Posts tagged with "Grasshopper":

Synthesis 3D prints a rocking chair

Durotaxis rocker features gradient mesh informed by function, ergonomics, and aesthetics.

For Synthesis Design + Architecture founding principal Alvin Huang, there is a lot to love about 3D printing. But he does not always like how the technology is applied. "I see it all the time—a lot of students just 3D print everything," said Huang, who also teaches at the USC School of Architecture. "You see things that could have been done better, faster, or cleaner by hand. I find it a very troublesome predicament we're in, we're letting the tool dictate." When Stratasys contacted Synthesis about designing a piece for their Objet500 Connex3 printer, the architects decided to turn the relationship between human and machine on its head. Instead of asking how they could implement a preconceived design using the Objet printer, they challenged themselves to create something that could only be manufactured using this particular tool. Durotaxis Chair, a prototype of which debuted at the ACADIA 2014 conference, showcases Objet's multi-material 3D printing capabilities with a gradient mesh that visually communicates the rocker's function and ergonomics. Though Synthesis designed the Durotaxis Chair almost entirely in the digital realm, said Huang, "we see the computer very much as an intuitive tool, the same way previous generations thought of the pencil. We try to find a happy medium between the scientific aspect, and the intuitive manipulation of that science." The architects bounced among multiple software programs including Rhino, Grasshopper, Weaverbird, ZBrush, and Maya to craft a form that operates in two positions: upright, as a traditional rocking chair, and horizontally, as a lounger. The chair's structure comprises an interwoven mesh of two materials, one rigid, opaque, and cyan in color, the other flexible, translucent, and white. While the resultant gradients reflect both the physics and ergonomics of the chair, they also deliver an intended aesthetic effect, creating a moiré pattern that encourages the observer to move around the chair. "It wasn't the case of the code creating the form," explained Huang. "We very clearly sculpted it for visual and ergonomic properties."
  • Fabricator Stratasys
  • Designers Synthesis Design + Architecture
  • Location Los Angeles, CA
  • Date of Completion 2014
  • Material Objet VeroCyan Digital Material, Objet VeroWhite Digital Material
  • Process Rhino, Grasshopper, Weaverbird, ZBrush, Maya, 3D printing
Stratasys manufactured the half-scale prototype at their headquarters in Israel. Unlike a typical 3D printer, which has one head with one nozzle, the Object contains two heads with 96 nozzles each. Using proprietary substances the company calls "digital material," said Huang, "you can print a matrix of gradients between those two heads. In our case, we were able to create gradients not just of color, but also stiffness and transparency." Synthesis remained in constant touch with the Stratasys team throughout fabrication, fine-tuning the design as problems arose. "It was also an experimental process for them," said Huang. "Ultimately, through a lot of back and forth, we were able to arrive at something they were able to print." Synthesis is now tweaking their design for a full-scale version of Durotaxis Chair. The principal challenge they encountered while fabricating the prototype, explained Huang, was an excess of support mesh. "It's still a big manual process. You have to remove all of the support material." The updated design will take advantage of the team's finding that, by printing vertically up to a certain angle, they can eliminate the need for support mesh. "We're trying to take it a step further," said Huang. "How do we expedite the process, and refine the geometry of the lattice so that you're changing direction before the material starts to droop? We're trying to do something where, in a sense, we're growing the chair." Despite his discontent with the way some young practitioners approach 3D printing, Huang thinks that the technology holds great promise, especially in the world of architecture. He points to some of his contemporaries, like fellow Angeleno and architect/jewelry designer Jenny Wu, who is taking 3D printing in exciting new directions. "When you think about architecture and design, most of what we do is the assembly of products, and the more bespoke you can make them, the better," said Huang. "I look at 3D printing as a shift from rapid prototyping to rapid manufacturing. Hopefully someday we can produce bespoke items for the same impact as mass-produced items—that is the theoretical holy grail."

Digital Incan Masonry by Matter Design

Architects update pre-Columbian building method with modern tools and materials.

