Posts tagged with "parametric design":

Kory Bieg of Austin’s OTA+ on how parametric design can shape structures

Aluminum composite panels have been making headlines of late for all the wrong reasons. The subject of scourge was at the heart—or rather, outer edges—of the Grenfell Tower disaster in the U.K. that saw a fire take the lives of an estimated 80 people as flames traveled via the building's aluminum composite cladding. However, at Facades+ AM conference in Austin yesterday morning, the material was shown in a new light. As part of the opening discussion panel, titled Digital Design and Fabrication Frontiers, principal at OTA+, Kory Bieg demonstrated how aluminum composite panels can be used to make three-dimensional structures such as arches and vaults. Speaking to The Architect's Newspaper (AN), Bieg described how he used parametric design tools such as the Kangaroo plugin for Grasshopper to design Caret 6. The vaulting structure, designed and fabricated by his Design V Studio at the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture, was part of an exhibition on metal structures in 2013. Caret 6 is comprised of large folded panels and responds to a brief that called for a structure using aggregation, weaving, and stacking techniques to create an assembly that could transition from a flat surface to a volumetric enclosure.
"To enable a smooth transition from a flat, two-dimensional ground surface into a volumetric, three-dimensional vault, the studio used a diamond pattern that could work as both an aggregate and woven rib-system. Though the diamond pattern appears to be series of stacked cells, the structure is actually three layers of overlapping ribs," said OTA+ on its website. "Large, continuous primary ribs form the seams from vault to vault, while secondary ribs span between each seam. Tertiary ribs complete the web and enclose each cell to create a rigid structure."
"A core goal of the studio was to introduce asymmetry into what would otherwise be a symmetrical form. The vault is roughly eleven foot at its highest point, enclosing a space small enough for occupants to engage directly with the surface, a condition atypical for most vaults which often frame larger and much taller spaces. "Caret 6 was designed to fill an already existing space," said Bieg, "so it was necessary to design a geometry that responded to the existing room, especially at the edges, where the vaulting forms project toward the walls."
Bieg benefitted from using Robot Structural Analysis which enabled him to model and test different Aluminum Composite Panel configurations to find the optimum structural solution. "Ultimately, we added a layer of attachment details that included thousands of O-rings and binder rings to ensure stability in the event a lateral force or unexpected point load is applied (ie. someone hanging on the edge of the cantilever), but in its resting state, Caret 6 does not require any fasteners," the firm said. Bieg was joined by Anthony Birchler of fabrication firm Zahner. "Digital manufacturing plays an enormous role in not only what we do, but the changing landscape of architecture and design fields," he said speaking to AN. "Designers want to understand how they can interface with a firm like Zahner—and here's the big part—they need to know how to establish this kind of precedent with their clients in our industry. Our presentation shows how firms are accomplishing unique architectural works. This isn't theoretical. This is our practice, and we want to show you how you can do this kind of work"

ACADIA 2016 showcased the diversity of cutting-edge computational design

This year’s meeting of the Association for Computer-Aided Design in Architecture (ACADIA) was hosted at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. It was the 36th meeting of ACADIA, and was regarded to be an incredibly successful showing. The theme of the conference, Posthuman Frontiers: Data, Designers, and Cognitive Machines, was paired with the Posthuman Frontiers exhibition, featuring jury-selected projects submitted to the conference, as well as the advanced work of Taubman College faculty. The events of the conference were held at multiple venues around Ann Arbor, and were preceded by several workshops that made use of Taubman College’s digital fabrication and instruction facilities.

For those of us on the outside looking in (in our lesser moments, perhaps), the ACADIA community might easily be misconstrued as a group of architects obsessed with robots, or possessing an interest in complicated shapes made in Grasshopper for their own sake. However, the three days this author spent among their ranks at this year’s conference were some of the most inspiring in recent memory. Yes, there were moments of geometric fetishism, and yes, there were a considerable number of time-lapse videos of robot arms in progress. But when taken in aggregate, these projects, papers, and talks reframed and made vibrant the essential ingredients of what we work on as architects: the arrangement of solid and void, the cultural effects of form, and the possibilities of what we might craft in the built environment.

