Southern California Institute of Architecture, 960 E. Third St., Los Angeles, CA 90013
It’s a beautiful thing, the Voussoir Cloud that architects Lisa Iwamoto and Craig Scott designed. Beautiful, in this particular case, has multiple meanings. It means that the Cloud feigns effortlessness, that it merges delicacy with a paradoxical portliness, and that the transparency of its structure makes it feel pleasantly accessible.
The vaults that make up the Voussoir Cloud—stoutly ephemeral canopies of paper-thin wood laminate petals—rely on each other and three gallery walls for their support. Move one petal and the whole Cloud may be in jeopardy. “The curvature of each petal—it’s dished shape,” reads the wall label, “is dependent upon its adjacent void.” This interdependence makes architecture seem fragile and transient, like something held together by cooperation and careful orchestration rather than fracture-proof foundations and rock solid supports.
There’s no mystery surrounding the Voussoir Cloud. The diagrams on the wall spell out the secrets behind its making: hanging chain models, a Delaunay tessellation, engineering firm Buro Happold, and SCI-Arc students all contributed. Iwamoto and Scott wanted to borrow from architectural mainstays while confusing conventional logic a bit. The Cloud is rendered structural, but made of unsubstantial material. Which makes it atmospheric, more a like sculpture than a functional edifice, and also brings it down to earth. A thing like this isn’t confounding, even if it confounds structural norms. You can walk around it, in and out of it, see what holds it together, see how it was made, and still delight in the way sunlight shines through the petals. It’s a beautiful thing and well worth a visit.
(Images top to bottom: Installation view, Photo by Judson Terry, Courtesy of IwamotoScott; Installation view, Image courtesy of IwamotoScott; Installation view, Image courtesy of IwamotoScott)