Architecture in Motion: Knowlton Hall

Arabic architecture has taught us an invaluable lesson. It favors walking; it is on foot that we can best see the unfolding of architectural arrangements.
—Le Corbusier

COLUMBUS—When I shot my first video of Knowlton Hall, Ohio State’s large, spatially and sectionally complex “encyclopedia” of architectural effect, I was limited both by the low resolution of my camera and my inability to move it through the building by any other means than a nearly impossible to control Steadicam. Architecture, perhaps more than all other arts, requires the participant to move to fully appreciate the artistry of the structure. It is primarily through movement that our understanding of architecture becomes less formal, less idealized, and more experiential. Compared to our interaction with a plan and section or axonometric drawings or photographs, it is through movement that we best understand architecture as promenade, as an unfolding of space through time.

These dolly shots, taken during the summer while school was out of session, allowed me to move through the building unencumbered by student occupants or their projects. Lacking the typical spatial hierarchy most often seen in architecture, Knowlton Hall’s spaces flow into one another, relying on changes in section rather than enclosure for separation. This dramatic transparency is most apparent while strolling through the building, as changes in viewpoint reveal spatial and structural relationships obscured to us only moments earlier.

Knowlton Hall has been criticized for its limited palette of materials, and the lack of warmth and color that result. The interior surfaces, primarily concrete, are matched with exterior walls painted white. But the monocromaticism of the interior is enlivened by the use of multistory glazing, including the rectangular niche surrounding the five orders of classical columnson the east side of the building. This interplay of light, shade, and shadow, while perhaps most prominent in the lower levels, occurs throughout the building from the first story Main Space to the studios on the third story and fourth-floor library.

This 13-second, 390-frame time-lapse video required over 1,700 individual photographs, taken at five-second intervals for more than an hour and a half. Tripling the number of shots taken versus the actual number of frames in the video allows for smoother blending between frames, including less flickering and a decrease in the need to adjust levels by hand using After Effects in post-production.


Visualizing Systems of Organization in William Forsythe’s One Flat Thing, reproduced

William Forsythe’s multi-disciplinary, media-blending work is perfectly suited for exhibition and exploration at Ohio State. The University’s unmatched academic breadth enables students, faculty, staff, and the public to study and experience Mr. Forsythe’s thought-provoking work through several different lenses.
—President E. Gordon Gee, The Ohio State University

COLUMBUS—Synchronous Objects (2009) was the result of a collaborative process, involving choreographer William Forsythe and the Forsythe Company, Frankfurt, and researchers from the departments of Dance, Design, Computer Science, Geography, Statistics, and Architecture at The Ohio State University. The project’s participants examined Forsythe’s complex ensemble dance work One Flat Thing, reproduced, searching for ways to visualize the methods of choreographic organization. Lacking a musical score, dancers instead rely on intricate systems of cues from others in the troupe that trigger their own reactions, whose reactions further trigger the reactions of other dancers, and so forth. Transcription of this complicated system of interlocking structures using traditional methods—which are often of limited value even in less-involved dance compositions—was discarded. Merging art and science, collaborators created a number of experimental, data-based visualizations that revealed complex, subtle, and connected patterns hidden not only to the audience, but almost certainly to the dancers and choreographer as well.

My work on this project was centered on the concept of “trace,” or the ghost-like persistence of bodies in time, lingering for a moment in the spaces just evacuated by the dancers. Similar to the animation process of onion-skinning, each dancer would leave behind slowly fading after-images from their previous positions, revealing not only a less truncated view of their individual movement histories, but superimpositions and overlap with others not possible in traditional forms of representation. What this captured was not only the surprisingly vivid organic geometries generated as the dancers arc through time and space, but a very graphic representation of their speed and velocity in the manner of Étienne-Jules Marey’s chronophotography.

Synchronous Objects was included in the Comm Arts Interactive Annual, featured in The New York Times  and was presented as part of the Wexner Center exhibition, Transfigurations.

Credits for this clip and Synchronous Objects can be viewed here; additional video here.


Creating Higher-Quality Educational Video

COLUMBUS—My interest in creating high-quality educational video began while teaching a ten-week course on manufacturing process at The Ohio State University. During this course, I found myself forced to rely almost entirely on material from a textbook that was supplemented with low-quality videos I located on the Internet. While many of these manufacturing techniques are investigated in different course offerings at the university level, visiting these facilities was impossible, due to the large number of students, scheduling conflicts, and safety concerns. Additionally, some of the manufacturing processes covered in the course take hours, days, or even weeks to complete and some of these facilities are simply off-limits to guests.

Across the United States, many institutions have adopted an approach where video is used as a tool for teaching. However, there is a lack of high-quality, detailed video on the manufacturing processes used in industrial and interior design and engineering. At Ohio State, like many universities, there is a wealth of facilities and well-educated experts working in their fields, but few ways of sharing this knowledge outside direct classroom or laboratory visits.

This video, shown above, was created to communicate machining processes to Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering students at OSU. Although not a substitute for hands-on learning, it introduces core concepts, focusing on the basic operation of analogue lathes and mills. The video’s resolution is high enough to allow careful, detailed inspection by audiences and affords instructors the ability to freeze-frame or cue-and-review to highlight important information in ways that would be less practical—or impossible—in the lab.

Unlike the majority of university-produced educational video, Building the Apprentice Piece was shot on-location using a Canon 5D (a top-quality DSLR) under controlled lighting and with a variety of professional lenses. The final video was fully color-corrected and annotated with text after editing.

This video was produced by Tim Jacoby and Ryan Hale for the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering at The Ohio State University.