It must be said that the range of work presented was dramatic. Even within the more immediately applicable papers and projects were sober arguments for parametric design in space planning, a smart device for lowering cooling costs in office spaces, newly designed plugins to optimize the unfolding of 3-D meshes, and progress-in-training robots to lay tile in order to relieve the strain on human bodies.

Caress of the Gaze from Pier 9 on Vimeo.

Reaching into more radical territory, we saw prototyped near-body architectures operating on the politics of the posthuman in Behnaz Farahi’s “Caress of the Gaze,” an actuated garment which tracks—and responds to—the eye movement of those regarding the wearer. We saw installations that build intimacy and a sense of cooperative play between humans and digital entities. There was work which adopted uncommon material alliances of “programmable matter,” such as in Jane Scott’s intertwining of hydrophobic fibers that writhe and retract when exposed to water vapor (one of several fabric-oriented works), and too many others of note to mention them all.

But some of the most memorable moments from this conference were the keynote addresses, as they punctuated the proceedings with disparate tones and positions that illuminated the diversity of this community. Theodore Spyropoulos led the charge on Thursday with a talk entitled All Is Behavior (a play on Hans Hollein’s claim that “All are architects. Everything is architecture.”) It quickly became clear that Spyropoulos sees the future of cities, and indeed, that of humanity, in a technologically positivist light. He envisions self-organizing and aggregating structures which allow for adaptivity in the face of changing climatic or social conditions, and seeks to bring us into more sympathetic forms of interaction with robotic and digital entities.

The evening of the same day found the participants exposed to other visionary work, in a dreamy—and at times titillating—conversation between Philip Beesley and Iris Van Herpen, whose ongoing collaborations are advancing both Van Herpen’s work at the forefront of couture, and Beesley’s at, perhaps, the architectural equivalent. Lucidly expressive, Beesley’s tone was one of wonderment—of proposed, barely imaginable relationships between humans and matter. In fact, Beesley’s role is most easily understood, and his work is most easily appreciated, when it is placed in the context of couture, the goal of which is to push the bounds of what is possible in clothing.

Mario Carpo’s discussion of the cultural implications of searchability was a thoughtful meditation and provocation that ultimately concluded the conference Saturday evening, but the real climax of ACADIA 2016 was a keynote lecture Friday evening by Elizabeth Diller, as she was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Despite a playful hesitance to engage with the foreboding finality of “Lifetime Achievement,” Diller generously outlined some of the more seminal works of Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R), one of the most influential practices in the world over the past 25 years. Early in the talk, Diller emphasized her interest in the fields adjacent to architecture, a propensity for smaller scale works, and a persistent fascination with “the encounter.” By the end, however, she was in a mode of pure architectural shoptalk, sharing in-progress photos of the recently manufactured steel struts and enormous wheels that will comprise The Shed, currently in construction in New York’s Hudson Yards development. Diller concluded her remarks with some reflections upon the way culture has shifted since some of DS+R’s early work. In the present day, she claims:

“...the speed of obsolescence makes technology a liability. Dumber is better than smarter and the best thing to do for culture in the future is to secure real estate. It’s as basic as that.

Then: Systems theory, game theory, cybernetic control systems were tools to democratize culture.

Now: Digital technologies allow culture to be open source, dispersed, and on-demand. However, with democracy comes the ubiquitous condition of being monitored, so it’s a different time.…

Then: Kit of parts and kinetic systems produce flexibility.

Now: Flexibility is a paradox. The more flexibility is built in, the more predetermined, leaving nothing but empty space (this is related to ‘dumb is a virtue’).

Then: Disciplinary borders had to be broken.

Now: Despite academia’s parsing and classification, the richly indeterminate contours of interdisciplinarity, intradisciplinarity, multidisciplinarity, transdisciplinarity, cross-disciplinarity—we actually have to push to make these things happen, because somehow, the real world divides everything up again. Because that’s where money comes from—different places. And it’s going to take a long time to change the system.

Then: Government support for culture was assumed.

