Toloudi show pushes limits of traditional architecture

by Mac Emery | 1/28/15 6:10pm

A bamboo shoot cultivated in illuminated cubicles. A hanging piece of metal that can take on multiple forms. These are just two examples of the work shown in the Strauss Gallery’s newest exhibit “Metamaquette” by studio art professor Zenovia Toloudi.

The three visually arresting, diverse pieces featured in the exhibit are neither strictly artwork, nor strictly architecture, but rather an experimental fusion of the two disciplines that defies easy categorization. Though she is currently a studio art professor, Toloudi’s expertise and training is in architecture, and her position and approach bridges these two fields.

“Studio art at Dartmouth is a unique environment for someone working between art and architecture because it offers a very open agenda for what architecture can be,” Toloudi said.

Unfettered by the normal conceptions of either ideology, the gallery’s work exhibits functional and innovative concepts on an experimental scale. The work explores techniques to liberate architecture from classic approaches, studio art intern Sean Hammett ’14 said.

“She’s by no means an architect in the traditional sense,” he said.

Rather than showcasing finalized pieces, the gallery features miniaturized prototypes or models, that Toloudi dubbed “metamaquettes.” These models demonstrate architectural concepts pending development and full-scale implementation, she said. Overall, the exhibit’s collection aims to display her artistic process as well as the flexibility of these ideas in the developmental stage.

“I decided to present my methodology in an experimental way,” Toloudi said. “I thought I should explain my method mostly, like using installation art to create experimental architecture.”

To suggest potential uses of the exhibit’s pieces, accompanying posters on one of the walls render hypothetical, full-scale applications of the models to emphasize their potential as future structures.

Toloudi said that the “metamaquette” projects are working hypotheses, rather than finalized products, and investigate the topics of speculation during development that precedes the realization of an idea.

The first piece to confront viewers is a hanging network of interlocking flat pieces that abstractly suggests a cloud or tree canopy. This model, titled “Micro-Ceasefire Under Shadow,” is adjustable to the space’s demands. The network absorbs ambient noise and emanates tranquil birdcalls on viewers beneath. This project is intended to create an urban oasis to counteract the stressful noise and din of the modern metropolis, she said.

“It is a proposal to create some small artificial garden,” Toloudi said. “It is a micro-environment that people can go enjoy for natural sound and bird sounds.”

Variations of this installation can incorporate solar panels, lights, sound transmitters and other technologies to enhance its use and conform to the space demands.

The second model, titled “Photodotes I, IV”, is made of two installations. “Photodotes I” is a bold blue, angular shape that redirects both artificial and natural light through cables into a space to address prevalent issues in modern architecture related to lack of light, such as vitamin D deficiencies.

“I need to address bringing natural light into dark space,” Toloudi said.

“Photodotes IV” is a grid of transparent, stacked cubicles. Cables siphon light to illuminate the cubicles, and, along with regulated water flow, cultivate a bamboo shoot. As a system, “Photodotes” intends to examine the interactions between technology, light, growth and architectural space, Toloudi said.

Due to the space limitations of the Strauss Gallery, however, only artificial light is channeled into both the “Photodotes” models featured.

The final piece, “Blanket III,” is a hanging metallic model of an open-air pavilion design that occupies the bulk of the gallery space. Designed with connecting triangular plates, the flexible structure can conform to the parameters of the space it occupies, displaying the possibilities of adaptable structures. Toloudi said that the concept behind “Blankets III” is to play with the notion of fixed and permanent architectural spaces and objects. “Blankets III” is a triangulated model that can assume many forms, Toloudi said.

“With minimum resources it can take any form, be collapsed, stored and reconfigured somewhere else,” Toloudi said.

Both Toloudi and director of exhibitions Gerald Auten expressed hope that the exhibit will spark interest in architecture and art.

“We try to bring the world here [to Dartmouth], the art world here,” Auten said.

Auten said that the studio art department customarily presents a gallery for new professors, like Tolodi, within their first year at the College to acquaint the public with their style.

Before coming to the College, Toloudi served as a fellow at Harvard University and is a Fulbright scholar. Her work has been featured in Chicago, Boston, Greece and Venice.

The gallery will run from Jan. 13 until March 10 in the Strauss Gallery.