MORPH AS ICON

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Penn State BArch Program, Second Year: Firehouse (12 weeks)

Awarded First Honor & Scholarship

Status: completed

Sponsored by the National Concrete Masonry Association, this studio project was a competition between all of the second-year architecture students at Penn State. 

The hilltop location of the Bellefonte, PA site marked an important transition between the urban side of town and the rural side. I began to experiment with morphing a somewhat typical traditional "house" elevation shape into a new shape, something that was unique and able to serve as an icon for the small town. In order to create the morphed object, I chopped up the complex shape into equally-spaced slices, which became a second formal logic of slices. The slices became the load-bearing masonry structure, which allowed me to place different pieces of program in the spaces left in between the walls.

As I was organizing program types, I realized that such a public building needed more definition between spaces of different use, which led me to categorizing the program into three groups: work, live, and display. I shifted one of the slices away from the original plan to create an obviously public pavilion versus the two other private pavilions. This move divided the site in half, allowing for one side of the site to be primarily used for firefighting training and the other for community gardens. One of the last details of the building that I worked with was the facade. The thin shell of aluminum panels wraps around the heavy concrete masonry walls and has large openings cut into it to bring light in and to emphasize the slices from the exterior. The aluminum's finish is reflective in order to bring down the large scale of the building. 

The dynamic morphed object formed by the two memorable shapes on each end of the firehouse create an icon for Bellefonte.