Now: To avoid the vicissitudes of the economy, the cultural institutions must produce their own financial security.

Then: The architect was a generalist that gathers research from subcommittees.

Now: Professionalization turns the architect into a director/producer that relies on a rolling cadre of subconsultants who bring an ever-widening depth of expertise to ever-more adventurous problems. So, then and now, the architect gets to push the agency of the profession to invent a cultural and civic project on both scores.”

These sage thoughts carried the conference into its final day, which held perhaps the most poignant moment of the proceedings, as Chuck Eastman, one of the original founders of ACADIA in 1981, received the Society Award of Excellence. Hearing Eastman describe the early days of computational design, the work that went into tasks as simple as Boolean operations, put the tools we now take for granted in perspective. It is amazing how far computational design has advanced in just a few decades, and this community shows no sign of slowing. No doubt, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab will rise to the occasion and show us the next chapter a year from now, as they are slated to host ACADIA 2017.

Open-source parametric brick wall “hacks the digital” in Iran

Sstudiomm, an Iranian architecture office founded by Hossein Naghavi, has developed a digital brick laying technique and an open-source DIY kit for architects interested in the system. The project, titled Negative Precision, is the outcome of Naghavi’s independent research into parametrically derived brick laying techniques. Using Kohler and Gramazio’s 2006 robotically programmed wall as a departure point, sstudiomm sought out alternative methods to reproduce the same effect with a limited budget, “in order to make the luxurious reachable for a greater group.” Located in Iran’s historic city of Damavand (roughly 50 miles west of Tehran), the project pulls from traditional brick patterning in the city, most notably Shebeli Tower which dates back to the 10th century. The architects digitally modeled an “X” shaped form that references the decorative brick tower, then worked with Grasshopper to produce a script varying brick rotation. The outcome of the script is essentially a stack bond brick veneer wall where bricks rotate within a calculated 18 degree range to register a patterned "X" form across the facade. Sstudiomm confidently calls this the “simplest grasshopper code ever.” From the digital model, a series of precise stencil templates are produced from lasercut stock aluminum plate. In the field, a plum string helps to establish a start point for each course of bricks. Theoretically by adjusting the reference surface in the script, a new textural patterning will be generated, offering a customizable visual identity for other architects. Sstudiomm says the most significant challenge for the undulated brick veneer wall was the handling of gaps between bricks, which vary by almost an inch. As a brick rotates outward, a larger gap is produced between neighboring bricks. “The gaps are never seen from the front view and from almost all of the perspectives they are hidden by staggering bricks around them. These gaps are providing the financial possibility of having a parametric wall built without a robot.”
  • Facade Manufacturer Heidari brick of Tehran (brick manufacturer)
  • Architects sstudiomm
  • Facade Installer Sadegh Naghavi, Behest construction co. (construction) with sstudiomm
  • Facade Consultants n/a
  • Location Damavand, Iran
  • Date of Completion 2016
  • System Independent self-standing veneer wall connected to the main structure
  • Products Iranian traditional bricks by Heidari, lasercut aluminum stencils
Another challenge for the project team was the dimensional stability of the brick units. For this facade, three different colors and dimensions (from 7.5 inches to 8 inches) are incorporated due to a handmade manufacturing process that yields variation based on heat exposure from location in the kiln. Naghavi says the brick laying method was able to accommodate this diversity by prioritizing a clean starting and ending point at the corners of the facade. “You need to align the outer corner of the brick with inside of the stencil, and that’s all that matters. This will result in a change in the width of the vertical bonds which does not matter because they already are a mess.” Negative Precision challenges a “surplus precision” of digital fabrication, which typically drives up project cost. “A considerable part of building industry functions with lower precision, and uses production methods of the last century. In other words, digital technology is a luxury, though it may not be revealed in the first glance,” said Naghavi in an interview with AN. “Precision fetishism is generally interesting as it is a phenomenon everybody is struggling with in some level, whether in buildings or raising a kid. Apparently as a group of mammals we like organizing, and we are very capable of liking it too much.” By allowing for some degree of error in the translation between his digital model and the built form, Naghavi has prioritized economy over precision, embracing a "lo-fi" approach to digital fabrication: “I avoided an accurate 3-D model, not only for my own laziness, but also for generalizing the design method and unbinding it from the 3-D model. The builder is left on site with a new tool.” Naghavi said his work actually consists of three parallel projects: a building, a method, and a paper. “I think the more we move away from the matter [the built work] toward words, the result becomes more important as it will have a longer life.” Naghavi says the paper has taken more time than the building. “This brick project is a very small outcome of the strategies discussed in the paper.” To continue the discussion, another significant artifact of the project—the 17 lasercut aluminum stencils—are up for sale on sstudiomm's website, which offers a DIY kit geared towards design professionals.

