Illuminated steel pavilions mimic Chinese peaks.The hillside site of Fengming Mountain Park, in Chongqing, China, presented Martha Schwartz Partners with both a practical challenge and a source of inspiration. Asked by Chinese developer Vanke to design a park adjacent to the sales office for a new housing development, the landscape architecture and urban planning firm quickly gravitated toward the metaphor of a mountain journey. "That's why in the plans you see a zig zag pattern" to the path leading down to the sales center from the car park, said associate Ignacio López Busón. Steel pavilions scattered along the walkway pick up on the theme, taking the form of abstracted mountain peaks. "That's something the client really liked," said López Busón. "Once the idea was clear, it was all about developing the shape of them, and trying to make them look special." To refine the image of the pavilions, explained López Busón, "we first looked at the faceted nature of Chinese mountains. They aren't smooth at all." Fengming Mountain Park's metal structures feature an aggressive geometry that twists and turns above chunky legs. The pavilions' perforations and red and orange color scheme were inspired by a second cultural touchstone. "Martha was interested in the idea of the Chinese lantern," said López Busón. "The lanterns are red; then you put a light inside, and they become a nice gradient of red and yellow." The Fengming Mountain Park team started work on the pavilions with hand sketches, then brought the concept design into Rhino. There they played with the shape, developing a system of triangular modules that again represented mountain peaks. Then they transferred the model to Grasshopper, where they focused on the perforations and color. "We made paper models, but not too many because we were quite happy with the result in Rhino," said López Busón, who acknowledged that a compressed schedule was also a factor. The most difficult aspect of fabrication, said López Busón, was adjusting the design of the pavilions to fit the size of the laser beds to which Third Chongqing Construction Engineering had access. "We made a Grasshopper definition to guarantee that every triangle fit the laser bed. However, the final outcome showed several scars, which tells us that the developer likely reused some leftovers to save on materials." Both the panels and the supporting profile tubes were fabricated out of steel, to reduce costs. Martha Schwartz Partners originally proposed painting individual panels after cutting, then assembling the finished panels on site. "The fabricators didn't agree," said López Busón. "They built the pavilions first, then spray painted them." The result, he said, was favorable. "What you see is a smooth gradient from the bottom to the top." The perforations, too, help negotiate the transition from ground to sky. "We came up with a pattern that changes from bottom to top, which sort of dissolves the pavilion," said López Busón. "It's quite nice at night. There's also this nice merging between decoration and structure; you can't tell what is what." The experience of designing a 16,000 square meter park on an abbreviated timeline "was intense, but fun," said López Busón. "At the very beginning, we were following this traditional way of practicing architecture: Whatever we designed in three dimensions, we unrolled and put into AutoCAD." But as the weeks flew by, the designers streamlined the process, sending 3D models directly to the client—a process, he explained, that allowed the designers to catch and immediately correct a problem with the perforation pattern. "Without the digital tools, it would have been impossible."
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Dynamic steel and PVDF structures shelter campers in style.In South Korea, glamping—or “glamorous camping”—is all the rage. The practice combines conventional camping’s affinity for the outdoors with hotel amenities, including comfortable bedding and fine food. Seoul firm ArchiWorkshop’s prefabricated, semi-permanent glamping structures are a design-minded twist on the traditional platform tent. “We [set out to] create a glamping [tent] that gives people a chance to experience nature very close, while also providing a uniquely designed architectural experience,” said partner Hee Jun Sim. “There are many glamping sites in Korea, but they’re actually not so high-end. We were able to bring up the level of glamping in Korea.” ArchiWorkshop designed two models of glamping tents. The Stacking Doughnut is, as the name suggests, circular, with a wedge-shaped deck between the bedroom and living room. “We put the donuts at different angles, stacked them . . . and simply connected the lines. This line became the structure,” explained Sim. “The basic idea was very simple, but in the end the shape was very dynamic.” The Modular Flow is a gently oscillating tube, its sleeping and lounging areas separated by an interior partition. The shape was created from a series of identical modules lined up back-to-front to produce the curve. Both models feature a white, double-layer PVDF membrane stretched over a stainless steel frame. The decks are built of wood, while the interior floors are carpeted in a cream-colored textile flooring product from Sweden. Sim and partner Su Jeong Park “used every possible tool” to design the glamping units. They started with hand sketches, then moved to physical models. “The model wasn’t so simple to make because it was a strong shape [without] straight or fixed walls,” said Sim. Once they had determined a rough form, they bounced among multiple computer programs—including AutoCAD, Rhino, and 3ds Max—to refine the design and create shop drawings. Sim and Park used MPanel to generate the membrane surface. Dong-A System prefabricated the glamping tents off site, laser cutting the components of the steel frame before welding them together. “Because every part of the shape is connected, it had to be super-precise, or the end form would [not be] straight,” said Sim. On site, the structures were simply bolted into place. ArchiWorkshop built eight glamping structures on spec on a site in South Korea. “We actually used the whole site as a test site, to show the world, ‘Hello, we are [here],’” said Sim. The architects are open to adapting the designs to suit different climates or cultures. “What we designed on the test site is very Asian or Korean, a poetic kind of shape, but I think different countries have different clients with different needs,” explained Sim. While Sim acknowledges that there are a number of luxury tents already on the market, he is not concerned. “We had a bit of a late start,” he said, “but we . . . have a different concept with a different kind of approach to the tent.” In the meantime, the challenge of designing outside the box has been its own reward. “We love designing buildings,” said Sim, “but this kind of different structural project is also very refreshing for architects.”
