Posts tagged with "CNC":

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Disheveled Geometry

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Students use parametric design to fashion a porous architectural screen that draws from contemporary marble sculpture.

In the third edition of Mark Foster Gage’s Disheveled Geometries seminar at the Yale School of Architecture, students Mary Burr and Katie Stranix began their exploration of extreme surface textures with marble. Inspired by the sculptural work of Tara Donovan and Elizabeth Turk, the student duo set out to design a delicate yet porous screen that transformed a two dimensional panel into a rhythmic and dynamic 3D structure. According to Stranix, the first design emerged as an aggregation of several different parts and wasn’t intended for parametric processes. “We wanted to maintain delicacy in our design but add porosity,” she told AN, referencing Herzog & de Meuron’s ground level screen at 40 Bond Street in Manhattan. Working in Maya, the students added elliptical apertures in varying diameters to transform the two-dimensional form in a wavy, 3D screen that departed significantly from a standard panel format.
  • Fabricators Mary Burr, Katie Stranix
  • Designers Mary Burr, Katie Stranix
  • Location New Haven, Connecticut
  • Date of Completion May 2013
  • Material Obomodulan high density foam, automotive primer and paint
  • Process Maya, Mudbox, Zbrush, Powermill, KUKA robot, drilling, hand sanding
To add texture to the screen, Stranix and Burr imported their work to Mudbox, but found the renderings ineffective. Though the mockups weren’t to scale, extrapolations of the desired micro-texture resulted in a polygon count “somewhere in the millions,” Stranix said. “If we were going to get it fabricated on the real material, the count would have to be under 12,000.” The same micro-texturing attempts were made in Zbrush—the program that rendered the wrinkles on King Kong’s face in Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake—but that also produced the same dissatisfactory outcome due to their lack of access to a very small mill. Going back to the drawing board, Burr and Stranix decided to try using a KUKA robot CNC router to apply the desired texture that would appear naturally from veining in marble. “Marble was so prevalent for so many years, and now it’s nearly obsolete,” Burr said. “Architectural materials are desired for their smoothness, so building up that curvature was a rethinking of that.” Taking advantage of the KUKA’s ability to execute undercuts, texture was added with a broader jump of the drill bit across a 20-inch-by-40-inch panel of Obomodulan, a high-density foam. Working in Powermill, the students designed a path to carve the elliptical grooves but also tolerated machine-induced variations. With this method, the process generated deep variations in texture. The highest point measured about 6 inches, whereas the lowest point was only 2 inches. The final finishing was achieved by approximately 14 hours of hand sanding. In addition, any crevices the robot couldn’t reach were drilled out by Burr and Stranix. “Technically, it all could have been done robotically, but we didn’t have an end mill that small in diameter,” Stranix said. A smooth seal was applied with automotive primer and paint.
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Ceilings Plus Soars in Texas

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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.
  • Fabricators Ceilings Plus
  • Designers Gensler
  • Location Houston, Texas
  • Date of Completion October 2012
  • Material Illusions ceiling system, sheet aluminum, Saranté PVC-free laminate, non-woven acoustical fabric, recycled cotton batt, blue felt, modified tee-bar system, torsion spring clips
  • Process AutoCAD, Revit, SolidWorks, CNC milling, punch pressing, cutting, folding
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.”  
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The Cartesian Collection: A 17th Century Design Reboot

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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.
  • Fabricators Neal Feay Company
  • Designers Alexander Purcell Rodrigues
  • Location California
  • Date of Completion May 2013
  • Material aluminum, ombré anodized finish, screws, oak, walnut, upholstery
  • Process Rhino, Grasshopper, SolidWorks, Mastercam, CNC milling
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.”
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In 3D-Printed Sugar

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A team of SCI-Arc–trained architects establish a sweet set up in Southern California.