Matter Design's latest installation, Round Room (on display at MIT's Keller Gallery last fall) was born of a "marriage" between two of the firm's ongoing interests, explained co-founder Brandon Clifford. First, Clifford and partner Wes McGee had long hoped to work with Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (AAC). Clifford, moreover, had been impressed during a trip to Cuzco by the Incan wedge method of masonry construction, in which precisely-carved stones are aligned on their front face, then backfilled with mortar. "This seemed like a tremendously rational way of building," he said. "Ever since then we had been wanting to do a project that translates that process into digital design." With Round Room, designed and fabricated in cooperation with Quarra Stone, Matter Design did just that. Though inspired by pre-Columbian building practices, the installation firmly situates the wedge method in the digital age. Clifford and McGee began by building a rough prototype, a six-component section resembling a half-dome. "We knew that we were going to build something that was round," said Clifford. "Not a sphere, but something that has slow changes in geometry." By focusing on curved spaces, the designers were already pushing the limits of the wedge method, historically limited to two-dimensional applications. With information gleaned from their prototyping session—including the general dimensions of individual units—they worked through a series of models in Grasshopper and Kangaroo, leaning on calculations developed for an earlier project, La Voûte de LeFevre. Clifford and McGee also visited Quarra Stone's Wisconsin facility. The trip "allowed us to get a feeling for where they were going to have problems with the geometry, and make changes," said McGee. "We were able to step in as consultant with respect to applying their tools."
  • Fabricator Quarra Stone
  • Designers Matter Design
  • Location Cambridge, MA
  • Date of Completion 2014
  • Material AAC, plaster
  • Process prototyping, Grasshopper, Kangaroo, robotic carving, shaving, plastering
Using a water-fed robotic arm, Quarra Stone cut the AAC components—no simple feat. "One critical translation from the Incan technique was the fact that the front edge aligns, but the backwards taper allows for mortar to be packed in," explained McGee. "[The blocks] are machined on five sides." Round Room's components were then shipped to Cambridge and assembled on site by a team of students, including Myung Duk Chung, Sixto Cordero, Patrick Evan Little, Chris Martin, Dave Miranowski, David Moses, Alexis Sablone, and Luisel Mayas. (Austin Smith also assisted throughout the project; Simpson Gumpertz & Heger acted as structural consultants.) The installation team placed the blocks, used scrapers to remove any excess AAC from the front (interior) edge, then piped plaster into the wedge-shaped gap on the back (exterior) side. "Though it was a digital fabrication process, the assembly was quite a craft," observed Clifford. The collaboration with Quarra Stone was a first for Matter Design, which had both designed and built all of its earlier projects. "It was beneficial for us to understand the nuances of what they had to deal with on a daily basis," said Clifford. In fact, the relationship was so successful that Clifford and McGee are continuing it, with a fellowship that will send two researchers to the Wisconsin fabricators. "It's an area we're going to continue working in pretty heavily," said McGee. "It's an opportunity to interrogate this information exchange between designers and fabricators at a higher level."

Goetz Brings Bucky Back

Fly's Eye Dome reproduction applies contemporary tools and materials to 1970s concept.

Thirty years after R. Buckminster Fuller's death, the visionary inventor and architect's Fly's Eye Dome has been reborn in Miami. Unveiled during Art Basel Miami Beach 2014, the replica dome, designed and fabricated by Goetz Composites in cooperation with the Buckminster Fuller Institute (BFI), pays tribute to Fuller both aesthetically and technologically. Constructed using contemporary materials and digital design tools, the new 24-foot Fly's Eye Dome (which serves as the pedestrian entrance to a parking garage in the Miami Design District) is yet further evidence that the creator of the geodesic dome was ahead of his time. BFI commissioned Goetz based on the firm's prior work restoring the original Fly's Eye Dome. At the end of that process, they created a 3D scan of the prototype for BFI's records. The digital files were the jumping-off point for the reproduction, for which ConForm Lab's Seth Wiseman provided critical design assistance, as did Daniel Reiser of DR Design. Wiseman produced a parametric model of the dome's truncations in Grasshopper, then compared his model to the 3D scan of the original to make sure the geometries matched. A 2012 reproduction of the Fly's Eye Dome, the MGM Butterfly Pavilion in Macau, China, constituted a practice round of sorts. "For Macau, we had a tight timeline: from the algorithm to shipment [we had] six weeks," said Wiseman. "We were able to review and tweak the geometry for the Miami dome—to refine it and make it more consistent with the original prototype."
  • Fabricator Goetz Composites
  • Designers R. Buckminster Fuller (prototype), Goetz Composites, Seth Wiseman, DR Design
  • Location Miami, Florida
  • Date of Completion 2014
  • Material fiberglass, epoxy, polycarbonate lenses, metal fasteners
  • Process 3D scanning, Grasshopper, CNC milling, infusing, gluing, fastening
Goetz, Reiser, and Wiseman introduced a few crucial changes into the Miami reproduction. "Bucky's original intent and concept was well-placed, but it suffered in execution," observed Wiseman. Fuller's prototype used a shingle system of overlapping truncations to shed water. As a result, the geometry was complicated. "The problem for us, from the manufacturing standpoint, is that it required four different molds," said Wiseman. "Though technology allows us to produce something of this complexity fairly easily, it's cost-prohibitive unless we're doing something on a production scale." The design team eliminated the shingle system, instead using a standard two-legged flange and coupler attachment to connect adjacent truncations on the dome's interior. The attachments are both mechanically fastened—for fidelity to Fuller's vision—and epoxy fitted—to meet engineering requirements. "If we were to do a third iteration, our hope is to develop joinery to eliminate the fasteners, for both assembly and aesthetic reasons," said Wiseman. In keeping with Fuller's commitment to all things cutting-edge, Goetz fabricated the reproduction using 21st-century materials and methods. They selected a PRO-SET epoxy originally developed for use on Coast Guard vessels to stand up to the South Florida weather, and replaced the glass domes with polycarbonate lenses sourced by Wasco and detailed with help from 3M. The composite forms were milled on a 5-axis CNC machine using EPS foam molds. (MouldCAM did some of the CNC cutting.) "The nice part with the Miami dome is that it's the next iteration," said Wiseman. "We've created a fire-retardant, code-compliant structure in the same vein [as the original]. I hate to say it, but I'm kind of excited to see a major storm hit Florida and see how it performs." For Goetz's Chase Hogoboom, the Fly's Eye Dome represents not just the history, but also the future of architecture. "Our background historically has been building state-of-the-art racing sailboats," he said. "We're seeing more and more demand for use of composites in architectural applications, mainly as a result of designers using programs that allow them to design very complicated shapes that need to be structural. And if you look at a Bucky dome, it's a complicated shape that needs to be structural."

