TRANSTECTONICS: MIT Exhibition Explores Material Process and Geological Craft

TRANSTECTONICS: Craft traditions and material narratives in the age of the Anthropocene
On view October 25, 2019 – January 31, 2020
MIT Keller Gallery, 77 Mass Ave, 7-408, Cambridge, MA

Cambridge, MA, November 13, 2019 – MIT announced that TRANSTECTONICS, an exhibition by Spanish architect and designer Cristina Parreño Alonso, lecturer in the MIT Department of Architecture, is on view at MIT’s Keller Gallery through January 31, 2020. Crossing materials and processes, Parreño presents sculptural prototypes that combine natural materials such as glass, stone, wood, and volcanic rock, with unexpected craft processes, and juxtaposes them with geological events. The exhibition presents five videos as well as four sculptural prototypes. 

The four prototypes, Rock in Full Metal Jacket, Ghost of Stone, PlyGlass, and Wooden Bubble, each embody their own “tectonic translations.”

PlyGlass works with the tectonic technique of lamination, a method conventionally used with wood, and applies it to glass.

In Ghost of Stone, stone masonry carving techniques are translated to the material of glass, creating mass and volume in a material that is normally presented in a flat state.

For Rock in Full Metal Jacket, “foam vaporization,” a technique for casting aluminum, is reinterpreted and put into dialogue with ancient stone metal clamping techniques, creating a seemingly fluid joint between volcanic rock and metal.

In Wooden Bubble, two materials transform each other in the process of making. In this prototype, half of the geometry is milled on wood and the other half is made by blowing molten glass into that same piece of wood, charring its surface.

A video portraying a sequence of material events occurring across scales, introduces the exhibition’s proposal of “tectonic translations,” the idea of transferring processes and techniques from one material to another. Shifting between human craft and geological forces, the film equalizes sources of energy for creation–juxtaposing the collapse of a large iceberg with the breakdown of a massive marble block in a quarry and overlaying lava pools with molten metal, ready to be forged.

About the project
is an ongoing research project that examines the cultural and contextual implications of material practice in Architecture through a series of experiments. TRANSTECTONICS questions the ways in which widely used materials like stone, wood, metal, and glass are processed today into standard building construction products with a limited repertoire of systems of assembly. In their conventional manufactured states, these materials are often stripped of inherent potentials, embodied cultural histories, and important capacities promised when they are in a raw state. By stepping out of the standard systems of assembly, TRANSTECTONICS aims to defamiliarize the processes of construction, transforming it into a process of experimentation. Understanding the process of material assembly as a powerful tool for exploration, the project stages a series of material events, historical timelines embedded in physical prototypes that bear remains of their material narratives.

About Cristina Parreño
Cristina Parreño Alonso is a licensed architect, educator, and designer who specializes in activating public spaces through architecture and art installations. She received a 2014 “Europe 40 under 40 Design Award” and was selected as one of the four emerging firms for the “Design Boston Biennial 2015,” where she exhibited her research “Tectonics of Transparency.” More recently, Parreño won a public contest by the City of Boston to design a Public Art Intervention in Hyde Square, where she will build her project “Artificial Natures” in 2020. She currently teaches graduate and undergraduate design studios in the Department of Architecture at the MIT School of Architecture and Planning. Previously, she taught design at the State University of New York at Buffalo and at the Harvard GSD. At MIT, her research examines the potentials of materials in non-conventional assemblies, revealing latent capacities that can serve as active triggers of new forms of cultural and social exchange within different communities and the environment.

About the MIT Department of Architecture
The MIT Department of Architecture opened its doors in 1868 as the first Architecture department in the United States. MIT Architecture is currently home to around 250 graduate and undergraduate students. Numbered among the Department’s over 5,000 alumni are Sophia Hayden ’1890, Robert R. Taylor ‘1892, I.M. Pei ‘40, and Charles Correa ‘55.

About the Keller Gallery at MIT
The Keller Gallery was established in the fall of 2011 with a generous donation of materials and labor in kind from Shawn Keller, principal at C.W. Keller & Associates. The 200 square foot gallery presents faculty, student, and experimental work, including work from alumni and friends.

TRANSTECTONICS was first exhibited at Art Omi NY, in an exhibition curated by Warren James and Nicole Hayes, titled InConstruction_Cristina Parreño.

TRANSTECTONICS was supported by Precision Stone Inc., Epica International Roboticom, Biesse America, and the Council for the Arts at MIT (CAMIT). Project collaborators: Adiel Benitez, Christopher Dewart, Michael Tarkanian, Miles Discroll and Michael Scheiner. Keller Gallery exhibition team: Melika Konjicanin, Jeffrey Landman, Vanessa Pipitone, Jackie Lin, Alyssa Li, Christopher Dewart, Jim Harrington.

Visitor Information
The Keller Gallery at MIT
77 Massachusetts Avenue, Building 7, Room 408, Cambridge, MA 02139
Free and open to the public
Monday through Saturday, 9AM to 6PM

Media contacts
Leah Talatinian
Communications Manager, Arts at MIT
/ 617-253-5351

Amanda Moore
Communications Strategist, MIT Department of Architecture
/ 617-253-0692