An architecture course built around Burning Man and students finding ways to fund their projects

Each year, the Burning Man festival held in the Black Rock desert of Nevada attracts fantastical sculptures of all shapes and sizes. Joshua Potter, a fifth year student at the University of Westminster in London, is hoping that his structure "PURSUIT" will make to this years festival. Part of his studio assignment, PURSUIT follows a parametric approach—and an emphasis on self-reliance to fund student projects—that has become synonymous with his studio unit. Run by tutors Arthur Mamou-Mani and Toby Burgess, the studio, named DS10, has garnered a strong pedigree for complex designs. However, DS10's primary approach, according to Potter is about producing "happy and fun" architecture that also relies on rigorous testing such as model making and digital fabrication. “The studio's philosophy is to involve students as much as possible in the design, fabrication and construction process" the two said. "We chose Burning Man for its ten guiding principles which include ‘Radical Self-Reliance,’ ‘Radical Self-Expression,’ ‘Leave no trace,’ and ‘communal effort.’ This meant playful and climbable structures, fully built by us as a team in a way that wouldn't harm the local environment.” Within the past five years, DS10 has submitted over 80 projects to the Global Arts Grant of Burning Man. As a result, six proposals have been provided funding through the scheme, notably Fractal Cult and Shipwreck constructed in 2013 and Hayam in 2014. Students are heavily encouraged to seek funding for their projects either through the Global Arts Grant or Kickstarter, to see their projects realized. "They try and make it a lot of fun, but it's a lot of work!" said Potter, who also added that DS10's ethos has taught many students, including himself about being independent and self reliant. His project brief, meanwhile, called for a project that could respond to a social agenda, through a set of parameters. As a result, PURSUIT was born. Deriving from a mathematical theory known as "pursuit curvature," a system that relies on inputs and thresholds. Potter used the shape of an arrowhead and formed the idea of six arrowheads pointing towards the center. Using the this algorithmically, an iterative process forces certain points to move in accordance with each other. "With Pursuit Curvature, each point starts at a unique position of a polygon, and moves incrementally towards the nearest adjacent point until they all converge in the centre. The path travelled is directly influenced by the points around it, so the final curves represent the effects all of the points have on one another as a group," he explains. On his Kickstarter page, he goes on to say that his project "celebrates humanity's ongoing quest for Peace, Freedom and Joy - in Life, Love and Art" aiming to "create an interactive and unique sculptural playground for visitors."
  The design forms three interconnected spaces that offer unique perspectives of their surrounding and interior spatial arrangements. Potter adds that this encourages "playful interaction" and allows visitors to climb up the and around the structure while also providing a "space for personal reflection and communal gathering." If Potter's $25,575 dream is realized, PURSUIT will be burnt to the ground when Burning Man is over, perhaps symbolizing the final end of the "pursuit."

