For the Festival of Film in Rome, Italy, Luca Peralta Studio unveiled their ephemeral architectural piece entitled ‘Giant Ice-Cube’ It was designed to promote Valle d’ Aosta, a small Alpine valley in north-western Italy nestled between two of nature’s most iconic mountains: Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn. The site in Rome designated for this piece was Piazza Apollodoro, a piazza resting between some of Rome’s strongest examples of contemporary architecture: The MAXXI Museum by Zaha Hadid, The Auditorium and Music Park by Renzo Piano, and Palazzetto dello Sport by Luigi Nervi.
Bringing the Giant Ice-Cube to life involved the construction of a temporary structure, designed to be easily assembled and unassembled, that would promote the culture, nature and ideologies of the Valle d’ Aosta. Lasting only 3 weeks, the built structure was an abstraction of a cube of ice constructed to 6x6x6m. To achieve the beautiful contradiction of static fluidity displayed within a cube of ice, Peralta turned to translucent polycarbonate. Façade ‘blades’ were made by dividing lengthwise whole sheets of this 6x0.9m polycarbonate. This not only made use of the entire sheet without construction waste, but also left each blade with a mirrored counterpart visually establishing an organized chaos and the illusion of movement, a reference to Italian Futurism sculptures of Umberto Boccioni and paintings of Giacomo Balla (see Compenetrazione iridescente n. 4 - studio della luce).
These 6m high, 6cm wide blades were then hung 20cm apart from one another to a metal frame with their straight cuts facing inward, framing a smoothly defined interior vacuum 180 cubic meters in size. Here, tourism leaflets were delivered, regional films were reviewed, and the culture specific to Valle d’ Aosta was displayed. The sliced blade edges were then left to protrude outwardly making a permeable façade of varying lengths that ranged from 30cm to 90cm. This blade arrangement gave the structure a transparent, lightweight and non-invasive quality. It also helped to frame parallactically dynamic views of the surrounding urban landscape that shifted as the visitor moved about the interior space. At the same time this arrangement created views and movement into and through the space. Movement was further encouraged by two large openings located on the south and north walls.
At night this permeability of interior and exterior space was amplified by subtle lighting techniques. These lights, attached to the base of the structure, changed colour over time and illuminated the polycarbonate façade blades creating a pulsing or breathing effective. The electrical wiring for the lights and other hardware was hidden from view at the base by a grass meadow surrounding the outside and a naturally finished wooden floor inside. While the floor inside represented the Chalet architecture native to Valle d’ Aosta, the meadow outside represented the native plains of the region and helped to gently elevate the structure from the urban landscape.
In the end, the various design subtleties, the attention to detail and the creative yet practical usage of materials conceived and directed by Luca Peralta Studio managed to make the most of the pieces temporality. The Giant Ice-Cube was successful not only because it interacted so well with its Roman surroundings, but because it so successfully embodied the natural spirit and culture of a very unique region in Italy: Valle d’ Aosta.
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