Durotaxis rocker features gradient mesh informed by function, ergonomics, and aesthetics.For Synthesis Design + Architecture founding principal Alvin Huang, there is a lot to love about 3D printing. But he does not always like how the technology is applied. "I see it all the time—a lot of students just 3D print everything," said Huang, who also teaches at the USC School of Architecture. "You see things that could have been done better, faster, or cleaner by hand. I find it a very troublesome predicament we're in, we're letting the tool dictate." When Stratasys contacted Synthesis about designing a piece for their Objet500 Connex3 printer, the architects decided to turn the relationship between human and machine on its head. Instead of asking how they could implement a preconceived design using the Objet printer, they challenged themselves to create something that could only be manufactured using this particular tool. Durotaxis Chair, a prototype of which debuted at the ACADIA 2014 conference, showcases Objet's multi-material 3D printing capabilities with a gradient mesh that visually communicates the rocker's function and ergonomics. Though Synthesis designed the Durotaxis Chair almost entirely in the digital realm, said Huang, "we see the computer very much as an intuitive tool, the same way previous generations thought of the pencil. We try to find a happy medium between the scientific aspect, and the intuitive manipulation of that science." The architects bounced among multiple software programs including Rhino, Grasshopper, Weaverbird, ZBrush, and Maya to craft a form that operates in two positions: upright, as a traditional rocking chair, and horizontally, as a lounger. The chair's structure comprises an interwoven mesh of two materials, one rigid, opaque, and cyan in color, the other flexible, translucent, and white. While the resultant gradients reflect both the physics and ergonomics of the chair, they also deliver an intended aesthetic effect, creating a moiré pattern that encourages the observer to move around the chair. "It wasn't the case of the code creating the form," explained Huang. "We very clearly sculpted it for visual and ergonomic properties." Stratasys manufactured the half-scale prototype at their headquarters in Israel. Unlike a typical 3D printer, which has one head with one nozzle, the Object contains two heads with 96 nozzles each. Using proprietary substances the company calls "digital material," said Huang, "you can print a matrix of gradients between those two heads. In our case, we were able to create gradients not just of color, but also stiffness and transparency." Synthesis remained in constant touch with the Stratasys team throughout fabrication, fine-tuning the design as problems arose. "It was also an experimental process for them," said Huang. "Ultimately, through a lot of back and forth, we were able to arrive at something they were able to print." Synthesis is now tweaking their design for a full-scale version of Durotaxis Chair. The principal challenge they encountered while fabricating the prototype, explained Huang, was an excess of support mesh. "It's still a big manual process. You have to remove all of the support material." The updated design will take advantage of the team's finding that, by printing vertically up to a certain angle, they can eliminate the need for support mesh. "We're trying to take it a step further," said Huang. "How do we expedite the process, and refine the geometry of the lattice so that you're changing direction before the material starts to droop? We're trying to do something where, in a sense, we're growing the chair." Despite his discontent with the way some young practitioners approach 3D printing, Huang thinks that the technology holds great promise, especially in the world of architecture. He points to some of his contemporaries, like fellow Angeleno and architect/jewelry designer Jenny Wu, who is taking 3D printing in exciting new directions. "When you think about architecture and design, most of what we do is the assembly of products, and the more bespoke you can make them, the better," said Huang. "I look at 3D printing as a shift from rapid prototyping to rapid manufacturing. Hopefully someday we can produce bespoke items for the same impact as mass-produced items—that is the theoretical holy grail."
