Catty Dan Zhang - Architecture Lecture 2.3.20


The challenges related to designing architecture that is atmospheric have long been influenced by how the invisibles are made perceptible. From tracing shadow patterns in caves during the pre-cinema era, to transmitting electrical signals into light emitted from digital screens in the post-digital era, optical operations revealing the invisibles have transitioned into the integration of digital media and physical science triggering senses beyond sight nowadays.

With such integration, this exhibition showcases the design of active atmosphere through a series of investigations translating fixed objects into somewhat synergistic systems that produce dynamic effects and unexpected consequences as spatial and experiential devices.

The Moving Air exhibition features multimedia investigations utilizing airflow as a material freely available in the environment. Developed at the convergence of computation, natural physics and architecture, The Moving Air attempts to explore the cultural, social, and environmental uptakes of technological investigations of ephemeral and invisible factors that create emotional impacts.

A matter fills up spaces between our eyes and the visible forms of the built environment, Leonardo da Vinci describes in his Notebook the visual function of clouds when he suggests that “they are useful in filling up the gaps around figures, on the wall, to situate them in space just like angels and birds.” To expand this imaginary and static use of air into designing with its spatial functions in real time, The Moving Air hacks scientific toolkits that are available, and misuses concepts of cultural objects for creating profound, weird, useless, but hopefully poetic perceptual interfaces.

Displayed in forms of horizontal planes of assembled modules, volumes of articulated air currents, illuminated screens with projected visuals, 2D prints, as well as artifacts, this exhibition invites playful interactions between visitors and the altered atmosphere within the gallery.

Catty Dan Zhang is an assistant professor of architecture at UNC Charlotte. Her work experiments the design of active atmosphere at the convergence of digital media and architecture. Focusing on the overlap of human and machine perceptions, she explores cultural, social, and environmental uptakes of technological investigations of ephemeral and invisible factors that create emotional impacts.

Zhang holds a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Tsinghua University, a Master of Architecture with Honors from Washington University in St. Louis, a Master in Design Studies degree in Technology from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. She was the 2017 recipient of the Daniel L. Schodek Award for Technology and Sustainability, and was one of the four finalists of the 2018 Wheelwright Prize. Zhang has worked with Axi:Ome as a design principal. Prior of joining UNCC, she taught at Washington University in St. Louis, and has practiced, exhibited, and published internationally.

Catty collaborates with Axi:Ome— an interdisciplinary architectural practice based in St. Louis and Jecheon. As a design principal, she leads a broad range of speculative as well as client-based projects internationally. Recent projects include Silverlake International High School, Prism Tower, UMSL in Grand Center, Media Plaza, ArtWalk, and COCA Expansion.

Her scholarly as well as professional work has been published in various media such as 3 Stages of Architectural Education, World Architecture Magazine, Panel Layout for Competition by Damdi Publishing, Axi:Ome monograph, and has been exhibited at a number of galleries and institutions including Harvard GSD (Hybrid Formations, 2017), Sheldon Art Galleries (Walking Grand Center Redux: 4 Streetscape Designs, 2015), CEL Gallery (Context / Contrast: UMSL in Grand Center, 2013), Storrs Gallery at UNCC (Between Research and Practice, 2013), Laumeier Sculpture Park (Folded Bridge, 2011), and CENTRO Modern Furnishings (xl-TIM, 2010).