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  Cornell University

Cornell in Rome

College of Architecture, Art and Planning

The Living Stones

Brandon Clifford during his lecture at Cornell in Rome Photo by Andy Chen

Brandon Clifford discussed in his lecture titled “contrarian Constructions” the history and future of stones and stereotomy. He presented us with precedents of the Inca wall, the fan vault, and the Moai on Easter Island as testaments to the progress of stonework albeit nonlinear progress.

He produced a series of works in response to each precedent. To the Inca wall, he created an installation one could enter by crawling through and later standing in two small openings. Similar to its antecedent, his installation was perfectly faceted and cohesive on one side, and rough and filled with mortar on the other.

He was interested in the fan vaults that used numerous ribs to blur the lines between structural and architectural articulations, and created his own small installation out of wooden units that condensed from a surface to a column condition.

In response to the myths of the walking Moai, he conducted a graduate class at MIT that investigated monolithic robotics, and the movements of statues and mega-stones. In this class, students investigating the center of mass as a potential to allow these stones to be “walked” by rotating and stepping them according to their center of mass.

Eventually Brandon discussed the possibilities of utilizing geometry and modern stereotomy to optimize construction processes through a series of tilting, tipping, and rotating mega-stones. Both suggestive and promising, I would be excited to see where Brandon took his research of the living and mobile stone, and how balance and architecture can be articulated in dynamic ways. Stones have been generally conceived of as static, stubborn, and un-moving, but Brandon strives to prove they can be so much more. 


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