Folded aluminum panels deliver the illusion of movement to passersby.During their recent expansion, Eskenazi Hospital in Indianapolis approached Urbana Studio with an unusual request. The hospital wanted the Los Angeles-based art and architecture firm to design an interactive facade for a recently completed parking structure. "With Indianapolis' really extreme weather patterns, we gave a lot of thought to: how can we make something that's interactive but won't be broken in a year?" said Urbana principal Rob Ley. "Unfortunately, the history of kinetic facades teaches us that that they can become a maintenance nightmare." Urbana's solution was to turn the relationship between movement and the object on its head. Though the aluminum facade, titled May September, is itself static, it appears to morph and change color as the viewer walks or drives by. May September—a semi-transparent rectangular wall comprising 7,000 angled aluminum panels—was inspired in part by Ley's interest in camouflage, and specifically active camouflage. "I wanted to take that on more in a passive way than an active way," he said. The designers set out to create something like a lenticular image, which seems to shift or jump into three dimensions as the angle of view changes. "Could we make something where the pieces themselves don't move, but we recognize that the people in front of it will be moving?" asked Ley. Urbana Studio dedicated six months to the design before sending it to fabrication. The first half of the work was digital, primarily using Rhino and Grasshopper as well as software the designers wrote themselves in Processing. The team spent a lot of time on color. "The idea was to find two colors that would have a good contrast, and that maybe don't exist at all in Indianapolis," said Ley. The final scheme, which pairs deep blue with golden yellow, drew on the work of local landscape artist T.C. Steele. After building renderings and animations on the computer, the firm constructed mockups to check their assumptions. The unique site conditions influenced both the choice of material—aluminum—and the placement of the panels. "It had to be very lightweight, because it was going on a structure that wasn't engineered to have anything like this on it," said Ley. The designers also had to contend with the natural movement of the garage, and wind gusts up to 90 miles per hour. "It doesn't seem that interesting, but when the entire project is basically making sails, the wind issue is counterintuitive to what you're doing," said Ley. Indianapolis Fabrications fabricated and installed the facade. "We'd worked to pare the design down to be very modular, so there would be no waste materials," said Ley. "We also worked out a system that would look like there's an infinite number of variations of angles, but in the end there are only three. We're faking a lot of variability with a system that doesn't have that many possibilities." Urbana Studio also designed a custom aluminum extrusion so that the bolts—three per panel, or 21,000 in total—could slide into the facade's vertical structural elements without the use of a drill. "It allowed us to have this very erratic placement of elements without having thousands of holes to verify," explained Ley. Indianapolis Fabrications assembled the facade off site in 10 by 26 foot sections. The size of the pieces was dictated by factors including the width of the street, the overhang on the existing structure, and the wind resistance each component would face as it was lifted into place. Ley was pleasantly surprised by the interest May September generated among other would-be garage designers. "There are a lot of parking garages out there," he said. "Usually they're very much an appliance. As an archetype, the parking structure is not very interesting, but everyone's anticipating that they're not going away." As for his own firm, Ley would welcome another commission for a parking structure—particularly one that allowed him to work from the ground up. "I enjoyed dealing with a window treatment," he said. "But it would be nice to be involved earlier on, to be able to pursue it in a more holistic way."
