The glass, stone, and metal exterior of the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex evokes the strength and agility of a college athlete.The superhero and the Samurai. That’s where Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects (ZGF) began their design of the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex at the University of Oregon. The football player, the architects imagined, is like Batman: stealthy and strong, he came to his powers not by supernatural accident, but through relentless training. At the same time, the athlete is a highly skilled warrior, the modern-day equivalent of Japanese military nobility. The facade of the new football training facility materializes these ideas in glass, stone, and metal. Dominated by horizontal expanses of tinted glass, it is powerful but not foreboding. ZGF offers the analogy to a suit of armor: the building’s skin balances protection and connection, solidity and agility. The most direct expression of the armor metaphor is on the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex’s west exterior. In Eugene, the real solar challenge comes not from the south, but from the west, where the sun hovers near the horizon for long periods all winter long. To minimize glare, the designers placed a floating sunscreen across the western face of the building. Using elevation studies and interior models, they determined the optimal placement of a series of tinted glass panels held in an aluminum frame developed by Benson Industries. The result is seemingly random arrangement of overlapping rectangles, which ZGF’s Bob Snyder likened to scales on a Samurai’s costume. On the other three sides of the building, ZGF installed a curtain wall of fritted, triple-pane insulated glass units supplied by SYP. The frit pattern was inspired by the nearby John E. Jacqua Academic Center for Student Athletes, which ZGF also designed. The Jacqua’s facade comprises two layers of glass, five feet apart with a stainless steel wire screen in between. At the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex, the designers achieved a similar texture on a single layer of glass. “We saw that as a microcosm of the five-foot wall [at Jacqua],” said Snyder. The frit pattern was developed to be visible from both outside and inside the building, and to suggest movement as one passes along the facade. The final components of the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex exterior are stone and metal cladding. ZGF chose granite and basalt from Western Tile & Marble, which was treated with water jets for a striated texture. The designers used stone primarily on the first three floors of the building. “We established that as the stone zone, we wanted the weight of that material, the high durability of that material down low where folks would come into contact [with it],” said Snyder. Above, the stone transitions to aluminum panels for a lighter feel. “We worked with [Streimer Sheet Metal Works] to get the tightest radius we could get on the ribs of the metal panel,” explained Snyder. “We really struggled with that material [to make it] as fine as the stone, so it didn’t look like you were wearing tennis shoes with your tuxedo.” Plate-steel fins at the mouth of the parking garage and near the entrance sidewalk suggest the hard back of a dinosaur—yet another reference to armor. For Snyder, the combination of materials on the building’s facade achieve a balance between groundedness and ambition. Like the athletes inside it, the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex remains tied to the earth even as it appears to float above it. “The idea is that to be really good at football, you need to be right on the edge,” said Snyder.
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HLW’s binary design for Google’s New York office supports the company’s product offerings.Google is renowned in design circles for its unique offices around the globe, and the main lobby of the Internet search giant’s New York City office is no exception. Architecture firm HLW took its inspiration for the design of the space from Google’s Code of Conduct. The architects rendered the document’s stipulations in binary code, and applied those perforations on a series of 27, 12-foot-tall triangulated aluminum wall panels. This digital-age design feature is a nod to Google’s domain as well as to the process by which the panels themselves were created. Brooklyn-based Situ Fabrication, the newly established fabrication arm of Situ Studio, worked with HLW to achieve a monolithic appearance across each of the 27 panels. Since the design called for “folded-looking planes,” Situ Fabrication opted to work with 1/8-inch-thick aluminum composite material (ACM) for ease of manipulation and the clean edges that the material would produce when processed on wood working machines. To reinforce the ACM sheets, Situ designed and fabricated a triangulated frame from welded aluminum tubing, resulting in a 2-inch-thick panel section. The design and fabrication process involved substantial file sharing as Situ tweaked the geometry of HLW’s designs in Rhino. Then, a rendered view of an adjusted thickness would be sent back to HLW in SketchUp to support the designers’ parameters. “There was a lot of back and forth between our design engineering and fabrication and what the architect provided to us,” attested Basar Girit, a partner at Situ Studio. “We speak the language of the architect, as well as the contractor, and it makes for a smooth process because the architect doesn’t have to fully resolve the design and translate to the contractors.” Situ calculated optimal distances between perforations so as not to compromise the integrity of the 1/8-inch ACM. Working from an image file, the pattern of perforations was laid out on each panel to avoid the interior frame. A 3-axis CNC router punched out mirror images of the pattern on each of the ACM sheets, which were then bent around the frames. This method quickly produced a panel with an identical pattern on the front and back, and seamless corners. Situ coated the interior of each panel with black paint. Backlit by linear lighting along the lobby’s wall, the panels produce a glittering effect as visitors walk through the space. Situ also helped flesh out installation methods with a custom mounting detail on the ceiling and floor, received in a wall niche. A welded aluminum tab runs the length of each panel, like a vertical fin, that bolts in at an angle at two locations. Flat head screws secure the system in place, and the attachments are concealed with aluminum strips, much like traditional trim.
