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Florida Gulf Coast University
10501 FGCU Blvd, South
Fort Myers, FL 33965-6565
(239) 590-1000 or (800) 590-3428

JORDAN BLANKENSHIP

STRUCTURING LIGHT

Senior Project APRIL 2017

Architectural monuments have long been considered hallmarks in the evolution of human history and culture. In particular, the great cathedrals of Europe built from the early thirteenth century to the late fifteenth century are believed to represent the pinnacle of both structural and spiritual architecture. This project has been inspired by the evolution of windows, arches, and openings in the construction of these buildings. Medieval architects were able to adapt the design of cathedrals using structural inventions, such as buttresses and fan vaults, to create thinner walls and allow large panels of stained glass to introduce light into the interior space.


When I walked into the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris in the summer of 2015, I was captivated by my experience. Seeing the massive interior columns stretch to the ceiling to support the beautifully shaped windows, I became fascinated by both the structure and the light.  I began to analyze how each feature contributed to the architectural integrity of the building, to the vaulted ribbed ceilings, upper clerestories, pointed arches, and other beautifully constructed forms. These images have dominated my studio production since that trip. In my approach to architecture, I try to understand the balance between function and decoration, and to capture this balance in my work through composing repeated forms and patterns. My work explores the use of clay as an expression of architecture by cutting into my ceramic pieces to allow light to pass through the form.


In making this series of clay sculptures, I approach the innovation and introduction of light within architecture t
hrough handbuilt and wheelthrown ceramics. My process involved developing patterns and shapes directly referenced in monumental buildings. I was able to take inspiration from fan vault ceilings from medieval cathedrals, and patterns from rose windows. Other influences included the structural metal systems used in both the Eiffel Tower and the Crystal Palace in the late 19th century. To make the forms, once the clay had stiffened to a leatherhard state, I begin to cut through my thrown pieces using an X-Acto knife with various blade attachments. The sculptural wall forms referencing groin vaults were made in sections using multiple sizes of clay extrusions. The window forms on the wall were carved and composed of seven different patterns and presented in structured rows to further repeat the patterns. Each piece was fired twice in the electric kiln to a final temperature of 1888°F, using a range of slip and glaze surfaces. The cutouts and directional light draw the viewer's eye the inside of the piece, while the shadows cast on the wall allude to the darkness we keep out.