Radlab Makes Music with Moiré

Undulating birch walls create pockets of privacy in an apartment building lobby.

When Boston design and fabrication firm Radlab began work on Clefs Moiré, the permanent installation in the lobby of One North of Boston in Chelsea, Massachusetts, they had relatively little to go on. They knew that the apartment building's developer wanted a pair of walls of a certain size to activate the lobby space, but that was about it. "Normally we get more information, so we can come up with a story—a concept based on the building and its requirement," said Radlab's Matt Trimble. "For this we pulled back and said, we have an opportunity to be a little more abstract about how we approach this conceptually." Inspired by moiré patterning and a harpsichord composition by J.S. Bach, the team designed and built two slatted birch walls whose undulating surfaces embody a dialog between transparency and opacity. The client's interest in achieving moments of privacy within a public space led Radlab to moiré patterning, the phenomenon in which a third pattern emerges when two other semi-transparent patterns are superimposed on one another. Trimble compares the moiré effect to standing in a cornfield. "It's not until that moment when you look at it from the perpendicular that you see the rows of corn," he said. "When you look to either side, the crossing prevents you from seeing depths." The designers decided to think about the two walls as a single volume that would later be split. "There's this potential for reading it as a single wall when you look at it from different perspectives," explained Trimble. "This made sense because the project is about viewpoint. If you're perpendicular to the wall, you see straight through it." Radlab began with a traditional approach to moiré patterning, playing with identical vertical components set askew to one another. Then they looked at J.S. Bach's Partita No. 2 in B-flat Major: Gigue. Bach's challenging composition requires the performer to cross his or her hands, the left hand playing the treble clef while the right hand plays the bass. "That became an inspiration for a way to structure and organize the two walls," said Trimble. "To think of one as being the result of a bass set of wavelengths, and the other as a treble set." The designers realized that they could modulate the metaphorical wavelengths across both the vertical and horizontal sections to create an interesting, and varied, third element. "That's where the Gigue became influential," said Trimble. "It gave us a way to create a rhythm in the wall that would pace itself."
  • Fabricator Radlab
  • Designers Radlab, Paul Kassabian (structural engineering)
  • Location Chelsea, MA
  • Date of Completion 2014
  • Material birch
  • Process drawing, modeling, Rhino, Grasshopper, CNC milling, hanging, varnishing, gluing, tilting
The team relied heavily on Rhino and Grasshopper both to design the installation and to plan fabrication. "We would create various iterations in 3D modeling software, then disassemble them into the flat XY plane and try to understand: how would we actually build this?" said Trimble. Simpson Gumpertz & Heger's Paul Kassabian provided crucial help with structural engineering, including designing a base plate that is invisible except when the wall is viewed from a 90-degree angle. Radlab CNC-milled the wood slats and spacers before coating them with varnish. "Fabrication was long and arduous, but it challenged us in really great ways," said Trimble. The group developed a hanging mechanism to efficiently apply fire retardant to the ribs. To prevent varnish from adhering to the points of connection between the ribs and spacers, they fabricated each spacer twice, once out of birch, and once out of chipboard. They affixed the chipboard templates to the ribs before spraying the varnish, leaving an untouched patch for the final spacer. "It was process-intensive, there was no getting around that," recalled Trimble. "But we embraced that process-intensive journey from the onset, to see if there were ways we could be creative about creating improvements to make fabrication more efficient." On site, Radlab laid down templates of the base plates to drill holes for the anchor bolts, then returned with the walls themselves. Each wall was prefabricated of four panels and assembled in the shop. "They tilted up almost like tilt-up concrete walls," said Trimble. In addition to having inspired the form of Clefs Moiré, Bach's Gigue works as a metaphor for how the finished walls perform in space. "It starts and stops abruptly," explained Trimble. "There's no crescendo or tapering of intensity. The walls do the exact same thing: there is no rising up from the ground or falling into it. They start and stop in a similar way."

