From November 2 through the 4, 2017, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) convened the 36th ACADIA conference in the Fumihiko Maki–designed MIT Media Lab. For three days, nearly 350 people from over 30 countries drank untold gallons of coffee and shared their ideas through an array of research and paper presentations. Leading up to the conference itself was three days of intensive workshops hosted at Autodesk BUILD Space in Boston's Seaport District. ACADIA is a unique organization advancing the computational horizons in architecture. Founded in 1981 by pioneers in the field of design computation, including Bill Mitchell, Chuck Eastman, and Chris Yessios, ACADIA has hosted over 30 conferences across North America and has grown into a wide network of academics and professionals. Welcoming the ACADIANs was Hashim Sarkis, MIT’s dean of the School of Architecture + Planning. He highlighted three "turns" driving new practices in architecture. First, said Sarkis, was the "turn of scalar problems: how technology has smoothed shifts of scale from the nanoscale to the planetary." Second, the turn of values: the open sourcing of production to design processes that empower end-users and will radically change the role of the designer. Design should be a mode of inquiry that now works hand-in-hand with fabrication, said Sarkis. Lastly, he spoke of a turn toward contingency. The traditional view of a designer is that in order to be in control, we need to exclude non-relevant elements. As computational power continues to grow, more contingency enters the process as elements that were once excluded can be brought into the fold, opening design to more variety and possibility than before. MIT Host Committee Co-Chair’s Takahiko Nakamura and Skylar Tibbets welcomed the audience and kicked off the first of 13 paper-based sessions. The sessions ranged from BIM use to Automation, Visualization to Machine Learning. A major sponsorship from Autodesk allowed the ACADIA Board of Directors to award $10,000 in student travel scholarships to paper and project presenters. Breaking up the barrage of research presentations were carefully chosen keynotes from afar and close to home. MIT’s own Neri Oxman kicked off the first day, and the ACADIA Design achievement award was bestowed on designer Thomas Heatherwick that same night. Heatherwick was singled out for his studio's provocative work worldwide, and he shared insights into his studio’s processes. "The ACADIA Design Excellence Award is recognized internationally as one of the highest honors in the field," said Jason Kelly Johnson, outgoing president of ACADIA. "It represents recognition by colleagues worldwide of extraordinary contributions and impact on the field of architectural computing and design culture." The award was most recently given to Liz Diller and the late Zaha Hadid. The next day began with two awards for educators: The Innovator Award and Educator Award, which was followed by an education panel. The Educator Award went to Heather Roberge, the new Chair of Architecture at UCLA. Roberge walked the audience through a handful of studio curricula and projects, and spoke on the crucial difference between a model and a prototype, the different kinds of skills that students learn, the difference between handcraft vs machinecraft, and demonstrated how to use molds to visualize parametric concepts and form finding. The second day closed out with a presentation from Paris-based Iconem, an organization using advanced photogrammetric techniques for heritage preservation in conflict zones. Wrapping up the conference’s final day, Nervous Systems’ Jesse Louis-Rosenberg and Jessica Rosenkrantz described their eclectic design practice, and how the studio uses generative design to create interactive forms. Kathy Velikov, the incoming 2018 president of ACADIA, discussed how ACADIA brings together a community engaged with design challenges and future-facing solutions. Much of the work shown could be brought back to the office or classroom, and either might be applicable today, or open new paths to research or near-future concepts, and tools that will change work across practices. "Next year we are excited that the ACADIA conference will be held in Mexico City," said Velikov in a statement after the conference. "We are partnering with Mexico City's Ibero-American University to host and organize the event. ACADIA is a North American organization, and while we have had several conferences in Canada, this is the first time we will be in Mexico." "Besides the obvious attraction of the vibrance, history, and design culture of Mexico City, this is a fantastic opportunity to frame conversations around computational design within a different technological and cultural context, and to be able to open conference to new communities of participants," he added. The 2018 ACADIA conference, Re/calibration: on imprecision and infidelity, will attempt to recalibrate the discourse around computational design