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March 20, 2007
by Daniel Fox

Event: James Carpenter Design Associates’ ‘Environmental Refractions’
Location: The Architectural League of New York, 03.13.07
Speakers: James Carpenter — James Carpenter Design Associates; Sandro Marpillero, AIA — Marpillero Pollak Architects; Kenneth Frampton — Ware Professor of Architecture, Columbia University GSAPP; Matthias Schuler — lecturer in architecture, Harvard Graduate School of Design; Detlef Mertins — Chair, Department of Architecture University of Pennsylvania; Linnaea Tillett, PhD, IESNA — Principal, Tillett Lighting Design Inc.
Organizers: The Architectural League of New York

Visual Processes

Visual Processes

Courtesy The Architectural League of New York

James Carpenter pushes the material boundaries of his projects, according to Sandro Marpillero, AIA, author of James Carpenter: Environmental Refractions. Glass, a common material, transforms into something spiritual and evocative. Kenneth Frampton, who contributed the afterword in the monograph, praised Carpenter’s ability to achieve technae, the ancient Greek ideal that lies “between craft and technology — linked to engineering but removed from its instrumentality.”

Sought after by designers, Carpenter often acts as a collaborative design consultant, a current trend in architectural practice. The James Carpenter Design Associates’ (JCDA) collaboration with Grimshaw Architects at the Fulton Street Transit Center is an example of how this collaboration can enhance a project, according to Detlef Mertins, Chair of the Department of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. The dynamic interplay of sunlight, glass, and reflections throughout the interior show an “interaction with phantasms.”

At the Tulane University Student Center, designed by Vincent James Associates, the two disciplines of glass and environmental design converge at the entrance. Climate engineer Transsolar and JCDA created a distinctly “non-glassy” solution involving motorized flat fans and excess chiller water to cool and dehumidify the space without conventional air-conditioning, explained Matthias Schuler, Diplom-Ingenieur at Transsolar.

Carpenter describes his work as “coming down to light and materiality.” Absorption and reflection are found in all materials, but he uses glass as a “substrate that can coalesce different bodies of information… compacting information, conscious and unconscious.”

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