PART Studio Plays Peek-a-boo with Plywood

Louisville installation elicits fabric-like behavior from wood.

PART Studio designed and built their plywood Peek-a-boo Curtain in just four days, after a last-minute invitation from Louisville arts and business networking organization I.D.E.A.S. 40203. "We went to a meeting, talked about it, then drove to the plywood store," recalled principal Nathan Smith. Luckily, the architects were not starting from scratch. Rather, Smith and partner Mark Foxworth seized the opportunity to build a full-scale mock-up of an idea they had been tossing around for some time: a curtain that, though built of wood, would behave like fabric. Staged at FirstBuild, a design and fabrication studio run through a partnership between GE Appliances and Local Motors, the exhibition also gave the designers a chance to explore the space between art and commerce. "With our piece we were looking not only to span the specific interests of the groups involved, but also to consider the relationships between product design, art, and architectural design," said Smith. The imminent deadline meant that Smith and Foxworth had to use the tools at hand, namely their studio’s own small-format laser cutter. The choice placed certain limits on the design. "Laser-cutting is great, but it gives you a lot of constraints because there aren’t that many materials you can use," said Smith. The architects opted for 1/8-inch-thick plywood. The size of the cutting bed also informed the scale of the individual tiles. The upside was that "because the tiles were so small, we could get a certain amount of fabric behavior," explained Smith. PART Studio developed the tiles' perforation pattern in Grasshopper, using a twisting-triangle shape to simulate a human body passing through the curtain, and exploring multiple iterations until they found one they liked. The designers had earlier tested the curtain concept for an interior design project, a dressing room. "In that, the open and closed relationships were pretty specific to the pattern," said Smith. "In the context of an art exhibit, it was more important to take the openness and opacity to extremes because it was a compositional thing."
  • Fabricator PART Studio
  • Designers PART Studio
  • Location Louisville, KY
  • Date of Completion 2014
  • Material plywood, zip ties
  • Process Grasshopper, laser cutting, tying, hanging
With respect to assembly, said Smith, Peek-a-boo Curtain "is frankly not a very difficult project from a technical standpoint." The architects wanted to laser-cut or otherwise fabricate square metal rings to attach the tiles to one another. But with just a few days to build, and with zero budget, they opted for an easier solution: yellow zip ties. The tiles are arranged in vertical columns, then staggered horizontally. Each component has a total of six holes for vertical and lateral connections. "The original hole pattern didn't work out; the tie holes were a little close," said Smith. As for staggering the tiles, "that was a big discussion that actually ended up making it a little less fluid," he said. "We liked the pattern, but it would’ve been a little more graceful if we'd done it straight. We thought it would have a more fabric-like stitched-together visual, and it does, but it behaves more like fabric as an actual grid." Peek-a-Boo Curtain, which Smith and Foxworth hope to refine for specific interiors projects, is part of the firm's broader mission to change Louisville’s design culture, one small project at a time. "We prefer to do installations and micro design-builds to competitions," said Smith. "We're in a very small market. For our practice, it doesn't really help us to show our clients a museum in Helsinki." But what they can do is participate in the area's nascent art scene, from organizing a competition for the annual Festival of Riverboats to putting on design-based shows at the Kentucky Museum of Art & Craft. "We've been able to have a consistent practice in a way that wouldn’t have been possible two years ago," said Smith. "We're trying to do work, to do things like Peek-a-boo Curtain and whatever comes through the door, but at the same time we’re trying to improve the conditions, culturally, for where we are working."

Martha Schwartz’ Hillside Mountain Range

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.
  • Fabricator Third Chongqing Construction Engineering
  • Designers Martha Schwartz Partners
  • Location Chongqing, China
  • Date of Completion 2013
  • Material steel, spray paint
  • Process sketching, Rhino, Grasshopper, modeling, laser cutting, welding, spray painting
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."

Urbana’s Shape-Shifting Parking Garage Facade

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.
  • Fabricator Indianapolis Fabrications
  • Designers Urbana Studio
  • Location Indianapolis
  • Date of Completion 2014
  • Material aluminum flaps from Ryerson, custom aluminum extrusions from Northern States Metals, stainless steel fasteners
  • Process Rhino, Grasshopper, scripting, cutting, folding, bolting, sliding, lifting, hanging
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."

IIT Students Explore the Potential of Carbon Fiber

Composite materials are on display in the undergraduate-built FIBERwave PAVILION.