research, and a new venue in a new country is the perfect place to shake things up. The Call for Papers is live and due May 1, 2018 The full list of award winners is as follows: Design Excellence Award Thomas Heatherwick Founder/Design Director, Ηeatherwick Studio Digital Practice Award of Excellence Lisa Iwamoto & Craig Scott Founders, IWAMOTTOSCOTT ARCHITECTURE Society Award of Excellence Bob Martens Associate Professor, TU Wien Innovative Research Award of Excellence Wesley McGee Assistant Professor of Architecture, University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning/Co-founder, Matter Design Teaching Award of Excellence Heather Roberge Chair, UCLA School of Architecture and Urban Design/Founder, Murmur design Academic Program Award of Excellence Bartlett School of Architecture, B-Pro Program
Posts tagged with "MIT":
With 52 essays from 74 authors, Infinite Suburbia’s 732 pages comprehensively analyze the suburbs from the perspectives of architecture, design, landscape, planning, history, demographics, social justice, familial trends, policy, energy, mobility, health, environment, economics, and applied and future technologies. Organized by theme in an index that best resembles a spider’s web, the book is meant to be read in a nonlinear fashion, reminiscent of a choose-your-own-adventure novel. The editors of The Architect's Newspaper (AN) spoke with the book’s editors, Alan M. Berger and Joel Kotkin, about the future of the suburbs. Many of their analyses and provocations upend our notions of what the suburbs are and what they will become. The Architect’s Newspaper: What is suburbia and how do you define it for this book? Joel Kotkin and Alan Berger: Suburbia is generally a lower-density area outside the city core. In our approach, we look for such things as predominance of single-family housing, dependence on automobiles (particularly for non-work trips), age of housing stock, and distance from central core. This is about 80 percent of U.S. metro areas; some cities, like Phoenix and San Antonio, are predominately suburban even within their city boundaries. Within the book we have no fewer than five leading authors who define suburbia using different quantitative methods that are arguably more accurate than the U.S. Census at capturing the activities defining suburbia. What are some of the myths that surround the architecture and design community’s perception of the suburbs? Berger: Globally, the vast majority of people are moving to cities not to inhabit their centers, but to suburbanize their peripheries. I’m sure we can all agree that there are many suburban (and urban) models that are wasteful, unsustainable, and inequitable. However, despite having deep historical roots in conceiving suburban environments, the planning and design professions overwhelmingly vilify suburbia and seem disinterested in significantly improving it. Robert Bruegmann’s essay in the book reminds us that those who consider themselves the intellectual elite have a long history of anti-suburban crusades, and they have always been proven wrong. Our book, Infinite Suburbia, is built for an alternative discourse that can open paths to improvement and design agency, rather than condemning suburbia altogether. Our goal? To construct a balanced, alternative discourse to architecture and urban planning orthodoxy of “density fixes all,” and in doing so ask: “Can suburbia become a more sustainable model for rethinking the entire urban enterprise, as a vital fabric of “complete urbanization?” What were some of the most surprising or counterintuitive things you found about the suburbs when compiling these essays? Berger: One of the consistent themes in the book, and what gets me most excited as a landscape scholar, is the virtue of low density and the ecological potential of the suburban landscape. Environmentally, suburbs will save cities from themselves. Sarah Jack Hinners’s research in the book really surprised me. It suggests that suburban ecosystems, in general, are more heterogeneous and dynamic over space and time than natural ecosystems. Suburbs, she says, are the loci of novelty and innovation from an ecological and evolutionary perspective because they are a relatively new type of landscape and their ecology is not fixed or static. Kotkin: Two trends that may seem counterintuitive to urbanists have been the rapid pattern of diversification in suburbs, which now hold most of the nation’s immigrants and minorities, as well as the fact that suburbs are more egalitarian and less divided by class than core cities. What did you learn from studying some of the suburbs that aren’t the classic idyllic American suburb as we might see in the media? Berger: Not surprisingly, the American Housing Survey found that more than 64 percent of all occupied American homes are single-family structures. But in other countries, suburban contexts are anything but low density, such as along the peri-urban edges of Indian cities and those spread across China and