Liz and Kyle Von Hasseln wanted to bake a birthday cake for a friend but, unfortunately, their rented apartment didn't have an oven. Not to be deterred, the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) alumni hit upon a solution that would leave most bakers scratching their heads: They decided to 3D print one. Earlier that year, the couple had been awarded the school's inaugural Gehry Prize for their work on Phantom Geometry, a 5-axis fabrication study of UV-cured resin within a shallow vat system that responded to real-time feed back and feed-forward mechanisms. "In our graduate work, we were really interested in the way free form fabrication would influence architecture," Kyle recently told AN. "We thought a lot about the potential for the intersection of culture and technology that would be accessible to the public, so printing sugar was that."
  • Fabricators Sugar Lab
  • Designers Liz and Kyle Von Hasseln
  • Location Los Angeles
  • Date of Completion 2012
  • Material sugar
  • Process Maya, 3D printing
The Von Hasselns began working on a combination of SCI-Arc machinery and printers they built themselves. The initial ambition to 3D-print the entire cake was scaled-back to 3D printing just a sparkling cake topper made only from sugar, a process that Liz likened to a micro architectural challenge. As with any material, working with sugar presented inherent propensities and limitations. However, Liz said the process of working with food had its own distinct challenges. "Because it's a food object, we've found it becomes important to consider those inherent characteristics," Liz said. "People have expectations about what food looks, tastes, and feels like, and its really important to hit those notes, otherwise you have a cool design that might not look like dessert." Once the designers embraced the inherent qualities of the material, they developed a proprietary 3D-printing process capable of fusing sugar crystals together without deforming or discoloring them. The finished product is as white and sparkling as a sugar cube. Though they missed the birthday by a long shot, the end result spelled their friend's name in a cursive scrawl made entirely from sugar. Sugar Lab, the Von Hasseln's company, has yet to build an entire town out of sugar like the utopian village brought to life by Richard Brautigan in his novel In Watermelon Sugar, but the couple has received hundreds of inquiries from around the world. They are also excited about the role of the designer in the 3D printing revolution. "We think what will move the field forward in the future is not solely additional technological enhancement, but how artists, architects, and designers utilize those capabilities," Liz said. "A 3D printer is a tool and what comes of skilled artisans wielding that tool is what will make the technology resonate with people, and make it culturally relevant."
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MammaFotogramma Brings Motion to Plywood

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MammaFotogramma designed a plywood and high-performance mesh composite that is scored on a CNC mill to facilitate textile-like movement.

WoodSkin is a flexible wood surfacing material developed by interdisciplinary design studio MammaFotogramma. The concept is an exploration of movement developed for Autoprogettazione 2.0, an open-source design competition from 2012 that originated in the firm's work in stop motion animation. "We're still in animation production, but what we do is all about movement," said studio founder Giulio Masotti. MammaFotogramma’s current work includes architecture and design projects as well as a lab that evolved naturally as projects came in, where collaborators develop new techniques for hybridized exploration. "Project after project, we saw we were applying movement everywhere, not because it was a need but because it's how we work and what we explore," said Masotti. Later in 2012, after the competition, the composite wood material was first fabricated as an interior finish for the lobby of Allez Up, an indoor rock-climbing facility in Montreal. "When we figured out what we wanted to do, we knew we needed something different," said Masotti. "We needed a system, not just a project solution." The goal was to design a visually appealing material that could be used in a static way with the possibility for movement.
  • Fabricators MammaFotogramma
  • Designers MammaFotogramma
  • Location Montreal
  • Date of Completion 2013
  • Material plywood, nylon, polymer composite, custom adhesive
  • Process CNC mill
To realize this, the studio devised a flexible wood composite by sandwiching Russian plywood sheets around a high-performance nylon and a polymer composite mesh, joined by a custom mix of adhesives. The mesh acts to free the plywood from its flat state and facilitate movement. The three-part compression process also strengthens the adhesive bonds and supports the skin's movements. For the Allez Up lobby desk, 15,000 triangular tiles were scored into the composite's surface via CNC mill to form a boulder-like organic shape. What began as an "analog process" of sketching and handcrafting has been adapted for parametric tools because of software’s capabilities to adapt to changes throughout the design development process. Though the design capabilities are quite extensive, fabrication methods can still be quite expensive. "The processes of computer aided design can bring you far, but when it comes time to build, the technology is behind and the process becomes complicated and expensive." To start bridging this gap, MammaFotogramma is developing a custom plugin for Rhino, with the hope that the process of fabricating WoodSkin could be replicated in multiple materials. "The skin is made of wood but the process allowed us to collaborate with other companies that can apply their solid materials," said Masotti. "These kinds of skins will hopefully be applied to existing materials for different finishes, such as fire and water proofing." WoodSkin prototypes were exhibited at Fuorisalone in Milan. A recent collaboration with Italian fabricator Biffi Carpentry has opened the WoodSkin process to the possibility of more commercial projects, as well as innovative indoor/outdoor structures like cover systems or flexible walls. "You can transform the shape you have in the skin and you can dictate the quality, thickness, and pattern for something totally unique," said Masotti.
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Tiled Topography from e+i studio

