Elastic Plastic Sponge

The Elastic Plastic Sponge was created by students from the Southern California Institute of Architecture SCI-Arc led by Benjamin Ball, Gaston Nogues and Andrew Lyon of the Ball-Nogues Studio. The Elastic Plastic Sponge was a large scale installation that could be twisted, arched and curled to form different types of space including a lounge, a theater, or a large sculptural Mobius strip. In the desert heat of Indio, the architectural installation provided a respite from the sun by making shade and mist while at night, each cell within the Elastic Plastic Sponge supported a fluorescent tubethe tubes shifted in orientation relative to each other to create the effect of sweeping motion. The motion effect was evident from close-up as well as impactful from across the vast festival groundsan important asset in an environment of throngs of festival-goers and competing spectacles.

The Elastic Plastic Sponge was a unique structure. In architecture terminology, the phrase that describes a system whose form is derived from its material properties is form active. These types of structures are difficult to study using software. They often require architects to explore their designs by testing full-scale mock-ups, and using that empirical information to help inform the process of digital modeling, which is studied in the studio rather than in the field.

The Elastic Plastic Sponge was comprised of 250 cells, each fabricated using custom jigs designed by SCI-Arc students. The cell module is a very effective way of constructing a temporary structure: each can be transported as a flat unit to the Festival and rapidly assembled on site; after the Festival is over, dismantling and transportation to a new site is easy.

From the Festivals standpoint of an event spanning several days, the Elastic Plastic Sponge could be rapidly reconfigured to create unique spatial arrangements each day; its flexibility allows the designers to adapt to changing crowd, climate and site conditions. From a pedagogical standpoint, the Elastic Plastic Sponges mutability enabled students to examine its unique structure at full scale; working and reworking its shape as they would a digital model.


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