Recent Architecture Alumni Win Design Award from Los Angeles Museum

architectural model of the Experimental Chop Shop
Tuesday, February 23, 2021
Eliot Ball and Emily Dobbs have won an international design award from the A+D Museum.

Architecture alumni Eliot Ball (’20) and Emily Dobbs (’20) have won an international design award from the Architecture and Design (A+D) Museum in Los Angeles. The A+D Design Awards competition received more than 140 submissions, from which 10 winning projects were chosen representing 10 categories of work. The winning projects are in digital exhibition through the museum website.

Ball and Dobbs both received the B.A in Architecture from the School of Architecture last May. Ball is participating in the Integrated Path to Architectural Licensure (IPAL) program and is working fulltime at Perkins Eastman before continuing in the Master of Architecture program next year.

The duo received the design award for the “In School” category, which was open to student work and evaluated by a five-member jury of distinguished designers from diverse fields. Their project, Experimental Chop House, imagines a vertical octopus farm and restaurant in downtown Boston.

west Section drawing of the Experimental Chop House“The tower is a series of moments that challenges ideas of consumption through density, scale, and comfort,” the students wrote in their concept statement. The elaborate design of the tower compels visitors – or customers – to travel a series of ramps and spiral staircases, like “particles moving through space.” Along the way, they can observe octopuses at various stages in their life cycle, held captive in tanks. Upon reaching the summit of their climb, visitors are invited to choose the octopus they wish to eat, and a chef kills and prepares it before their very eyes.

Experimental Chop House began as the students’ final project in Assistant Professor Catty Dan Zhang’s Fall 2019 studio, “Atmospheric Animations.” Ball and Dobbs were challenged to create designs informed by air flow – a particular area of Zhang’s research.  (Catty Zhang’s work VENTS is also included in the exhibition as the Honorable Mention in the "On The Floor or Ceiling" category.) They began by studying a respirator and how particles move through a filter, Dobbs said.

The idea of an octopus chop house originated as a “fun idea for its playfulness,” prompted in particular by the way an octopus can mold and morph itself into whatever space it occupies. It was only later that they “started encountering the ethics of it,” Dobbs said, the question of “consumption and our relationship to it.” As the students researched octopi, their respect for the animals grew.

“What does it mean to consume something that is an intelligent creature?” Ball said. “It became this whole conversation.”

section collage for the Experimental Chop HouseBall and Dobbs decided to push the design and the concept as far as they could. Their section drawings include references to Hieronymus Bosch’s painting, The Garden of Earthly Delights, and vintage food advertisements.  And there are more subtle “Easter eggs” hidden in the visuals, like the chef who has four arms. “We really enjoyed the complexity of it,” Ball said.

The project’s quirkiness, in addition to its skillful execution, impressed the jury.

“The graphics were wonderful; they were playful. The model was really fun,” juror Judy Kameon said of the Experimental Chop House. “I thought, ‘These people really love this project and they were totally invested in it.’ There was a lot of excitement.”

Ball and Dobbs attended a virtual awards ceremony in January. Because of the pandemic, the A+D Design Awards exhibition will remain virtual.

While working on the project, neither of the two had actually eaten octopus. But the following spring, Dobbs participated in the SoA’s semester study abroad program in Rome.

“Our first group dinner there were tiny Mediterranean octopi. I was really distraught! I was like – I can’t do it! But I ended up cutting it up so I couldn’t see what it was, and it was delicious.”  

Ball and Dobbs in their final review

Eliot Ball and Emily Dobbs present their Experimental Chop House during Fall 2019 Final Reviews.