MARBLE CANYON | Socrates Sculpture Park, Queens, NY
Entry for 2014 Folly Competition sponsored by the Architectural League of New York & Socrates Sculpture Park.
MARBLE CANYON proposes a 12’ x 12’ x 12’ cube of rammed earth that is designed to erode over the course of a year, revealing a hidden concrete lookout stair from within as it disintegrates.
Rammed earth is rarely used in the northeastern climate as its physical characteristics are not ideally suited towards durability without additional protective measures from the elements. MARBLE CANYON embraces that failure.
A single, functioning antique water pump stands adjacent to the cube, connected to the East River thirty feet away. As curious minds begin to pump the handle, a gush of water is drawn through concealed piping to the top of the cube. The rammed earth is designed to hasten erosion in key locations, as less clay & portland cement and a higher concentration of sand mixes with the loam to lessen its binding capacity. As visitors pump, water collects in a concealed depression at the top of the cube and pours through one of 3 pre-formed pathways, encouraging de-sedimentation in predestined paths. Runoff from the installation is collected in a drainage basin at the base and uses gravity to return the water to the adjacent East River via a drainage pipe.
As the continuous flow of water begins to carve into the layers of the earth, large glass marbles are revealed from within the earthen walls. While providing a stunning display of glimmering light, they also strike the perfect balance between desirable souvenir object and utilitarian aggregate. Children and adults alike are encouraged to continue pumping in order to take home a marble or two as a reward for their efforts.
Over time, a concrete lookout stair is unearthed through the smooth canyon walls. The once massive and impenetrable block is continuously transforming itself towards a human scale and, more excitingly, encourages climbing - rewarding the visitors efforts with a new previously unattainable vantage point over Socrates Park and the views beyond. The stair is proposed as a non-code compliant sculptural element that can be climbed as an interactive sculptural element should Socrates Sculpture Park choose to allow it.
MARBLE CANYON is the ultimate folly - existing simultaneously in the landscape, the past, the present, and as a future ruin waiting to be unearthed.
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Fallen tree branches are collected and accumulated from all New York City parks from now until May 2013, and are stockpiled at Socrates Sculpture park. Formwork is constructed out of plywood for the inner shells of the walls. A rebar structure is erected with a dual function - to provide reinforcing for the concrete, but also as structural support for the cantilevered branches. The bottom row of branches are installed, with the cut ends of the branches flush against the plywood. The formwork for the outer shell is formed out of a mixture of sand, dirt and hay. Each row of branches is subsequently installed, with the earthen formwork deepening as required. Some of the lower branches will be completely engulfed by the temporary earthen formwork.
Concrete with recycled glass aggregate is poured between the plywood and earthen formwork. The earthen formwork is power-washed away using water from the adjacent East River, leaving the concrete between the exterior branches dirty and imperfect. The plywood formwork is removed and the inner shells are ground down and subsequently polished, creating a perfectly smooth surface of exposed ends of branches, concrete, and the shimmering glass aggregate.