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e+i studio of New York won a design competition for their concept of a trade show pavilion made entirely from Italian tile.

Crafting a memorable and intimate environment within voluminous convention halls can be a daunting challenge. To establish a meaningful presence in such environs, Ceramics of Italy tapped into the A&D community with a competition in 2012 for unique booth designs to showcase the products of its manufacturers. Piazza Ceramica, designed by e+i Studio and fabricated by A&M Production, won the competition. Its proposal was installed at the Coverings Tile and Stone trade show in 2012 and 2013. Inspired by Italy’s social culture, architects Ian Gordon and Eva Perez de Vega used the idea of a public space to showcase tiles produced in Italy for a bespoke, modular pavilion that houses a multi-function program of a café, information kiosk, and restaurant. The design utilizes a topographical approach to build up the pavilion’s perimeter with seating and display installed product. “From the beginning, we started to look at the topography in a series of parametric studies to determine the optimal stair/riser ratio to integrate the substructure of the two mounds,” said Perez de Vega. “From there, we wanted color to be an important component to showcase the qualities of the tile to transition smoothly from intense greens to reds to whites.”
  • Fabricators A&M Production
  • Designers e+i Studio
  • Location Orlando, Florida; Atlanta
  • Date of Completion March 2012
  • Material tile, grout, wood, raised flooring system
  • Process CNC mill, water jet cutting, Rhino, Grasshopper, AutoCAD, Photoshop
While parametric tools played a large part in developing the piazza, the designers say the use of Grasshopper was more instrumental than generative. “The digital tools were used where it was useful, but there was also a lot of hand tuning and fine crafting,” Gordon said. “Modeling the project digitally streamlined the initial process. We were able to study more variations in less time to rule out options that didn’t look right.” The digital processes was also essential to the off-site fabricators who are located in Reggio, Italy. From New York, e+i Studio was able to communicate with their Italian team in a short period of time, with exact specifications for each element of the piazza. “The thickness of the mortar, the sizing, had to be as precise as possible and digital fabrication was critical to this,” explained Perez de Vega. “We produced construction documents but the most reliable source was our 3D documents, and the fabricators understood exactly what we were trying to do,” added Gordon. The pavilion was designed as a three-dimensional puzzle, as the temporary installation would be reconfigured for three years in various exhibition halls. A CNC-milled wooden grid forms a shell to support tiled surfaces that grow upwards as seating risers, ultimately cantilevering over the base. Both mounds are mirrored copies so they can be reconfigured for any environment. With the end result, the designers were struck by the juxtaposition of centuries-old materials and new technologies, such as water-jet cutting and digital modeling. “At the beginning, we felt unconstrained about tile being rectilinear, knowing that digital fabrication would let us create what we wanted,” Gordon said. “Infusing the project with curves was possible with digital drawings and communication.”
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Tietz-Baccon Dials Down The Volume in a Textural Chicago Office

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Tietz-Baccon fabricated a 7-foot by 23-foot freestanding wall, and a 10-foot by 160-foot decorative wall for Enova's Chicago offices.

