Spatial Design

instructor: Jean-Marc Gauthier email Homesite

updated 5/11/2007

Link to the blog for the class

Spatial Design is a class about invention and critique where students create tangible and virtual products that focus on how to reveal the gaps between people and objects. Students use traditional media (drawing, sculpting, model making), construction of small installations and digital media to expand the way they think about their work and therefore the way they envision how we live next to man-made objects. Students discover and document their own design process finding new relationships between people, space, light and materials in indoor spaces, in gardens and in Manhattan's public spaces. Topics covered include a wide range of multidimensional media and various forms of spatial design that have a strong influence on ergonomics, animation, forms created by nature and inventions accepted through time behind a collective memory. Class assignments cover the design of objects, installations, architectural design and kinetic design. The final project is an invitation for students to create their own product with a minimum of means to achieve several obligations inspired by the poetry of the everyday life.

Class 1 - 09/04: Painting with space


Roadmap for the class: from industrial design to experimental installations

Variations of perception inside of a room with variable lights and colors


How to make a sketch model projecting shadows with foam board. We will work with sheets of foam board, paper, translucent plastics and mirrors.


1- Create a create a shoe box size model of a white room, built from a 2D collage drawing using white paper, cutter, glue and cardboard.
I suggest to check examples of light studies at (2 MB)
2- Control the light sources with small mirrors in order to modulate the light color and intensity inside the box.
3- Record on videotape 2 minutes maximum with sound track or/and with voice
Please write about your visit to the Noguchi Museum . Directions can be found at The Museum is open Wednesday to Sunday

Enter your assignment in the blog for the class

Class 2 - 09/11: Development of a three dimensional form


Examples from Mies Van der Rohe, Ettore Sottsass and Magdalenian people.


How to make a model with opacities, windows, and translucent panels. We will work with sheets of metallic mesh, foamboard, transparent acrylic and mirrors.


Place yourself - as the viewer - inside an existing space, for example your home. The viewer can seat on a chair, lie down in bed, stand against a wall or wait in other positions. The viewer does not move except for eyeballs and head rotations. Record the experience using the media of your choice - cardboard model(s), drawings, photographs or videotape - (2 minutes maximum). Build a small model in order to explain what can be seen from the point of view of the viewer. Define a specific place which is the origin of your design, the same way Hitchcock defined a specific place for James Steward in "Rear Window".


Read the online text about Panopticon by Michel Foucaul, Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison (NY: Vintage Books 1995) pp. 195-228 Enter your reading assignment in the blog.


Class 3 - 09/18: Motion in space : the dancer and the architect:


Recording motion in space: examples including Marey, Hedgerton


Making a conceptual model with foamboard and a wire-cutter.


Create a motion analysis of sequences of movements. You can choose to sketch or capture digital images of movements executed by human beings or animals. Deconstruct every movements into about 24 frames plotted and drawn on plastic. Make a small 3D model of the sequence of movements using strings, fishing wires and metallic tubes.
Please read "Plasticity of Motion" by Stanislavsky.

Class 4- 09/25: Dynamic spaces : equilibrium and oscillations

From suspended structures to collapsible meshes: expressions of dynamics of motion in space


Making a structural model from a dynamic structure. We will work with strings, aviation cables, fishing wires, metallic tubes and wires .


Create a vertical or suspended structure made of several tubes and cables. The 3D structure of the surface of your motion study is self standing on a base, hanging from the ceilling, or playing with the surface of a wall.


Please read the handout

Class 5 - 10/01: Networked structures


Buckminster Fuller Part one the bicycle wheel


Minimalistic structures


Prepare - 5 minutes - descriptions-presentations of spatial networks or the intersections of two networks. Networks can include for example family, flux, transportations, social, work or leisure relationships, global or local sets of relationships. Please choose carefully the networks that you plan to work on since you will be later study representations and building a 3D structure in this specific network.

Please read ."Wire Wheel" and "Tensegrity" texts by Buckminster Fuller

Class 6 - 10/02: Global structures and ergonomics


Buckminster Fuller Part two the dome



Making geodesic and modular structures


Create a model of a dome or a sphere that represents the concepts of nodes, connectors, fleet in being, railroad map, emergence and tensegrity covered in class.. You can start with the conceptual design and technics explored by Buckminster Fuller or you can explore the potentials of a bicycle wheel, an umbrella or other directions.

Class 7 - 10/16: Labyrinths


Mapping the labyrinth. Example of labyrinths in films "Touch of Evil" by Orson Welles, "Paths of Glory" by Stanley Kubrick


Create a 3D sketch o fa labyrinth inspired by the text from Borges.

Please read Jose Borges "Library of Babel" text. Sketch or create visuals of a labyrinth following his description.

Build a small model of your interpretation of Borges.

Class 8 - 10/23: Designing a labyrinth: designing by segments, difference and repetition


Ways to navigate inside the labyrinth

Example of labyrinths in films "The Lady from Shangai" by Orson Welles, "Electronic Labyrinth" by George Lucas


Create a physical labyrinth, use colors, textures ans references to your senses sounds, visual, tactile, smell.

Marvin Minsky's "The Shape of Space " from the book, The Society of the Mind

Class 9 - 10/30: Mid Term Wrap-up


Materials and design techniques for temporary installations. Paper / bamboo architecture by Shigeru Ban. Walk through the floor.


Create perspectives of your work inserted inside the space of the ITP floor. Please include a reference to the human body for scale. You can use mixed media collages including photographs and hand drawn drawings. Textures, materials, lighting and reflections are very important elements of the perspectives. Download the perspectives tutorial.


Elevator pitch: 20 lines maxi

Please post on the blog answers to the following questions

What are the keywords to describe your project?

What is the general scope of ideas?

What parts of the general scope are specifically covered by your project?

How to introduce your project?
- your intents for the project?
- the starting point for someone experiencing the project?- the audience or users for your project? What does your project provide that other similar projects do not provide or provide differently ? Please do some research on this point-
What are the resources available to you today for this project?
What are the missing elements for your project?
How do you plan to provide these element?

Class 10 - 11/06: Final project rendering and planning


3D rendering techniques in Maya, HDR, DDS and Global Illumination


Please follow the design and construction schedule discussed in class and confirmed by email

Class 11 - 11/13: screen projections and sounds: viewer space and performance space


From dioramas to interactive installations, defining intersections between space, audience and content, examples from Cinerama, Shaw, Svoboda and other multi-screens systems


The three views drawing
How to make a sketch model projecting shadows with white paper. We will work with sheets of white cardboard, glue and cutter


Prepare a presentation of your final project or your team project in front of a pannel of guest critics

Class 12 - 11/20: Final project 60%

Workshop Critique with guests

Projects 60%


Class 13 - 11/27 - class 14 - 12/04: Final project 100%

Workshops Critique

Projects 100%

Jean-Marc Gauthier email Homesite