Carbon fiber’s unique properties would seem to make it an ideal building product. Untreated, carbon fiber cloth is flexible and easy to cut. After an epoxy cure, it is as hard as steel. But while the automobile and aerospace industries have made widespread use of the material, it has gone virtually untouched by the architectural profession. Alphonso Peluso and his undergraduate students at the IIT College of Architecture set out to change that with their FIBERwave PAVILION, a parametric, sea life-inspired installation built entirely of carbon fiber. "We want to make the studio an expert resource for people trying to get into carbon fiber in terms of architecture," said Peluso, whose students designed, funded, and built the pavilion this spring. "There’s a studio in Germany that’s in their second year of working with carbon fiber, but I don’t think anyone in the United States is working with it." Peluso’s studio began with an internal competition. Because the spring semester course followed a class dedicated to the exploration of various composite materials, many of the students were already familiar with the pros and cons of carbon fiber. "Toward the end of the first semester we started working with carbon fiber, and it wasn’t the greatest result," said Peluso. "But we knew we had to keep working with it. That played a big part in the selection of the design for the second semester." The students judged the submissions on constructability as well as aesthetics, he explained. "It was interesting to see the students as the pavilions were being presented, see their minds turning on: ‘Okay, this one is feasible—this is one we can actually build.’ Sometimes the design was a little better, but the overall project seemed less possible within the time frame." The winning design is based on a bivalve shell structure. The student who came up with the idea used parametric design software to explore tessellations of the single shell form. "What I was pushing them to do in the first semester was large surfaces that weren’t repetitive," said Peluso. "In the second semester, it was like they intuitively knew there had to be repetition of the unit." As a group, the class further developed the design in Rhino and Grasshopper. But while the students used parametric software to generate the shell pattern, in general FIBERwave PAVILION was "less about designing in the computer," said Peluso. "Most of it was fabrication based." The studio was hands-on from the beginning, when students were asked to submit a small-scale carbon fiber with their competition entries. They went back to Rhino to make the molds. "We had to make six molds," explained Peluso. "Even though it was one identical shell unit we had to produce 86 of these shells. When you make a composite unit, if you have one mold you can only make one shell per day." In the end, the students fabricated a total of 90 shells (including several extra to make up for any defects) over the course of about four weeks.
  • Fabricator IIT School of Architecture CARBON_Lab
  • Designers IIT School of Architecture CARBON_Lab
  • Location Chicago
  • Date of Completion Spring 2014
  • Material carbon fiber, epoxy from West System Epoxy
  • Process Rhino, Grasshopper, 3D printing, cutting, molding, curing, painting, bolting
"The actual assembly was pretty quick, the pavilion itself went together in less than a day," said Peluso. Laterally, bolts through CNC-drilled holes connect the shells at two points on either side. The overlapping rows of shells are secured vertically through bolted pin connections. The installation remained on the IIT campus for one month, after which the students disassembled it in just 25 minutes. The Chicago Composite Initiative, which provided crucial technical guidance during the project, has since erected FIBERwave PAVILION in one of its classrooms. The fundraising component of the project was as important as its design and fabrication elements. Peluso initially hoped that the carbon fiber industry would donate materials, but "we didn’t have as much luck as we anticipated because we hadn’t done anything before that would warrant their interest," he said. "That’s one of the goals of the pavilion itself, to create an awareness in architecture that this could be a great material to use." Peluso’s course did have help from West System Epoxy, which provided the curing resin at a discount. To fill the funding gap, the students ran a successful Kickstarter campaign, raising $6,937 from a $6,500 goal. They made incentives for the donors, including 3D-printed necklaces and earrings. "I don’t think we realized how much work was going to go into that," said Peluso. To raise additional funds, the class held bake sales on campus. For Peluso, the process of designing and building FIBERwave PAVILION proved as valuable as the finished product. "The way the students collaborated made the project a success," he said. "Sometimes in group projects you get a few drifters, and some really strong ones. But all twelve students really stepped up. This wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t all come together as a group."

LMN Architects Materialize a Metaphor in Cleveland

A digitally-designed medical products showroom plays well with its City Beautiful neighbors.

