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09.29.06 - 12.17.06 | SCI-Arc Library
RoTo Architects: Prairie View

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This exhibition of RoTo Architects' Texas A&M University, Prairie View Architecture and Art Building featured large scale photographs of the building, a mural-sized silk photo print, a large plexi-glass model stand fabricated to house numerous sketch models, and a video documenting the construction and project completion in early 2006.

The exhibit documented RoTo’s exploration of the craft of making a brick building whereby unit and multiple, scale shifting, weight, and plasticity were conceptual frames of reference. The primary objective was to create the conditions that would encourage students to do their best work. The brick, which blends with the surrounding native prairie grass landscape, is corbelled at varying degrees to form undulating curtain-like forms that are cantilevered and float above the ground and peel away to allow slots of light into the classrooms and the center of the building.

Founded 106 years ago, this public university was the first in Texas to be devoted to equal education for African Americans. The architecture program was founded forty years ago as a part of the College of Engineering and has recently become its own college. The 110,000 square foot building’s extremely fluid interior spaces create innumerable places for social exchange and dialogue that are critical to the development of an educational community.

On Wednesday, October 4, Rotondi appeared with SCI-Arc director, Eric Owen Moss, in conversation prior to a book signing of Rotondi’s latest published work, Still Points. The book, featuring essays by architecture critic Mildred Friedman and design theorist Michael Benedikt, illustrates the breadth and depth of RoTo’s commissions, including a memorial for the Los Angeles Fire Department, an experimental theater complex in La Jolla, California, a large Buddhist stupa in Santa Cruz, California, and a city planning project in Louisville, Kentucky, where a seventy-acre industrial site was transformed into an extension of the city's center.

Since its founding in 1991, RoTo has developed collaborative working relationships with clients who operate at the frontiers of their particular fields. These clients include the first Native American University in America; the Governor of Nagasaki, Japan; a leading theater company and university drama program; an international management consulting and business transformation firm; university presidents; civic leaders and Tibetan rinpoches. The unique interests of, and relationships with, their clients have led to a body of work where different ways of making architecture are explored, which lead to solutions that are inevitable, both functionally and aesthetically. RoTo has completed a wide range of project types of varying scope and complexity including residential, commercial, cultural and institutional. In addition to architectural design, RoTo services include strategic consulting to non-profit organizations with long-term building or planning programs, campus planning, the planning and design of rural communities and land use design for natural and cultural conservation. Their work has been published internationally and has received many awards. Michael Rotondi has lectured widely on the issues and ideas explored in the works.