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07.30.10 - 09.12.10 | SCI-Arc Gallery
Atelier Hitoshi Abe: len-tic-u-lar-is

On view through September 12th

len-tic-u-lar-is, a new exhibition by Los Angeles and Sendai-based architecture firm Atelier Hitoshi Abe (AHA), will be on view from July 30 to September 12 in the SCI-Arc Gallery.

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Photos by Rafael Sampaio-Rocha

len-tic-u-lar-is [len‚tik•yə′lar•əs] is a lens-shaped cloud formation that occurs at high altitudes as strong winds blow over and around rough terrain and mountains. This tension between moisture, changing wind conditions, and the rugged terrain below produces a myriad of atmospheric phenomena, but a very particular formal effect characterized by often striking symmetry and ephemeral smoothness and transparency. Each cloud formation is a unique visual index of the dialogue between atmospheric conditions, geography and the terrain of a particular place at a particular moment in time. In this sense, len-tic-u-lar-is mediates the sky and the ground, and unites them.

The first architectural subject that AHA will tackle in Los Angeles is the design of a new large-scale roof over the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (JACCC) Plaza, designed by Isamu Noguchi.

For this plaza, Noguchi created a singular landscape inspired by a Zen garden that isolates itself from the surrounding townscape. Although a very important place for the community, the JACCC Plaza is too exposed to the climate of Los Angeles to host various activities, and the walls that enclose the plaza conceal it from the neighborhood and make it invisible to the city.

A roof is proposed to enhance the functional and symbolic value of the JACCC Plaza to the community by providing a climatic shelter that expresses the existence of the plaza to the urban condition. In order to accomplish these objectives, what needs to be realized is a large-scale roof floating above the plaza that will not touch Noguchi’s Zen garden, nor isolate Noguchi’s terrain from the Los Angeles sky, but instead mediate them.

The proposed scheme is an extremely lightweight membrane structure that behaves, in concept, like a bicycle wheel. This lenticularis-like giant roof spans 186 feet and includes a 50-foot overhang, which makes it possible to cover half an acre of the plaza’s surface without touching Noguchi’s work. It consists of a 520-foot-long perimeter ring beam, supported by four sets of columns that fall outside of the area of the plaza. Fifty-six tension cables extend from the ring beam and are gathered at a central sprocket, surfaced with mirror-polished stainless steel panels creating a "Cloud-scope." The Cloud-scope provides visual transparency towards the sky and enhances the openness of the plaza, while its unique sectional profile reflects both the sky and the terrain and fuses the boundary between them.

Exhibited in the SCI-Arc Gallery is a 1:7-scale-model of the proposed roof structure. Len-tic-u-lar-is has been developed in collaboration with Buro Happold Consulting Engineers.

len-tic-u-lar-is in the News:
July 2010: Canadian Architect, Atelier Hitoshi Abe Exhibition at the SCI-Arc Gallery

Hitoshi Abe (M.Arch '89) is Chair and Professor of UCLA Department of Architecture and Urban Design.

Known for architecture that is spatially complex and structurally innovative, the work of Atelier Hitoshi Abe has been published internationally and received numerous awards, including most recently the 2009 Architectural Institute of Japan Award for SSM/Kanno Museum, the 2009 Contract World Award for Aoba-tei, the 2008 SIA-Getz Prize for Emergent Architecture in Asia and the 2007 World Architecture Award for M/Kanno Museum.

Abe earned his M.Arch from SCI-Arc in 1989 and his PhD from Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan in 1993.

Principal of his own firm, he founded Atelier Hitoshi Abe in 1993 in Sendai and recently opened a second office in Los Angeles. Some of his key projects located in Japan include the Aoba-tei restaurant, the Sasaki Office Factory for Prosthetics, F-town, which is an eat-and-drink building filled with bars and restaurants in Sendai, the Miyagi Stadium in Rifu, SSM/Kanno Museum in Shiogama, the 9-tsubo House "Tall" in Kanagawa, and the Reihoku Community Hall in Kumamoto.

Abe's work is the subject of two monographs including Hitoshi Abe Flicker (TOTO) from his exhibition in 2005 at the Gallery Ma in Tokyo and Hitoshi Abe published by Phaidon in 2009.