The Infinite Room at Pieseo Poagen is the result of a collaborative effort to meld site-responsive art and architecture. The permanent sculpture is sited in and a central experiential articulation of the building designed by Cooper Hewitt National Design Award recipient Tom Kundig of Seattle-based Olson Kundig architects.
Situated on a large forested site, Johannes Girardoni’s The Infinite Room is a light and acoustic sculpture that functions as both art and architecture. Both architect and artist considered the natural site as a whole and the specific conditions of the sculpture and the building to place art and architecture in a dynamic relationship to each other, as well as to the site.
Lit solely through an oculus, the smooth curvilinear geometry of the sculpture scatters natural light to create a borderless space. Girardoni conceived the sculpture as a constantly changing environment where natural light is the protagonist. Consequently, the interior shifts in appearance with changing light conditions, giving The Infinite Room an ephemeral quality – the space appears to iterate new versions of itself continually. Girardoni’s sculpture on the inside and Kundig’s architecture on the outside set up ephemeral and experiential conditions that are deliberately in opposition to one another. Kundig’s raw granite boulders, sourced directly from the site, anchor the building’s western walls. The rocks’ rough, grounding physicality contrasts Girardoni’s pure white, ethereal space. When visitors move from the wide-open setting of the natural site, through Kundig’s rugged house, and into Girardoni’s light-filled Infinite Room, the focus shifts from a reflection on nature to the nature of reflection.
The Infinite Room was conceived as a continuously changing environment. Natural light – the only light source for the space – falls within the room’s curvilinear geometry from a circular aperture from above and refracts off The Infinite Room’s velvet-smooth, white interior shell, appearing to dematerialize its structure. The space is elliptical in plan and absent of any corner geometry. Light flows in through a circular aperture from above and refracts off the sculpture’s velvet smooth, white interior shell. The Infinite Room’s inside is built with slaked lime – a pure white inorganic compound – that harnesses natural light and scatters it inside the sculpture’s complex geometry, blurring the border between matter and light. At the same time, the acoustics of the ellipsoid can contribute to sound dislocation, where visitors may experience hearing their breath behind themselves. The specific orchestration of natural light and matter, and how the sculpture removes information that our natural perception uses to navigate the physical world contribute to a poly-sensory phenomenological experience that shifts at any given hour of the day.
Girardoni created the dimensional and geometric specifications of the sculpture, which Kundig then developed into architecture. Kundig designed and oversaw fabrication of the raw steel shell that forms the sculpture’s void, exposing the work’s interior in its outer form. The steel shell of the sculpture represents a singular, physical manifestation of an artist-architect collaboration, through which the artwork’s conceptual and physical structure has been realized as an architectural expression. Girardoni’s sculpture on the inside and Kundig’s architecture on the outside set up ephemeral and experiential conditions that are deliberately in opposition to one another. Kundig sourced the rough physicality of the house directly from the site’s raw nature – the dominant wall opposite the sculpture is built from stacked granite boulders collected from the site. This central spine starkly contrasts Girardoni’s pure white, light-filled space. Moving from the open setting of the natural site, through Kundig’s rugged house, and finally into The Infinite Room, which Girardoni has you enter through a low and narrow opening tightly scaled to fit a person, is a physical and mental transition, one that begs visitors to shift from reflecting on nature to tuning in to experience the limits of one’s sensory apparatus.
The studio’s work in the built environment explores a hybridization of art and architecture to amplify the experience of self and site. In collaborations with architects, Harriet and Johannes Girardoni’s method advocates for site-specific art to underpin the architectural design process. Their approach leans on the idea of “art before architecture.” The Girardonis’ focus is on formulating a conceptual art program in which the art magnifies the sensory activation of the site and of architecture. Compressing art and the built environment creates opportunities to blend the physical and the ephemeral, which amplifies visitors’, residents’, and participants’ experience of place.
Harriet and Johannes Girardoni’s art-architecture collaborations have ranged from master planning site-specific art programs in large projects to in-situ installations in residential work. They have worked with world-renowned architects such as Tom Kundig, EYRC, Rick Joy, and Kulapat Yantrasast/wHY.