|There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.
- R. Buckminster Fuller
The project library is located in a neighborhood of South Los Angeles. By holding community engagement events at the library, we discovered that the Library is highly valued in the neighborhood as a place of community, learning, and social support, despite its limited hours. Even so, graffiti is an ongoing issue at the library. We chose to pursue a graffiti abatement strategy based on reprogramming of the exterior space of the library as a place to learn, play, and celebrate.
Through the installation of Butterfly Wings and Scales, we hoped to offer opportunities to strengthen and expand the Library’s connection with education. The project is about space-making as a means to support and spur future programming. Westmont’s dire lack of park space gives the library an opportunity to expand its sphere of influence from the interior of the library to the exterior. Moreover the Library plays a role in creating access to and expanding cultural arts programming for the community, which has a positive influence beyond the borders of its neighborhood.
Both the shade canopy and mural took cues from nature. We studied native flowering plants and butterflies of Southern California, digitizing and abstracting the flower petals. The patterning found in butterfly scales were applied, creating the shade structure. The iridescent metal “scales” of the canopy relay similarities to microstructure of butterfly wings. Additional digital processing (through the use of 3D modeling tools, i.e. Rhino and Grasshopper) created the mural and relief panels.
The butterfly and its transformation from a caterpillar is an inspiring symbol of change. The outdoor plaza at the Library has the potential to become a central social space, one for gathering, celebrating, and supporting community events. Butterfly Wings and Scales re-imagines the plaza as an outdoor extension of the library where young minds can be nourished and transformed.
Butterfly Wings and Scales was designed and fabricated by us. Through this project, we wanted to resist the ordinary and bring a sense of wonder to the design and making of community space. Through a practice that combines architecture, art and making, we strived to create work that exhibits a playful interplay of material exploration, technological sophistication, environmental consciousness, social relevance, and DIY inventiveness.