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Lisa Iwamoto and Craig Scott, principals at IwamotoScott Architecture first established a relationship with Obscura Digital, a digital media company, three years ago in order to collaborate on a new hemispheric theater encased in a geodesic dome in Dubai. While the project was scuttled by the recession, the two firms stayed in touch, and when Obscura acquired new office space in a 1940s-era warehouse in an up-and-coming San Francisco neighborhood, they again called on IwamotoScott to design it, and even invited the architects to move into their new space.
Working with a tight budget, IwamotoScott injected digitally fabricated details that would give focus and add drama to the large industrial space. A black-box conference room that Scott describes as bringing “shrink-wrap to seismic bracing” is perched on the edge of a second-floor mezzanine while a 32-foot laser-cut screen wall comprised of cells that appear to collapse into fluid scales sequesters the architect’s space within the digital media company’s headquarters.
Doubling as a bookshelf in IwamotoScott’s space, the screen wall deforms slightly in response to the mass of a geodesic dome in the building’s atrium housing one of Obscura’s signature theaters. “The pixilated, curving vocabulary of the screen wall projected off the spherical form of the dome,” said Scott.
Laser-cut vertical fins of 22-gauge sheet metal are held in tension by channels anchored to the floor and ceiling, which in turn support 186 unique modules, each fabricated from a digital model produced by IwamotoScott. Perforations were laser-cut into sheets of 24-gauge sheet metal and folded to create boxes. The white-powder-coated boxes are mounted to the light gray fins with small Allen machine screws. Scott said the subtle difference in color enhances the feeling of shadow boxes.
Beginning with a row of orthogonally-stacked modules, each of the 31 vertical rows of boxes radiates in a perspectival array to control the wall’s sense of porosity and filter light. “We tweaked the digital model to adjust for views,” Scott said. While facing the wall in one location might reveal a flood of light from windows inside IwamotoScott’s offices, from other locations, the wall appears completely opaque.
Scott said Obscura Digital’s office own space is still a work in progress. Future plans include covering Obscura’s geodesic dome with a modulated skin over its metal skeleton. Scott said the process will likely involve digital fabrication similar to the screen wall, with perforated edges to create a system of dynamic folds.