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. 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.
Posts tagged with "Grasshopper":
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. 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.’”
Smith|Allen's 3D-printed forest refuge is inspired by the site's patterning and historical cycle of deforestation and regeneration.When Brian Allen and Stephanie Smith first visited the sequoia forest in Gualala, California, they saw patterns everywhere. “We were really intrigued by patterning at many scales, from bark on the trees to light through the trees and also, at a micro scale, [the cells of] the sequioas,” said Allen. Two months later the pair was back, this time with 580 sculptural bricks forming the world’s first 3D-printed architectural installation. Translucent white and 10 by 10 by 8 feet in size, Echoviren resembles a cross between a teepee and a tree stump, a mass made light by the organic porosity of the bricks. Echoviren is intimately tied to its site on the grounds of Project 387, the residency in which Smith|Allen participated last fall. Besides the sequioas’ patterning, the designers drew inspiration from the primitiveness of their surroundings. “The overall form was driven by what is the most basic space we could make,” said Allen. “It turns [out to be] just a small oblong enclosure with an oculus, a small forest hermitage.” The oculus draws the eye up, to the natural roof formed by the sequioas’ branches. In addition, Smith|Allen address the history of the site as a place where regrowth followed the trauma of deforestation. Built of bio-plastic, Echoviren has an estimated lifespan of 30-50 years. “The 50 year decomposition is a beautiful echo of that cycle” of deforestation and resurgence, said Allen. Smith|Allen took a flexible approach to Echoviren’s design, alternating between analog and digital tools. They used tracing paper to extract patterns from photographs of sequoia cells, then trimmed and propagated the patterning by hand. “We initially tried to do it parametrically in Grasshopper, to replicate that cell structure as a generative tool, but we weren’t getting good results,” explained Allen. “For us, the parametric tools were more of a tool set than a generator.” Smith|Allen used KISSlicer to estimate the time required to print Echoviren, 10,800 hours in all. The designers ran seven consumer-grade Type A Machines Series 1 desktop 3D printers for two months straight. They used plant-based PLA bio-plastic, which in addition to being biodegradable, is also readily available. “We wanted to use something commercially available and easy to get our hands on,” said Allen. “The project was not about using inaccessible materials; accessibility gave us the tools to do this.” On-site assembly took four hours. Echoviren is a snap fit system, with dovetail joints in the XY and a pin and socket in the Z. Silicon adhesive secures each layer of bricks to the next. The bottom ring of bricks nestles within a hand-dug trench. Pyramidal in section, Echoviren is a compression structure. Its components vary in thickness from 6-8 inches at the bottom to less than an inch at the top. For Smith and Allen, the magic of Echoviren is twofold. First is the anticipation of the future, of the way the form will change as it decomposes. Just as important is how the installation came to be, how the technology of 3D printing enabled a firm of two to build Echoviren in less than a season. “As young designers, we struggle with getting our work out there and getting it built,” said Allen. “Using 3D printers, we’re able to really increase the amount of stuff we can do in a given time and transition it from a tool of prototyping and model building into real things.”
A social enterprise’s first mobile food entity uses design, mechanics, and hospitality to benefit incarcerated youths.As the food truck craze continues to gain speed, it was only a matter of time before Brooklyn-based Situ Studio—one of the country’s premier design/build outfits—was tasked with creating a kitchen on wheels. But their opportunity to design and fabricate was not for just another rolling burger joint or mobile ice cream stand. The recently completed Snowday is the first food truck from Drive Change, a social enterprise that trains previously incarcerated youths to operate and manage roving restaurants. Situ Studio and Fabrication’s co-founder and partner Aleksey Lukyanov-Cherny said client Jordyn Lexton, Drive Change’s founder, had a strong vision for the program. Her business model calls for locally sourced ingredient themed menus. Snowday’s ingredient is Grade A maple syrup harvested in upstate New York. To relay the image of a cabin in the woods where one might refine the tree sap, she envisioned a raw, natural facade that was both organic and industrial. Lukyanov-Cherny said designing a skin for a moving unit—in this case a former Con Edison vehicle—was challenging new territory. “When we started thinking of the project, we