A structural, textured metal system wins first place in a competition and the chance to develop a façade with Zahner.Reinforcing the idea that time fosters wisdom, Nicholas Bruscia and Christopher Romano’s third iteration of a structural architectural screen was awarded first place in Tex-Fab’s digital fabrication competition, SKIN. According to Tex-Fab’s co-director, Andrew Vrana, the team’s 3xLP project was selected for its innovative façade system, which uses parametric design and digital fabrication. The 3xLP designers’ exploration of the relationship between academia and manufacturing merged at the University at Buffalo’s (UB) Department of Architecture. Starting their collaborative research with a digital model, Bruscia and Romano solicited the help of local manufacturer Rigidized Metals, (RM), who helped realize the second stage of the project’s evolution with two thin gauge metals featuring proprietary patterns. “The project is important because we’ve partnered so closely with Rigidized Metals,” Roman told AN. “We’ve brought digital and computational expertise, and they’ve provided material knowledge for textured metal—it’s a reciprocal team.” Bruscia said the computational models were heavily informed by material parameters. Working with various patterns in RM’s product library, the team started to see various textures performing differently in structural applications, though the company’s metals are typically used in cladding or decorative applications. “Rigidized Metals’ patterns are stronger than flat metals,” Romano said. “That informed how we selected textures and which became a part of the computational conversation.” Drawn to the geometry of the embossed 4LB sheet, they found the low relief pattern to perform comparably to a deeply stamped-style, and that it complemented other chosen patterns nicely. Structural loading was tested in Karamba, an architect-friendly finite element method analysis plugin for Rhino that was developed recently in Austria. Designed primarily in Rhino 5 and Grasshopper, the team also wrote many of their own scripts. For the SKIN competition, the team adjusted porosity of the screen to increase transparency for façade applications. The screen’s pattern is articulated from all perspectives, creating a dynamic quality that is achieved by a slight twist through the entire structure. “The twist in the system is a result of us getting the geometry on the screen for the system to perform structurally, and to make it possible to fabricate,” Romano said. “Some geometric moves on the screen can be difficult to fabricate, so to remove those you get subtle twisting in the elevation.” At RM’s Buffalo facility, profiles of the system’s components were turret-punched on a CNC, and folded on a press break to achieve a diamond shape. A tabbing system was also milled so the shapes could be fastened with stainless bolts to form a seamless, continuous cell structure. As part of the SKIN competition, Bruscia and Romano will continue working with RM, as well as A. Zahner Company, to fabricate a façade system with a glazing component. The 3xLP team will exhibit their results at the Tex-Fab 5 event in Austin, Texas on February 19.