As more and more companies embrace open workspaces that support collaborative and impromptu group work, acoustics are of utmost importance to employee productivity. To craft sound-absorbing feature walls for the Chicago offices of financial firm Enova, Brininstool + Lynch turned to fabrication studio Tietz-Baccon. Their six-person facility in Long Island City, New York, makes bespoke solutions for a variety of design-minded clients who appreciate—and ultimately benefit from—the founders' architectural background: Erik Tietz and Andrew Baccon met as students at Harvard's Graduate School of Design. "On the fabrication end, we take nonstandard projects and make them achievable by relying heavily on our digital capabilities," Baccon said. "Brininstool + Lynch had a concept that was worked out very well and was looking for someone who could execute on a tight budget in a short period of time." According to Baccon, the architects came to the fabricators with a family of shapes and a way of aggregating them, which was then applied to different materials, helping Tietz-Baccon deliver finished projects very close to the firm's original requests. "There was good collaborative discussion, and a back-and-forth to tweak and bring the concept to realization. They didn't have to compromise their idea that much."
  • Fabricator Tietz-Baccon
  • Architect Brininstool + Lynch
  • Location Chicago
  • Date of Completion July 2012
  • Material 3/4-inch MDF, 3/4-inch Micore, aluminum laminate, aluminum
  • Process Rhino, CNC milling, water jet cutting, assembling with screws
A free-standing "stack" wall serves as a spatial divider that doubles for heavy-duty sound mitigation. Realized in Micore® mineral fiberboard, 3/4-inch strips of the porous and lightweight material were CNC-milled to form a 7-foot by 23-foot wall between a cafe area and workstations. Selected for its acoustical absorption, exceptionally light weight, and varying density availability, Micore® had an appealing tactile quality that agreed with the architects' design. "All the selected shapes are related and contribute to material efficiency," Baccon says. "We extrapolated [from that premise] to tweak the scale and amplitude of the surface but tried to remain true to their initial approach." The "fin" wall, the larger of Tietz-Baccon's contributions at 10 feet by 160 feet, also serves to soften noise from bouncing off the preexisting wall. Three-quarter-inch strips of MDF in dozens of individual sizes are installed as a series of sets to produce a unique rhythm. Raw material was juxtaposed against lacquered MDF at the bottom that alternates for textural variation as well as durability. Each "rib" can be removed to replace bulbs in the concealed lighting scheme or for necessary repairs, and the lacquer safeguards the MDF from task chair run-ins or related daily impacts. "The most interesting part of this was trying to use the material in a slightly different way without affecting the durability or lifespan of the project," said Baccon, referring to the unconventionally exposed edges. "There is a strong presence of other materials, for example bespoke concrete next to highly refined acrylic panels with backlighting, so it's the juxtaposition of the really refined next to the raw that helps us understand the materiality." The architects introduced their concept for the fin wall with 2D drawings. Tietz-Baccon modeled the third dimension in Rhino and realized the final product with a CNC router. Each rib fits within a registered slot on an aluminum laminate track, and is locked into place with a shelf plate at the bottom. The entire system is secured with a series of water jet–cut aluminum mounting fins screwed into the preexisting wall.
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Ellipses Collide in Mathematically-Inspired Installation at the University of Oregon

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SubDivided provides a unifying element in Fenton Hall's three-story atrium, tying each level together visually.