The Global Center for Health Innovation, designed by LMN Architects along with the attached Cleveland Convention Center, is more than a showroom for medical products and services. Located adjacent to the Burnham Malls, the open space at the heart of Daniel Burnham’s Group Plan of 1903, the building is part of Cleveland’s civic core. “One of the things about the Global Center is that it has a unique expression and in particular the facade treatment,” said design partner Mark Reddington. “But it’s also a really integrated piece of a bigger idea and a bigger composition.” A dynamic combination of textured concrete panels and irregular slashes of glazing, the Global Center’s facade, which won honorable mention in AN’s 2014 Best of Design Awards, deftly negotiates the gap between the building’s historic context and its function as a high-tech marketplace. The Global Center’s City Beautiful surrounds influenced its facade design in several ways. “Part of the trick for us in looking at the Global Center,” said project architect Stephen Van Dyck, “was to try and make a building that was contemporary and relevant, but also a building that referred and deferred to its context materially and compositionally.” As a reflection on the solidity of the older structures ringing the Malls, the architects minimized glazing in the east face’s concrete system. In addition, they chose the color and aggregates of the concrete to mimic the tone of limestone. The texturing on the concrete panels, too, was informed by the Global Center’s context. “Like the classical buildings, there’s a lot of detail that shows up in different lighting conditions,” said Reddington. At the same time, the Global Center is very much a product of the 21st century. “There was an explicit intention in creating a facade whose qualities would not have been achievable without digital technology,” said Van Dyck. “It doesn’t look like it was handcrafted. It was primarily an exercise in allowing the technical means of creation and design to live forever on the outside of this building.” In particular, he said, the architects were interested in how their chosen material—precast concrete—allowed them to move beyond a punched-window system to a more complicated relationship between solids and voids. The result eventually became a scientific metaphor, as the designers observed the resemblance of the pattern to the twisting helices of a DNA molecule. LMN developed the facade design on a remarkably short timeline: about four months from concept to shop drawings. “The schedule requirements of the whole thing were absurd,” said Van Dyck. To make modifying the design as easy as possible, the architects developed a utility called Cricket to link Grasshopper and Revit. The ability to update the BIM model in real time convinced the design-build team to take risks despite the compressed timeframe. “Once they realized there was a strong mastery of the data, an ability to listen and incorporate the needs of [multiple] parties, that was really the breakthrough,” explained Van Dyck. “They said, ‘Hey, we can build something that’s a little unconventional.’”
  • Facade Manufacturer Sidley Precast Group, NUPRESS Group
  • Architects LMN Architects
  • Facade Consultant Facade Forensics
  • Facade Installer Harmon
  • Location Cleveland, OH
  • Date of Completion June 2013
  • System Precast concrete panels and glazing welded to vertical steel tubes, structural glass wall
  • Products Precast concrete panels by Sidley Precast Group, Viracon VU1-40 (glazing), Viracon VE1-2M (atrium wall)
Besides their Cricket plug-in, a 3D printer was LMN’s most valuable tool during the design process. To explore how the panels’ texturing would animate the facade under different lighting conditions, they created plaster models from 3D-printed casts. “We had to do that because the geometry was so complex that we didn’t have any computers at the time that were capable of [modeling it],” said Van Dyck. “For us, working between the physical, digital, hand-drawn renderings were all so critical in discovering what we ultimately ended up building.” Sidley Precast Group fabricated the concrete panels with a surface pattern of horizontal joints that vary in depth and height. To minimize cost, the fabricators made almost all of the molds from a single 8-by-10-foot master formliner, with horizontal ribs spaced every 6 inches acting as dams for the smaller molds. While LMN Architects originally wanted to limit the number of panel types to eight, the final count was around 50, including larger pieces made by connecting smaller panels vertically. The approximately 400 precast panels were moved by crane to a system of vertical steel tubes running from slab to slab, then welded into place. The Viracon glazing was welded to the same tubes, a couple of inches back from the face of the concrete. The large atrium window on the building’s east face was manufactured by NUPRESS Group. For the architects, the significance of the Global Center’s facade remains tied to its broader context. Its design, while driven by modern technology, achieves a surprising degree of harmony with its surroundings. “Our building is in a way very classical, though it wasn’t an explicit intention of ours,” said Van Dyck. “To create a language that was both universal and also something that was really new—from our perspective that was a big achievement of the project.”

UT Student Installation Takes SXSW

A room-filling parametric design makes its way from the classroom to Austin's famous music festival.

