Low Relief | Carnegie Museum of Art

Materials: Plaster, Mirror, Acrylic, LEDs, Plywood


As part of an experimental architecture studio doubling as a museum exhibit, Low Relief explores material cultures of architectural deceit through historical research, hands-on material play, and blending physical plaster artifacts with hybrid media forms to augment viewer experience and perception. Situation in a gallery forced one to think about design communication through the lens of exhibit design, and to continually process work for public dissemination. The first phase of the studio included visits to plaster shops in New York City and investigations into the traditional usages and techniques of plaster. By undergoing this study of the basic nature and potentials of the material, further speculation could be made on augmenting its architectural capabilities.

Building off initial plaster studies, the next assignment was to create an object that combined traditional plaster techniques with modern technology and effects.  Our group decided to design for public interaction through a Cabinet of Curiosities with multiple view cones centered around a single plaster object, augmenting the viewer's perception of the object through optical and plaster illusions.  Plaster tests included the transferring of images, drawings, and ink onto a cast object to create modern-day frescoes, as well as textural and depth manipulation through projection and fabric casting.  The final object elicited public engagement on all fronts, from its view cones for viewers to peer into, as well as an informational board for guests to learn about plaster manipulation and optical illusions.

The culmination of the work was an exploration into the combination plaster textures with mirrors to imply non-physical spaces in a recursive corner study.  Exploring the architectural illusion of an interior and exterior corner with plaster and mirror, the proposed installation made use of different textural effects to create unique repeating spaces that push the extents of space within a corner.  Different textures made by hand and through robotic processes highlight the versatility of plaster, and in combination with the lights and mirror, further the potentials for it in a volume. Through the formation of multiple illusions in relation to the architectural corner, a viewer is left to continuously wonder about the reality of what they are seeing and of the object's finite nature.  

The final full-scale product was exhibited in the Hall of Sculpture of the Carnegie Museum of Art, as part of a public event celebrating the efforts of the studio and the work of the museum's Hall of Architecture.  Made in collaboration with Samson Liu, Lim Xin Hui and Hang Wang.