Southeast Asia. Globally, not all suburbs look alike or follow the “post Anglo Saxon, North American model.” One fact remains, however, which is that in many parts of the world upward mobility is linked to suburban living. How do you see suburbia changing in the next few decades? Kotkin: Suburbs will change in many ways. First, they will continue to spread in those regions that have not employed strict growth controls. Denser development seems inevitable—such as The Domain [development] in north Austin—although [the suburbs] will remain largely surrounded by the single family and townhouses most people prefer. Although they already are, they will become more attractive to Millennials, who will demand fewer golf courses and conventional malls, and more hiking/biking trials and open, common landscapes. Suburbs will become more independent from the traditional city centers except for some amenities and central government services. Berger: Autonomous driving will dramatically change how we live, particularly in suburbia, where the dominant form of mobility is cars. Once there is widespread adoption of electrified autonomous cars, dramatic sustainability dividends will flourish in the suburbs of the future. This may also take the economic strain off metro mass transit systems, which can focus on service improvements within the core areas rather than stretching outward. Shared autonomous vehicles will become the preferred form of mass transit in areas not serviced by traditional buses or rail. What are the gentrification problems or other issues around the suburbanization of poverty? Kotkin: Gentrification, often subsidized by governments, is driving poorer people from city cores to closer or—in some cases—more distant suburbs. These are usually places that are either far from workplaces or have a less desirable housing stock. Yet suburbanization of poverty needs to be put in context of the massive overall population advantage of suburbs; overall poverty rates in cities remain twice as high as those of suburbs, and the pattern has not changed much in the past decade. What can designers or planners take from the book? Is there a role for traditional planning at this scale, when market forces are so strong? Berger: Readers should convincingly take away the enormous opportunity ahead in designing more sustainable and equitable suburbs and the importance of suburban fabric to the entire urban enterprise. This is systemically evident from social, economic, environmental, and design perspectives. Of course, there is great agency awaiting designers and planners in the new suburbia. We created them in the first place, so we have a responsibility to evolve the forms and forces toward more sustainable futures. Alan M. Berger is Professor of Landscape Architecture and Urban Design and co-director of the Norman B. Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism at MIT. Joel Kotkin is the R.C. Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. Both are co-editors of Infinite Suburbia (Princeton Architectural Press).
Researchers at the MIT Senseable City Lab have developed a new way of measuring how “green” a city is using Google Street View. The project, called Treepedia, presents an index of cities by measuring their “Green Canopy,” the aboveground portion of trees and vegetation you can see as you walk around. The maps reflect the data collected by the team and the city’s corresponding Green View Index (GVI), the measurement of the percentage of canopy coverage in a certain area according to human perception. By using Google Street View instead of satellite imagery, the team measured the cities through the eyes of the everyday pedestrian. The MIT research team worked with the World Economic Forum and its Global Shapers Community initiative to put together Treepedia and they continue to collect information to add cities to their list of indexes available for comparison. By providing quantifiable data about tree coverage, the Treepedia team hopes cities and their citizens will take the initiative to advocate for more trees in their communities. They also hope to add features to the site down the road that will help citizens tag trees in their area and alert their local authorities about areas in need of greater tree coverage. Although the planting of trees may seem inconsequential in the grand scheme of urban development, Treepedia reiterates the benefits of tree-lined streets for city living. “As many cities experience warming temperatures, increased storm frequency, and continued air pollution, the well-being of our urban trees has never been more important,” said Carlo Ratti, director of the Senseable City Lab, in a press release. “We present here an index by which to compare cities against one another, encouraging local authorities and communities to take action to protect and promote the green canopy cover.” You can play around with Treepedia's maps and learn more about tree coverage in your city by visiting their website here.
