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This project was successfully funded on May 21, 2013

MoCA: Surface-to-Volume

by Tom Wiscombe


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This project is a sixteen foot high inhabitable pavilion which will be exhibited in The New Sculpturalism show at the MoCA Geffen Contemporary in Los Angeles, opening June 1, 2013. It was chosen in an invited competition held by the Museum last summer, and now the heat is on to realize it. 

The project is a study of surface-to-volume transformations, where mass is achieved by pushing into a surface like a fist through a rubber sheet. In this case, chunky objects are pushed into exterior skins, creating volumetric effects on the interior. The perimeter edges of the three components of the piece are razor-thin, creating visual tension between the realms of 2D/flat and 3D/massive.

Through the triangular arrangement of the three super-components, the piece also reads as an aggregation of strong-silhouette objects nested within an implied outer enclosure. Placing objects inside other objects creates the effect of depth and internalized figuration like fish in an aquarium.



The construction of the piece, like the wing of a stealth fighter, is a composite monocoque construction with variable-depth honeycomb core material to provide graded structural performance. What at first appears to be a single thin surface is in fact two surfaces which sometimes fuse and sometimes delaminate. One surface is formed over a digitally milled mold, while the other is formed on top of the honeycomb substrate once it is fused in. The material matrix is an advanced water-based polymer with carbon and glass fiber reinforcement; it is commonly used by the aerospace industry in the construction of 1:1 prototypes due to its lightness, strength, and the fact that it is a ‘green’ composite system. It is non-toxic and fireproof, solving two technical hurdles composites have consistently faced in architectural applications.

The surfaces of the piece are articulated with freeform meta-seams which imply a tectonic approach to breaking large objects down that has nothing to do with conventional meshes or panels. These seams are engraved into the skin like tattoos. Finally, the piece is finished with an ultra-matte rubber-like coating that is soft and velvety to the touch, similar to the skin of a manta ray. 



The piece is being fabricated by Barnacle Bros. in Los Angeles and Asteriskos in Phoenix. Engineering was provided by Matthew Melnyk, S.E from Nous Engineering.

The labor involved in finishing and painting the project exceeds the available budget, so we are seeking your help to raise the remaining funds required to make the project a success. The first $12,000 will go directly to the fabricators to cover labor costs. Any funds raised in excess of that goal will be used to pay for additional fabrication expenses for this project and pay our staff for design and coordination work on the project.

This is such an amazing opportunity to be able to reach out to you directly and ask for your help.

Thank you so much for your support!