An ambitious designer used Rhino to design and fabricate 20 variations on a chair in four months.For a designer aiming to streamline the gap between design and manufacturing, parametric modeling tools are a natural solution. LA-based Alexander Purcell Rodrigues found a place to work in just such a way at the Neal Feay Company (NF), a 60-year old fabrication studio in Santa Barbara, California, that is known for its exceptional metalworking. Together, the designer and the fabrication studio created the Cartesian Collection of chairs, aptly named for the analytic geometry that helped facilitate close to 20 design variations on the same aluminum frame in just under four months. “Not only were we pushing the boundaries of aluminum fabrication, the aim was to simultaneously create a lean manufacturing process,” said Rodrigues. Using Rhino with a Grasshopper plugin, Rodrigues developed a design for a chair that weaves together the simplicity of Western design with the complex ornamentation of traditional Eastern aesthetics. While the lines of the chair are clean and smooth, intricate embellishments on the back traverse multiple planes and angles, all on a shrunken scale. The time savings involved in designing with Rhino allowed the creation of another 19 variations on the theme. Rather than working with large billets of aluminum, Rodrigues and NF’s Alex Rasmussen opted to fabricate the chair from ½-inch stock, with an option for wooden legs or an upholstered seat. “The most difficult thing was the back rest because it required the most unconventional process,” said Rasmussen. “Once it was bent into a the basic form, the back was put into a four-axis machine that works in an X, Y, Z, and rotational axis to apply texture.” An anodized finish, which transitions between two colors for an ombré effect, adds to the bespoke appearance. Working collaboratively to solve hiccups in the fabrication process was a key component to the success of the project, and experimenting with tool paths helped create new patterns. Manipulating the original design in Grasshopper accounted for even minute deflections in the real-world fabrication scenario. “With this formula, you can play with variables that go in a hundred directions and multiply quickly,” Rodrigues said of the freedom of working in the program. “The world is your oyster in Grasshopper.” The team worked with aluminum for the frame of the chairs, a material choice that was made in part due to the fact that NF specializes in the material. In addition, the lightweight metal allowed a greater degree of accuracy than injection or press molding. “You can get all the screw caps and holes so exact with a precision of perfection you can’t recreate in other materials,” said Rodrigues. “And experimenting with the ombré anodized finish, NF pushed the boundaries very well, for something so thin and elegant.”
Audi and GSAPP teamed with FLATCUT_ to create a 1:1500 scale model of Manhattan's street grid from 3/16-inch-thick aluminum sheetsThis September at the preview of the Lowline Park in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, visitors had the opportunity to absorb nine visions by students from Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) about the future of urban living and mobility. Conducted as the culmination of a yearlong research program in partnership with Audi of America, the exhibition, Experiments in Motion, was tied together and contextualized by a hanging, 50-foot-long, 1:1500 scale model of Manhattan’s street grid. Audi and GSAPP called on New York and New Jersey-based fabrication studio FLATCUT_ to create the model, which also calls out every subway station on the island. The job required the studio to pull off a high wire balancing act: the fabrication of an object both intricate and sturdy, modular yet monolithic. The Manhattan street grid had to float amid a sea of colorful projections emanating from the student’s exhibits, which were presented in digital format. Light from the screens had to be able to dance across the model. Equally important to the exhibit, the model had to work with a projection by Nuite Blanch New York that created the appearance of a heavy shadow. Silhouetting the street grid upon the digital displays, the model placed the projections in context. “That was pretty unique,” said FLATCUT_’s Tomer Ben-Gal. “The model had to be both reflective and have the ability to cast a shadow.” In close collaboration with the Therrien-Barley design team, FLATCUT_ studied several materials to find the right one to render the complex line work of Manhattan’s street grid. “It was critical that we identify an alloy that was both strong enough to hold the piece up, but not too thick that it would become difficult to cut the fine pattern they were looking to achieve,” added FLATCUT_’s Daniel Ramirez. FLATCUT_ went with 3/16-inch aluminum sheets. The studio revised the detail of the design team’s line drawings in Rhino, refining the grid so it could be cut using a water jet cutter. They also broke the overall model down into modular parts that could fit through the CNC cutting machine. After consulting with the designers on a variety of reflective finishes, the team decided to leave the raw look of the aluminum’s mill finish. Once cut, the modular pieces of the model were welded together in FLATCUT_'s New Jersey fabrication shop with flanges, creating a smooth, unbroken appearance to the finished product. Once assembled, Art Domantay hoisted the unit in place with aircraft cables connected to the flanges. FLATCUT_’s attention to detail throughout the process is evident in just how seamlessly their ghostly Manhattan melded with the digital projections that comprise the rest of the exhibit. “It was interesting,” Ramirez said, “to apply our skills as fabricators of physical pieces to digital interactions.”