The SOM Foundation has announced the 2016 SOM Foundation Fellowships. Since 1981, the foundation has awarded over 200 graduating undergraduate and graduate students of architecture, design, urban design, and structural engineering with money to fund travel and research in the year after graduation. This year’s winners include MIT M.Arch graduate Jongwan Kwon, Columbia University M.Arch graduate Lindsey Wikstrom, and MIT M.S. in Building Technology graduate Nathan Collin Brown. The SOM Foundation also awarded three $5,000 SOM China Prizes to recent graduates in China. The awardees are chosen by independent juries composed of multi-disciplinary professionals and SOM Foundation officers. The mission of the awards is to “nurture future leaders in design by giving them the opportunity to broaden their cultural and aesthetic horizons through travel outside of their countries.” The top award, the SOM Prize, was awarded to Jongwan Kwon for his proposed research topic, “After Efficiency: Logistics Infrastructure from a Regional Perspective.” With the awarded $50,000, Kwon will travel through international ports, airports, canals, and tunnels to study the impact infrastructure projects have on their regional environment. Kwon will interview noted scholars and practitioners throughout his travels to better understand the subject. After graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a Master of Architecture degree and a Certificate in Urban Design, Kwon was appointed as a Teaching Fellow at the school. Kwon has worked at Kengo Kuma & Associates and Morphosis Architects. The $20,000 SOM Travel Fellowship was awarded to Lindsey Wikstrom, a recent graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Preservation and Planning (GSAPP). Wikstrom’s research topic “An Immersive Catalogue of Housing Systems,” will focus on producing a catalogue exploring the how living environments are produced through the “convergence of markets, demand, and social vitality.” The catalogue will be a “comprehensive visual report of the systems, occupants, and typologies.” The SOM Structural Engineering Travel Fellowship was awarded to Nathan Collin Brown. The Structural Engineering Travel Fellowship “aims to foster an appreciation of the aesthetic potential in the structural design of buildings and bridges.” Browns proposal, “Integrating Secondary Goals into Structural Design,” will take him to North America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. The SOM Foundation was established in 1979. The fellowships were set up in order to provide support outside of the traditional academic setting. Awardees are expected to use the money to travel internationally to conduct research and “broaden their cultural and aesthetic horizons.”
Brought to you with support fromArchitect and educator Cristina Parreño’s ongoing research project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is called “Tectonics of Transparency” and it's challenging the “generic-ness” of glass in construction today. The project is being realized through a unique format of prototypes divided into three formal categories: the Wall Series, Tower Series, and Shelter Series. Each type is further broken down into scales: a “model scale” of 8-cubic-feet, and an “installation scale” of inhabitable size. The format allows for experimentation with technique, and for multiple funding sources to support various components of the project. Parreño pinpoints her interest in expanding the role of glass to a 1950s patent on “float glass” by Pilkington, who developed a process for efficiently manufacturing large flat sheets of the material. “Despite its potential, modern technology didn’t fully exploit the multitude of material attributes offered by glazing, which in a flat, planar state can only be used as a non-structural infill,” Parreño told The Architect's Newspaper (AN) in an interview. “When expanded to a greater depth, glass acquires multiple properties that expand its role beyond that of a transparent or translucent infill. If we attend to some of these properties—which are not fully exploited when glass is presented in its planar state—we can begin to foresee another type of depth between the two sides of the material.” Parreño’s prototypes are primarily interested in exploiting the material’s compressive strength, along with producing new tactile and visual effects. One of the main challenges of the project has been developing new working techniques to manage the fragility of the panes during fabrication. This fragility provides only small tolerances for assembly that in turn demand a high degree of precision. Parreño’s assemblies involve bonding individual profiles of glass together using a high-performance bonding agent activated by UV light. The compound cures thin and transparent, allowing for maximum visibility between panes. Parreño says this construction system permits the glass to fully express its own visual and structural capacities, but it makes the construction process far more labor intensive. The Tectonics of Transparency prototypes are a material translation of well-known concrete and brick structures to glass, as MVRDV recently developed for their Amsterdam Chanel store project. Parreño said MVRDV’s project demonstrates similar interests to hers, and that the interest of other architects in challenging the conventional use of glass “thickens the plot for discussions.” Parreño’s Tower Series reinterprets Uruguayan brick water towers built by Eladio Dieste, while her Shelter Series reinterprets Felix Candela’s ruled Mexican concrete surface structures. Beyond explorations into the structural capacity of glass, Parreño also relates to the qualities of light inherent through assembly techniques. She cites REX’s fluted facade as a reinvented curtain wall of curved panels that “catch light in unexpected angles, throwing distorted reflections back at the viewer.” These visual effects are a key influencer of Parreño’s Tectonics of Transparency: “By exploring the ability of glass to modulate light through its enhanced translucency, variable transparency, opacity and the greater or lesser internal reflection of external light.” Parreño says her next steps are to continue to “scale up” the prototypes, experimenting with how glass can move beyond the curtain wall. “The translation of these prototypes and small pavilions to a larger and more architectural scale is something that I am definitely interested in as the next step forward.”