Posts tagged with "Aluminum":
An aluminum rain screen and locally-sourced brick articulate a two-part program.The Brook, developed by Common Ground and designed by Alexander Gorlin Architects, is part of a new wave of affordable housing communities popping up all over the United States. Unlike the public housing projects of the mid-twentieth century, which focused exclusively on housing and tended to suffer from a lack of routine maintenance, The Brook, located in the Bronx, combines apartments and support services under one roof. This duality is manifested in the envelope’s contrasting material palette—dark grey brick for the residential spaces, raw aluminum over the community facilities. “The idea of the exterior was to symbolize, as well as reflect, the internal program of Common Ground as supportive housing,” said Alexander Gorlin. “It’s inspired in part by Le Corbusier and his idea of expressing the program on the facade, and expressing the public functions as a means of interrupting a repetitive facade." The Brook’s communal areas, which are clustered at the corner of the 92,000-square-foot, six-story building, are marked on the exterior by ES Tolga Dry Seal System aluminum panels from Allied Metal. In addition to articulating the change in program, the metal facade “represents coming together, creating a landmark for the neighborhood as well,” said Gorlin, who noted that Common Ground “liked from the beginning marking the corner as a special symbolic place.” The metal-clad corner also functions “urbanistically, to break the building into three parts, break down its scale,” he explained. A series of inset terraces interrupt the grey aluminum walls with splashes of red. “At one level it’s a bright color to be cheerful and optimistic,” said Gorlin. “In China, red is a symbol of good luck. It also symbolizes the heart of the program and the community.” The Brook’s 190 studio apartments are distributed to either side of the community facilities, along wings punctuated with square and rectangular windows. “We decided to vary the window placement so it would create a more lively asymmetrical pattern. It’s not just a simple grid,” said Gorlin. The designers clad the housing areas in locally sourced dark grey brick. “Brick is a very noble, ancient material,” observed Gorlin. As a good insulator, it also contributes to the building’s LEED Silver status. Other sustainability strategies include a green roof, a special boiler system, building management technology that turns off the lights when a room is not in use, and the use of recycled and non-offgassing materials. The Brook was erected on a vacant lot in a neighborhood once known for pervasive blight. Early in the design process, said Gorlin, the architects and developers discussed installing bars over the lower windows. “It was determined very consciously not to do it, even though there’s glass on the corner,” he explained. “We decided not to put bars up or make it look in any way prison-like. In fact, by not doing so it’s been maintained in perfect shape. People in the neighborhood think it’s a high-end condo.” Gorlin calls Common Ground “a miraculous kind of client in terms of what they do and the manner in which they deal with the community.” The Brook, he said, represents a new approach not just to affordable housing, but to homelessness. “To actually build permanent housing for homeless people” is a unique opportunity, he said. “It’s not just a shelter, but a place to start over in life.”
Parallel facade systems in contrasting materials mark the edge of development on a reimagined campus.The new Rutgers Business School in Piscataway, New Jersey, is more than a collection of classrooms and offices. The building, designed by TEN Arquitectos, is a linchpin of the university’s Livingston campus, reconceived as an urban center for graduate studies and continuing education. “It established a frame,” said project manager James Carse, whose firm created a vision plan for the campus starting in the late 2000s. “We were interested in really marking the edge of campus to motivate future development to respect the campus boundary, rather than allowing or suggesting that this was a pervasive sprawl. We wanted to make sure this would set a pattern where infill would happen.” The Rutgers Business School’s tripartite envelope reinforces the distinction between outside and inside. While the sides of the building facing the boundary line are enclosed in folded anodized aluminum panels, the glass curtain walls opposite create a visual dialogue with the rest of campus. In TEN Arquitectos’ early designs, the difference between the building’s outer and inner surfaces was not so stark. “We initially thought of [the entire envelope] as being more open,” said Carse. But budget constraints combined with university requirements regarding glazing in classrooms to suggest that the architects move away from an all-glass enclosure. “There was an ability to deploy the curtain wall over only a certain amount of the building in a responsible way,” said Carse. “We let the inside push back against the outside and suggest that this be more solid.” At the same time, explained Carse, “we didn’t want it to feel unchanging and heavy.” Working with Front Inc., TEN Arquitectos designed an anodized aluminum rain screen system, manufactured by Mohawk Metal Manufacturing & Sales, that incorporates an apparently random fold pattern to provide texture. (Thorton Tomasetti provided additional consulting and inspection services during construction.) After making aesthetic modifications in Rhino and 3ds Max, the architects ran their digital model through eQUEST energy analysis software to determine an angle of inclination that would prevent snow from accumulating on the folds. They came up with four standard dimensions that could be combined for a varied effect. “It’s a pretty amazing condition that’s been created with the variegated folded panels that face Avenue E and preserve and pick up the western sunlight as the sun sets,” said Carse. “The building changes throughout the day and picks up texture from its surroundings. The anodized aluminum plays off that nature of change and creates a softer facade than you’d expect from the use of metal itself.” The campus-facing sides of the building feature frit glass curtain walls fabricated by Beijing Jangho Curtain Wall Co. (Jangho) with glass from Xinyi Glass Holdings Limited. “We used the fritted glass to meet the solar performance that we were going for without completely exposing them,” said Carse, who noted that the walls appear nearly transparent at dusk and later, when the interior lights are on. “That’s part of the nature of the building,” he said. “The business school itself has classes going from around 8:30 a.m. until about 10 p.m., so the daily life is not just during the day. The building is really alive during those times and we wanted to make that evident.” During the day, the frit glass facade’s extra-wide mullions maximize the amount of daylight that filters into the offices and classrooms. The third component of the Rutgers Business School envelope is a transparent glass curtain wall introduced between the two primary facade systems. Besides serving as an intermediary between the anodized aluminum and frit glass surfaces, the transparent glass elements mark possible points of connection to future buildings as the campus continues to densify. “It allowed us infill,” said Carse. “This project served as a gateway building literally and figuratively,” said Carse. Cars entering campus from Route 18 pass directly through the Rutgers Business School building, its upper stories perched on canted columns. Though designed to indicate the campus’s outside edge—the end of development—the structure’s vital facade simultaneously signals a beginning, a freshly urban approach to campus design within a former suburban stronghold.