Energy strategist Sangeetha Divakar on the role of digital techniques in facade design

Digital techniques including parametrization play an increasingly important role in the work of many architects, engineers, and builders, especially those involved in the design and fabrication of high performance facades. "Parametrization is a critical path for facade design," observed Perkins+Will energy strategist Sangeetha Divakar. "A choice set of digital tools are being used to achieve this, especially when design options are optimized in response to several end goal parameters." Divakar will share lessons learned from her work in Seattle and elsewhere next week at Facades+AM Seattle. Her co-presenters on "Combined Modeling Efforts for the Optimized Facade: Models, Methods, Materials" include Morrison Hershfield principal Stéphane Hoffman and Richard Green, of Front, Inc. As someone particularly attuned to environmental performance, said Divakar, "What excites me the most in facade systems optimization now is that the line demarcating design parametrization and energy analysis parametrization is fast disappearing." But while the worlds of aesthetics and energy analysis are more integrated than ever, gaps remain elsewhere. In particular, Divakar pinpointed a need for "a direct integration of facade parametrization with engineering parametrization." Hear more about cutting-edge digital design tools including parametrization from Divakar, Hoffman, and Green on December 4 at Facades+AM Seattle. The symposium, a half-day version of the popular Facades+ conference series, features three sessions on hot topics in facade design and construction, with a special focus on designing and building for the Pacific Northwest. Learn more and register today at the Facades+AM website.

SOM’s Neil Katz on parametric modeling in facade design

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) associate Neil Katz describes his approach to crafting facades as involving a “computational design” methodology. In computational design, the architect generates solutions to a particular problem by first defining a set of rules and criteria for the model. Though the many tools Katz uses during this process include intangibles like “a desire to explore as many valid options as possible” and his office’s collaborative environment, in many instances he also performs literal computation—specifically, parametric modeling. Katz will moderate a panel on “Creating Complex Facades with Parametric Control” at next month’s Facades+ Chicago symposium. On day two of the conference, he and SOM colleague Joel Putnam will lead a dialog workshop on “New Techniques in Parametric Design." Parametric modeling can be the means to several ends, explained Katz. First, it can be used to explore a building’s massing, taking into account constraints like program, site, climate, context, and the overarching design concept. When applied to facade panelization, meanwhile, parametric control works with a different set of rules, including the relative flatness of the facade or the desire for regularity or other panel properties. Finally, observed Katz, “analysis and simulation, and visualization of the results, is also part of the parametric process—and can be a parametric process in its own right.” Katz’s affinity for parametric design is in part an outgrowth of his interest in programming. “Even in school, but especially when I started working at SOM, this ability became a natural part of creating models, and performing many of the tasks I was given,” he said. During the 1980s, as a design student enrolled in computer science courses, he was an anomaly. But that may be changing. “For many years, engineers [also had to have] some expertise at programming to do their work,” said Katz. “That’s becoming true for architects as well. I would say that most architecture students are now interested in acquiring and using this skill.” He has observed a similar shift among his fellow architects at SOM. “More and more, my colleagues are building their own models, and my contribution is helping to develop a strategy to make the model as powerful and flexible as possible,” said Katz. Like Katz, his co-panelists are working to solve some of the challenges inherent to parametric design, including the time it takes to perform the various analyses. Tristan d’Estrée Sterk, of Formsolver and ORAMBRA, is “currently developing a tool (Formsolver) which will allow architects to easily optimize a building’s form and material use as little energy as necessary,” said Katz. Matthew Shaxted will also join the conversation. Parallel.Works, the firm he co-founded, gives AEC industry professionals access to the computing power necessary to perform many of the analyses described above. “Parallel.Works does not create new tools, as Formsolver does, but allows people to use existing tools in a more powerful way,” observed Katz. Thornton Tomasetti vice president Hauke Jungjohann is the third member of the panel. A specialist in parametric modeling, form optimization, and digital information transfer, Jungjohann leads the Facade Engineering practice for the firm’s East U.S. Region. Hear from Katz, d’Estrée Sterk, Shaxted, Jungjohann, and other leaders in the field of building envelope design and fabrication November 5-6 at Facades+ Chicago. Learn more and register today by visiting the Facades+ website.