In December 2012, the University of Oregon completed a renovation of Fenton Hall (1904), which has been home to the mathematics department for the past 35 years. In addition to sprucing up the interior and upgrading the mechanical systems, the institution hosted an open competition for the design of an installation to hang in the building’s atrium. Out of roughly 200 initial applicants three were shortlisted, and of those the university selected a design by Atlanta-based architect Vokan Alkanoglu. Composed of 550 uniquely shaped aluminum sheets, the 14-foot-high by 10-foot-long by 4 ½-foot-wide sculptural form is derived from the curving geometry created by several opposed ellipses—a nod to the discipline that calls Fenton Hall home. “We wanted to create something that would be visible on all three floors of the atrium to connect the levels and create flow in the space,” said Alkanoglu. “We also wanted to have an interior to the piece, so that you could see inside and outside, to give it a real sense of three dimensionality.”
  • Fabricators MAC Industries
  • Architect Volkan Alkanoglu
  • Location Eugene, OR
  • Date of Completion  December 2012
  • Material   .04-inch-thick pre-painted aluminum
  • Process  Rhino, Grasshopper, CNC routing, riveting
Alkanoglu and his associate Matthew Au modeled the piece, named SubDivided, in Rhino, using algorithms to define the curved surfaces that link each open ellipse. In addition to giving the sculpture a sense of depth, the curves also add to its structural integrity. Alkanoglu tessellated the surface with perforations to keep it lightweight and increase its visual permeability. Once he had defined the form, Alkangolu transferred it into Grasshopper, breaking the model down into 550 unique sections. Each piece was given tabs with holes in order to make connections with rivets, and assigned an identification number. Alkanoglu transferred this subdivided version of SubDivided as .dxf files to local fabricator, MAC Industries. MAC fed the files into its CNC routing machines, which cut the profiles out of .04 aluminum sheets pre-painted in two colors—the University wanted the sculpture to have a duotone appearance, matte gray on the outside and white on the inside. Once cut, the sections were given a non-scratch coating and labeled with stickers. To assemble these puzzle pieces, Alkanoglu recruited three architecture students from U of O. In a shop, the team set about the work of peeling off the non-scratch coating, rolling the sections to give them the requisite curve, and connecting them with rivets. The team assembled the piece in four chunks, which they then transported to the site, where a scaffold had been erected in the atrium. The four larger pieces were connected atop the scaffold and the entire assembly was attached to the ceiling with three narrow-gauge galvanized cables crimped to steel plates inside the sculpture. According to the calculations of the project’s structural engineer, Buro Happold, SubDivided weighs a mere 56 pounds. “It’s kind of like a research project," said Alkanoglu. "A small prototype that could move into a larger building, maybe a facade, or an atrium for a bigger building, which hopefully will come in the future.”
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Synthesis Design’s Bespoke Office

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A carefully detailed private workspace conceals office equipment behind birch plywood ribs

It’s a reality of the modern work world that many people work from home. But a home office need not look like a corporate cube. That was the idea behind a customized workspace designed for a personal investment advisor by Los Angeles-based Synthesis Design + Architecture. Located in the client’s Chelsea home in London, the design conceals storage units and office equipment behind a sculptural work surface.
  • Fabricator Cutting Edge
  • Designer Synthesis Design + Architecture
  • Location Chelsea, London
  • Status Complete
  • Materials Birch plywood
  • Process Digital design, CNC milling
With a total budget of approximately $11,000 and a room barely measuring 11 feet wide by 8 feet high, the project team was constrained by cost and space. After considering all of the elements to go into the home office, the team morphed traditional rectilinear office furniture shapes—like filing cabinets and wall-mounted shelves—into fluid forms using Rhino and Grasshopper. The piece would be built as a series of birch plywood ribs with horizontal spacers to provide lateral stiffness. As a nod to their globetrotting client, the Synthesis team applied the spacers in the pattern of a world map created by converting an image into a high-contrast graphic bitmap, then culled points from a regularly spaced grid to define the center point of each spacer. Synthesis collaborated with UK-based fabricator Cutting Edge, with whom they have partnered on several previous projects, to build the design. The shop took Synthesis' 2-D vector drawings of cut files for milling, as well as its 3-D file representing the entire piece, including its support structure and assembly details. “We exchanged ideas to refine cost constraints, optimize the amount of material being used, and decide on installation and finish details,” said Synthesis design principal Alvin Huang, who worked with teammates David O. Wolthers, Thomas T. Jensen, Jurgen Strohmeyer on the project. “It was a very collaborative process and the project would not have been possible if it were not for their ability to understand our 3-D models and their expertise in woodworking. The use of Grasshopper allowed us to quickly respond to required geometric revisions.” Cutting Edge CNC-milled the structure's profiles and assembled them into modular components, which were installed along a series of horizontal channels mounted to the existing wall. In addition to sliding storage drawers and hinged cabinets, the piece conceals wiring and recesses for lighting. Using a fabricator who worked directly with 3-D files allowed the team to realize all of the design's carefully detailed geometric shapes, said Huang, even as the Synthesis office made a transatlantic move from London to its new headquarters in LA.
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Rojkind Arquitectos’ Tori-Tori Restaurant

