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Ammar Eloueini wants to prove that digital architecture is realistic in the nondigital realm. He explains, "There's been so much debate about the box versus the blob—but architects are now proving that architecture conceived on the computer can be completed successfully and completed in interesting ways." As chair of the Digital Media Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago's School of Architecture and founder of Digit-all Studio, Eloueini aims to demonstrate by example that "different architecture with different sensibilities" is capable of being built.

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Issey Miyake store concept
Eloueini proposed the use of overlapping opaque and translucent strips of material, in varying widths, to create an adaptable retail space that could be implemented as a boutique within department stores.

Cultural Exchange Information Center
New York City, 1997
With this submission, Eloueini strove to realize the viability of his computer-generated architecture. Engineers studied this entry and agreed it would be buildable and structurally sound.

Stage set for John Jasperse Company
2003­2004
This flexible, movable set becomes an interactive element in one of the dance company’s pieces. The translucent polycarbonate panels absorb and diffuse light.

Médiathèque de Proximité
Vingeanne, France, 2003
Eloueini's entry for the invited competition held by the Ministry Culture in France. This public space would allow entry into the spacious interior as well as access to the roof through sloped facades of the building.

Sarajevo Concert Hall / Aqua Alta
Sarajevo, 1999 / Venice, 1998
Examples of Eloueini's contest entries for the Sarajevo Concert Hall and the Aqua Alta in Venice.

All photography courtesy Digit-all Studio

Eloueini, originally from Lebanon, studied at the Ecole d'Architecture in Paris. Before his licensure in 1994, he traveled around the U.S. and became interested in the advanced architectural design degree offered by Columbia University. "Being part of the paperless program taught by Gregg Lynn and Hani Rashid was a fantastic experience," relates Eloueini. "I was one of 45 students with varied backgrounds [who were] all interested in exploring the new theory of digital media in architecture."

After completing the Columbia program in 1996, Eloueini returned to Paris. "I found New York to be too congested," he explains. "Going back to Paris allowed me to bring these new ideas and practices to Europe at a time when digital media was done by practically no one else." He formed the Digit-all Studio in 1997 and made a name for himself as one of the few digital media–savvy architects in Europe, by turns teaching, exhibiting his work, and entering international competitions for designs like the New York Cultural Exchange Information Center and the Sarajevo Concert Hall.

When he was offered a teaching position at UIC in 1999, Eloueini also received a grant from the French Ministry of Culture to display his work, a coup that convinced him to maintain a presence in Europe and the U.S. His dual-continent firm has been awarded many commissions since his move. In a fortuitous turn of events, the avant-garde fashion designer Issey Miyake opened a boutique next door to the Parisian gallery where Eloueini had a solo exhibition. Impressed with Eloueini's work, Miyake initiated discussions with the architect, which led to a project to develop a new concept for his retail spaces. Since Miyake is known for his innovative use of fabrics, Eloueini is following suit by researching materials to be used in unconventional forms.

In 2001, Eloueini was awarded the prestigious Nouveaux Albums des Jeunes Architectes, the French Institute of Architect's highest recognition awarded to architects under 35. Since then, he has been creating projects that have leaped from the digital to the real world. Collaborating with New York–based choreographer John Jasperse, Eloueini created a stage set for the piece California that was not simply a backdrop but a structure that could morph and become part of the performance. The complex structure, whose form was generated by advanced CAD tools, took shape through the use of polycarbonate forms connected by zip ties. Its construction allows the touring company to easily disassemble and transport the set as they travel. Eloueini's work will also be seen this June at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, where he was commissioned to design an upcoming exhibition, Skin Tight, featuring the works of 10 international fashion designers.

By Randi Greenberg

 


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