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Metamorphoses: Echo’s Retreat

Part 2 Project 2011
Daniel Spence
Duncan Corrigall
University of Sydney Sydney Australia
This project presents a physical manifestation of Book III of Ovid’s 14BC text Metamorphoses, specifically the story of ‘Echo’, a lovestruck nymph who fades away after being shunned by Narcissus. As Ovid tells it, she becomes so distraught that her bones turn to stone and only her voice remains.

‘Echoes’ and ‘bones’ provided the starting point to design a creative retreat - a place to avoid the stresses that engineer catastrophe. A series of inhabitable chambers are positioned within the ‘echo’, an undulating membrane stretched across a structure comprised of many small ‘bones’.

Real chicken bones were used in a series of design models to explore the ornamental possibilities of bone, borrowing their inherent structural integrity. Bones have a natural structural efficiency that has evolved over time, their shape and density corresponding to the loading levels applied to different parts of the bone. If a bone breaks and is repaired slightly out of its previous alignment, the whole skeleton system can shift to readapt to the new arrangement of forces.

To mimic this ability it was proposed that the structural elements be fibre-reinforced concrete. Rather than large cracks forming that lead to overall structural failure, the fibre-reinforcing would allow the concrete to split into thousands of ‘micro-cracks’. Previously unexposed cement particles would react with the moisture from the adjacent waterfall, filling the cavities in a self-healing process similar to that of bone. This allows an extreme level of deformation, cascading through the whole structure as each member adapts to the changed conditions of those around it. The ‘kit of concrete parts’ would be poured in fabric formwork dug into earth trenches, the fabric shifting slightly between each mould to form unique but modular members.

The membrane bands stretched across and between the bone structures were each generated from one the five phrases attributed to Echo in Ovid’s text. These were recorded to create ‘spectrograms’, the typical visual representation of a human speech pattern, in order to generate a three-dimensional form. The narrow sections became circulation space while the larger bulges formed the building’s main habitable spaces.

Daniel Spence
Duncan Corrigall

Tutor(s)
Sarah Gilder
2011
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