Page B1.1 . 18 December 2002                     
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    2x4 Space Sculpture

    by ArchitectureWeek

    In the summer of 2002, the Center on Contemporary Art in Seattle hosted an exhibit called "Blurred," featuring work that blurs the boundaries between art and architecture. As an experiment for the show, designer James Harrison built a room-size structure by stacking short lengths of wood. Every piece was a two-foot long 2x4 (3.8 by 8.9 by 61 centimeters). "The idea," says Harrison, who was trained in both architecture and sculpture, "was to see how much plasticity I could achieve out of a regularly repeated module." It took him two days to cut the blocks and five days to stack them.

    He had built four study models before arriving at the final prototype, which he used in lieu of drawings. Daahoud," as he calls his structure, was inspired by a jazz recording by Oscar Peterson, "a celebratory mountain of notes." Daahoud was built without plumb bobs, levels, or measuring devices. "It was all done by trusting the eye," Harrison recalls. "The main rule of thumb was: if you don't know what to do, keep going! I think this accounts for it's expressive quality somewhere between controlled and haphazard."

    Harrison based his lumber module on the width of the body and laid up a wall "as if it were masonry." There are the same number of pieces at each level, and he achieved the appearance of deformation by corbelling, overlapping, and rotating the material as the wall got higher. He used screws at both ends of each piece of wood for fastening each layer to the one before, a method he figured would be quick, invisible, and structurally redundant. He built scaffolding by running long 2x4s once through a planer so they were just thin enough to be passed through the basket-like structure at whatever level needed. Similarly, he stuck shorter lengths through the side to form temporary staging platforms for holding material at a convenient working height. "The piece built itself," he jokes; "I just followed along."

    Above the level of the benches, the piece broadens, then, in the creator's words, "collapses into the fire of Gothic squinches, capped by a baroque drunken flourish. The inside is noticeably larger than the outside."

    The piece has now been dismantled and reinstalled at the Greg Kucera Gallery, where it remains on display until the Spring of 2003.

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    ArchWeek Image

    James Harrison built "Daahoud," a sculpture the size of a small room, by stacking wooden blocks.
    Photo: James Harrison

    ArchWeek Image

    Daahoud in construction, up to the level of the benches.
    Photo: James Harrison

    ArchWeek Image

    Designer/ builder Harrison inserted short lengths through the sides of his sculpture to form temporary staging platforms for holding material.
    Photo: James Harrison

    ArchWeek Image

    It was an experiment to see how much plasticity could be achieved from simple wood blocks.
    Photo: James Harrison

     

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