Placed next to North Christian Church, Synergia’s ephemeral quality of light acts in conjunction with the spatial movements of compression and expansion, creating a place that fosters peace and reflection. Synergia embodies the reality of life, community, and harmony through simple parts working together to create a complex and light-filled space.
Amy Cunningham, Marguerite Fisher-Heath, Siqiao Gao, Hannah Holloway, Kylie Knipscheer, Guanyao Li, Tristin Moore, Anna Mui, Ariana Nunes, Michelle Smith, Emma Walsh, Ye Wang, Zhanhua Ya, Simin Yu, and Jin Zhu
Special Thanks goes to IUPUI engineering faculty Andres Tovar and his students Aaron Berndt, Ryan Comer, Shweta Daule, Shantanu Sabade, Ashutosh Salunke, Kordula Schild, and Pratik Shelke for their help.
North Christian Church, 1964
850 Tipton Lane
Saarinen’s North Christian Church is a breathtaking building that shows the architect at his most mature. Its abstract hexagonal plan is more abstract than and visually distinct from the rectilinear gestures of First Christian Church and Eero’s Irwin Union Bank and Trust. Viewed from the outside, the building literally mediates between earth and sky, between the Congregation and God. The flat cornfields bordering on Tipton Lane reveal a building that, at first glance, appears to be rising from the ground. North Christian Church’s form features an interplay of receding and extruding angles that eventually meld into the angled rooflines that lead into the building’s iconic spire.
Materials and Fabrication
Laser-cut corrugated plastic folded into hendecahedrons
Instructor Jiangmei Wu’s experience with folded structures led her to identify Coroplast, a type of corrugated plastic sheet, as the ideal material for Synergia. Weather-resistant and 100% recyclable, Coroplast provides both rigidity and translucency. Over 600 units of varying shapes needed to be cut from flat sheets, scored, and folded to create the tessellated “cells” that students designed to form the complex biological geometry of the structure. The team combined computer-controlled laser cutting with manual scoring and folding, which was facilitated by a steel template created by Noblitt Fabricating. As the semester drew to a close, students also faced the design problem of how to coordinate and train volunteers to fold the remaining units. Volunteers from across IU’s Schools of Apparel Merchandising and Interior Design and Fine Arts completed over 400 units, a collaboration that bodes well for the union of those programs in IU’s new School of Art, Architecture, and Design.