Thursday, October 1, 2020

When Art Meets Function: Cornell University Architecture Students Come to Marco

Photos by Samantha Husted | Cornell students (from left) Ben Mayne, Michaela Delasanta and Beth Tesfaye.

Photos by Samantha Husted | Cornell students (from left) Ben Mayne, Michaela Delasanta and Beth Tesfaye.

By Samantha Husted

In early March, the Marco Island Center for the Arts announced an exciting new partnership with Cornell University. The Center was selected by Cornell to take part in an architectural design project to create the blueprints for a “stressed membrane fabric structure.”

On April 4th, six Cornell architecture students, along with their teaching assistant Caroline Niederpruem and professor, Kent L. Hubbel, made their way to the Art Center to work on their designs for the fabric structures as part of their “Option Studio” portion of their class.

Stressed membrane fabric structures are made from fiberglass and Teflon. According to Bruce Graev, a Cornell University alumnus and Center for the Arts board member, they’re energy efficient, structurally sound and can lower operational costs. The structures can be found all over the country, from the AT&T Global Pavilion in Atlanta, Georgia to the Denver International Airport in Colorado.

“It’s light and very efficient structurally and provides a unique space underneath,” said Professor Kent L. Hubbel. “Over the last 30 years we’ve done projects of this sort throughout the country.”

The students were divided into two groups; each group was responsible for a creating a unique design to be presented to select members of the Center.

Before they got to work creating their models, the students were taken on a boat ride as a means of inspiring their designs. The boat tour allowed them to gain a better understanding of the island and it’s architecture,

The Cornell students set up shop at the back of the Marco Island Center for the Arts, taking questions from visitors and sharing their experiences on the island.

The Cornell students set up shop at the back of the Marco Island Center for the Arts, taking questions from visitors and sharing their experiences on the island.

much of which is dictated by mangroves and canals. They visited the famous Dome Homes and cruised along the coast.

“The spatial quality of being between patches of mangroves and snaking through is inspiring the way that visitors would circulate through our building design,” said Cornell student Brad Nathanson. Group members Di Wang and Anna Kuchera echoed this sentiment.

Both groups seemed to be inspired by the natural ecology of the island. The second group comprised of Ben Mayne, Michaela Delasanta and Beth Tesfaye also integrated the mangroves into their design.

“You have the ecology of the mangroves and we’re trying to create an ecology of artists,” said Michaela Delasanta.

“We want to create this sort of organic, forest inspired environment, “said Ben Mayne.

The students have since returned to Ithaca, New York where they will continue to work on their designs. As of right now there are no plans in place to build anything on the Art Center property. Though the collaboration acts as a fusion of sorts, blending art and functionality, something the Art Center has expressed interest in exploring.

“It was wonderful to have that kind of young, bright talent in our building. They brought a kind of energy to the Art Center and I hope that we’ll be able to work with young people of that caliber again,” said Marco Island Center for the Arts Executive Director Hyla Crane.

For information on the Marco Island Center for the Arts visit marcoislandart.org or call 239-394-4221.

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