Francisco Saavedra fabricates a template to scale with large-format, Designjet printers from HP.Founded in 2002, Rojkind Arquitectos is leaving an imprint across its native Mexico through a combination of civic, retail, residential, and hospitality projects. Its innovative design and production methods have garnered international recognition, particularly for projects like Nestlé's Chocolate Museum is in Toluca and innovation lab in Querétaro, and Mexico City’s Tori Tori Japanese restaurant, but the firm also engages in smaller projects and creative diversions that explore new avenues of the design/build process. Casa del Arbol is one such example. Conceived as an add-on for a venerable client, the project is a tree house for the family’s three young daughters. “There was a bird’s nest in the garden when we visited the site,” said Gerardo Salinas, partner at Rojkind. “And a 2-meter space between two trees in the yard was an ideal location that wouldn’t damage the existing trees.” The tree house is composed of three main cocoons in concentric circles making up a clover shape that provides a private play space for each girl. Working in Rhino, the architects emulated the geometry of a bird’s nest by magnifying the twig components into larger branches of wood. At one point, Salinas said the team considered Corian for the entire structure, but wood was a better logistical choice as LED lighting, power, and data were integrated into the design. Final Rhino files were converted to AutoCAD and sent to a large-format HP Designjet T920 printer. Templates were printed on paper in a 1:1 ratio, and used to cut the forms out of MDF. These hard templates were then laid over wood planks to fabricate the final ribs. The architects chose the wood of the Salam tree because it is certified to originate from a regulated forest, an assurance that Salinas said is not easy to find in Mexico. The timber variety also weathers well against the elements and is sealed with wax for added durability. To install Casa del Arbol, Salinas forewent the predictable wood-and-nail method. Steel plates attach to the ribs with stainless steel screws to prevent rotting. This self-securing method also gives the structure an appearance of floating within the trees and reduces direct impact. For privacy and comfort, panels of treated fabric will be secured to the vertical ribs.
Barkow Leibinger designs a precast folded facade that puts a gentle spin on surrounding traditional architecture.On one of the last urban tracts of available land in Berlin, Germany, local architecture firm Barkow Leibinger recently completed an 18-story tower, Tour Total. Highly visible from a neighboring train station, and the first completed project in the site’s 40-acre master plan, the tower has a raster facade with precast concrete panels that were geometrically computed in Rhino to create twisting inflections, conveying a sense of movement around the building’s four sides. As a load-bearing facade, 40 percent of the surface is closed, and 60 percent is triple-glazed, with every other window operable. In addition to integrated energy management strategies—the first building tenant is French energy company Total—partner Frank Barkow said the firm’s extensive background in digital fabrication and research allowed the efficient development of the dynamic facade. Drawing from the surrounding, traditionally quadrilinear brick facades of the 1920s and 30s, the tower’s lines are imbued with an engrained depth that twists optically to read differently in direct sun or cloudy weather, without actually moving. The design team drew a series of T-shaped elements to create the exterior components, and K-modules for structural stability. “The folding K modules produce an in-and-out for continual diagonals that wrap around the corners,” Barkow told AN. Interior and exterior concrete components sandwich around glazing, windows, and insulation. To test the design, 3D models were fabricated on a CNC router. Many of the profiles in the facade assembly are repeated many times, though 160 are unique. Each cast could be used at least half a dozen times before another had to be fabricated. German fabricator Dressler milled plywood molds and white concrete was poured over an affixed release surface. Once solidified, each section was finished with an acid wash to expose the aggregate and transported to the building site. Steel pins, embedded within the structure’s poured concrete floors, connect the layers of the facade sandwich. Barkow and the concrete contractor had several discussions about eliminating an interior precast layer in combination with an Isokorb thermal break to mitigate expansion but, in the end, opted for the original design. “It’s the next technological step, for the facade to work like an exoskeleton, but we’re a few years away from that,” Barkow said. Despite budgetary and time restrictions, the LEED Gold-equivalent Tour Total was realized successfully, in part, through parametric design and advanced fabrication methods. “We’re taking advantage of northern Germany’s extremely proficient building culture and working with our fabricators here and in Switzerland as early as possible in the design process,” said Barkow. “There’s a lot of back and forth where we push them away from conservancy and they push us towards efficiency.”
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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.
