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Big Orbits
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REVIEW: Richard Huntington, Buffalo News (September 2000)
REVIEW: Brad Wales, Artvoice (October 2000)

Inside out  

…The two-part construction, appropriately called "Big Orbits," consists of two massive units - an elliptical "void" in the gallery proper and a counterpart elliptical solid in the courtyard. The work wittily plays with the ideas of "indoor-ness" and "outdoor-ness," closed and open space and those two spatial verities of the physical world, the void and the solid. And most significantly, the architects have carefully conceived their construction and the process of its making in strict relationship to the particular boxy, high-ceilinged space of the Big Orbit Gallery and its adjoining walled courtyard of similar dimension.

Initially a stack of wooden pallets - the piece is made entirely of this humble object of industry - filled the gallery space from the floor to nearly the ceiling. From this undifferentiated mass of wood, the architects carved an elliptical chamber with openings at either end for entry and exit. Outside in the courtyard, Fantauzzi and Hadighi reversed the process, building a big solid unit that seems (or perhaps partially is) the section that was cut away from the pile of pallets in the gallery. The form of this outside piece might suggest a fat dirigible were it not made from such clunky, earthbound materials.

As we might expect from two architects, the work is a knowing commentary on the various ways we experience three-dimensional space. To walk through the rough-hewn chamber - a rather elegantly proportioned space with a vague funerary tone - is to experience the body and its relation to the enclosing space. The oddity of this non-

geometric space and its slightly threatening wrap-around quality churns up the emotions. The eyes, meantime, take in details of the wall surface: dangerous-looking cut-off pallets with small pieces of wood.

Outside is another matter altogether. Here, the sky is above us and the walls enclose the space in a non-assertive manner. Here we encounter a distinct, in-the-round object. Inside, we are bodies moving through a space; outside we are observers looking at a thing that seems almost passive-aggressive in its cartoon-cute but overbearing bulk. Within the chamber, the scale is intuitively determined by the measure of the bodies as we stride through the space. In the courtyard, perception of scale primarily comes from the eyes and the calculations they demand.

We look at this weird, stratified object as we would a conventional sculpture (which, in many ways it is). By the various acts of simple observation, we see how the object measures up next to us. One of the many wonderful things about this ambituous work is how it so effectively brings together these sometimes conflicting ways of sensing the physical world. It calls for a totality of vision that unites the "rational" principles of geometric space - the kind of solid stable space that has guided architecture since the Ancient Egyptians - and the more intuitive experience of the architectural void.