When Kory Bieg and his students at The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture began working on Caret 6, they had no idea that it would wind up at this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) music and arts festival. But the rippling, room-filling installation soon took on a life of its own. Within months, Bieg’s undergraduates—who had little previous exposure to digital design—had designed and fabricated Caret 6, and assembled and disassembled it twice, first at the TEX-FAB SKIN: Digital Assemblies Symposium in February, and then at Austin’s most famous annual gathering in March. Caret 6 developed out of a research studio taught by Bieg, who is also associate director of the regional digital fabrication and parametric design network TEX-FAB. Selected to chair TEX-FAB’s annual design competition, Bieg knew that he would soon face a problem: how to display the winning entry in a gallery much larger than it. He put his students to work on a solution. “The idea was to create a kind of counterpoint to the winning entry. [We] needed to fill space,” said Bieg. At the same time, the studio would teach the fundamentals of digital fabrication. “It was really just an experimental exploration of what these tools could produce,” he said. Caret 6’s white and grey diamond-shaped cells cascade from a central catenary vault with three column bases. Two secondary vaults project from either side. The front face of the structure flows down to the floor. “The idea is, we didn’t actually know who the winner [of TEX-FAB: SKIN] would be,” said Bieg. “We wanted to design a ground surface that was modular so that we could replace some of the cells with bases for their models.” The 17 students enrolled in Bieg’s course first created individual study models of aggregations and weavings amenable to digital fabrication. In an internal competition, they narrowed the field to three. Bieg broke the studio into teams, each of which experimented with creating volumetric versions of the designs. In a departure from typical parametric installations, Bieg and his students decided to stay away from patterns that gradually expand and contrast. “Our interest was not [in] doing subtlety, but local variations that are quite abrupt, like going from a large cell to a small cell,” said Bieg. “So part of that was a result of the way we structured it. Instead of aggregating cells, we designed a series of ribs.” The primary ribs form the vaults’ seams, while the secondary and tertiary ribs divide the structure into asymmetrical pockets. Halfway through the semester, Bieg called Alpolic Materials, whose Aluminum Composite Material (ACM)—a thin polyethylene core sandwiched between two sheets of aluminum—he had worked with on an earlier project. Alpolic agreed to donate supplies for Caret 6, “so we refined the design according to the material we had,” said Bieg. He also drafted students from UT engineering to calibrate the structure’s thickness, scale, and cantilever distances. “It kind of just evolved from these different processes coming in,” said Bieg.
  • Fabricator Kory Bieg and UTSOA Design Studio V
  • Designers Kory Bieg and UTSOA Design Studio V
  • Location Austin, Texas
  • Date of Completion February 2014
  • Material Alpolic Materials ACM, polypropylene, high-density polyethylene, binder clips, bolts, o-rings
  • Process Grasshopper, Kangaroo, 3ds Max, CNC milling, manual assembly
Back in the studio, Bieg’s students used 3ds Max for form studies and Kangaroo, a Grasshopper plug-in, to fit the tessellated diamond pattern to the vaults. They also used Grasshopper to develop an assembly system of binder rings, bolts, and o-rings. Bieg and his team fabricated the installation using UT’s CNC mill. They cut the vault pieces out of Alpolic ACM. The elements closest to the floor are polypropylene, while the intermediary pieces are high-density polyethylene. The students assembled and disassembled Caret 6 manually. At first, they tried working with a QR-code system, scanning each component to determine its location. When this took too long, they projected a digital model of the form on a screen, then called out each piece by number. For SXSW, where they had only six hours for assembly, they subdivided the structure into sections that could be quickly recombined on site. Caret 6 travels to Houston in September, where it will rejoin the entire TEX-FAB: SKIN show. But while the installation has already moved beyond its original context, Bieg insists that it remains rooted in the SKIN competition brief, which focused on building envelopes leveraging metal fabrication systems. “[Caret 6 is] not really a program per se, but more of an experiment about the same concepts that were part of the exhibits at TEX-FAB,” he said.

After Record-Breaking Concrete Pour in Los Angeles, Wilshire Grand Reaches for the Sky

The Wilshire Grand, a 73-story tower under construction in downtown Los Angeles, hasn’t yet risen out of the ground, but it’s already in the Guinness Book of World Records. That’s thanks to a February 15–16 event promoters called the Grand Pour, in which construction crews poured 21,200 cubic yards (82 million pounds) of concrete in 18 hours—the largest continuous concrete pour in history. Why all the fuss? The idea for the event originated with AC Martin's design itself. Unlike most of Los Angeles’ other high rises, the Wilshire Grand will be built around a concrete core rather than a steel frame. “As we worked through all of those things,...[AC Martin CEO Christopher Martin] realized this was going to be an absolutely huge technical event. It involves a lot of coordination and almost theater in terms of getting [the trucks in and out],” said design principal David Martin. “Then everybody really got behind that [and said], ‘let’s get a marching band and have a parade with the concrete.’” “There was really a buzz downtown about the whole thing,” added project manager Tammy Jow. The parade included 100 members of the USC marching band, representatives of the building’s owners, Korean Airlines, and, of course, the concrete trucks. “Whenever you have the Trojan marching band there you can’t go wrong, they’re all about the party,” said Jow. “What was really incredible [was that] as it got dark there were these huge spotlights, and it almost looked like a stage set,” said Martin. “So we were all having this huge party in the plaza next door, and these big trucks would go through the background.” The Grand Pour was only the beginning of the Wilshire Grand story. “I think what comes next is even more exciting,” said Jow. “Now that the mat is successfully in place we’re going to start seeing vertical.” At 1,100 feet in height, the $1.1 billion building is projected to be the tallest skyscraper west of the Mississippi River. Its office and hotel floors will be covered in floor-to-ceiling glass, another feature that sets it apart from its granite-clad neighbors. For the skyscraper’s crowning sail, as well as on portions of the east and west facades, AC Martin will use an ultra-clear, low-reflectivity glass. On the north and south sides, a radiant coating will boost performance and give the facade a more mirror-like aspect. The designers experimented with new coating technologies to ensure that hotel guests will be able to see out at night without glare from interior lights. The building’s other highlights include its unusual roofline, which was made possible by negotiations with the fire department regarding helipad requirements. “That allowed this building to be different, and hopefully will leave a legacy so that buildings can get back to being more interesting,” said Martin. The designers also worked to maximize the connection to the outdoors, and to tailor the mechanical systems to Los Angeles’ hospitable environment. Finally, the Wilshire Grand prioritizes urban design. “The lower parts of the building reach out and really embrace the city,” said Martin. “There’s a lot of ballrooms and big windows and terraces that reach out to the city.” For Jow, one of the best parts of working on the Wilshire Grand has been the people involved. “We were able to create a team in our office of fresh talent out of school, with skills some of us older people couldn’t dream of.” She pointed to the design of the tower podium, which was generated parametrically using Rhino and Grasshopper. The younger architects’ digital prowess meshed well with the older designers’ experience in construction, said Jow. “We’re able to work together and rationalize forms to make it affordable and buildable.”