The Metamorphosis: Marc Fornes breaks ground on a parametric amphitheater in Maryland

On September 12, New York–based practice Marc Fornes/Theverymany broke ground on its largest project to date, the Chrysalis Amphitheater project. The parametric structure's fluid form is intended to define a public space and live performance venue for outdoor gigs and shows. https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=3&v=cAphf_W4kYE With its classic Marc Fornes aesthetic of scale-like parts forming a larger mass, the transitional space has a form resembling a Taxodium distichum (the Swamp Cypress tree commonly grows in eastern U.S. marshland). The enormous roots create a multifunctional space with the back of the stage being available for children's performances and other openings facilitating the loading and unloading of goods for the performances. Located in Meriwether Park, Columbia, MD, the project currently has a budget of $3.1 million and is set for completion in 2016. The scheme's versatility is aided by the use of various arched openings and a grand proscenium framing the stage. Inside its scaly skin, a system of lightweight aluminum supports, itself with an organic organizational system, holds up the amphitheater shell. The undulating curves and pleated forms contribute to the structural integrity of the design, allowing it to support a substantial light rig above the stage which will serve the performance spaces. While the scheme almost feels like a temporary installation, like many of the designer's projects before, the Chrysalis is embedded firmly into a concrete foundation. Outside of events and concerts, the structure can be used as a shelter from rain and provide shading during the summer. When the stage is not in use, the space's wooden decking is easily adaptable as a destination for social gatherings and public interaction. Seating arrangements and the layout of the arches frame views across the city, creating a calm environment that dramatically contrasts to its alter-ego as a gig venue. Marc Fornes/Theveryman said that Chrysalis' distinct shape is achieved via mesh inflation, a form-finding process. As can be seen in the video below, the structure is almost stretched from its anchoring base points on the ground which are also the nodes of the arches, thus allowing it to look as if some parts are billowing in the wind. These anchor points are also carefully spaced around the trees in the immediate vicinity, which appears to give its woody surroundings a mark of respect. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSRAKL9laH8 Finally, the complex structure has been colored in hues of bright green as a reaction to its setting in the park. The luminosity and brightness of these tones however, separate it from its natural environment, allowing it to stand out notifying passers by of its presence.

Australian architects get planning approval for skyscraper based on Beyoncé’s curves

Piggybacking off the axiom that sex sells and anything Beyoncé-related has the potential to break the Internet, Australian architecture firm Elenberg Fraser has nabbed planning approval for a “Beyoncé tower” inspired by the superstar’s hourglass form. The Premiere Tower in Melbourne features an undulating shape that swells in and out at various points – purportedly a concession to “structural efficiency” in response to climate, wind, and “the limitations of the site.” To develop the unique form, the architects used parametric modeling, a type of responsive, computer-guided design where users can program in site-specific data so that the design corrects itself proportional to site constraints. “This project is the culmination of our significant research. The complex form – a vertical cantilever – is actually the most effective way to redistribute the building’s mass, giving best results in terms of structural dispersion, frequency oscillation and wind requirements,” Elenberg Fraser insists in a statement. More specifically, the 68-story structure is inspired by the dancers in Queen B’s music video, Ghost, released separately from her single ‘Haunted’ off her 2013 self-titled album. In it, naked dancers attempt to escape from cocoons of stretchy white fabric that adhere to their svelte figures, creating – if one were to really push it – amorphous towers of curve and sinew. Jokes have abounded over the Internet about the appealing possibility of living in Beyoncé's famous posterior. “For those more on the art than science side, we will reveal that the form does pay homage to something more aesthetic. We’re going to trust that you’ve seen the music video for Beyoncé’s Ghost,” say the architects. Located at 134 Spencer Street at the west end of Melbourne’s central business district, the tower will contain 660 apartments and 160 hotel rooms. The entire structure will be mounted on a stepped podium to be occupied by retail tenants. Public house the Savoy Tavern, which reopened in 2014 after being derelict for nearly 20 years, will be demolished to make way for the tower. Presently, the entire precinct will be replanned, with the goal of respecting its heritage buildings. “The whole precinct is designed with a more long-term view to urban design, creating a self-sustaining development,” says Elenberg Fraser. Construction for the $350 million project is estimated at 40 months, with no completion date yet announced. Meanwhile, controversy has ensued over the building’s potential to overshadow nearby Batman Park and the north bank of the Yarra River. The skyscraper, whose “spiraling curves recall the twists and turns of a woman dancing in black cloth,” joins the dubious leagues of MAD’s curvaceous, twisting skyscrapers in Mississauga, Canada, dubbed the “Marilyn Monroe towers” by local residents. The Chinese firm insists that the design arose as an “organic” antithesis to the boxy typology of urban buildings. With backup dancers becoming the architectural inspiration du jour, perhaps we can next expect a building modeled after Katy Perry’s Left Shark, AKA the Super Bowl Halftime Shark, which recently spawned a lookalike iPhone case designed by Perry herself.

