A plane is one of the simplest spatial elements. As architects we encounter the concept of planes in almost all our projects. Whether we make decisions to express it, respond to its presence, or even define our own, depends on the set of challenges on each project.
Planes, in the most basic form, create spaces. Planes also define boundaries, bridge across divisions or help organize different program elements. A plane can be a permanent surface or constantly changing. Some planes are tactile, physical forms, expressing different materiality or functions. Others might be completely invisible, yet still have a profound impact on the design. Sometimes we create the notion of a plane as a strategy or clarification of intent. Other times a plane is imposed on us as a site constraint.
Planes as Space Creators
In a study exploring a Research Hub, we believe collaboration occurs in an open environment, even in an office intense setting. At the same time, we understand that not everyone is prepared to make an immediate jump into an open office environment and there is often a need for privacy. We proposed open work space be subdivided into office-sized areas defined by planes of meandering wood walls. Each wall winds its way through the space while also strategically changing in height to enhance privacy when necessary and / or encouraging communication.
These meandering walls define spaces like a conference room, an open seating or group desk area. At strategic locations, white boards, media walls and even seating can be nested into the system. Through these very flexible surfaces, a wide range of functions can be easily accommodated.
Planes as Barriers
Located along the Thames River in downtown New London, Connecticut, the National Coast Guard Museum will confront the element of water. Specifically, there are strict space limitations due to the 500 year flood plane. Nothing except egress stairs, loading and structure (not even storage) can be built below this flood plane.
Even though the invisible barrier plane may never be needed, it still determined how the building is organized. This project is still in design and our is exploring a building design that is public and welcoming, yet without any occupied spaces on the ground floor.
Planes as Connectors
Multiple planes can connect to define a larger gesture. Each individual element is simple, but when when arranged together, the results can be extremely powerful and transformative. The Northeastern University Pedestrian Bridge used this concept by connecting 448 individually cut Cor-ten steel plates, each with a unique configuration and installed at a slightly different angle. Together, they form a highly complex geometry that bridges over the Amtrak and MBTA train tracks. Small perforations on these plates and the curvature of the bridge will define the users’ perspectives as they navigate across the bridge. This important connection completes the final vision of the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex, linking the building with the North Main campus.