Public’s Tree-Like Transit Shelters for UBC

An abstracted version of a street tree, a canopy of tessellated irregular polygons balances atop slim steel posts.

When Public: Architecture + Communication visited the site of the transit shelters the University of British Columbia had asked them to design, they found that something was missing. The main point of entry to the campus, University Boulevard is lined with trees—except where the bus shelters would go. “There was this language of gaps that we noticed,” said Public’s Christopher Sklar. The shelters themselves, they decided, should fill in the tree line. The designers were left with a question, articulated by Sklar: “How does it be a quiet piece but also something interesting and unusual that relates to its surroundings?” Beginning with the image of a tree’s branch structure, Public placed a wood canopy defined by a repeating pattern atop slim steel posts. As for the pattern itself, the designers considered a range of options, from Moorish patterns to simple geometric shapes. The trouble with a geometric pattern, said Sklar, is that it is “often a static thing. We looked at triangles; they’re just triangles. Add a side, it’s just a square.” But if you add one more side, you have a pentagon. And that is where things get interesting. The tessellation of irregular pentagons is surprisingly complicated, on both a mathematical and an aesthetic level. “The thing that we liked about the repeating pentagon is that it creates something that is repetitive, but it’s also something that’s fluid and dynamic,” said Sklar. “It doesn’t feel like it’s repeating when you’re actually in it. It’s kind of a flowing structure above you.” Public alternated between Rhino and Grasshopper, finding that it was easier to perfect a line drawing and plug it into Grasshopper than to allow Grasshopper to generate the tessellation. “I think it’s one of these things where it’s a new technology, people want to see what it can do, think it can help you generate forms,” said Sklar. “But it’s taking away the last thing we have left to us. We’re designers, we want to shape the thing.” The team built a full-scale model of two of the canopy’s cells to get a sense of their size, hoisting the cardboard shapes onto the ceiling pipes in their Vancouver studio.
  • Fabricator Szolid, Structurlam, Bosmon Steelworks, Columbia Glazing Systems, Dancin Timber Works
  • Designers Public: Architecture + Communication
  • Location Vancouver, British Columbia
  • Date of Completion September 2012
  • Material Glulam, steel, concrete, glass
  • Process Rhino, Grasshopper, modeling, CNC milling, welding, concrete casting
Structurlam fabricated the Glulam canopy on a Hundegger CNC machine. The steel supports were manually welded at Bosmon Steelworks. The shelter’s concrete benches were also fabricated by hand, at Szolyd. This was a surprise for Sklar, who had delivered a Rhino model of the bench design to the fabricators. But Szolyd said the design, which incorporates a series of fine edges as built-in skate-stops, would require as much work to prep the CNC machine as it would to build a mold manually—so they hired a carpenter to do just that. “Sometimes you do to all this work to make a digital model, and they’re like, ‘no, we’re just going to build it by hand,’” said Sklar. The shelters were assembled by Dan Georzen at Dancin Timber Works. Besides the wood canopy itself, the most dynamic component of the transit shelter is its surround, built of bronze-tinted glass from Columbia Glazing Systems. The tint serves three purposes. First, it cuts down on UV exposure. Second, it will give the canopy a warm cast even as the wood weathers. Finally, it creates a subtle reveal for passers-by. “When you’re approaching the shelter you see it in front of you, you can’t see through the bronze-tinted thing,” said Sklar. “Then when you get under it, it reveals itself to you. As you approach, it reflects its surroundings from all sides; then you get underneath and: ‘oh wow, look at that.’”