Coachella Giant Robot

Design Project, 2006


DesignTim Steffen Altenhof
Supervising Professor: Greg Lynn, University of Applied Arts Vienna
Summer Term 2006

"If figure and ground made a classic pair, topological conditions absorb it within a construct of infinite gradients" (K.W.F.)

Focusing on a 60 000-people-festival like the one in Coachella, the most spectecular spectacle has to deal with the ground. As one of the most fundamental issues in architecture within these days the whole scenery does not need to have any additional objects, rather in terms of solitaries, but has to provide a theatrical showdown emerging out of the ground. Neither any human being nore architecture in its wide field is capable of avoiding its relation in correspondence to the ground (despite of situations in space). Why not pointing on the ground itself, generating the required programme? Being on the border of simulating a huge naturalistic catastrophe, the project would deal with essential human fears. There is a difference between a figure-ground relation of Eisenmans Holocaust project and Libeskinds garden in the Jewish Museum. One is appearing seamingly out of the ground without generating a new one, the other is providing a new topography on top of. Imagine a similar result in terms of having a starting point of a very ground and its corresponding endpoint. Therefore the difference is, that we don't have static columns, but the upper layer of the ground itself. Therefore the most interesting potential using motion in architecture would be, to negotiate between a figure and its ground. In that way, Eisenmans Ciudad de la Cultura in Santiago de Compostella would be able to entirely fade into the ground. One option would be a physically distinct but theoretically blurry situation. A static figure simultaneously meant to be its own ground. Another one would be a homogeneous topography in motion. And further on imagine the possibility of participating in that negotiation. Being able to observe the moment, when a ground turns into figure-ground, or ground-ground or remains as one ground. Being modified in such a variety is the true spectacle. A fragmented conventional park-like situation comes up as an operative landscape due to its robotic implements. A bunch of differently configured fragments in terms of their surface design would enable the space to come up with a variety of spatial demands referring to its programme. Most parts of that programme require shaded areas within the given site, to offer food&beverage-like venues. These venues appear to be most often conventional tent-structures. Therefore monumentality is not required.
Fragments or plaices could raise, supported by a hydraulical structure, which will be encompassed in the same layer. 
The stage itself would be one big roof system of specific fragments in a distinct constellation. Like a flat fragmented carpet, it is located in the ground. Once lifted in a comic-theatrical moment, it starts moving like a giant wing. A certain amount of "fragment-layers" can be introduced in order to offer backstage conditions.
Like an emerging chicken out of an eggshell, spaces (or voids) are generated. The hour of birth of these spaces is the transitional moment from ground towards figure.
The metarmophosis takes place rather in section than in plan. Light and atmospherical conditions are based on that three-component-system, which consists of fragments, gaps and structure.The main atmosphere is flipping within the day. While the dark gaps bring light into the voids during the day, the whole area is illuminated at night, like a huge mystical glowing fantasy park.
To have the ability of using each moment of that gradually transforming, performative landscape is amazing. An infinite amount of certain configurations would be available. Each of these venues gets an injection of specific information, allowing these fragments to react on several conditions, like climatic ones, the amount of people, required light conditions or a general use of landscape in a post-festival period. 
The upper part layer of the fragments appears like a naturalistic grass surface, whereas the inner part will offer a wide-range of displays. Interior spaces are related to Kubrick's 2001 Space Odyssee. After having experienced a psychedelic journey to himself, the protagonist reaches a sterile and bright rococo-room, which comes up with a mystically absurd atmosphere. 
A minimum of subtle irony is conveyed within such an oppositional space, which is necessary in the field of entertainment.

It's both phaenomenological and performative.