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Gensler’s design at the University of Houston is realized in a cloud-inspired, sound-absorptive ceiling solution.Gensler and Ceilings Plus have brought a touch of the Big Apple to the University of Houston’s recently completed Quiet Hall in the Classroom and Business Building. Gensler drew its design inspiration for a ceiling in the new building from the New York Central Library’s Rose Reading Room. The firm hired the California-based Ceilings Plus to translate its interpretation of this classical interior, which includes perforations and geometric folds, into an affordable, buildable, and installable ceiling solution. Ceilings Plus used digital software to marry the design architect’s vision with a workable model that offered minimal joint tolerances and maintained compatibility with HVAC systems. “Since the architect was interested in doing something completely new, it was important to realize that process together,” said Michael Chusid, who works in marketing and business development for Ceilings Plus. Gensler produced three conceptual renderings in Revit, then turned them over to project engineer Robert Wochner, who developed sound-absorptive perforations and a suspension system that could support the various angles of the Quiet Hall’s multi-planar ceiling. Wochner used AutoCAD to reconcile Gensler’s rendering, which depicted a cloud of perforations across the ceiling for sound absorption. Acoustically there was an ineffective number of apertures, so Wochner filled in the original design with smaller, carefully angled perforations. By leaving an ample amount of space between the dropped ceiling and the planchement, the perforations are able to absorb vibrations in an efficient and lightweight system. Nearly 50 configurations were considered before arriving at a final design, which was modeled in SolidWorks. Ceilings Plus fabricated the panels using stock products and a CNC router. The architect’s chose the company’s PVC-free Saranté laminate in a henna-toned wood finish, which is affixed to an aluminum sheet. A punch press knocked out the perforations, revealing a blue felt backing. Despite the ceiling’s complex appearance, Ceilings Plus developed a suspension system based on a conventional T-bar system, making it easy to install. Since the ceiling is not flat, attachment points were individually set to hang each of the 280 panels from between six and eight torsion springs. “With this firm pressure downward, you can extract the panel and lower it out of place to gain access to the ceiling cavity to maintain the HVAC system, ductwork, and other mechanicals,” said Chusid. Custom-fabricated brackets help support the unique angles. Ceilings Plus deployed several expert installers to assist the installation process. “Any time there’s a slope on the ceiling and it interfaces with something round, like a column, it goes from a circle to an ellipse,” said Wochner. “Though we have precise information about the field location, it’s not uncommon to make adjustments on site.”
With the help of Laser Alliance and Chris French Metal, Aidlin Darling Design crafted a hanging ceiling canopy composed of 180 wooden ribs.Wexler's refined spin on farm-to-table barbecue in San Francisco's financial district offers guests an authentically char-grilled dining experience, minus the smoldering cinders. Inspired by its progressive grill menu, local multidisciplinary firm Aidlin Darling Design dreamed up a 46-foot-long billowing ceiling canopy that hovers over the dining room like a plume of smoke. The feature also extends to the exterior, doubling as an awning over the main entrance that beckons passersby. "The original design, based on an undulating plane of smoke, was designed in both AutoCad and Rhino, [using the] lofting feature that extrapolates geometry between two curves," said Adrienne Swiatocha, project architect for Aidlin Darling Design. The canopy’s softly curving profiles at the exterior and at the end of the wall were hand-drawn. The architects used Rhino to amplify and adjust these curves throughout the center portion of the canopy. This varying amplitude echoes the way smoke dissipates across a room. "[Then], we sliced the three dimensional plane every few inches to generate a bunch of curved line profiles, and offset it by 5 inches to create a second, curving, thickened line." Once a 3/4-inch profile had been achieved for each of the 180 ribs, an inverted J-shaped hook was carved into the profile of each slat so every piece could be hung from a metal rail system. "For each slat, you can take a point from the J-hook and let Rhino extrapolate a profile that connects those hooks so they slide," Swiatocha explained. The architects also added notches in each hook to prevent them from slipping. "It was really challenging because the ceiling was low and had exposed ductwork, sprinklers, and lighting. All those conduits run beneath the joists so we had to design our system around those preexisting elements." In addition to providing easy access to the ceiling, the system of ribs also made for a speedy installation on-site and a clean look that didn't use invisible fasteners. To produce the ribs, which are made from medium density fiberboard (MDF) and medium density overlay (MDO), the Aidlin Darling team contracted the services of Alan Vien at Laser Alliance, who tested both laser and CNC cutting methods before suggesting laser fabrication for speed and cost savings. "Material can sometimes become charred with lasers but, because we were painting each rib, that wasn't a problem," Swiatocha said. The teams chose MDO for the exterior ribs due to the material’s durability and weather resistance. Both MDO and MDF ribs were painted the same charcoal hue. Each rib hangs from a metal rail system that was fabricated and installed by Chris French Metal of Oakland. Laser-cut, carbon steel rails were screwed to a plate stock metal hanger, and then bolted to the ceiling joists. "Both the right and left rails in this case had arcs of different radius lines that weren't symmetrical," said Chris French of the challenge presented by the wooden canopy's irregular volume. The studio generated an install image in VectorWorks with a datum line. "While installing the hanging bars, we would measure from the center line of the bracket to that datum line, plus or minus, according to that drawing." Once the metal rail system was installed, the ribs, which were sequentially numbered, were hung from front to back by one person on a ladder in a matter of hours. "It was fun to see it go in so quickly," said Swiatocha.