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A double-layer steel lattice transforms a former residence into a Japanese eatery’s new home in Mexico City

When Mexico City-based architect Michel Rojkind was chosen as one of the Architectural League’s Emerging Voices lecturers in 2010, he already had a lot of work under his belt. His firm, Rojkind Arquitectos, had recently completed Nestlé’s factory and chocolate museum in Querétaro and was beginning work on a 54-story mixed-use tower on Mexico City’s chic Paseo Reforma. But in spite of big-name projects, the architect who started out as a rock-and-roll drummer maintained a connection to the fabrication of his projects, collaborating with local workers and using simple components instead of employing more complicated techniques. “I joke with my Swiss architect friends that I wouldn’t know how to work in Switzerland, where everything is perfect,” he told AN in a May 2010 interview. “You have to figure out ways to make things happen here, and it inspires me.” A testament to that inspiration, Rojkind’s new Tori-Tori restaurant employs a double-layer steel lattice to transform an existing residential structure in Mexico City’s rapidly changing Polanco neighborhood.
  • Fabricators Rojkind Arquitectos, Esrawe Studio, Grupo Mas (facade engineering), Luz en Arquitectura (lighting)
  • Designers Rojkind Arquitectos, Esrawe Studio, Grupo Mas (facade engineering), Luz en Arquitectura (lighting)
  • Location Polanco, Mexico City
  • Status Complete
  • Materials Thin-gauge steel
  • Process Digital design, CNC cutting, field welding, hand finishing
Rojkind's firm worked with industrial designer Héctor Ersawe to plan the new 6,800-square-foot location for Tori-Tori, a popular Japanese eatery and one of many restaurants that moved or expanded into the recently rezoned Polanco area. Though some establishments have opted to simply hang out a shingle advertising their new presence, Rojkind's team wanted to create an entirely new environment that would tie the restaurant's interior to the outdoors. The new steel facade was digitally designed to mimic the vegetation that covers the project's retaining walls. Outside floor-to-ceiling glass, the grid structure wraps the south and west elevations of the restaurant. It extends from the ground to the roof in a pattern designed to give diners a view of outdoor patios while casting shadows on the interiors depending on the time of day. The facade's self-supporting layers are made with CNC-cut, thin-gauge steel plates that were welded in place on site and hand-finished by a team of nearly 40 local metalworkers. Slightly offsetting the layers and painting them two tones of gray add to the illusion of movement, and, lest diners forget they are not just enjoying a meal in a neighbor's lavish courtyard, blue LEDs positioned between interior and exterior layers add a touch of electricity to the air.
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BLOCK Research Group’s Freeform Catalan Thin-Tile Vault

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A research project explores techniques from the past to learn about building stronger structures in the future

