ACTION FIGURES

Austin Public Safety Training Complex

Austin, TX

 

In collaboration with Chris Doyle

 

This project is an interdisciplinary collaboration with an artist for the City of Austin’s new Public Safety Training Facility.  It synthesizes construction practices - fabrication, assembly, and detailing - proper to architecture with artistic techniques of interpretation, identity politics, and the theater of the everyday.  Located between an obstacle course and an urban disaster village in a non-descript, ex-urban landscape, it is an open-air shelter that provides shade and showering facilities for the police and fire cadets in this otherwise spatially, socially, and environmentally undifferentiated training field.  The design co-opts an off-the-shelf building material - a corrugated metal sheet - from the “junkspace” of the site and de-familiarizes it via digital processes that transpose its traditional utility as low-cost cladding into a broader, performative spectrum.  The pavilion’s roof canopy is designed as a pictorial mural of silhouettes produced by digitally fabricating video-motion stills taken of the cadets during their training sessions into the corrugated sheets.  As the sun passes thru this perforated surface over the course of each day, the cast shadows project the cadets’ own moving image, oscillating in and out of focus - like a Rorschach test - as anamorphic action figures.  This roof is structured by a double-cantilevered steel frame.  It is built as a single, pre-fabricated assembly to minimize the number of exposed fasteners, creating a single, detail-less, yet highly articulated surface.  Here, an ordinary building component finds a strange utility in the production of a uniquely performative environment.