School of Architecture and Urban Planning/UWMilwaukee

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    "Restraining Order": First Place AIA Chicago Award recipient

    By snatraj
    Aug 25, '15 5:05 PM EST

    UW Milwaukee students Dan Causier and Matt Moulis received the top Benn-Johnck Award at the Chicago Student Awards in Architecture from AIA Chicago recently, for their project "Restraining Order". The project was completed with the guidance of Brian Johnsen and Sebastian Schmaling, Professors-in-Practice at the School of Architecture and Urban Planning. One juror said "It’s simple and elegant. Very well-thought-out design concept. It evokes a peaceful urban setting."

    I'm delighted that they agreed to share information and images of their project!

    "In this project we explored the compelling and radical extremes associated with the life-long religious devotion of the Capuchins and their social mission. Simplicity, humility, quietness - these became the watchwords for the success of our investigation.

    Our approach was to organize the building around a series of programmatically distinct spaces held within the common ‘infrastructure’ of a presence-bearing monolithic mass, separating these with large scale voids treated as processional spaces and outdoor rooms. These voids allow views into, out of and across the site and are a critical part of our urban strategy. As a means of subverting the monumentality of the building and offering transparency to the site, they are at the center of our thesis about the social position of the monastery.

    In the history of Capuchin buildings, radical frugality was an impassioned and principled reaction to the opulence at hand in religious structures of the early Renaissance. Seeing parallels to a fundamental question of formal theatrics facing architecture in our own time, we sought to evoke the ethos of piety drawn from these simply constructed buildings, with a spare and simplified aesthetic, reduced to its essential architectural elements, that nonetheless creates a place with a sense of reverence and spiritual community. 

    We intended for the architecture to behave in a manner conducive to religious contemplation, therefore in order to draw out the fundamental contrast of light and dark it is articulated with an ambitiously limited aperture scheme and a unified facade system composed of vertical CLT fins. Fin spacing and size vary from programmatic block to block, creating visual rhythms (drawn from the influence of site analysis diagrams) that change as one moves through the building while remaining visually harmonious. 

    The building’s awe-inducing scale, enhanced by the expanse of a naturalistic prairie planted at its center, is countered by the close confines of ponderous interior spaces, which are arranged in series and maintain a diversity of spatial relationships with exterior courts. These areas are in turn either naturally abundant, as in the center courtyard, populated sparsely by slender trees, or organized as orchard and garden in the case of the rooftop cloister. Structure is hybridized: the 40’ interior span allows for the use of CLT floor plates to streamline the structural character, which we incorporated with a system of rough-textured site-cast perimeter walls; CLTs are also utilized for interior partitions.

    We were particularly struck by the sense of tranquility the site possesses, based on the lower activity levels of the neighborhood, the way the slope nestles into the landscape, and the distant views of the urban panorama to which the monastery bears witness. This stillness, which is perhaps best sensed by watching cars on the elevated freeway noiselessly tick by in the distance, is heightened by the impassive industrial architecture nearby, including the phalanx of towering grain silos that form a backdrop to the site. The essential beauty of these structures is in their larger-than-life scale and unapologetic functionality. Yet there is poeticism in their hardiness in the face of degradation, and while they represent human industry, the sense of deep time they call to mind. In contrast to this is the working class neighborhood of the Near South Side, and the vibrant cultures of its population. We sought to unify these two conditions by responding to the material characters of both.

    In determining the massing, enclosure, spatial arrangement, urban strategy and the overall aesthetic of the project, these decisions underscore our embrace of the contradictions of grandiosity and restraint; shelter and openness; and perhaps even the extremes of spiritual purity and earthly humility."

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About this Blog

Each semester, SARUP turns into a beehive of creative activity, with the collective energy of students and faculty resulting in projects and presentations that excite and intrigue, as they generate enquiry into the disciplines of architecture and urban planning. This blog is an attempt to give a glimpse of our life.

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