Sometimes research involves destruction in the name of creation. Architects and engineers from Zurich-based BLOCK Research Group at science and technology university ETH Zurich recently teamed up to build, and destroy, a vaulted masonry structure that was designed with advanced digital fabrication methods but constructed with traditional timbrel, or Catalan, thin-tile vaulting techniques. Through its research of freeform shells, tiling patterns, building sequences, and formwork, the group hopes to construct increasingly radical forms without sacrificing efficiency.
  • Fabricator BLOCK Research Group
  • Designer BLOCK Research Group
  • Location Zurich, Switzerland
  • Status Complete
  • Materials Clay tiles, cardboard, shipping pallets, cement
  • Process Thrust Network Approach, CAD-CAM fabrication, thin-tile vaulting
Now rarely used, centuries-old timbrel vaulting methods were commonly employed in Spanish architecture and in many Beaux Arts landmarks. The form is known in the United States as a Guastavino vault after the Spanish architect Rafael Guastavino, who patented a version of the system in 1885. Traditionally, the vaults’ structural form followed a lightweight wooden structure that would guide the mason as he placed tiles. Using Thrust Network Analysis (TNA), a new form-finding method, the BLOCK group has created new possibilities for freeform vaulted shapes that can be constructed using a continuous cardboard formwork system. After creating irregular geometries with TNA, the researchers establish the shape of edge arches, close in the adjacent surfaces, breaking the pattern with a groin vault to begin another arch section. The group also aims to show that recyclable and reusable cardboard formwork could dramatically reduce the material and labor costs of construction while making complex vaults possible. Fabricated with a 2-D CAD-CAM cutting and gluing process and assembled on site, the formwork for the group’s Catalan prototype was supported by a system of stacked shipping pallets. These reduced the amount of cardboard used and allowed the unrolled cardboard pattern to fit the CNC equipment’s size requirements. The team implemented custom RhinoScripts to translate the self-supporting vault surface into machine code to produce 200 cardboard boxes. The group also discusses techniques for cutting tiles to be used in the prototype vault in its research paper, available here: “The most ideal cutting logic for the high double-curvature of the prototype vault would be a two-cut system, employing a combination of oblique and bevel cuts to ‘bend’ a surface in space.” Because of the tool constraints on this project, the team developed a simplified version of the cutting system that allowed for curvature in one axis of the tile while relying on hinging and the mortar joint to achieve a double curvature. Removing the formwork from the surface of the shell, also called de-centering, was another critical step. The supporting structure had to be removed all at once to avoid asymmetrical loading from below, which could cause the vault to bend and crack. In order to allow the formwork to lower slowly from the masonry surface, the frame sat on a series of sealed plastic tubes containing cardboard spacers consisting of a folded stack of cardboard sheets taped together. The team calculated the dry compressive strength of the spacers to carry the load of the shell, the pallet and box framework, and the masons. But once the vault was complete, the tubes were filled with water, which saturated the cardboard and caused it to compress under the load of shipping pallets. After successfully de-centering the structure, the team tested its strength, adding more than three pallets of sandbags to its surface before it finally collapsed. BLOCK’s future work will seek to streamline the TNA form-finding process as well as improve the efficiency of its construction techniques, ultimately working to identify design criteria like maximum vault curvatures with a range of tile sizes and patterns.
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Congratulations Mr. Adjaye, DesignMiami’s Designer of the Year

Sometimes it seems like our world is peopled entirely by yesterday’s and tomorrow’s Designers of the Year. But at least DesignMiami’s Global Forum for Design’s Designer of the Year Award comes with a nifty commission. This year the honor goes to David Adjaye and he will be designing a site specific installation for the entrance to the fair’s temporary structure on Miami Beach, open from November 29 through December 4. Adjaye will have no trouble following in the footsteps of past honorees including Zaha Hadid, Marc Newson, and the Campana Brothers. He is an old hat, as well, at devising cool pavilions. His mesmerizing minimal installations made in collaboration with Olafur Eliasson and also with Chris Ofili have been stand-outs at past Venice Biennales. His multi-media Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo, a permanent installation, is as much event as architecture. For MiamiDesign, the architect has designed Genesis that is described as being made of hundreds of vertical wood planks that—thanks to CNC milling—devolve into organically fluid seating with views to the sky. Last year’s Designer of the Year was Konstantin Grcic. His piece, called Netscape, was a steel shed with impressively twisted slats full of hammocks. And the year before that Maarten Baas from The Netherlands played off the Dutch tradition of a cabinet of curiosities, only his was large enough to hang-out in and admire the designer’s own collection of thingies from around the world. As the folks down in Miami know so well. The best part of having a Designer of the Year in the house is the chance to party. Oh, yes, and a pavilion with someplace to sit.