thought of a three dimensional, articulated facade,” he said. However, instead of complying with building codes the Situ team learned Transit Authority regulations, and how they could customize the appearance while fitting in the required envelope, in addition to practical matters like height restrictions, wear, and repair issues. In other words, an extended cantilever would not be reasonable for zipping through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. The facade also had to accommodate food service needs. The truck’s interior was gutted and retrofitted with an industrial, stainless steel kitchen by Shanghai Mobile Kitchen Solution, and a service component that extends to the truck’s exterior. So in addition to ease of repairs, the modular facade system had to adapt to both punctuated and continuous surfaces. “We wanted a flexible construction system that let you develop the facade for one application or another, that could be transformed for a building, or more architectural structure,” explained Lukyanov-Cherny. Situ Studio used Rhino to design a bespoke snowflake pattern for the truck, which supported Lexton’s brand visualization. The team chose reclaimed lumber as a material, both for its down-home aesthetic as well as its lightness. Planks of redwood and cedar with naturally worn patinas achieved variances in color without any additional treatment and a natural seal. Each plank was planed to 1 inch in thickness, so three layers made up a 3-inch additional depth on either side of the truck. To drive home the branding message, the truck’s name was laser cut from 1/4-inch stainless steel and backlit with LEDs. Each board was applied with stainless steel anchor points. Though it was not Situ Fabricataion’s first project for a non-profit organization, it was their first food truck and Lukyanov-Cherny said he looks forward to building more mobile units in the future. “We like to work with non profits because they’re open to new ideas, design, and approaches, which is so important to those companies,” he told AN. “A visionary client like this is inspiring to us.”
StructureCraft fabricates an orchid-shaped roof that supports vegetation and Living Building Challenge principles.After serving patrons at one of Vancouver’s oldest botanical gardens for nearly 100 years, the VanDusen Gardens Visitors Centre had fallen dangerously into disrepair. Perkins+Will Canada conceived of a new, orchid-shaped center that meets CaGBC’s LEED Platinum ratings, and is the country’s first structure to target the International Living Building Challenge with features like geothermal boreholes, a 75-square meter photovoltaic array, and a timber roof that supports vegetation. To help fabricate the wooden structure to Perkins + Will Canada’s vision, the team contracted StructureCraft, a Vancouver-based design-build studio specializing in timber craftsmanship and structural solutions. Initial designs for the 19,000-square-foot building were delivered to StructureCraft as Rhino files. The uniquely shaped rooftop, which mimics an outline of the indigenous British Columbia orchid, had to be economically fabricated in a way that took net carbon effects into account. Within Rhino plugins—mainly Grasshopper—and with the help of strucutral engineers Fast + Epp, the StructureCraft team sliced the shape of the building into 71 long, curved panels of repeatable geometries. “Each curve is unique, so there’s a different radii for each beam,” said Lucas Epp, a structural engineer who worked on the project. “We optimized the global geometry of the roof so the radii of all the beams were in our fabrication tolerances but still achieved the architect’s desired aesthetic.” Also within Rhino, the team integrated all of the building’s services into each of the panels. Since much of the piping and wiring for other trades like insulation, sprinklers, and electric utilize flexible formats and conduits, modularizing the panels significantly reduced site time from months, to weeks. And to protect the wooden structures, moisture barriers and closed-cell thermal insulation were applied throughout. The parametric model was then imported to Solids modeling software to develop a bespoke fastening system. StructureCraft used jig and table sawing methods to mill panels of Glulam, chosen for its flexibility and strength. Timber battens were affixed as cladding in sizes that were thin enough to naturally accommodate the curves of each panel. Solid timber support columns, carved on StructureCraft’s in-house lathe, taper at both ends to Perkins + Will Canada’s design specifications. Business development engineer Brian Woudstra, who worked on the project, attributed the accuracy of fabrication and the speed of installation to the expansive capabilities of parametric modeling. “We could model every joist, Glulam panel, and ceiling batten to help with conflict detection and feasibility,” he said. “We always prefabricate our projects in our shop, so it’s like a kit of assemblies that all clicks into place.”
