Thursday, March 4, 2010

the journey

Our search for the TOGS3 form began with the site. The site is located in the state of Texas, in Travis County, in the city of Austin, down to the Colorado River, which divides the city between north and south Austin. The art fair will take place along the banks and on the bridges of the river at East 1st St, Congress Ave, and South 1st St.

We then contemplated the physical site by looking at the city grid, the architecture within the grid and the construction of the bridges. The bridges interestingly had the same form in plan and elevation. The bridges took us to the Colorado River, which divides the city between north and south banks, and as most rivers do, delineates two cultures within the city.

We then reflected on the culture of the city. The University of Texas at Austin makes this town quite diverse. The population is comprised of university professors, students, politicians, musicians, state employees, high-tech workers, and blue- and white-collar workers, all of whom refer to themselves as Austinites. This diversity has encouraged the development of an artistic community in Austin—one that is well-known for music, film, and interactive technologies, as well as the creation of the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival.

Since its debut in 1987 SXSW has brought the creative world's attention to Austin. The caliber of arts, sponsors and dialogue taking place at this festival made it an avenue of communication between Austin and the art capitals of the world. According to SXSW’s website (, the music festival brings in approximately 12,000 registrants to Austin, and the film and interactive events brings in roughly 17,000 more. For a city to host 29,000 festival goers we considered the logistics involved and SXSW as an avenue of communication—namely the communication necessary to make the event such as this happen. We examined each of the SXSW venues and made connections between every point, and slowly our form began to emerge.

With a basic form in place, we proceeded to look at other Austin attractions. The Congress Bridge is known for housing more than a million bats, a phenomenon that became of immediate interest. Each evening at dusk from March until November, 1.5 million Mexican free-tail bats fly out from under the bridge in search of food. According to the Austin City Guide website, (, these bats consume about 10,000 to 30,000 insects a night. These bats in particular are a major attraction in Austin and their flight begins and ends at the TOGS site.

It is remarkable to think of 1.5 million bats coordinating a departure and return flight every night, and we became interested in how this mass in flight occurs. Further, we became more interested in the communication required among this mob flying in unison. Bats use sound waves, specifically sonar waves, to communicate, navigate, and avoid collision. We took a moment to consider these sonar waves with the sound waves of the SXSW music festival. While considering this, we were drawn more to the patterns created by the flight of the bats; more specifically the movement of their wings in air. The bats create an intricate pattern, or appearance of a pattern in flight, which provided the pattern we eventually incorporated into our form. A triangle was used as the basis for this pattern because it distinguishes three points, which represent the three components of SXSW. The shape is also significant because it can be divided multiple times from any of its three points without loosing its original shape. Similar to a swarm, regardless of the large number, the participants’ reactions parallel each other to meet a common goal.

In both SXSW, and the flight of the bats, collective communication is vital to the event actualizing. The form created is representative of these two instances of collective communication. The skeleton of the form emerged from the communication lines between SXSW venues and pattern cut out in the skin represents the pattern created by the flight of the bats. This cladding can collapse and be easily transported to another location. Recycled materials will be used in constructing the structure and skin.

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