developed by american architecture practice austin+mergold LLC, maria park studio and cornell university, the ‘oculi’ installation aims to promote sustainability-oriented thinking amidst the architecture and design communities, requiring them to dispose or reuse the materials utilized for their works. the structure comprises seven metal grain bins and is set on governors island in new york.
austin+mergold and maria park’s field of elevated oculi – made from 40-year-old metal grain bins procured from a farm in delphos, ohio – frames unobstructed views of the sky while tracking the path of the sun with a range of shadow patterns. the interior walls are painted with colors of the daytime sky, inviting viewers to wander below the structure to find a moment when the tones of the paint and sky become one.
as artifacts of the american agro-industrial age, these bins have been repurposed in ways not unlike how medieval inhabitants of rome reoccupied the remains of the ancient empire. the grain bin is our contemporary ‘spolia’, a repurposed building stone — at once a resource for the future, a contemplation about the past, and a connection between urban and rural life.
‘the project relies on the idea that the grain bins, unlike the vast majority of contemporary buildings, are designed for disassembly,‘ explain jason austin and aleksandr mergold. using another product of the industrial age, the unistrut system (patented 1926), the bins were re-erected as a field condition of rings, elevated above the ground, transforming them from agrarian into phenomenological and helionomical spaces.’
following de-installation, the bins will be reconstructed as an experimental housing cluster in central new york.there, an interior view of the bin will occasionally reveal a color of a new york city summer sky.
design team: aleksandr mergold (aia, austin+mergold LLC), cornell arch, maria park (cornell ART), christopher earls (cornell CEE), scott hughes (silman, cornell AAP NYC), jason austin (austin+mergold LLC)
construction: glenn miller, ben malone (miller-tilling), bill haines (haines construction)
cornell university student assistants: curtis ho, kate huffman, eric lee, libby rosa, anna warfield, emma boudreau, sarah bujnowski, isabel branas, vaharan elavia, ami kurosaki, jason lin, xiaoxue ma, hafsa muhammad, sasson rafailov, jiacheng xu
photography: zachary tyler newton, anton kisselgoff, aleksandr mergold, maria park
management: david koren (figment), josette matthew (assoc. aia, enya), jessica sheridan ( aia, aiany), ryan miller (seaony)
organizations & companies: figment, trust for governors island, aia new york chapter, enya, seaony, cornell university, atkinson center for a sustainable future, college of architecture, art and planning, department of art, department of architecture, college of engineering, school of civil and environmental engineering, atkore international / unistrut, silman
special thanks to: boris ravvin (architect), chris morse (cornell m’arch’17), jeff gamble (advanced grain systems), robert page (laboratory of atomic and solid state physics), melinda stelick (cornell aap business office), steve elsdon (unistrut / atkore international)