TEX-FAB explores new frontiers in high performance facade design

The motto of Houston architecture, civic art, and product design firm METALAB is "finding new and better ways to build things." In addition to forming the core of his professional practice, this mission aptly describes principal Andrew Vrana's work with the Texas digital design and production network TEX-FAB. "We align emerging designers working with contemporary digital design techniques with companies who are experts in digital fabrication to build experimental architectural assemblies that push the capabilities of all parties," he explained. At next week's Facades+AM Houston symposium, Vrana will share his perspective on new techniques and materials in high performance building envelopes through the lens of TEX-FAB's annual design and fabrication competition. The theme of each TEX-FAB competition reflects the community's commitment to exploding the limits of conventional architecture practice. "We have recently been interested in materials that allow for plasticity in form and performance," said Vrana. Hence the title of the 2014 competition, PLASTICITY. The winning project, by computational design specialist Justin Diles, is called Plastic Stereotomy, and explores the use of composites in construction. After taking first prize in the small-scale prototype round, Diles teamed up with Kreysler & Associates to build a full-scale pavilion for this year's TEX-FAB conference in Houston. (The pavilion also traveled to the AIA convention in Atlanta.) Past competition winners have similarly paired with industry experts to bring their concepts to fruition. For the 2013 SKIN competition, for instance, TEX-FAB put the winning team—a group associated with the University at Buffalo, with materials sponsor Rigidized Metals—in touch with Zahner "to construct an innovative facade prototype using patterned sheet metal folded into complex origami-like modules," explained Vrana. Hear more about TEX-FAB's approach to digital design and fabrication at Facades+AM Houston June 18. Register today and see a full list of presenters on the event website.

Visions of Plasticity: TEX-FAB 2015 probes into new digital fabrication technologies

This year’s TEX-FAB symposium in Houston continued the digital fabrication alliance’s exploration of new frontiers and technologies in the field by investigating the latest developments in 3D printing and composites. The three-day conference ended on March 26, where top designs from TEX-FAB’s Plasticity competition were identified and displayed at the University of Houston Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture, with a spotlight on winner Justin DilesPlasticity Stereotomy. The project explores cohesion and stacking of stereotomic blocks traditionally used in masonry. Enlisting FEM software, Diles, assistant professor of architecture at Ohio State University, created asymmetrical “bricks” from fiberglass composites to explore different volumetric tessellations. “The brick is the most obvious stack. He’s looking at a different strategy of stacking,” said Kory Bieg, TEX-FAB co-director and assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Architecture. “Because of the form it distributes the load differently and you don’t need the joints and glue that a brick uses. It’s also very lightweight.” Keynote speaker Ronald Rael, CEO of self-described “make tank” Emerging Objects, presented his latest experiments with using concrete, wood and even salt from the San Francisco bay in 3D printing. “Because they brought the price down so much they’re able to print [items] on an actual building scale,” said Bieg. This year’s digital fabrication and design workshops for students and practicing architects aimed to present the latest research on parametric modeling within academic, professional and fabrication communities. Sophisticated new software, such as Monolith, enables architects to generate 3D models that contain instructions for fabrication, thereby eliminating the disconnect between ideas that look great on paper or on AutoCAD and those that hold water once fabricated. “You can draw circles all day in CAD but you don’t know if the location in space is correct in relation to the other parts. The way this software works is it uses a node-based computer language or interface. What that means is instead of drawing a circle using AutoCAD, you create the circle based on parameters. And because you input all the data precisely into the design of these forms and shapes, the computer will give you feedback along the way and tell you if something’s wrong in the algorithm,” said Bieg, who taught a workshop called Introduction to Grasshopper.