Posts tagged with "Rhino":
Endless table materializes intra-office connectivity in plywood, MDF, and epoxy.When Culver City-based Clive Wilkinson Architects (CWA) sat down with representatives of the Barbarian Group to discuss renovating the advertising agency's new 20,000-square-foot office, one word kept coming up: connection. "Before, they were all in offices designed for one person, but crammed five in each, and scattered," recalled associate principal Chester Nielsen. "It was a pain. Bringing everyone into the open, and having them feel like they were all connected was super important." The architects elected to "surgically gut" the leased New York Garment District loft to create a central workspace for between 125-175 employees. To materialize the theme of connection, they zeroed in on the idea of a single work surface, an endless table later christened the Superdesk. With 4,400 square feet of epoxy-coated surface atop a support structure comprising 870 unique laser-cut plywood panels, the Superdesk is a triumph of programmatic creativity. "Building a big table was not an obvious solution," said Nielsen, "but it's a simple one." The Superdesk began as a series of sketches by president Clive Wilkinson. "Upon first impression we got to this squiggly table," said Nielsen. "It worked really well. Honestly, we've just been refining that." The table's undulating surface lifts and lowers, to indicate subtle divisions between departments, and to create arched overpasses above intra-office "cow paths." The grotto-like spaces under the archways double as intimate gathering areas for up to eight people. From the sketches, the architects built two physical models—the first rough, the second more refined—before taking the design into Revit and Rhino. There they further fine-tuned the form and prepared it for fabrication by Machineous LLC. "Machineous wanted the project very much; they were a good partner on this," said Nielsen. "We worked back and forth to tweak what we needed to make the table constructible." Machineous laser-cut the component parts, including the plywood ribs that shape the Superdesk's archways, using vintage automotive-industry robots. Machineous flat-packed the cut pieces and shipped them to New York, where the desk was assembled on site. The Superdesk's walls are framed in 2-by-4 lumber faced with plywood; plate steel brackets connect the various wood elements. Machineous bonded the MDF tabletop and painted it a shimmering white to give it the appearance of a single connected surface. The crowning achievement of the fabrication process—and the literal polish on the project—was a continuous epoxy pour, completed by rotating teams over a 24-hour period. Despite the complications inherent to prefabricating and installing a massive piece of furniture on opposite coasts, CWA and Machineous managed to deliver their innovative take on contemporary office culture both on time and within Barbarian Group's tight budget. "Something quite notable from the perspectives of both design and fabrication is that it's the same cost as going to Office Depot" for conventional desks, noted Nielsen. What is more, with plenty of surface area for laptops and the other, increasingly minimal, accoutrements of the modern workplace, and with a data and power track built into its walls, the Superdesk "is very, very flexible," he said. "Unlike a typical office [layout], it can change in a day."
Collaborative installation translates sound into motion.When Brooklyn-based design and fabrication studio The Principals began collaborating with musician Dev Hynes on Ancient Chaos, a sound reactive installation commissioned by speaker company Sonos, they had only a vague sense of the project's goals. "The general concept was that we wanted to create an architecture that was fluid like sound, and to create sounds that were architectural," said co-founder Seskunas. "We wanted to have an installation that was both of those things but neither—a very ephemeral, nebulous concept of what sound and architecture could be." Then Seskunas went surfing with a friend, and, in between sets, found himself mesmerized by the ever-changing play of sunlight on the ocean. "Could we create an architecture that had this quality to it?" he questioned. Constructed from 6,000 individual pieces of Mylar set in motion by high-powered stepper motors, Ancient Chaos answers Seskunas' question in the affirmative. The installation, which debuted at New York's Neuehouse last year, is a moving meditation on the relationship between sound and space. Over the course of a two-month ideas exchange with Hynes, who composed an original piece for the installation and performed at its opening, The Principals started by sketching and creating photo collages of bodies of water. They then revisited a mechanical system developed for an earlier project, which involved assembling flat pieces of paper into an accordion panel. When suspended and set in motion, the panel created gradient waves and apertures that closed and opened. But while the primary focus of the earlier installation had been the apertures, for Ancient Chaos "we wanted to focus on the surface quality [of the form], and to highlight different two-dimensional curvatures," said Seskunas. They also swapped out the paper for silver-coated Mylar, which—while difficult to obtain in the quantities and thickness the designers required—offered an intriguing combination of reflectiveness and stiffness. Site constraints (Neuehouse is a private club, to which the designers had only limited access) required The Principals to design and build a free-standing aluminum support system for the 8-foot by 36-foot canopy. Working in Rhino and Autodesk Inventor, "we created a pretty intricate structure," said Seskunas. "We had a complicated digital model for each part." They unitized the Mylar form into 4-foot by 8-foot panels, each of which was assembled from thousands of die-cut Mylar pieces and transparent Popco fasteners. To translate Hynes' music into motion, The Principals attached a series of stepper motors to the top of the installation. The motors are in turn connected to a frequency analyzer that splits the sound into seven frequencies. When a particular frequency occurs, a custom program directs motors on the corresponding area of the canopy to oscillate. A boom mic picks up ambient sound, which is likewise split and transformed into directions for the stepper motors. "You see the speed and oscillations" across the installation, said Seskunas. "It pulls apart the threads of the sound, and manifests them in movement." One of the most striking features of the installation (which has since been relocated to Sonos' permanent studio in Los Angeles) is also one of the less choreographed. Static lights above the moving canopy shine down through the transparent acrylic fasteners to create an effect not unlike that Seskunas witnessed from his surfboard. "It's beautiful how they transmit light," he said of the fasteners. "We were really excited about that."