Sustainability and high design meet in Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects' affordable housing complex.Designing a sustainable building on a budget is tricky enough. But for the Merritt Crossing senior housing complex in Oakland, California, non-profit developer Satellite Affordable Housing Associates upped the ante, asking Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects to follow not one but two green-building ratings systems. "They wanted to push the envelope of what they typically do and decided to pursue not only the LEED rating, but also the GreenPoint system," said principal Richard Stacy. "So we actually did both, which is kind of crazy." Wrapped in a colorful cement-composite rain screen system punctuated by high performance windows, Merritt Crossing achieved LEED for Homes Mid-Rise Pilot Program Platinum and earned 206 points on the Build-It-Green GreenPoint scale. The building was also the first Energy Star Rated multi-family residence in California, and was awarded 104 points by Bay-Friendly Landscaping. Merritt Crossing’s 70 apartments serve low-income seniors with incomes between 30 and 50 percent of the area median. More than half of the units are reserved for residents at risk of homelessness or living with HIV/AIDS. Stacy explains that in the context of affordable housing, sustainability means two things. The first is quality of life for the residents, "the sorts of things that have a direct benefit to the people living there," such as natural daylighting and indoor air quality. The second is energy efficiency. "Both non-profits and [their] residents have limited financial capabilities," said Stacy. "The one time they have funding for that kind of thing is when they’re building a building. So we focused a lot on the building envelope in terms of energy efficiency. At the same time, we wanted to have ample daylight and controlled ventilation.” Finding themselves with unused contingency funds during construction Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects upgraded the exterior skin to a rain screen system of SWISSPEARL cement composite. "We worked pretty closely with the SWISSPEARL company," said Stacy, who noted that Merritt Crossing may be the first building in the United States to use the system. Though the panels are installed like lap siding they offer "the benefits of a rain screen in terms of cooling and waterproofing issues," he explained. To accommodate the thicker skin, window manufacturer Torrance Aluminum designed custom trim pieces, which "had the added benefit of giving us the appearance of deeply recessed windows," said Stacy. Insulation was a special concern for the architects, both because Merritt Crossing was built using metal frame construction, and to minimize air infiltration in keeping with the green ratings systems. The building’s exterior walls are wrapped in 1-inch-thick high performance polyiso insulation from Dow Corning with a Grace Perm-A-Barrier VPS vapor permeable membrane. "As a result we ended up with a very, very tight building from an air insulation standpoint, which means you have to pay more attention to air ventilation," said Stacy. To compensate, Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects’ mechanical engineers designed a special air filtration system for the building’s roof, complete with built-in HEPA filters. The building’s southwest facade faces a freeway, presenting potential noise and privacy issues in addition to exposure to the western sun. "We did a highly layered facade on that [side] where the actual exterior wall is back three to four feet from another screen wall," said Stacy. The outer wall "is a combination of typical wall assembly as well as GreenScreen panels that form a webbing of open areas and solid areas that help with sunshading as well as acoustical [dampening] and privacy." Greenery in balcony planters will eventually grow up and over the screens. On the ground floor, the garage is also enclosed in GreenScreen trellising, to enhance pedestrians’ view without sacrificing ventilation. Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects’ Merritt Crossing proves that affordable housing does not have to look institutional. The facade’s vibrant colors—green on the northeast elevation, red on the southwest—and playful punched texture pay homage to the neighborhood’s patchwork of architectural styles and building uses. The first major building in the planned redevelopment of the area around the Lake Merritt BART regional transit station, Merritt Crossing sets the bar high for future developments.