Höweler+Yoon combine cutting-edge tech and age-old craft to complete the Sean Collier Memorial at MIT

On April 18th, 2013, the Boston Marathon bombers went on a crime spree that included the killing of Officer Sean Collier who was shot in the line of duty on the MIT campus. In honor of the slain MIT patrol officer, the university commissioned Boston-based Höweler+Yoon Architecture to design the Sean Collier Memorial—a somber, grey stone structure that marks the site of the tragedy. The heaviness of the unreinforced, fully compressive masonry structure is meant to convey the concept of “Collier Strong,” or strength through unity. Thirty-two solid blocks of granite form a contemporary version of a five-way vault. "Our goal was to not post-tension the structure, to make it compressive and use solid blocks," Höweler + Yoon principle Meejin Yoon told AN, "It could have been built out of concrete or steel, but we wanted solid blocks." The large stone pieces were digitally designed and fabricated to work as a self-supporting structural system. Forces are translated into form via a robust combination of cutting-edge computational processes and ancient techniques for making masonry structural spans. The stones were precisely milled within a .5 millimeter tolerance, so that they fit together perfectly to form a compression ring with a keystone that caps the shallow masonry arches. In the center of the buttressed vaults is a covered space for reflection. The buttresses act as walls that extend out to the surrounding campus context. The novel concept required many moving parts to work in harmony. "It is very pure. It is a simple idea," Yoon said. "It took so much collaboration to make this simple idea have the integrity that it did. There were students from 8 degree programs, including a PhD student, undergraduate architecture, undergrads in building technology, and grads in engineering and architecture." Engineering and design were intricately linked form beginning to end. The whole design process was influenced by a feedback loop of physical, analog, and digital models as well as digital simulation. Massive quarried blocks of stone were cut with a single-axis robotic block saw, then with a multiple axis KUKA 500 robot. Robotic milling processes made the tiny tolerances possible. Some of the blocks took as long as seven days to carve, with machines running 24 hours. Often, the cutting tools would wear down, causing the tolerances to change mid-fabrication. The team compensated by altering the digital model and then the next piece would change to match what had been previously carved IRL. Sensors were placed at each joint as the project was assembled on site. As stonemasons placed the high-tech monoliths into the 32-part final assembly, the structure was a choreographed symphony of new technology and timeless craft. The legible visualization of forces is parallel with the MIT ethos of openness and transparency, while the poetic nature of a dry masonry vault represents togetherness of the community in recovery. The project team also included structural engineer Knippers Helbig- Stuttgart, masonry consultant Ochsendorf DeJong and Block Consulting Engineers, landscape architect Richard Burck Associates, civil engineer Nitsch Engineering, geotechnical engineer McPhail Associates, lighting designer Horton Lees Brogden Lighting Design, and electrical engineer AHA Consulting Engineers.

Plan for a parametric townhouse of undulating brick “flames” is rekindled in Tribeca

Getting the blessing of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission can be a tricky thing. Typically, your best bet is to go contextual: stick with historic materials and keep the modern ornamentation to a minimum. That is clearly not the approach that SYSTEMarchitects' Jeremy Edmiston took for a parametrically designed Tribeca townhouse in search of facelift. The existing two-story structure 187 Franklin is not historically significant, but since it sits within a historic district, Edmiston didn't have carte blanche for the owners requested two story addition and setback penthouse. While the architect nods to Tribeca’s history with a primarily brick facade, he doesn’t try to replicate the building’s neighbors. At all. Instead, he assembles a new facade in such a way that it makes the new townhouse appear as if it is entirely engulfed in flames. Home-y? Maybe not. Interesting? Undeniably. Landmark Preservation Commission approved? Unanimously. That approval came back in 2011 and now the Tribeca Citizen is reporting that the project "is back." Edminston told AN that construction is already underway and that the project is slated to be completed in December. The structure’s parametric facade frees bricks from their expected pattern and weaves them into what appear as dancing flames. Between these “flames” are angled windows intended to bring in light while preserving privacy for the family of four. Each floor also gets a steel, mesh-like balcony.