Inside Rensselaer
* Architecture Students Showcase Recycled Material at Albany International Airport
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Architecture Students Showcase Recycled Material at Albany International Airport
As an introductory exercise, Rensselaer students entering their first year of architectural education were challenged to imagine the new spatial and structural possibilities found in discarded or recycled material. The end result led to a compilation of works titled Material Witness, which will be on display through June 20 at the Albany International Airport Gallery. In addition, a team of graphic design students from the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences created the invitations, promotional pieces, and signage used for the exhibition.

Each year, the gallery hosts two exhibits presenting the works of regional professional artists. Of special note, the current exhibition — which features several large-scale projects, drawings, photographs, study models, and site-specific constructions — is the first time that the gallery has showcased student work, according to gallery officials.

Among the works in Material Witness, a shimmering, nearly transparent work composed of acrylic, monofilament, and lead weights hovers over the stairwell to the gallery; a complex, geometric wall drawing greets visitors as they enter the exhibition. Another sculptural work perches on a narrow window ledge, its linear steel and wire body appearing to cling to the panes of glass that surround the security checkpoint. A still life at the center of the gallery gives visitors insight into the students’ practice in the studio; a video projection of many of the architectural models seen in the exhibition illuminates a drafting table, which is surrounded by drawings as well as “the tools and detritus of the academic process.” Floor-to-ceiling “trash walls” composed of found, recycled components stand as a dramatic testament to the transformational opportunities in everyday things, and to the students’ first forays into the exploration of material and aesthetic integrity.

“The exhibited work takes up issues that encompass the poetic, novel, spectacular, and above all the architectural possibilities that can arise from a zealous exploration of not only what the material is, but more importantly, what it can become,” said Michael Oatman, associate professor of architecture, who worked with David Riebe, clinical associate professor in architecture and a practicing licensed architect, to advise the students throughout the process.

The faculty members noted that while the architectural studies form the content of the exhibition, the graphic design components also serve to establish its visual identity. “The invitation, gallery signage, and interpretive labels that were developed by students from the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences deliver not only information, but also tone, atmosphere, character,” said Oatman. In keeping with the collaborative nature of the presentation, the students developed and oversaw the production of the various pieces as an advanced thesis project.

The exhibition is on display in the Airport Gallery daily from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. For more information regarding the exhibition, visit www.albanyairport.com/exhibitions.php.
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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 4, Number 2, February 5, 2010
©2010 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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