Catenary Whorl

Los Angeles, CA 2012

Catenary Whorl is an undulating canopy composed of 5,000 feet of soft, thick rope, which hangs from the ceiling of the restaurant Little Bear in downtown Los Angeles. Conceived as part of David Freeland’s graduate advanced visualization seminar at Woodbury University, the canopy was intended to diffuse and absorb sound while creating a new, unique atmosphere for the restaurant. The rope is hand-dyed and the hues correspond with regions of color intensity identifying areas of acoustic absorption. Because the rope is hung more densely in some areas than others, the undulating surface subdivides the restaurant into smaller volumes, reducing reverberation time and creating distinct spatial qualities for bar, lounge, and dining areas.

The canopy is the result of a semester long investigation into the potential for drawing to invigorate a new set of spatial effects in architecture. The students employed computational drawing techniques to analyze and respond to a series of dynamic conditions, including sound, light. The collaborative design reflects an understanding that contemporary space is laden with multiple vectors of intensity that erode the clarity of boundary conditions. By investigating diffuse line organizations, the drawing was used to generate dynamic graphic conditions through variable weight, color and density. Projecting qualities more atmospheric than material, these line fields became an opportunity for exploring diffuse atmospheric conditions.

The line also became a technique for simulating the behavior of sound. Using ray tracing the space was studied to understand the density of the ambient sound field created by myriad reflections from the concrete walls, floor, and ceiling. Experimenting with the acoustic performance of ¾” cotton fiber rope, the canopy develops areas of density for sound absorption while remaining alternately porous acoustically and visually to maintain the raw qualities of the existing space.

Acoustic Consultant: Nick Antonio, ARUP Los Angeles

Catenary Whorl was created by Woodbury School of Architecture graduate students in the visualization seminar Evolving Media taught by David Freeland. Zachary Schoch, teaching assistant; Ana Del Longo-Silberstein, Henry Cheung, Israel Castillo, Kemi Esho, Michael Kuroda, Pamas Moleeratanond, Roosevelt Golino, Sunny Lam

Additional assistance: Juan Lau, Teagan Castellon, Rana Ahmadi, Mark Montiel, Paul Castellanos, Duc Le, Brian Diaz, Joseph Veliz, Eric Arm, Manuel Alcala.

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