Ribbons of laser-cut metal lamellas envelop a glass curtain wall.J. MAYER H. Architects designed the sculptural anodized aluminum facade of JOH3, a Berlin apartment building located near both the Friedrichstrasße and Museum Island, as a contemporary echo of its historic neighbors. “The project is located in an old part of Berlin, where there are lots of facades with stucco detail,” said project architect Hans Schneider. “We tried to do something as rich with a new design, something like Jugendstil [the German Art Deco movement] but in a modern translation.” The architects settled on floor-to-ceiling glass wrapped in undulating ribbons of laser-cut aluminum lamellas. They explored the general shape using a physical model, but completed the bulk of the design work in Rhino. Early on, said Schneider, the aluminum tubes that give the envelope its texture “were a bit thicker, a different shape,” but had to be adjusted to trim down the cost of materials. From these basic components, J. MAYER H. Architects made strategic subtractions to deliver a three-dimensional effect. “In the beginning there are tubes, and then we cut out the shapes of the lamellas always different,” explained Schneider. “There are nice interferences when you cut it.” In addition to providing aesthetic interest, said Schneider, “these lamellas protect the interior from the outside without really closing it up.” From straight on, the facade is transparent. From other angles, the overlapping aluminum blades produce varying degrees of opacity. Thus the apartment’s occupants benefit from daylighting without sacrificing privacy. “It’s still quite light, that was the idea,” said Schneider, “to have a really light building in the city but still have [protection].” As well as responding to the stucco detail on the older buildings nearby, JOH3’s organic facade, which was manufactured by Rupert App GmbH+Co. (app) and WICONA and installed by app, draws on the idea of incorporating landscape into the city. This theme amplified in the building’s interior courtyard, where the metal ribbons move in and out of plane to accommodate balconies overlooking a grassy circle. It is also present in the interior. “The floor plans don’t have these rectangular rooms, it’s all more organic,” said Schneider. The balconies and folding windows by Saint-Gobain Glass providing seamless transitions from inside to outside, while each apartment’s lounge is below grade, “so you have different levels, types [of spaces] to make it more like landscape.” The dropped floor from the apartment above is visible in the ceiling below. “That’s also very interesting,” said Schneider, “because you can feel how the different stories merge together.” JOH3’s facade initially drew skepticism from some Berliners, who pressed for a more traditional stucco design. “We had to discuss [it] several times with the city, of course, and especially with the preservation people. There were quite a lot of discussions about color, shape, and material,” said Schneider. But the lamellas, which enact historic and natural references in modern materials, eventually won over the naysayers. “They liked the design totally in the end.”
Inspired by Japanese paper-folding, Canary Wharf booths make a sculptural statement whether open or shut.Make Architects’ folding kiosks for Canary Wharf in London bring new meaning to the term “pop-up shop.” The bellows-like structures were inspired by Japanese paper folding. “[The kiosk] had to be solid, but lightweight, so then that led us to origami,” said Make lead project architect Sean Affleck. “[You] end up with something very flimsy; add a few folds and creases, and suddenly the strength appears. In the folds, the shape appears.” In addition to adding strength, the folds accomplish an important element of the kiosk program. The public officials who commissioned the design wanted the booths to be aesthetically pleasing whether open or shut. “What we didn’t want was to create a box that obviously had a shutter or door,” said Affleck. “We wanted to disguise the door—you weren’t quite sure which part of it was going to open.” When closed, the booths appear as futuristic sculptures, their matte grey exteriors evoking the steel and stone of the city. During operation, the upper folds compress to reveal a simple, customizable interior accented with reddish-orange strips of metal. Make modeled the design in 3ds Max and MicroStation, then unwrapped the facade to a flat piece of paper to build a physical model. “What we found was it was very easy to be seduced by the computer, very easy for the computer to be too clever, to start twisting or distorting the surfaces,” said Affleck. “It was only when we were making [physical] models that we suddenly realized something was jamming, and that was really interesting.” Later, the designers built a full-scale mock-up out of cardboard and foam board. “That way we could really understand how it works,” explained Affleck. “It was also very helpful for the client: here it is, touch it.” The kiosks were tested and prefabricated at Entech Environmental Technology before being trucked to the site. The opening section of each kiosk is made of 2-millimeter-thick aluminum plate, while the rest of the body is a stainless steel derivative developed in-house. The key to the fabrication process, explained Affleck, was folding, pressing, and rolling the metal to form an integral hinge at either side, into which a stainless steel rod was inserted. Though the kiosk door is light enough to open and close manually, the designers installed a remote-control electric winch to avoid undue stress on the structure. Make’s kiosks made their debut at the Ice Sculpting Festival at Canary Wharf in January. At future events, the kiosks will take on a variety of uses, from coffee points to a DJ booth. “The idea is it’s flexible,” said Affleck. “It’s a space you can use in a variety of ways.”
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.
|Brought to you with support from:|
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.”