Parabola cantilever walkway delivers park visitors to the brink.Concerned that visitors to Canada's national parks were becoming increasingly disengaged from both the experience of the outdoors and the reality of climate change, Parks Canada launched a search for private-sector initiatives to reverse the trend toward drive-through tourism. Brewster Travel Canada answered the call with a limited design competition for a walkable structure in Jasper National Park's Sunwapta Valley. "One of the bus drivers suggested that we do something over this particular gorge, Trickle Creek Canyon—something that could be suspended off the side of the mountain that brought visitors into a more intimate relationship with the Athabasca Glacier and its melting," explained Sturgess Architecture principal Jeremy Sturgess. With design-build team lead PCL Construction Management and structural engineer Read Jones Christoffersen (RJC), Sturgess' firm crafted a cantilevered walkway that, clad in weathering steel and glass, defers to its natural surroundings while providing breathtaking views of the glacier and valley floor. Though not a facade itself, Glacier Skywalk warrants discussion within the context of high-performance building envelopes for its innovative structure and streamlined approach to materials—the "+" in Facades+. Though the expected solution to the competition brief was a suspension bridge or other high-masted element, "we thought as a team that this approach would not be appropriate to the site," recalled Sturgess. "As much as we were going to make something courageous and heroic, we also wanted it to be subtle." RJC's Simon Brown came up with the idea of a parabola cantilever that draws visitors 35 meters beyond the face of the cliff. Sturgess Architecture focused on minimizing the material palette, relying primarily on Corten and glass, plus gabion mats filled with local rocks and concrete on the adjoining interpretive walk. "The idea was that the Corten would emulate the ferric oxide outcropping that you see on the existing mountainside," said Sturgess. "We wanted the whole element to feel fractal and extruded from the mountainside. As much as it was clearly manmade, it was to be as sensitive to the local environment as possible." Glacier Skywalk's signature design element is its glass floor, constructed in three layers—two structural, the third designed to be easily replaced if broken or otherwise damaged. "I'm a little nervous about walking on glass floors," admitted Sturgess. Several times he suggested replacing the glass with an opaque material to save money, but the rest of the team refused to let go. "Normally when I've worked in design-build, the gun is to our head and the finger's on the trigger," said Sturgess. "In this case, every time we suggested, 'We can save money here,' everyone on the design team was so in love with the concept, we couldn't lose anything lightly." Sturgess Architecture swapped Rhino models with PCL, RJC, and Heavy Industries, who formed all of the Corten work, throughout the design development phase. "I've never gone through such an extraordinary hands-on design process working with the actual craftsman of the solution," said Sturgess. "This iterative process of working with the team as we crafted every piece kind of by hand—though on the computer—is what led to the success of the project." In combination with its geologically inspired cladding, Glacier Skywalk's minimal structure delivers an illusion of weightlessness that only adds to the sense of exposure. The curvature of the walkway allowed RJC to install a nearly invisible cable suspension system to counterbalance its outward propulsion. "It expresses the thrust from the mountainside, and it does it in a way that makes it feel like a really integral fit with the [landscape]," said Sturgess. "The success is that it's not too much."
Undulating birch walls create pockets of privacy in an apartment building lobby.When Boston design and fabrication firm Radlab began work on Clefs Moiré, the permanent installation in the lobby of One North of Boston in Chelsea, Massachusetts, they had relatively little to go on. They knew that the apartment building's developer wanted a pair of walls of a certain size to activate the lobby space, but that was about it. "Normally we get more information, so we can come up with a story—a concept based on the building and its requirement," said Radlab's Matt Trimble. "For this we pulled back and said, we have an opportunity to be a little more abstract about how we approach this conceptually." Inspired by moiré patterning and a harpsichord composition by J.S. Bach, the team designed and built two slatted birch walls whose undulating surfaces embody a dialog between transparency and opacity. The client's interest in achieving moments of privacy within a public space led Radlab to moiré patterning, the phenomenon in which a third pattern emerges when two other semi-transparent patterns are superimposed on one another. Trimble compares the moiré effect to standing in a cornfield. "It's not until that moment when you look at it from the perpendicular that you see the rows of corn," he said. "When you look to either side, the crossing prevents you from seeing depths." The designers decided to think about the two walls as a single volume that would later be split. "There's this potential for reading it as a single wall when you look at it from different perspectives," explained Trimble. "This made sense because the project is about viewpoint. If you're perpendicular to the wall, you see straight through it." Radlab began with a traditional approach to moiré patterning, playing with identical vertical components set askew to one another. Then they looked at J.S. Bach's Partita No. 2 in B-flat Major: Gigue. Bach's challenging composition requires the performer to cross his or her hands, the left hand playing the treble clef while the right hand plays the bass. "That became an inspiration for a way to structure and organize the two walls," said Trimble. "To think of one as being the result of a bass set of wavelengths, and the other as a treble set." The designers realized that they could modulate the metaphorical wavelengths across both the vertical and horizontal sections to create an interesting, and varied, third element. "That's where the Gigue became influential," said Trimble. "It gave us a way to create a rhythm in the wall that would pace itself." The team relied heavily on Rhino and Grasshopper both to design the installation and to plan fabrication. "We would create various iterations in 3D modeling software, then disassemble them into the flat XY plane and try to understand: how would we actually build this?" said Trimble. Simpson Gumpertz & Heger's Paul Kassabian provided crucial help with structural engineering, including designing a base plate that is invisible except when the wall is viewed from a 90-degree angle. Radlab CNC-milled the wood slats and spacers before coating them with varnish. "Fabrication was long and arduous, but it challenged us in really great ways," said Trimble. The group developed a hanging mechanism to efficiently apply fire retardant to the ribs. To prevent varnish from adhering to the points of connection between the ribs and spacers, they fabricated each spacer twice, once out of birch, and once out of chipboard. They affixed the chipboard templates to the ribs before spraying the varnish, leaving an untouched patch for the final spacer. "It was process-intensive, there was no getting around that," recalled Trimble. "But we embraced that process-intensive journey from the onset, to see if there were ways we could be creative about creating improvements to make fabrication more efficient." On site, Radlab laid down templates of the base plates to drill holes for the anchor bolts, then returned with the walls themselves. Each wall was prefabricated of four panels and assembled in the shop. "They tilted up almost like tilt-up concrete walls," said Trimble. In addition to having inspired the form of Clefs Moiré, Bach's Gigue works as a metaphor for how the finished walls perform in space. "It starts and stops abruptly," explained Trimble. "There's no crescendo or tapering of intensity. The walls do the exact same thing: there is no rising up from the ground or falling into it. They start and stop in a similar way."
Prismatic pyramid evokes desert mirage by day, Aurora Borealis by night.Given that their pyramidal acrylic installation at this summer's Burning Man was inspired in part by Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album cover, it seems safe to say that the architects at Red Deer "get" the festival's vibe. "We try to get very intimate with our sites, so it was interesting to approach one that we hadn't been able to visit," said founding director Ciarán O'Brien. "Some of the primal forces we could see at play there were the heat of the desert and the way people interact with structures. Specifically, for us it was about light in all its forms." The UK firm worked closely with the structural engineers at Structure Mode to design a transparent six-meter-tall structure comprising interlocking equilateral triangles, while New York Institute of Technology professor Charles Matz contributed an integrated light display based on the Aurora Borealis. "All kinds of imagery came to mind that held to the desert landscape," said O'Brien. "By day, the concept evoked a mirage; by night, a kaleidoscope. One is ephemeral, a non-place; the other is specific, a beacon." Called Luz 2.0, the Burning Man installation is only the latest iteration of an ongoing exploration of the relationship between matter and light. The project began as a response to a commission for a band pavilion. "Red Deer's original idea was a scaffolding framework that would be clad in some reflective material," recalled Structure Mode's Geoff Morrow. "We suggested going one step beyond that and building an acrylic pyramid, to make it much more special." The clients canceled, but the designers applied for grants, ran a successful Kickstarter campaign, and debuted Luz at Secret Garden Party 2013 in Abbots Ripton, England. The first Luz featured a touch-sensitive floor screen-printed with a colorful pattern that appeared to change shape under different lighting conditions. For Burning Man, Red Deer omitted the floor "so that you interacted with the playa landscape," said O'Brien. Red Deer and Structure Mode jointly developed Luz 2.0's reciprocal modular system. "It was really interesting investigating how all these different connections could work, what different shapes could work within a three-sided pyramid," said Red Deer's Lucas Che Tizard. "The system we use is composed of equilateral triangles, but it actually gives us more than just pyramids—you see hexagons as well." The architects worked first with hand sketches, then transferred their ideas to SketchUp before moving to 3ds Max, Rhino, and Vectorworks to finalize the structure and start to explore how the modules would connect to one another. Structure Mode analyzed the design's structural stability in Oasys' GSA Suite. Red Deer flattened the final design and emailed the files to the CNC cutters. At that point the three-dimensional installation "became a flat pack kit," said O'Brien. "Part of the challenge was that each of these pieces should be human-sized, so that they could be built by a small team using basic tools in desert conditions." To simplify installation, Structure Mode developed a streamlined bolt-and-nut assembly based on furniture-making connections. "In a way it's kind of low-tech, but it looks high-tech," said O'Brien. The UK contingent shipped Luz 2.0 to the Nevada desert in three crates. The components took longer than expected to arrive: though they had hoped to begin installation on Monday, the architects were forced to wait until Thursday. Nonetheless, the on-site crew managed to assemble the pyramid in just two days using hand drills. Matz's team, meanwhile, arrived on site with the electronics, including custom hardware based on 3D models sent to them by Red Deer. The installation of the lighting system "came together seamlessly," said O'Brien. "We were somewhat concerned about voltage, but it worked out." The only disappointment involved the Mogees sensors, designed to trigger changes in the light show as visitors climbed on and around the pyramid. They worked well in a small-scale test, but "unfortunately the settings didn't translate to the seven-meter structure," said O'Brien. "I can't say it fully fulfilled that brief." Red Deer and their collaborators will soon have another shot at realizing the vision behind Luz 2.0. As befits the installation's emphasis on the immaterial—not to mention the ethos of Burning Man itself—the architects plan to re-erect the structure elsewhere. "We've had quite a few offers from various benefactors, but we haven't figured out what would be best," said O'Brien. "Right now it's in storage in Reno, awaiting its next move."
Illuminated steel pavilions mimic Chinese peaks.The hillside site of Fengming Mountain Park, in Chongqing, China, presented Martha Schwartz Partners with both a practical challenge and a source of inspiration. Asked by Chinese developer Vanke to design a park adjacent to the sales office for a new housing development, the landscape architecture and urban planning firm quickly gravitated toward the metaphor of a mountain journey. "That's why in the plans you see a zig zag pattern" to the path leading down to the sales center from the car park, said associate Ignacio López Busón. Steel pavilions scattered along the walkway pick up on the theme, taking the form of abstracted mountain peaks. "That's something the client really liked," said López Busón. "Once the idea was clear, it was all about developing the shape of them, and trying to make them look special." To refine the image of the pavilions, explained López Busón, "we first looked at the faceted nature of Chinese mountains. They aren't smooth at all." Fengming Mountain Park's metal structures feature an aggressive geometry that twists and turns above chunky legs. The pavilions' perforations and red and orange color scheme were inspired by a second cultural touchstone. "Martha was interested in the idea of the Chinese lantern," said López Busón. "The lanterns are red; then you put a light inside, and they become a nice gradient of red and yellow." The Fengming Mountain Park team started work on the pavilions with hand sketches, then brought the concept design into Rhino. There they played with the shape, developing a system of triangular modules that again represented mountain peaks. Then they transferred the model to Grasshopper, where they focused on the perforations and color. "We made paper models, but not too many because we were quite happy with the result in Rhino," said López Busón, who acknowledged that a compressed schedule was also a factor. The most difficult aspect of fabrication, said López Busón, was adjusting the design of the pavilions to fit the size of the laser beds to which Third Chongqing Construction Engineering had access. "We made a Grasshopper definition to guarantee that every triangle fit the laser bed. However, the final outcome showed several scars, which tells us that the developer likely reused some leftovers to save on materials." Both the panels and the supporting profile tubes were fabricated out of steel, to reduce costs. Martha Schwartz Partners originally proposed painting individual panels after cutting, then assembling the finished panels on site. "The fabricators didn't agree," said López Busón. "They built the pavilions first, then spray painted them." The result, he said, was favorable. "What you see is a smooth gradient from the bottom to the top." The perforations, too, help negotiate the transition from ground to sky. "We came up with a pattern that changes from bottom to top, which sort of dissolves the pavilion," said López Busón. "It's quite nice at night. There's also this nice merging between decoration and structure; you can't tell what is what." The experience of designing a 16,000 square meter park on an abbreviated timeline "was intense, but fun," said López Busón. "At the very beginning, we were following this traditional way of practicing architecture: Whatever we designed in three dimensions, we unrolled and put into AutoCAD." But as the weeks flew by, the designers streamlined the process, sending 3D models directly to the client—a process, he explained, that allowed the designers to catch and immediately correct a problem with the perforation pattern. "Without the digital tools, it would have been impossible."
Owner-built interior explores the transition from two dimensions to three.For his latest venture, The Montrose in Park Slope, Brooklyn, whisky bar proprietor and former contractor Steve Owen (with partners Michael Ferrie and Alex Wade) wanted a rough, industrial look evocative of an Old World distillery. "He was coming at it sort of from an antique perspective, as a pastiche," said B. Alex Miller, partner at Taylor and Miller Architecture and Design. "We were thinking of it in a different way." Taylor and Miller, who had worked with Owen on several projects when he was a practicing contractor, noticed the prevalence of wood herringbone patterning on the walls and floors of the spaces Owen was inspired by. "We'd done some other herringbone studies," said Miller. "We said, 'This is something that's often done in a high-end scenario. Let's pare it down to the barest of essentials, just do it out of 2-by-4 pine, do it in grain on the walls.'" The design of The Montrose became, said Miller, "a very basic exercise in transitioning from a two-dimensional to a three-dimension pattern," in which individual boards were pulled away from the wall in the z direction. Working in Rhino, the architects explored multiple iterations of the form, including the different textures created when a unit was defined as a single stick versus a two-board L. The ceiling, along which boards are arrayed lengthwise, also received a three-dimensional treatment. "There were some really interesting relationships in the ceiling," observed Miller, "almost like a musical score." Though the herringbone patterning was developed almost entirely on the computer, Taylor and Miller wanted to avoid the sense of an overly precise, machine-made space—hence the use of standard lumber. "We're often looking at very basic materials, at how to do it in a repetitive way so that the human intervention is felt," said Miller. "We wanted to make it a little more than a highly fabricated, laser-cut, pristine sort of thing." Owen built The Montrose's interior himself. "Because he was a friend, and a contractor, we could remove a lot of the documentation that would normally be required," said Miller. In fact, Owen soon abandoned the digital models Taylor and Miller passed along. "Once he figured out the system, we were able to give him just data points, just coordinates," said Miller. "It was a feedback loop: he was interpreting what we gave him. He said, 'Okay, just give me the z data off the wall.' We joked that he was seeing the Matrix a little bit." The installation itself was "dumb, in a good way," said Miller, requiring nothing more than nails and the occasional screw. "When we're doing something like this that we know is hyper-labor-intensive, it can't be complicated from an install point of view. There's nothing overly polished; it's just dirty." That messiness is exactly what Miller most appreciates about the finished product. "When we go in there now, some of the curves are a little bit rough," he said. "You can see these—they're mistakes, frankly, but I love the space because of it. This is not a highly precious thing, this is not a highly sculptured piece. It's someone interpreting our concept."
Folded aluminum panels deliver the illusion of movement to passersby.During their recent expansion, Eskenazi Hospital in Indianapolis approached Urbana Studio with an unusual request. The hospital wanted the Los Angeles-based art and architecture firm to design an interactive facade for a recently completed parking structure. "With Indianapolis' really extreme weather patterns, we gave a lot of thought to: how can we make something that's interactive but won't be broken in a year?" said Urbana principal Rob Ley. "Unfortunately, the history of kinetic facades teaches us that that they can become a maintenance nightmare." Urbana's solution was to turn the relationship between movement and the object on its head. Though the aluminum facade, titled May September, is itself static, it appears to morph and change color as the viewer walks or drives by. May September—a semi-transparent rectangular wall comprising 7,000 angled aluminum panels—was inspired in part by Ley's interest in camouflage, and specifically active camouflage. "I wanted to take that on more in a passive way than an active way," he said. The designers set out to create something like a lenticular image, which seems to shift or jump into three dimensions as the angle of view changes. "Could we make something where the pieces themselves don't move, but we recognize that the people in front of it will be moving?" asked Ley. Urbana Studio dedicated six months to the design before sending it to fabrication. The first half of the work was digital, primarily using Rhino and Grasshopper as well as software the designers wrote themselves in Processing. The team spent a lot of time on color. "The idea was to find two colors that would have a good contrast, and that maybe don't exist at all in Indianapolis," said Ley. The final scheme, which pairs deep blue with golden yellow, drew on the work of local landscape artist T.C. Steele. After building renderings and animations on the computer, the firm constructed mockups to check their assumptions. The unique site conditions influenced both the choice of material—aluminum—and the placement of the panels. "It had to be very lightweight, because it was going on a structure that wasn't engineered to have anything like this on it," said Ley. The designers also had to contend with the natural movement of the garage, and wind gusts up to 90 miles per hour. "It doesn't seem that interesting, but when the entire project is basically making sails, the wind issue is counterintuitive to what you're doing," said Ley. Indianapolis Fabrications fabricated and installed the facade. "We'd worked to pare the design down to be very modular, so there would be no waste materials," said Ley. "We also worked out a system that would look like there's an infinite number of variations of angles, but in the end there are only three. We're faking a lot of variability with a system that doesn't have that many possibilities." Urbana Studio also designed a custom aluminum extrusion so that the bolts—three per panel, or 21,000 in total—could slide into the facade's vertical structural elements without the use of a drill. "It allowed us to have this very erratic placement of elements without having thousands of holes to verify," explained Ley. Indianapolis Fabrications assembled the facade off site in 10 by 26 foot sections. The size of the pieces was dictated by factors including the width of the street, the overhang on the existing structure, and the wind resistance each component would face as it was lifted into place. Ley was pleasantly surprised by the interest May September generated among other would-be garage designers. "There are a lot of parking garages out there," he said. "Usually they're very much an appliance. As an archetype, the parking structure is not very interesting, but everyone's anticipating that they're not going away." As for his own firm, Ley would welcome another commission for a parking structure—particularly one that allowed him to work from the ground up. "I enjoyed dealing with a window treatment," he said. "But it would be nice to be involved earlier on, to be able to pursue it in a more holistic way."
Composite materials are on display in the undergraduate-built FIBERwave PAVILION.Carbon fiber’s unique properties would seem to make it an ideal building product. Untreated, carbon fiber cloth is flexible and easy to cut. After an epoxy cure, it is as hard as steel. But while the automobile and aerospace industries have made widespread use of the material, it has gone virtually untouched by the architectural profession. Alphonso Peluso and his undergraduate students at the IIT College of Architecture set out to change that with their FIBERwave PAVILION, a parametric, sea life-inspired installation built entirely of carbon fiber. "We want to make the studio an expert resource for people trying to get into carbon fiber in terms of architecture," said Peluso, whose students designed, funded, and built the pavilion this spring. "There’s a studio in Germany that’s in their second year of working with carbon fiber, but I don’t think anyone in the United States is working with it." Peluso’s studio began with an internal competition. Because the spring semester course followed a class dedicated to the exploration of various composite materials, many of the students were already familiar with the pros and cons of carbon fiber. "Toward the end of the first semester we started working with carbon fiber, and it wasn’t the greatest result," said Peluso. "But we knew we had to keep working with it. That played a big part in the selection of the design for the second semester." The students judged the submissions on constructability as well as aesthetics, he explained. "It was interesting to see the students as the pavilions were being presented, see their minds turning on: ‘Okay, this one is feasible—this is one we can actually build.’ Sometimes the design was a little better, but the overall project seemed less possible within the time frame." The winning design is based on a bivalve shell structure. The student who came up with the idea used parametric design software to explore tessellations of the single shell form. "What I was pushing them to do in the first semester was large surfaces that weren’t repetitive," said Peluso. "In the second semester, it was like they intuitively knew there had to be repetition of the unit." As a group, the class further developed the design in Rhino and Grasshopper. But while the students used parametric software to generate the shell pattern, in general FIBERwave PAVILION was "less about designing in the computer," said Peluso. "Most of it was fabrication based." The studio was hands-on from the beginning, when students were asked to submit a small-scale carbon fiber with their competition entries. They went back to Rhino to make the molds. "We had to make six molds," explained Peluso. "Even though it was one identical shell unit we had to produce 86 of these shells. When you make a composite unit, if you have one mold you can only make one shell per day." In the end, the students fabricated a total of 90 shells (including several extra to make up for any defects) over the course of about four weeks. "The actual assembly was pretty quick, the pavilion itself went together in less than a day," said Peluso. Laterally, bolts through CNC-drilled holes connect the shells at two points on either side. The overlapping rows of shells are secured vertically through bolted pin connections. The installation remained on the IIT campus for one month, after which the students disassembled it in just 25 minutes. The Chicago Composite Initiative, which provided crucial technical guidance during the project, has since erected FIBERwave PAVILION in one of its classrooms. The fundraising component of the project was as important as its design and fabrication elements. Peluso initially hoped that the carbon fiber industry would donate materials, but "we didn’t have as much luck as we anticipated because we hadn’t done anything before that would warrant their interest," he said. "That’s one of the goals of the pavilion itself, to create an awareness in architecture that this could be a great material to use." Peluso’s course did have help from West System Epoxy, which provided the curing resin at a discount. To fill the funding gap, the students ran a successful Kickstarter campaign, raising $6,937 from a $6,500 goal. They made incentives for the donors, including 3D-printed necklaces and earrings. "I don’t think we realized how much work was going to go into that," said Peluso. To raise additional funds, the class held bake sales on campus. For Peluso, the process of designing and building FIBERwave PAVILION proved as valuable as the finished product. "The way the students collaborated made the project a success," he said. "Sometimes in group projects you get a few drifters, and some really strong ones. But all twelve students really stepped up. This wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t all come together as a group."
