Architecture graduate Alice Labourel presents a ballet school based on creating physical reality from perceived reality. The student had a defined site in mind – a spot on the backs of the Los Angeles River – that adapts to its real surroundings and the activities that occur within the building. A combination of hand-drawings and computer renderings describe a fantastic building in elaborate detail.
The resulting design is complex and intricate due to the depth of Labourel’s concept. Drawing on a variety of influences – including cinema, nature and movement – the ballet school is affected by three timescales: the school’s schedule, the time it takes for a train to pass by the building and the flow of the adjacent river.
The river has the biggest impact on the building. Most-often empty, the waterway rises once a year due to heavy rainfall. The idea is that the building would store the abundance of water to use throughout the year. A combination of mills and pumps flows water throughout the school and ‘triggers the movements of the articulations of the building’. Towards the end of the year – when stores run low – the building becomes less efficient. The school will then have to wait for the next downpour to replenish its water levels. The objective is to increase awareness of the Los Angeles River’s energy potential.
The influence of the train relates to Labourel’s proposal to construct architecture in a similar way to filmmaking. A film is composed of different timescales: the length of the film itself, the duration of the story and the length of a scene. Labourel treats architecture in the same way. The train’s passengers, for example, are seen as the audience, watching ‘certain events through a frame moving in a constant speed on a linear axis’ – like a film camera’s movements. The building would respond to the motion of the train, changing its structure as it passes.
The final timescale shows the school responding to the student’s schedule, which creates a real interaction between the students and their environment. The design of the school – based on the main principles of ballet – encourages students to practice their discipline. In ballet, dancers are taught to always land lightly. The classroom floor contains bags of red paint so that when a dancer impacts the ground too severely, the bags will break. The entire space is made of a thin organic structure with pieces of fabric. The paint will turn the fabric red to make students aware of their mistakes.