Inside Rensselaer
Volume 6, No. 4, March 2, 2012
   
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Curtis Powell

The Hyde Collection hosted an opening reception for the exhibit "Re-Envisioning the Hyde at Rensselaer" on Feb 10.
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Hyde Collection Exhibits School of Architecture Student Conceptual Design

The Hyde Collection in Glens Falls is currently featuring an unusual exhibit. “Building Futures: Re-Envisioning the Hyde at Rensselaer” presents conceptual proposals for expanding the Hyde campus designed by faculty and students of the Rensselaer School of Architecture.

The exhibit showcases faculty-led student-developed ideas for expanding and unifying disparate buildings and sprawling grounds of the Hyde campus. Six of the concepts were generated during an intensive two-day design “charrette” in September 2011. Sixteen proposals are the product of the semester-long second-year design studio held in the fall 2011 semester.

As an exercise in analysis, each student was asked to root his or her design in a piece from the collection, said Andrew Saunders, assistant professor of architecture and coordinator of the Hyde design studio.

“For the students, this is their introduction to analysis, which you can think of as design research,” Saunders said. “In a very simple way, it’s about being able to access thoughts, being able to analyze cultural artifacts beyond the literal. There’s a certain amount of interpretation; it’s not a formulaic process, it’s about understanding and building a discourse.”

Erica Barrows analyzed “The Discovery of the True Cross,” a Renaissance painting by Jacopo Robusti, better known as Tintoretto, which pictures Christ bearing the cross amid a crowd of onlookers.

“I really looked at the transitions between the figures in the painting. How all the main focus is on the centerpiece, and the people on the outside were watching him and orbiting around him,” Barrows said.

Saunders said the design studio was an opportunity for students to practice the concept of “affects”—an idea proposed by French philosopher Gilles Deleuze—in aesthetic analysis.

“There are certain intensities that are transmitted by the collection,” Saunders explained. “When transposed to architecture, we were less concerned with what the piece looked like and more concerned with what it does. Progressive architecture is not concerned with defining a universal language of meaning through the elements of architectural language such as columns, windows, and doors, but more concerned with how architecture engages a contemporary society through its affects or how the architecture connects through sensation.”

“In a very simple way, it’s about being able to access thoughts, being able to analyze cultural artifacts beyond the
literal. There’s a certain amount of interpretation; it’s not a formulaic process, it’s about understanding
and building a discourse.”—Andrew Saunders

The students “mined” their painting for specific relationships of geometry, composition, materiality, lighting, color, nature, and the human body. The students then translated their “affects” through a series of drawing and modeling exercises, culminating in an architectural strategy for the Hyde campus.
From her analysis, Barrows isolated three “affects” related to the rotation of the figures, the movement of the fabric robes enveloping their bodies, and folding and splitting lines. She labeled her affects “unrestrained weaving by the materiality,” “rotational,” and “split-folding.”

“This studio was a huge eye-opener—before, it was all abstract,” Barrows said. “I liked how we started with something so simple as a painting and looked at it, and made it into a module, and used that module to create a building that people can move around. It kind of opened my eyes to the idea that architecture can come from anything.”

Saunders said the sophomore design studio has become a vehicle for students to engage in their community’s cultural resources. The Hyde design studio follows on the heels of last year’s successful collaboration with the Lebanon, N.Y., Shaker Museum and Library.

“The Hyde Collection is eclectic. It includes pieces from the Renaissance, Baroque, modern, contemporary—you get to see an evolution of art,” Saunders said. “By analyzing each piece for affects, we were able to approach the collection in a contemporary way.”
The exhibit will remain up through April 15.

For more information, go to hydecollection.org.

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 6, Number 4, March 2, 2012
©2012 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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