Can an object be both familiar and sublime, engaging its audience over time without its elusive qualities becoming banal? This question and a series of other agendas drove the design process and the constructed solution. A small rolling porch gate for an even smaller dog offered a unique opportunity to test ongoing design research into camouflage, patterns, perception, direct-to-fabrication processes, and parametric design tools within a limited budget. In a much broader context, the design attempts to capture the shifting reality of the American Dream by translating the iconic picket fence (symbol of stability) into a moving, visually dynamic structure where ones’ vantage point alters its resolution and accessibility.
The site for this project is the front porch of a 1920’s stucco home in the Kenwick neighborhood of Lexington, Kentucky. The neighborhood has its own distinct identity and is known for its bungalows. Victory Avenue is unique within the neighborhood by having a dense, urban character with minimal front and side yards and is located only a few blocks from downtown and a few blocks from the emerging “Warehouse Block.” While the houses on the street vary in architectural style, each has a generous front porch that spans its width and is only a few steps removed from the public sidewalk. This relationship produces an inviting public space where neighbors meet neighbors through an extension of their internal living space. The porch in this context is a transition space between public and private, a threshold occupying a hybrid middle ground of exterior interiority, a site of domestic expression within the public sphere.
The owners desired an external living room to be shared with their dog but needed to temporarily block the large opening, preventing the small dog from running to the street. Additionally, they would also need the gate to roll behind a side wall when not needed - returning the porch to its original state. When tasked with finding a solution, a custom design was required to address the required flexibility and the specific dimensions of the “site.” Transformation was at the heart of the problem and was extended through the various research trajectories to become the projects broader aesthetic agenda.
The generated pattern was developed through two, competing frequencies of vertical elements, determined through the iterations to be two different material systems; painted wood and aluminum. The vertical wooden elements received a two-color paint process to amplify the difference between the two approaches parallel to the gate and combined with the reflective quality of the aluminum fins, heighten the patterns intrinsic variation. The designed material effects were also considered within a more dynamic context of environmental variation and the movement of an observer. The natural cycles of the sun provide secondary patterning effects producing slow-moving shadows and localized, intensified reflections. These material effects increase the dynamism of the gate when viewed from a static location and are then further amplified by the observer’s movement. Beyond simply providing a barrier to demarcate the public/private threshold, the gate attempts to activate the public space just beyond and delays its own comprehension through a series of designed patterns.
Material Used :
1. Paint Grade Plywood from Home Depot
2. Aluminum Plate, CNC’dby 502 Fabrication and Manufacturing, Inc.
3. Benjamin Moore Paint
4. Richelieu Hardware 2“ Rubber Rigid Caster