School of the Art Institute of Chicago
36 S Wabash Ave
Chicago, IL 60603

Nicole Hall

Team Members
Molly Rademacher


(2447 KB),  22-Aug-2017 05:43 PM

GEOSCAPE, a space-making project, creates interior environments using faceted geometric forms. Back-lit, perforated wall cladding and geometric pendant lighting, choreograph moments within the various environments. Varied depth seating provides visitors with different opportunities to engage and experience these geometric spaces. The project is presented by graduate students from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). 

While Navy Pier’s sheer size allows crowds of people entry into SOFA CHICAGO, the expansive space feels disconnected from the human scale. GEOSCAPE aims to reintroduce the human scale while encouraging its visitors to interact with carefully created interior environments. A geometric form allows the structure to reach up to a faceted canopy. These created ‘walls’ and ‘ceiling’ provide an overall sense of interiority inside the otherwise expansive space of Navy Pier. Upon discovering GEOSCAPE, one finds non-linear circulation paths and interrupted sight lines. This creates small hidden nooks where guests may disconnect from the business of SOFA. This lack of knowing encourages viewers to enter and discover these various interior spaces within the structure, much like the discoveries one makes while hiking a winding trail.  Faceted geometric forms ensure that each of these discovered spaces offers a unique experience for the user. Spaces along the exterior of the structure allow SOFA-goers to remain a part of the expo and all its happenings while taking a quick break and enjoying the created environment. Going further into the structure however, allows one the opportunity to better experience the rich environment of GEOSCAPE as they rest their feet and temporarily disconnect from the bustling energy of the expo. The environment at the center of the installation is perhaps the most private space, with ‘walls’ on three sides of the seating element. Since GEOSCAPE has no clear entrance, guests may enter the geometric environment from one side of the structure and leave from another.

The overall experience of GEOSCAPE is enhanced by the selection of natural materials and intricate finishing details.  Each geometric facet brings the warmth of nature into the space. The combination of natural graining and tactile texture in the wood, contrast the overall clean industrial space of Navy Pier, enhancing GEOSCAPE’s inviting energy. Felt cushions throughout the structure, not only offer guests comfort, but also add additional visual and tactile textures. Both materials also work to absorb sound, allowing the installation to be a calming space for visitors to relax inside the bustling expo.

Two layers of carefully curated lighting continue to define space and draw SOFA visitors to the installation while enhancing the interior environments within the structure. Throughout GEOSCAPE, select geometric facets of the structure act as lighting elements. A geometric motif, which reflects the structural forms of the installation, is cut through the surface of these select panels and lit from behind. This light reflects color from the painted surfaces hidden behind each of the perforated panels, introducing color into the otherwise natural installation. Together, these lighting elements gives the structure a glowing effect. Since this layer of light will be focused on the interior of the structure, guests will be drawn inward by the resulting glow. These panels, while remaining integral to the overall geometric structure of the installation, draw the viewer into GEOSCAPE while adding overall visual interest.

A second layer of light is used to further enhance user experience. Handcrafted geometric pendant lights will be used throughout GEOSCAPE to continue to define the various interior environments. Groupings of these pendant lights will be concentrated above seating elements, visually separating them from circulation areas. The resulting phototropism will encourage expo-goers to sit and enjoy the installation. The pendants’ height will also assist in creating an environment at a human scale. Much like lighting in a restaurant, these lighting elements will bring down the visual height of the space, while still allowing needed height for circulation and sight. The geometric forms of each lighting element will continue to echo the faceted structure of the installation. Like the perforated lighting elements, a painted interior will also bring additional color into the choreographed space. Perforated geometric panels and the faceted pendant lighting work together to draw the user into the structure and define space, while creating an interesting environment for SOFA visitors.

While the two layers of lighting help draw the viewer into the space, carefully crafted seating elements encourage the user to sit and enjoy the carefully created environments. Throughout the space, seating elements of various depths prompt each guest to use the space in different ways. Some seating is fairly familiar to the user at a standard seating depth. However, walking around the structure, one finds that some seating elements provide a deeper depth. These deeper cushions encourage the expo goer to lean back into the ‘walls’ of the structure and relax. Others allow visitors to lounge or perhaps lay down. Not only do the various environments created by GEOSCAPE introduce different levels of privacy for the SOFA Expo-goers, but they also encourage users to interact with the choreographed environments in different ways. The multi-functionality provided by these cushions make GEOSCAPE more than a place to rest, but an environment that encourages discovery.  

The cushions atop each seating element add many layers of interest to the space. The use of felt adds another natural texture to GEOSCAPE already found in the wood panels of the structure. Not only do the visual textures of the felt break up the wood grained structure, it offers an interesting tactile texture for those who choose to sit. The closer one gets to the surface of the cushion, the more one can visualize these textures and appreciate the various fibers which compose the material. The felt cushions also bring additional color into the space, much like the two geometric lighting panels and the faceted pendant lights. These pops of color work to visually unify the composition without overwhelming the visitor. Carefully crafted lighting and seating elements throughout GEOSCAPE not only visually enhance the installation, but also work to enhance each SOFA visitors’ experience.  

GEOSCAPE is a collaborative effort between graduate students from the architecture, art and design departments across SAIC where programs applaud experimentation and encourage a process of trial and error in the realization of impactful work. A leader in educating artists, designers and scholars since 1866, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) offers nationally accredited undergraduate, graduate and post-baccalaureate programs to more than 3,500 students from around the globe. Located in the heart of Chicago, SAIC has an educational philosophy built upon an interdisciplinary approach to art and design, giving students unparalleled opportunities to develop their creative and critical abilities, while working with renowned faculty who include many of the leading practitioners in their fields. Through the integration of thinking and making, and by recognizing that artmaking, designing, art historical research, critical thinking, and writing done by graduate students often crosses disciplines, we provide a context, awareness and understanding much greater than any single-discipline approach could provide. Even the most radical work has a connection with what has come before, and with the Art Institute of Chicago as our classroom, traditions are examined firsthand in relation to what is currently being produced. SAIC graduate students focus, and study intensively, with some of the most renowned faculty in the world, while developing significant professional relationships that influence them for decades to come. The globally diverse student body ensures engagement and enrichment by the ideas and expressions of people from backgrounds and cultures much different than one’s own. This project personifies the interdisciplinary study and overall collaborative energy between students at School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an engaged staff who participate to support the learning process; promote the overall well-being, growth, and development of students; and enhance student success and the realization of students' full artistic potential. 


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