Heather Roberge, Principal Designer and Founder of Murmur, is also an Associate Professor in the Department of Architecture and Urban Design at UCLA. Roberge’s work focuses on the spatial, structural and atmospheric potential of digital technologies, and in her latest installation for SCI-Arc Gallery, titled En Pointe, she explores the nature of the column and notions of stability. En Pointe will be on display between Jun. 19th and Aug. 7th, but the architect is still hoping to raise additional funds to supplement the grant in order to truly fulfill the vision. In our latest FORM 15 interview, Roberge talks about crowd funding, mentoring and the essential gadget every home should have.
What inspired you to name the installation, En Pointe?
The name is a direct reference to classical ballet technique—pointe technique. In pointe technique, a dancer’s body is supported by an extended foot in a specially reinforced slipper. The effect of pointe technique is weightlessness. The poise, balance, and strength required to hold these positions are analogous to the structural concept behind En Pointe’s columns. Each column is balanced on a fulcrum and helps support its neighboring columns.
You are currently seeking funding to complete the project. If you don’t get it, will the installation still happen?
The project is designed as a series of eleven columns. There are smaller clusters that are self-supporting within the field of eleven. If my fundraising campaign doesn’t reach its goal, I will produce fewer than eleven columns. Like all forms of creative research, grants are limited in number and funding amounts. I’ve turned to Hatchfund for crowdfunding because it supports artists and architects, and the donations are tax-deductible.
What inspires you to use aluminum as a material?
I’ve studied numerous contemporary projects, mainly facades, that exploit aluminum for its plasticity. I’m working on a book called Fabricating Plasticity that examines the production processes behind projects by Herzog and DeMeuron, Future Systems, Norman Foster, Renzo Piano and others. En Pointe applies this research to the problem of the column.
What’s your favorite part about working with students on projects like En Pointe?
This type of project requires skill at working on concerns that move back and forth between academia and practice. I like teaching students the value of projects that attend to both theoretical and material obligations.
How do you see the profession changing in the future?
What I’d like to see is the profession more effectively arguing for the importance of design and performance. This, in turn, would support more thought provoking, intellectually engaging, and culturally relevant building.
What’s your favorite part about teaching?
Defining new areas of inquiry allows teaching to continue my education. I also enjoy being a mentor to my former students and watching their careers develop.
What buildings inspire you?
Most buildings found in surveys of architectural history inspire me regardless of historical period because I am most fascinated by the incredible differences that exist between things.
Are awards important or overrated?
Important but also limited in number making it impossible for awards to acknowledge talent as often as one would like.
What gadget or product is a must-have in every home?
If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
New York City
What are you currently reading?
The latest issues of the New Yorker and Log, and a work of fiction by Jeannette Walls.
Social media – yes or no?
Yes. I like how it connects me to the architectural community, former students, friends, and family.
Do you listen to music when you work?
Ocean or mountain?
When’s the last time you were out of the country and where did you go?
January 2015. I took a small group of UCLA graduate students to Japan to study historical and contemporary projects that foreground the column.