Made from approximately 14,000 pieces, Bloom is the first architectural application of a laminated metal material that includes nickel and manganese with a bit of iron.
Architecture has long been valued for its static nature and sense of permanence. Increasingly, however, architects are working to make buildings more responsive to their users and to the climate. Often this is accomplished through mechanical means, but architect Doris Kim Sung, principal of LA-based DOSU studio architecture, is looking at how building materials themselves can be responsive, integrating changeability into the structure itself.
The dramatic shell-like form of her recent pavilion, called Bloom, suggests, at first glance, that Sung is interested in cutting-edge digital design. While this is certainly the case, Bloom’s true innovation happens more slowly, through the bending of its metal panels according to heat levels generated by the sun.
Commissioned by LA’s Materials and Applications gallery, the project had to be lightweight, not touch the adjacent buildings, and not produce any harmful glare for neighbors. Despite its considerable dimensions—20 feet high by 25 feet wide by 40 feet long—Bloom weighs approximately 500 pounds. “Our bigger concern ended up being up-lift from the wind,” she said.
Made from approximately 14,000 pieces, Bloom is, according to Sung, the first architectural application of the laminated metal material, which includes nickel and manganese with a bit of iron. The material is typically used in industrial applications. Sung first learned of this laminate metal after seeing it used for a lampshade by a Japanese designer. “I started thinking to myself, ‘if this designer used it for a lamp, where the heat from the bulb causes it to curl, why couldn’t it be responsive to the sun?'” she said. “As an architect, I’m always thinking about how buildings will perform.”
The two metals have different heat coefficients, which cause the material to curl when heat is applied. Sung specified material that would begin to curl at 70 degrees (temperatures above 400 degrees will begin to pull the laminate apart). The outer side of the tiles has a higher percentage of manganese and iron, which quickly weathered into a rust color, while the inner side has a greater amount of nickel, giving it a silvery finish.
To generate the form, Sung worked with a variety of software, including Rhino for the initial design, which she then refined through the Rhino SMART Form plug-in to make the design as thin and light-weight as possible. From there, she used Ecotech to model how solar heat would move across the surface as well as the surface temperature of the structure. She then imported the design into Grasshopper, which allowed her to break the structure down into its thousands of component parts. She used LS-DYNA to model Bloom’s structural integrity.
The 14,000 metal tiles have the same basic cruciform shape, however, the thickness and length of the “tails” varies, allowing differing degrees of curvature, and therefore differing levels of shade underneath the structure (depending, again, on how and where the solar heat hits the surface).
Sung worked with two different laser cutting facilities, which typically work for the aerospace industry, to fabricate the tiles: Precision Waterjet and Serra Laser Cutting. Volunteers and students then began the several month process of assembling the tiles into panels—by hand using rivets and nuts and bolts—which were then affixed to a lightweight aluminum frame. The frame and the panels support each other, creating a monocoque structure with a load-bearing skin.
For Sung, Bloom is just the beginning of what responsive architecture could be. Harnessing digital technology, advanced fabrication, and new materials point to dynamic new possibilities for the discipline.