A structural, textured metal system wins first place in a competition and the chance to develop a façade with Zahner.Reinforcing the idea that time fosters wisdom, Nicholas Bruscia and Christopher Romano’s third iteration of a structural architectural screen was awarded first place in Tex-Fab’s digital fabrication competition, SKIN. According to Tex-Fab’s co-director, Andrew Vrana, the team’s 3xLP project was selected for its innovative façade system, which uses parametric design and digital fabrication. The 3xLP designers’ exploration of the relationship between academia and manufacturing merged at the University at Buffalo’s (UB) Department of Architecture. Starting their collaborative research with a digital model, Bruscia and Romano solicited the help of local manufacturer Rigidized Metals, (RM), who helped realize the second stage of the project’s evolution with two thin gauge metals featuring proprietary patterns. “The project is important because we’ve partnered so closely with Rigidized Metals,” Roman told AN. “We’ve brought digital and computational expertise, and they’ve provided material knowledge for textured metal—it’s a reciprocal team.” Bruscia said the computational models were heavily informed by material parameters. Working with various patterns in RM’s product library, the team started to see various textures performing differently in structural applications, though the company’s metals are typically used in cladding or decorative applications. “Rigidized Metals’ patterns are stronger than flat metals,” Romano said. “That informed how we selected textures and which became a part of the computational conversation.” Drawn to the geometry of the embossed 4LB sheet, they found the low relief pattern to perform comparably to a deeply stamped-style, and that it complemented other chosen patterns nicely. Structural loading was tested in Karamba, an architect-friendly finite element method analysis plugin for Rhino that was developed recently in Austria. Designed primarily in Rhino 5 and Grasshopper, the team also wrote many of their own scripts. For the SKIN competition, the team adjusted porosity of the screen to increase transparency for façade applications. The screen’s pattern is articulated from all perspectives, creating a dynamic quality that is achieved by a slight twist through the entire structure. “The twist in the system is a result of us getting the geometry on the screen for the system to perform structurally, and to make it possible to fabricate,” Romano said. “Some geometric moves on the screen can be difficult to fabricate, so to remove those you get subtle twisting in the elevation.” At RM’s Buffalo facility, profiles of the system’s components were turret-punched on a CNC, and folded on a press break to achieve a diamond shape. A tabbing system was also milled so the shapes could be fastened with stainless bolts to form a seamless, continuous cell structure. As part of the SKIN competition, Bruscia and Romano will continue working with RM, as well as A. Zahner Company, to fabricate a façade system with a glazing component. The 3xLP team will exhibit their results at the Tex-Fab 5 event in Austin, Texas on February 19.
A new exhibition helps a New York-based firm explore indoor and outdoor applications of a new building material.Cosentino is celebrating Architecture Month with Surface Innovation, a multi-media exhibition at the Center for Architecture in New York that presents innovative applications of its new Dekton material. A combination of raw, inorganic materials found in glass, porcelain, and natural quartz, the new indoor/outdoor surfacing material is made with particle sintering technology (PST) that recreates the natural process of stone formation. The company invited six local architecture firms to design unique projects featuring the material, including SOFTlab, a design/build firm known for its mix of research, craft, and technology in large-scale installations and building projects. For SOFTlab, working with a product that could be used for both interiors and exterior applications was an opportunity to reconcile the growing inverse relationship between the skin and volume of large buildings. “We came up with the idea of building something a little more dense than a single story or residentially scaled building, where Dekton may be used,” said Michael Svivos, founder and director of SOFTlab. “We went to a larger scale building, that blurs the inside and outside.” Starting with the idea of a vertical atrium, which often includes biophilic elements like water features and indoor gardens, the SOFTlab design team envisioned an ATRIUn, a uniquely shaped building feature that uses the durability of Dekton’s stone-like properties to bring the outdoors in. ATRIUn is sponge shaped, and breaches the structure’s exterior at various points. “It forms an interior plaza in a building, not as something that’s flat, but spans the height, width, and depth of the building,” Szivos said. The form was generated in Maya. After inserting the apertures along the quadrilinear volume, the physics simulation plug-in generated the smooth, sinuous surface across various levels. For its larger projects, Szivos says the firm typically solves engineering challenges with Arup through an advanced finite software analysis software program. Those optimized, large designs are then sent to Tietz-Baccon, their long-time local fabricator. However for smaller projects where SOFTlab fabricates its own models and project components, the physics tool provides a close approximation of Arup’s services. To generate a model of ATRIUn’s design for the exhibition, the designers translated the Maya drawing into Rhino with Grasshopper to feed to their in-house laser cutter. Since the design was modeled in paper, four sided shapes were fabricated. If the design was realized in Dekton, triangular shapes would be necessary to achieve the complex curvature of the ATRIUn skin. The set volume was 24 by 24 by 36 inches, scalable for a building between 10 and 12 stories. ATRIUn and Surface Innovation is on view at the Center for Architecture in New York through October 31.