experience their ceramics design and fabrication processes firsthand. The group also visited notable buildings in Barcelona, including the Agbar Tower, UNESCO World heritage site, La Sagrada Familia, as well as the Media TIC building, designed by Professor Ruiz Geli.