Back to Projects


The Venice Architecture Biennale, 2018

A Potato Pavilion: in collaboration with Samantha Martin-McAuliffe and Irene Kelly.

Competition for the Irish exhibition at the Venice Architecture Biennale, Venice, Italy, 2018 Crossing presents the Irish border as a thriving, fuzzy, hedge-like boundary that at first appears impermeable, but ultimately allows passage via a “kissing stile.” This is to say an S-shaped passage through a hedge that is used to allow humans, but not livestock, through. The stile works because the exit is not visible from the entrance, so even though the distance is short, the meandering path requires an amount of belief (or knowledge) to enter into it.

The structure of the installation is an intricate lattice of Celtic 196 cross-knots, heat-formed using hemp potato sacks and a custom bioresin which uses potato starch and other aggregates. This recipe builds on a material innovation by Cornell material scientist Anil Netravali, which uses soy as the base for a thermoset resin. Soy protein consists of polar and reactive amino acids which can be used for cross linking it and improving the tensile and thermal properties. Through heating and mixing with various chemicals, Netravali and others had modified soy flour by cross-linking it with glutaraldehyde. When reinforced with spun flax yarns, rigid composites were produced. The team continued to develop the project using starches.

The Celtic cross-knot form is used not only symbolically, but also because the traditional doubling and weaving adds strength to the cantilevering arms. Thus, a certain deficiency in the strength of the parts is compensated for by a formal redundancy. The crossknot is also legible both as an object and as part of a continuous line. The key ingredient—the potato— is of course intrinsic to Irish history and culture, and yet at the same time, the technology embodies a radical and experimental approach to form-making that characterizes contemporary Irish design. This installation encompasses both production and consumption processes: potato plants act as ballast to weigh down the structure. These plants will continue to grow throughout the six-month exhibition. In lieu of display panels with informational text, visitors are offered a favorite Irish potato snack: crisps (chips) packaged in bags which double as texts for the exhibition. Each project is presented on one waxed brown paper bag which, upon consumption of the crisps, can be unfolded and retained by the visitor. In the final iteration, the burlap pattern of a single metal mold is changed repeatedly to create a variegated porous surface of self-stacking components.

Breakpoint: small Breakpoint: medium Breakpoint: large
Container Padding:
Column width: