Competition winner uses composite materials to re-imagine Semper's primitive hut.The title of TEX-FAB's fourth annual competition—Plasticity—has a double meaning. It refers first to the concept at the core of the competition brief: the capacity of parametric design and digital fabrication to manifest new formal possibilities. But it also alludes to the material itself, fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP). “Plastics have the potential to push contemporary architecture beyond the frame-plus-cladding formula dominant since at least the 19th century,” said competition winner Justin Diles. Pointing to traditional stonecutting and vault work, he said, "I'm very interested in this large volumetric mode of construction, but I'm not at all interested in the stone. I think that composites probably offer the best way of addressing this old yet new mode of constructing architecture." Diles' proposal, Plastic Stereotomy, builds on his work as a KSA fellow at The Ohio State University. But where his earlier Eigenforms were two-dimensional freestanding walls, Diles' Plastic Stereotomy pavilion—which he will build at scale during the coming months—is fully three-dimensional. Inspired by teaching tools designed by Robert le Ricolais, Diles used a finite element analysis 3D modeling plugin to simulate surface buckling by superimposing volumes onto one another. "Those pieces are voluptuous; they create a lot of poché [thickness] as they overlap with one another," Diles observed. While the plugin developed by his friend was critical to the design process, Diles remained focused throughout on the end goal of fabrication. "What I'm really looking at is how we can use simulation to think about issues of construction rather than just optimization," he said. Custom fabrication shop Kreysler & Associates will provide technical support as Diles moves from design to construction. Diles cites the fire-resistant FRP cladding developed by Kreysler for Snøhetta's SFMOMA as an example of how composite materials can ease the transition from two-dimensional to volumetric design. "Even though the project still adheres to Gottfried Semper's model of a lightweight frame and cladding, the panels don't have a frame expression," he said. "They're massive, with ripples and indentations. They point to a new way of thinking about architectural surface and enclosure." Kreysler and Diles will work together to streamline the techniques he used to build his competition prototype, a scaled-down section of the Plastic Stereotomy pavilion. (Bollinger + Grohmann will provide additional structural and material engineering support.) For the mockup, Diles used a 5-axis CNC mill to shape EPS foam molds onto which he layered up FRP cloth. He then removed the pieces from the molds, painted them, and glued and bolted them together, adding stiffeners to the open-backed components. Because the FRP is so light, he used two solid foam blocks to weigh down the structure. "I'm interested in working with Kreysler around thinking through production to make it more efficient," said Diles. For the fabricators, the TEX-FAB collaboration represents another step in Kreysler's journey from boat-building to other applications of composite materials, including architecture. "We're excited to work on this with Justin," said Kreysler's Josh Zabel. "It's exciting to see designers put fresh eyes on these materials we're devoted to." Plastic Stereotomy will be on display at TEX-FAB 2015 Houston at the University of Houston College of Architecture, March 26-29. The conference will feature workshops, lectures, and an exhibition on the theme of Plasticity.
Posts tagged with "plastics":
Plastics was the key word at the recent Columbia conference "Permanent Change: Plastics in Architecture and Engineering," which featured some of the best architects working with polymers today. On opening night, Greg Lynn did away with traditional tectonics in favor of total composite design from recycled toys to beautiful racing boats. Several pieces were on display in the lobby, including a beautiful backlit ribbed column cover designed by Columbia associate professor Yoshiko Sato (assisted by Shuning Zhao and John Hooper). Sato, who's known for her NASA design research and space course at Columbia, also designed the two over-sized plastic inflatable flowers suspended from the lobby ceiling, as shown above. The composite designs will be up and on view at the Morningside Heights campus at least another week.
Reminiscent of the ever-so-popular jelly shoes of the 1980s, and more recent incarnations such as Marc Jacobs Rubber Ballet Flat Shoes which debuted in 2007, Italian furniture powerhouse Kartell, internationally renowned for modern furniture design in plastics, and young Italian fashion label .normaluisa recently released a shoe collection of plastic ballerina flats aptly called “Glue Cinderella.” Combining Kartell’s innovative technology with .normaluisa’s youthful design sensibility their latest collaboration offers classic style with an edgy vibe. In a statement released about the new partnership, Lorenza Luti, the company’s 30-year-old marketing and retail manager and mind behind the project said, “Kartell is not merely a design company, but an authentic lifestyle brand. It has been the leading brand in experimentation with plastics for sixty years and has made transparency its trademark. Consequently, when I started to think about a range of shoes, it was natural to give the product our imprint.” Giving the shoe its imprint is just what Kartell did. Made from an injection-molding technology that allows for the creation of two-tone shoes combining transparent and opaque materials, the shoe is available in a variety of shades including neutral beige, deep blue, white, red, violet, green, and crystalline. For $135, you can slip into a pair of your own. The sticky slippers are on sale now at Kartell flagship stores and select boutiques in New York City and throughout the world.