The dawn of self driving cars promises to be an exciting new era for transport. However, what exactly lies ahead is still up for debate. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Swiss Institute of Technology (ETHZ), and the Italian National Research Council (CNR) have outlined how traffic signals could be rendered obsolete if automated vehicles get their way. The development is known as "slot-based intersections," and if realized, would significantly reduce queuing, delays, and pollution. If evidence from any science fiction movie is anything to go by, it's that humans have very little trust in automated technology. It's easy to picture: panic as your self-driving car appears to be careering into another, only to miss by a a tiny margin, all perfectly predicted by an automated system of course. https://vimeo.com/106226560 That may be an exaggeration, but Professor Carlo Ratti, Director of the MIT Senseable City Lab and his team have produced a model that shows cars zipping through a four-way intersection both without stopping or slowing down and remaining unscathed. “Traffic intersections are particularly complex spaces, because you have two flows of traffic competing for the same piece of real estate,” he said in a press release regarding the study, published in detail here. “But a slot-based system moves the focus from the traffic level to the vehicle level. Ultimately, it’s a much more efficient system, because vehicles will get to an intersection exactly when there is a slot available to them.” https://youtu.be/4CZc3erc_l4 Trust in such a system would have to be high. Communication between cars would have to be flawless and safety measures for failure would also have to be in place. That said, if implemented, the system would speed up journey time and also reduce pollution by cutting down on the time spent idle at traffic signals. Of course, signal-less interchanges already exist, they're called roundabouts. But the possibility for human error (and hence collisions) still exists in the roundabout, along with the need to give way to others.
"Slot-based intersections are similar to slot-based management systems used for air-traffic control," say the team. "Upon approaching an intersection, a vehicle automatically contacts a traffic management system to request access. Each self-driving vehicle is then assigned an individualized time or “slot” to enter the intersection." Speed limits could also change. If a perfect system can plot every movement, why not travel at the fastest, yet safest, possible speed? This is just one of the questions arising as self-driving cars become more and more likely to enter our lives. Would car lanes also be made thinner? Vehicles won't be making mistakes so why not cram as many in as we can and maximize efficiency? https://youtu.be/sQuJ8GKTjFM In terms of having a central traffic organizing system, getting different car manufacturers to be completely open with each other is another major bridge that would need to be crossed. And as for the more pressing issue of automated vehicles' interaction with humans, MIT's Senseable City Lab responds by saying: "slot-based intersections are flexible and can easily accommodate pedestrian and bicycle crossing with vehicular traffic."
