The creation of “Alchemy,” which harkens back to the medieval process of transmuting base matters into gold, began with the design phase in January 2017. DAAP students were inspired by Cincinnati’s industrial history and socioeconomic evolution.
Cincinnati-based Rookwood Pottery Co., Formica Corp. and Gorilla Glue Co. provided discarded materials used to build “Alchemy,” originally created for the first Architecture Biennial in Columbus, Indiana.
Nichols says students spent hours walking around the basement of Rookwood Pottery to hand-pick more than 1,000 discarded tiles for the project. “It’s hard to imagine when you step in, but every one of the tiles has a factory deemed error, whether in shape, color or form, and for me, not being a tile/pottery expert, it is unfathomable to know that I am looking at errors.”
Students divided into teams and developed a strategy to blend the tiles using a gradient of red and blue. They then added neutral and purple tiles to the gradient to create a waterfall of color.
Gila Banisral, an interior designer from Israel, spent several minutes walking through the “Alchemy” exhibit in Venice. “I was looking from the outside and was very impressed. Suddenly I came in and saw this beautiful and colorful thing. From the outside it is very monochromatic, but it has all these designs and colors. It’s surprising.”
Justin Brown, a second-year graduate student in DAAP’s School of Architecture, spent much of his time creating the floor of the exhibit, which features a map of Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods and illustrates the socioeconomic fluctuations among the communities. “Each quartile of the city is represented by a different steel — there is rusted, bar and galvanized steel and the rivers are made of copper. The rest of the floor is what we have been referring to as the ‘Sea of Formica.’”