Parallel facade systems in contrasting materials mark the edge of development on a reimagined campus.The new Rutgers Business School in Piscataway, New Jersey, is more than a collection of classrooms and offices. The building, designed by TEN Arquitectos, is a linchpin of the university’s Livingston campus, reconceived as an urban center for graduate studies and continuing education. “It established a frame,” said project manager James Carse, whose firm created a vision plan for the campus starting in the late 2000s. “We were interested in really marking the edge of campus to motivate future development to respect the campus boundary, rather than allowing or suggesting that this was a pervasive sprawl. We wanted to make sure this would set a pattern where infill would happen.” The Rutgers Business School’s tripartite envelope reinforces the distinction between outside and inside. While the sides of the building facing the boundary line are enclosed in folded anodized aluminum panels, the glass curtain walls opposite create a visual dialogue with the rest of campus. In TEN Arquitectos’ early designs, the difference between the building’s outer and inner surfaces was not so stark. “We initially thought of [the entire envelope] as being more open,” said Carse. But budget constraints combined with university requirements regarding glazing in classrooms to suggest that the architects move away from an all-glass enclosure. “There was an ability to deploy the curtain wall over only a certain amount of the building in a responsible way,” said Carse. “We let the inside push back against the outside and suggest that this be more solid.” At the same time, explained Carse, “we didn’t want it to feel unchanging and heavy.” Working with Front Inc., TEN Arquitectos designed an anodized aluminum rain screen system, manufactured by Mohawk Metal Manufacturing & Sales, that incorporates an apparently random fold pattern to provide texture. (Thorton Tomasetti provided additional consulting and inspection services during construction.) After making aesthetic modifications in Rhino and 3ds Max, the architects ran their digital model through eQUEST energy analysis software to determine an angle of inclination that would prevent snow from accumulating on the folds. They came up with four standard dimensions that could be combined for a varied effect. “It’s a pretty amazing condition that’s been created with the variegated folded panels that face Avenue E and preserve and pick up the western sunlight as the sun sets,” said Carse. “The building changes throughout the day and picks up texture from its surroundings. The anodized aluminum plays off that nature of change and creates a softer facade than you’d expect from the use of metal itself.” The campus-facing sides of the building feature frit glass curtain walls fabricated by Beijing Jangho Curtain Wall Co. (Jangho) with glass from Xinyi Glass Holdings Limited. “We used the fritted glass to meet the solar performance that we were going for without completely exposing them,” said Carse, who noted that the walls appear nearly transparent at dusk and later, when the interior lights are on. “That’s part of the nature of the building,” he said. “The business school itself has classes going from around 8:30 a.m. until about 10 p.m., so the daily life is not just during the day. The building is really alive during those times and we wanted to make that evident.” During the day, the frit glass facade’s extra-wide mullions maximize the amount of daylight that filters into the offices and classrooms. The third component of the Rutgers Business School envelope is a transparent glass curtain wall introduced between the two primary facade systems. Besides serving as an intermediary between the anodized aluminum and frit glass surfaces, the transparent glass elements mark possible points of connection to future buildings as the campus continues to densify. “It allowed us infill,” said Carse. “This project served as a gateway building literally and figuratively,” said Carse. Cars entering campus from Route 18 pass directly through the Rutgers Business School building, its upper stories perched on canted columns. Though designed to indicate the campus’s outside edge—the end of development—the structure’s vital facade simultaneously signals a beginning, a freshly urban approach to campus design within a former suburban stronghold.
An interactive installation reconsiders the definitions of enclosure and openness.Warren Techentin Architecture’s digitally-designed La Cage Aux Folles, on display at Materials & Applications in Los Angeles through August, was inspired by a decidedly analog precedent: the yurt. “Yurts are circular,” explained Techentin, who studied the building type as part of his thesis work at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. “That began the idea of using small-diameter rods and taking software and configuring sweeps with some special scripts that we found online.” But while the yurt’s primary function is shelter, Techentin’s open-air installation, built of 6,409 linear feet of steel pipe, is a literal and intellectual playground, its form an investigation of the dualities of inside and out, enclosure and openness. Once the architects became familiar with the scripts, which allowed them to manipulate multiple pipes simultaneously, they found it easy to generate designs. The hard part was settling on a final shape. Then an off-hand observation narrowed their focus. “Somebody made a comment about, it looks like a crazy cage,” said Techentin. “We realized, ‘Oh, there’s this cage component. What if we imagine spaces inside spaces?’ That’s where these interiorized conditions came through, kind of creating layers of inside and outside.” Technical constraints further influenced the form. “We had to jump out of the digital world and decide how this was made in reality,” said Techentin. To minimize materials costs, the architects decided to work with schedule 40 steel tube, which is available in 24-foot lengths. Returning to Rhino, they broke apart their model and rescripted it accordingly. They modified their model again after learning what radiuses their metalworking contractor could accommodate. “It was kind of a balancing act between hitting these radiuses, the 24-foot lengths, and repetition—but how do you get difference and variety,” said Techentin. Warren Techentin Architecture originally sought a digital fabricator for the project. But the quotes they received were too high, and they could not locate a manufacturer able to work with pipes longer than six feet. They contacted Paramount Roll and Forming, who rolled and bent the tubes by hand for one-tenth of what digital fabrication would have cost. “It wasn’t what we wanted, but in the end we wanted to see the project through,” said Techentin. Paramount sent the shaped steel to Ramirez Ironworks, where volunteers interested in metalworking helped assemble the structure. The design and fabrication team then disassembled it, painted the components, and transported them for reassembly on the site, a small courtyard in the Silver Lake neighborhood. La Cage Aux Folles invites active exploration. “My work draws great influence [from] architecture as something that you interface with, interact with—that envelops you, becomes part of an environment you participate with,” said Techentin, who overheard someone at the opening call his structure “a constructivist playground.” “We fully intended people walking around in there, lying down,” he said. “The surprise factor were the number of people who feel inspired to climb to the second and, more ambitiously, the third cages. We’re not encouraging it, but people do it.”