Photo: Marla Halerz, The Daily Illini

Nick Katrichis, junior in applied life studies,
stands Thursday afternoon near one of the structures
designed for Architecture 372 in Loomis Lab,
1110 W. Green St., Urbana. Sophomore in engineering
Mark Meinhart waits in the background for his Physics 114
lab to begin.

A living, breathing Loomis Lab

by Bethany Carson

Daily Illini reporter

Battling gusts of wind and blowing branches of trees, Casey Grinder, senior in FAA, holds a ladder steady while Emily Wang, also senior in FAA, struggles to tie a piece of string to the overhang of Loomis Lab on Green Street in Urbana.

Grinder and Wang are working on a project for an Architecture 372 senior design studio called "Construction and Movement." The experimental class is in its second semester under two professors, Rebecca Williamson of architecture and Linda Lehovec of dance, and it has just added a third professor, George Gollin of physics.

Their goal is to create a shading and cooling device to cast shadows inside Loomis lobby. Four pink, semi-transparent strips of tobacco cloth are tied to poles and held up by strings attached to the overhang.

"It's titled ParaSite," Grinder said. "It's kind of like an animal that eats the inside of the building and breathes when the wind blows."

Architecture, dance and physics all have one thing in common: moving objects that interact with their surroundings.

The purpose of the project is to create an instillation, or structure, for the dance students in Lehovec's independent study dance class to interact with. Combining the two classes, the program provides students with an opportunity to explore what happens when they cross the boundaries of curriculums and venture into the perspectives of related fields.

Physics ties into this program by explaining how dancers move one way and know that it feels right or wrong, Gollin said.

Gollin observes, documents and comments on the students' performances. He uses a physics vocabulary to explain the challenge of how a dancer needs to be able to turn from any position, Gollin said. He said he noticed that the architects and dancers had similar problems revolving around the same issues.

One of the goals of the program is to collaborate the efforts of three classes and do one performance that diminishes the distinction between dance and architecture and that adds music to create a mood, Williamson said.

The current collaborative project will be shown on Saturday from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in Loomis Lab.

"We're supposed to study the movement of Loomis and try to do something about it," said Grinder.

When people walk inside Loomis, Grinder hopes that the instillation will extend space to the outside area so people will take notice beyond the windows.

Grinder's group - Suzi Reinhold, Emily Wang and Justin Molloy - compared ideas with dancer, Amber Sloan, senior in FAA, to figure out how someone moves within a space, said Grinder.

Williamson thought of combining architecture and dance classes in fall of 1998 after taking a child and parent dance class under the instruction of Lehovec.

"I was very impressed with Linda's teaching methods, particularly the way she talked about space and movement through space," Williamson said. "I thought it was relevant to architecture, so the conversation grew out of that."

Eighteen senior architecture students use Architecture 372 as one of their studio courses required to graduate. They meet three times a week for one semester, but they spend extra time constructing their projects and talking with the dancers. Grinder and Wang's project took two weeks to prepare.

Lehovec said the eight dancers enrolled in this class take it as an independent study course, required to fulfill at least 30 hours by the end of the semester to earn one credit. The dancers meet on Fridays and Saturdays for four or five hours during three consecutive weeks, and they meet outside of class to work on the projects with the architecture class.

"We in the dance department are really busy, and we are often stuck in Krannert with our classes," said Darrin Wright, sophomore in FAA. "It's nice to be working with other students and being able to share with them dance and its connection to space."

Lehovec explained how her dancers had to practice improvisational exercises by moving around in the set that the architects designed, and they interacted with the set by picking up the instillation or including the audience.

Saturday's performance will be performed with the lights out in the lobby of Loomis. Dancers will have flashlights, which will shine on and reflect off of the instillation, explained Beth Campbell, senior architecture in FAA.

Campbell's project is called "Chain of Light" and is made of a few panels of paper board with reflexive covering. The dancers will shine their flashlights on the panels, which will then reflect to another panel down the hallway. It might appear for only a split second because the panels and dancers are constantly moving, said Andrea Will, senior working with Campbell.

"It's not like what we've been trained to do," Haskett said. "Other classes involve designing buildings which will never work. With this class, you have a hands-on understanding of the materials and how to use them. We learn how architecture influences or hinders movement in or around structures."

Williamson said that the experimental class is planned to continue in future semesters and that it is an on-going project that is dedicated to varying the project.

Andrew Krumpolz, freshman in FAA, enjoyed and appreciated the class.

"The class has been fantastic (and) surreal, and has really added a new perspective to the way I see things three-dimensionally," Krumpolz said.