MIPIM, the world's largest and most important real estate and development conference, attracts nearly 25,000 people to Cannes in the south of France every year. Like the Venice Biennale and the Saloni del Mobile in Milan, there are architects from around the world in attendance. However, there's also a small-but-growing group of influential designers from North America. Dutch architect Ben van Berkel and Berlin-based designer Jürgen Mayer H. both attend because they can meet with dozens of potential clients, both private and civic, in a single four day period. Some architects attend as members of development teams looking for investors; others come on their own to walk through the various pavilions and speak with groups seeking designers. There are pavilions sponsored by scores of moderately-sized cities (Lyon, Brussels, Palermo, etc.) and larger ones (Paris, Mexico City, Lagos etc.), all looking for investors and sometimes architects for their projects. For example, London and Istanbul's pavilions are enormous efforts sponsored by governments and development offices. Their tents feature large wooden models of their city that highlight development sites. A meeting in Cannes with the Turinese architect and engineer Carlo Ratti, Partner of CRA architects and Director of the MIT Senseabile lab, was instructive of why designers attend MIPIM. He took the opportunity to launch and promote a project he calls The Mile, a design for a one-mile high tower and observation decks that he developed with the German engineering firm schlaich Bergermann partners and British digital design studio Atmos. Ratti didn't design the one-mile high project with a residential or commercial business model in mind. Rather, it's a tourist-oriented structure like Paris’ Tour Eiffel or The London Eye. A structure twice as high as the next tallest building in the world, The Mile is conceived a structural, 20-meter-wide shaft “kept in compression and secured through a net of pre-stressed cables.” A series of orbiting capsules will allow visitors to gradually ascend to the top, enjoying the spectacular panorama at different speeds and approaches. These capsules can host meetings, dinners, concerts, or even swimming pools, thereby allowing people to inhabit the sky in unprecedented ways. These spaces will be equipped with open-air Virtual Reality screens that will create unique interactions with visitors' 360-degree view of the landscape. Aloft in the sky and unencumbered by VR headsets, you can see the city as is—or could be. From base to apex, the lightweight structure will offer a natural ecosystem covered by greenery and inhabited by hundreds of animal species. The Mile will be criss-crossed with a delicate latticework of transportation lines. As Ratti said, take New York City’s Central Park, turn it vertically, and then after “rolling it and twirling it,” you get something like this. The Italian architect was able to get this proposal in front of cities looking for iconic structures, developers looking for potential buildings to anchor a project, and journalists. There is no other gathering of parties involved in urban development like it anywhere in the world.
Aggregate knowledge: Scientists at MIT discover how concrete behaves on a molecular level, could spur material advances
Suffice to say, we certainly know how concrete behaves at structural level—the material has been dominating cities and skylines since Joseph Monier invented a reinforced concrete in 1889. But until now, how the material works on a microscopic level has eluded scientists. Now, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have unearthed concrete's molecular properties, claiming their findings could lead to structural advances in the future. Traditionally, concrete uses a mixture of gravel, sand, cement, and water. In this case, a compound known as calcium-silicate-hydrate (CSH or cement hydrate) forms when the cement powder mixes with water. It essentially causes all the ingredients to solidify and become one. The phenomenon that has been baffling researchers many for years is whether concrete's molecular structure is comprised of continual bonds as found in stone and metal, or rather, as a sea of aggregate particle clumps bonded by (in the case of concrete) CSH. Researchers from MIT discovered in 2012 that during the first hour of the concrete mixing process, when CSH particles form, the size at which they form is apparently random and "not in homogenous spheres." As a result, such "diversity in the size of the nanoscale units leads to a denser, disorderly packing of the particles, which corresponds to stronger cement paste." However, the question regarding whether concrete was "considered a continuous matrix or an assembly of discrete particles" still remained. Predictably, the answer was "a bit of both." In a press release, Roland Pellenq, a senior research scientist in MIT’s department of civil and environmental engineering explained that the particle distribution facilitated almost every gap in the molecular structure to be filled by even smaller grains. This seemingly iterative process continued to the extent that Pellenq and his peers could approximate the material as a continuous solid. “Those grains are in a very strong interaction at the mesoscale,” said Pollenq. “You can always find a smaller grain to fit in between [the larger grains, hence] you can see it as a continuous material.” Pollenq did however, conclude his findings by stating that concrete could never be considered a true continuous material. This is due to the fact that grains within the CSH, unlike those in metal or stone, cannot reach a resting state of minimum energy. In other words, larger molecules can cause solid concrete to "creep" which makes the material susceptible to cracking and degradation over time. "Both views are correct, in some sense,” Pellenq concluded.