Frankfurt’s Zeil gets another facelift with an ever-changing media installationThe Zeil is Frankfurt’s main shopping district, a pedestrian-only street bordered by two large plazas. In 2009, Massimiliano Fuksas’ vortex-clad Mab Zeil mixed-use center brought a new face to the street. Not to be outdone by its neighbor, the Zeilgalerie shopping mall began its own facelift the same year. Designed by Wiesbaden, Germany-based interdisciplinary collective 3deluxe, its LED-illuminated black facade brings a new sense of unity to the street and was recently given the Red Dot 2011 design award in the category of Information Design/Public Space. Originally designed by German architects Kramm & Strigl and completed in 1992, Zeilgalerie was an architectural mix consisting of a glazed semi-cylindrical structure and central entrance tower, to the right of which was a perforated aluminum facade. To make the building read as one structure without losing its original forms, designers at 3deluxe envisioned three all-black facade systems composed of glass and aluminum. The sleek building envelope would be the new canvas for a light installation showing off the latest capabilities in LED technology and multimedia design. The media installation spans the rightmost structure’s entire 2,800-square-foot façade. Double-glazed black glass panels are mounted flush with matte black cladding, behind which a rhomboid grid of 310 LED strips applied to the exterior glass pane creates the computer-controlled lighting display. Each of 19,700 diodes can be controlled separately, allowing the facade to project sharp geometric patterns as well as abstract shapes and the illusion of light and shadow drifting across the building. The facade performs at night (with music). Diagonal lines of light are superimposed by an orthogonal pattern printed onto the transparent film between glass panes. Corresponding to the pattern that is laser-cut into the metal cladding, which itself includes 2,500 LED modules, a dot screen ties the entire display together. The dot screen is repeated in the cylindrical structure to the left, which is clad in horizontal strips of matte-black aluminum outlined on the lower edge with more LEDs. Viewed as a whole, the facades take on a uniformly dark appearance in daylight, but slowly become three pronounced structures at night, each playing off the others’ patterns. Media design firm Meso Digital Interiors created the program to run the lighting display. “The complex layout of the LED fixtures called for a bespoke mapping system, which prepares all of the graphics for the Leurocom-built installation with sub-pixel precision,” describes the team in its design brief. Using graphical programming toolkit VVVV, Meso programmed scenes that would play “hide and seek” in the building’s contours, ensuring that no two performances are ever the same with software that calculates new frames for infinity.
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An aluminum prototype structure at FRAC explores non-linear design and fabricationThe new nonLin/Lin Pavilion at the FRAC Centre in Orleans, France, is a coral-like structure of 40 pre-assembled white aluminum modules made of 570 CNC-cut single components punched with 155,780 asterisk-shaped CNC-drilled holes and held together by 75,000 white aluminum rivets. But these pieces, as designer Marc Fornes of THEVERYMANY has demonstrated throughout his work, are much more than the sum of their parts. Neither an art installation nor a model, the pavilion is full-scale architecture that pushes the limits of its materials and of physical fabrication processes with custom computational protocols. The pavilion’s form began with the idea of a “Y” model—essentially the most basic form of multi-directionality. The study indicates Fornes’ interest in architecture’s shift away from linear spaces, including tube and doughnut shapes, to tri-partite forms that cannot be described through one bi-directional surface. Even in the avant-garde architectural repertoire, writes Fornes in his project brief, the bi-directional surface is still often the main medium of representation: “In order to resolve such an issue, it is required to address morphological models of change and introduce split or recombination—or in other words, how can one become two and two become one.” The computational model developed to create the structure describes it as a set of linear, machinable elements that can be unrolled and cut out of flat aluminum sheets. But the process could not be applied globally to the pavilion; that strategy would fail because the structure’s “defects” are recurring yet shifting. Nodes contain varying numbers of branches, and double-curvatures and radii are constantly shifting. Instead, the model was designed to create an individual solution to each surface while keeping in mind nearby conditions including branches and holes, connections, end rings, and open edges. Though the amount of variation is massive, the information was translated to a series of stripes that would be CNC-cut, drilled, or engraved into 4-by-8-foot sheets of aluminum. Machining took less than 2 ½ hours, but pre-assembly using pneumatic rivet guns to fasten the stripes into 40 modules took several weeks. Now part of the FRAC’s permanent collection, the self-supporting structure is 30 by 18 by 15 feet. Fornes’ model is also scalable to a degree and could appear in other applications in the future, but even at the current size it will inspire visitors to think bigger.