Thick Skin by Viola Ago and Hans Tursack

Thick Skin, an installation by Viola Ago and Hans Tursack, was in view at the A+D Museum in Los Angeles in the summer of 2018.

From the designers:

“As a young collaborative, our practice engages the slippage between graphic issues (surface, painterly and printerly problems) and received definitions of form. Older theoretical models imagined the phenomenological encounter between viewer and material artifact as a moment of spatial and corporeal awareness (self-realization or grounding). However, we believe that the modern, urban subject’s perception of the world is already mediated by digital images and information.

Thick Skin is an exercise in the perception of image and volume (a primal confrontation of subject and sculptural object) using advanced fabrication and imagining technologies. Our design is a large, monolithic object that takes inspiration from Michael Heizer’s lifelong interest in the marriage of photographs of the natural landscape and the material presence of massive geological fragments. Our installation is sited in the A+D courtyard, in the postindustrial setting of the L.A. Arts District. During the day the graphic panels of the object cue viewers into a juxtaposition between the rapidly developing, hyper-urban condition of downtown LA and the material realities of the inhuman landscapes that surround it. At night the object radiates artificial light, accentuating its geometric and otherworldly nature.

Thick Skin originated as an experiment in pure materials research and robotic fabrication. The project began with a simple premise; fuse contemporary printing processes with computationally aided fabrication methods to develop custom architectural facade panels. The purpose of the study is to produce panels with irregular geometric profiles, and graphic overlays that respond to the sculptural quality of each unit. During fabrication, GFRP panels are stamped into curvilinear monocoque forms reminiscent of processes used to fabricate lightweight aircraft bodies, automotive components and high end furniture. This molding process endows an otherwise thin, lightweight shell with high-performance structural properties. The second phase of the fabrication process uses a robot to paint thermo and photochromic ink onto the panels. By programming the robot to paint the complex geometric surfaces of each panel – after they have been cast into their final form – our graphics can map onto each unit in novel ways. Using this process, the solar and thermal properties of the inked, graphic layers can respond directly to the transitions and folds of each panel. Our project fuses complex geometric surfaces and graphics in a way that conventional decal processes, or “fritted” facades (a flat graphic applied to a simple, indifferent material datum) can only crudely approximate.”

Design Team

Viola Ago


Hans Tursack


Completion Date

March 2018


A+D Museum, Los Angeles