2021 Schnitzer Prize in the Visual Arts

Carolyn Tam

Third Place, 2021 Harold and Arlene Schnitzer Prize in the Visual Arts
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People’s Playscape

Building proposal for YMCA, 2019, Coney Island, New York. Advisor: Rosalyne Shieh.

The YMCA is an institution that boasts a lineage of both education and play. However, the Y has kept these two entities separate—education and play programs are typically segregated within the typology. This project seeks to merge these two elements. It reconfigures the Y to function as an educational playscape. It seeks to teach, through architecture.

The project proposes an open architecture for a series of non-prescribed uses. The open floor-plans represent the desire for less formality and encourages imagination and free play. Users are welcome to actively participate, employing their own creative thinking to come up with unconventional and innovative ways to utilize the space and facilities.

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Form Follows Light

Installation of three architectural performances, 2018-19, Emerald Necklace, Boston, MA. Advisor: Brandon Clifford.

Since ancient times, humans have celebrated the winter solstice. Many monuments around the world have woven knowledge of the solar system into their architecture. In a widely anticipated annual phenomenon, Stonehenge aligns precisely to the movement of Sun to frame the sunset during the solstice, transforming the sunlight into a dramatic light play.

Form Follows Light extracts and experiments with this knowledge to create a moving spectacle once a year at the Emerald Necklace in Boston, MA. The light performance is made up of three light sculptures along the ribbon of green space. The forms respond to the Sun’s movement, controlling how light moves through the space. On the 21st of December, spectators descend upon the park to witness the three acts of light.

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Bio Craft

Acetobacter Xylinum, wood, polycarbonate, 2018- current

Bio Craft proposes a vision for a future where a new generation of products are grown by microbes instead of using materials as they are found. The project uses Acetobacter Xylinum as a living material source – a distinct mix between bio-tech and poetic imagery in which microbes function as a beautification and sustainable material source.

Exploring methods to manipulate the growing form of the bacterias, the final product focuses on the design and fabrication of a ‘bioreactor’ that encourages bacteria to grow in three dimensional form. The device allows humans to work symbiotically with living organisms, nourishing them with body heat and oxygen.

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About the Artist

Carolyn Tam is an architectural designer from Hong Kong. Her interests lie in reshaping how we relate to our environment by incorporating design with material research. She is currently at MIT pursuing a Masters in Architecture. Her current academic research, supported by the Venture Catalyst Challenge, focuses on developing alternative material for short-term infrastructure.

Tam is the co-founder of the material Finite, a new composite made from desert sand that has similar compression strength as concrete but can be recycled for multiple life cycles or left to safely biodegrade. The project has received numerous international recognition and awards, ranging from Dezeen‘s Top 10 Innovative Materials, to YouFab competition’s 2018 Global Creative Awards. Finite has been featured worldwide, including in the Financial Times, Dezeen, Domus Magazine, Co.Design Magazine, ArchDaily, and Mashable’s video series “Genius Moments.”

More at Carolyn Tam’s website

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