Masters of the Ephemeral
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 11/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
Sometimes design is rocket science. Or set design. At least for Gaston Nogues, an aerospace engineer's son who spent a decade at the firm now known as Gehry Partners, and Benjamin Ball, who's worked on TV commercials and movies including The Matrix. The two architects met at SCI-Arc, formed Ball-Nogues Studio in 2004, and have since carved out their own brand of design. It's a cross between installation art and, yes, space exploration—all generated at a studio cum workshop in Los Angeles.
So far, the firm's built work has been temporary, from the carnivalesque "Liquid Sky" at the P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in Long Island City, New York, to the sculptural "Rip Curl Canyon" at the Rice Gallery in Houston and the woven canopy "Skin and Bones" and Mylar vortex "Maximilian's Schell" for the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and L.A.'s Materials & Applications exhibition space, respectively.
"We don't approach design as shelter. We're interested in modulating space," Ball explains. Computer-aided design facilitates lengthy investigations as well as fabrication, with numerous mock-ups in between. "We're like the general contractor," Nogues adds. "We control it all." That also goes for the hands-on aspects that even the most complex digital job requires—take the polycarbonate rivets that held together the golden Mylar segments of "Maximilian's Schell."
The fleeting nature of Ball-Nogues's work is a "function of circumstance," Ball continues. Sure, temporary projects tap into an interest in experimentation. They also require the architects to think ahead: dismantling in addition to putting together.
Up next is a tepee-inspired idea in Woodstock, New York. Ball and Nogues are thinking green, literally, perhaps with moss or lichen on cast glass. The owner isn't exactly sure yet what he's going to use the tepee for. One thing's for certain, though: It'll be permanent.