Soon, we might have 3D copy machines. Using powerful new technology, MIT's latest 3D printer boasts, according to Russia Today, almost "human-free usability" which allows it to print "ready to use" objects comprising of up to ten different materials. https://youtu.be/poRFPjiB9vw The development is being described by Gizmodo as a "giant leap" towards real-life replication as 3D printers strive for the ultimate goal of being able to produce functioning electronic parts. Already printers are capable of producing electronic circuits, however, MIT's printer named 'MultiFab' (echoing the name of the 'MultiVac' super-computer in Isaac Asimov's science fiction novel, The Last Question) is able to integrate these circuits into actual electronic components. This simplification of the manufacturing process hints at a future where a press of a button will be enough to produce such electronic mechanisms. A 3D scanner is also incorporated into the printer which allows the device to print onto existing components. This could mean that making future modifications to your smartphone, for example, is a very real possibility. Another advantage of this feature is that the printing process can be almost hands free. The scanner works in real time to make sure everything is aligned, telling the printer to make changes if necessary. In a release by the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) at MIT, the research team has described their printer as, "high-resolution, low-cost, extensible, and modular." Advocating its possible use in education they also said that "students and teachers will be able to create complex mathematical figures, physics sets, lens systems, and anatomical models."
Scientists at MIT dream of autonomous assembly lines that are free of machinery, human intervention, or fossil fuel expenditure—and still run 24/7. Researchers at the Self-Assembly Lab recently debuted a chair that assembled itself in a water tank over a period of seven hours. Each of the six component parts is embedded with a magnet and like an enzyme or jigsaw piece, each one has a unique connection point for hooking on to the others, thus dictating the final form. The assembly process, however, is anything but controlled. Fans at the bottom of the tank generate turbulence in the water, jostling the pieces and encouraging a series of trial-and-error collisions which eventually sees complementary pieces latch onto one another. “At close proximity, each piece should easily connect with its corresponding component but never with another one,” Bailey Zuniga, a student who led the research, told Wired. Self-assembly means finding a balance between randomness and control. One ultimate goal is self-repairing infrastructure, but too much leeway could make it very difficult to achieve a desired final form. Before vowing to never shell out another extortionate check for furniture delivery and installation, note that the chair is a mere six inches tall. A human-sized chair is in the pipeline as part of the Fluid Assembly Furniture project led by Skylar Tibbit. At present, the team is amassing quantitative data to better understand material properties and why certain shapes work better than others. “Finding a way to make the pieces more interchangeable would increase the chances of the pieces finding their matches,” said Zuniga. Other recent forays into self-assembling modules is the Aerial Assemblies project, in which 36-inch helium-filled balloons with fiberglass frames self-configure into a structural lattice in mid-air.
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." 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."
In early April, the ten finalists in the Rebuild By Design competition unveiled their proposals to protect the Tri-state region from the next Hurricane Sandy. And in the near future, a jury will select a winner—or winners—to receive federal funding to pursue their plans. But before that final announcement is made, here is a closer look at each of the final ten proposals, beginning with the team led by MIT. The New Meadowlands plan—by MIT, ZUS, and Urbanisten—aims to protect New Jersey and Metropolitan New York from future storms, and increase development at the same time. Using existing marshlands, the team proposes Meadowpark—a new public space that can provide a natural barrier against rising sea levels and storms. This park, and specifically its berms, will mitigate storm surge and reduce flooding. Surrounding Meadowpark is Meadowband, a ring of public space and bus-rapid transit routes that separates the marshland from proposed development. "The park and the band protect existing development areas," explained the team. "In order to be worthy of federal investment, it is imperative to use land more intensively. We propose shifting land-use zoning from suburban (single story, freestanding, open-space parking around structure) to more urban."