Alexandra Campbell

Scaling Skalisma | Athens, Greece| Unit 21 | 2019

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Situated in modern Athens, the building is a cross-programming of a public bathhouse and a community theatre, and I explored the use of natural stone processes of carving (skalisma) and finishes at different scales within the project. Both programs date back to Ancient Greek architecture that had striven to bring society together, while using marble and other natural stone for construction, building performance and architectural expression.
The arrangement of the spaces within the building is based upon Greek/Roman bathhouse rituals, and the front-stage/back-stage sequences within a small community theatre. Within the design, the programs are exclusive regarding occupant circulation, stacked above each other in elevation, for the sake of privacy programmatic differences, yet the spaces connect and interact through their environments. The programs are inversely arranged to coordinate spaces of certain environmental parameters, creating a dynamic cross-programmatic relationship. I investigated how through the use of natural stone as a construction method, the material can be carve to manipulate light and water as well as control noise and temperature, in order to achieve such environments.
The project is sited upon an abandoned public square, in which a previously constructed public outdoor pool failed to attract visitors, due to the densely polluted urban mesoclimate. This was the inspiration for he bathhouse program, as I looked to creating indoor baths of contrasting internal climates (hot/cool, wet dry) and manipulating light and steam across both the theatre and the bathhouse. Both programs originate from Ancient Athenian public traditions, and use carving processes and stone materiality in their designs. Horizontal elements involve the circulation of people, while light and steam will be manipulated vertically within the building, and each room within the bathhouse requires the maintenance of its internal environment in terms of water/temperature/ light/noise, based off ancient bathing rituals and Greek/Roman bathhouses. While the building takes over the existing public square, it incorporates the concept of public space within its envelope, creating environments for public space that the current square failed to do.
The technical focus of my design was orientated around the building’s construction process in terms of modern and ancient carving methods, both prefabricated and in situ. I explored the relationship between casting and carving as a method to create positive and negative space, partitioning and uniting architectural elements as well as directing both public and environmental circulation. Processes include hand-carving, digital milling and CNC, as well as large-scale quarrying and excavation. As a part of my research, I visited Cadeby Quarry, owned by Blockstone (who have manufactured for the House of Parliament and Fosters’ Bloomberg), in which I learned the properties and processes carried out from extraction of the dimension stone to final finishes and transportation. With each design decision I considered the construction process and the structural properties of the stone selected and how can structural details be carved and finished. Using ancient/modern methods of large-scale carving, and small scale sculptural finishes, I began to develop a structural language for the intricate treatment of stone.
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