Posts tagged with "Rhino":

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Rojkind Arquitectos’ Mexican Treehouse

Francisco Saavedra fabricates a template to scale with large-format, Designjet printers from HP.

Founded in 2002, Rojkind Arquitectos is leaving an imprint across its native Mexico through a combination of civic, retail, residential, and hospitality projects. Its innovative design and production methods have garnered international recognition, particularly for projects like Nestlé's Chocolate Museum is in Toluca and innovation lab in Querétaro, and Mexico City’s Tori Tori Japanese restaurant, but the firm also engages in smaller projects and creative diversions that explore new avenues of the design/build process. Casa del Arbol is one such example. Conceived as an add-on for a venerable client, the project is a tree house for the family’s three young daughters. “There was a bird’s nest in the garden when we visited the site,” said Gerardo Salinas, partner at Rojkind. “And a 2-meter space between two trees in the yard was an ideal location that wouldn’t damage the existing trees.”
  • Fabricator Francisco Saavedra
  • Designers Rojkind Arquitectos
  • Location Mexico City
  • Date of Completion October 2013
  • Material Salam wood, wax, steel plates, screws, paper, MDF
  • Process Rhino, AutoCAD, SketchUp, HP Designjet printing, table saw cutting, screwing
The tree house is composed of three main cocoons in concentric circles making up a clover shape that provides a private play space for each girl. Working in Rhino, the architects emulated the geometry of a bird’s nest by magnifying the twig components into larger branches of wood. At one point, Salinas said the team considered Corian for the entire structure, but wood was a better logistical choice as LED lighting, power, and data were integrated into the design. Final Rhino files were converted to AutoCAD and sent to a large-format HP Designjet T920 printer. Templates were printed on paper in a 1:1 ratio, and used to cut the forms out of MDF. These hard templates were then laid over wood planks to fabricate the final ribs. The architects chose the wood of the Salam tree because it is certified to originate from a regulated forest, an assurance that Salinas said is not easy to find in Mexico. The timber variety also weathers well against the elements and is sealed with wax for added durability. To install Casa del Arbol, Salinas forewent the predictable wood-and-nail method. Steel plates attach to the ribs with stainless steel screws to prevent rotting. This self-securing method also gives the structure an appearance of floating within the trees and reduces direct impact. For privacy and comfort, panels of treated fabric will be secured to the vertical ribs.
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The Twisting Tour Total

Barkow Leibinger designs a precast folded facade that puts a gentle spin on surrounding traditional architecture.

On one of the last urban tracts of available land in Berlin, Germany, local architecture firm Barkow Leibinger recently completed an 18-story tower, Tour Total. Highly visible from a neighboring train station, and the first completed project in the site’s 40-acre master plan, the tower has a raster facade with precast concrete panels that were geometrically computed in Rhino to create twisting inflections, conveying a sense of movement around the building’s four sides. As a load-bearing facade, 40 percent of the surface is closed, and 60 percent is triple-glazed, with every other window operable. In addition to integrated energy management strategies—the first building tenant is French energy company Total—partner Frank Barkow said the firm’s extensive background in digital fabrication and research allowed the efficient development of the dynamic facade. Drawing from the surrounding, traditionally quadrilinear brick facades of the 1920s and 30s, the tower’s lines are imbued with an engrained depth that twists optically to read differently in direct sun or cloudy weather, without actually moving.
  • Fabricator Dressler
  • Designers Barkow Leibinger
  • Location Berlin
  • Date of Completion October 2012
  • Material Precast concrete, site-cast concrete floor slabs, triple glazing, Isokorb connections, operable aluminum window frames, retractable sun louvers
  • Process Rhino, AutoCAD, CNC milling, concrete pouring, acid washing
The design team drew a series of T-shaped elements to create the exterior components, and K-modules for structural stability. “The folding K modules produce an in-and-out for continual diagonals that wrap around the corners,” Barkow told AN. Interior and exterior concrete components sandwich around glazing, windows, and insulation. To test the design, 3D models were fabricated on a CNC router. Many of the profiles in the facade assembly are repeated many times, though 160 are unique. Each cast could be used at least half a dozen times before another had to be fabricated. German fabricator Dressler milled plywood molds and white concrete was poured over an affixed release surface. Once solidified, each section was finished with an acid wash to expose the aggregate and transported to the building site. Steel pins, embedded within the structure’s poured concrete floors, connect the layers of the facade sandwich. Barkow and the concrete contractor had several discussions about eliminating an interior precast layer in combination with an Isokorb thermal break to mitigate expansion but, in the end, opted for the original design. “It’s the next technological step, for the facade to work like an exoskeleton, but we’re a few years away from that,” Barkow said. Despite budgetary and time restrictions, the LEED Gold-equivalent Tour Total was realized successfully, in part, through parametric design and advanced fabrication methods. “We’re taking advantage of northern Germany’s extremely proficient building culture and working with our fabricators here and in Switzerland as early as possible in the design process,” said Barkow. “There’s a lot of back and forth where we push them away from conservancy and they push us towards efficiency.”
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Blurred Lines: SOFTlab and Cosentino

A new exhibition helps a New York-based firm explore indoor and outdoor applications of a new building material.

Cosentino is celebrating Architecture Month with Surface Innovation, a multi-media exhibition at the Center for Architecture in New York that presents innovative applications of its new Dekton material. A combination of raw, inorganic materials found in glass, porcelain, and natural quartz, the new indoor/outdoor surfacing material is made with particle sintering technology (PST) that recreates the natural process of stone formation. The company invited six local architecture firms to design unique projects featuring the material, including SOFTlab, a design/build firm known for its mix of research, craft, and technology in large-scale installations and building projects. For SOFTlab, working with a product that could be used for both interiors and exterior applications was an opportunity to reconcile the growing inverse relationship between the skin and volume of large buildings. “We came up with the idea of building something a little more dense than a single story or residentially scaled building, where Dekton may be used,” said Michael Svivos, founder and director of SOFTlab. “We went to a larger scale building, that blurs the inside and outside.”
  • Fabricator SOFTlab
  • Designers SOFTlab
  • Location New York
  • Date of Completion October 2013
  • Material paper, adhesive
  • Process Maya, Rhino, Grasshopper, laser cutting
Starting with the idea of a vertical atrium, which often includes biophilic elements like water features and indoor gardens, the SOFTlab design team envisioned an ATRIUn, a uniquely shaped building feature that uses the durability of Dekton’s stone-like properties to bring the outdoors in. ATRIUn is sponge shaped, and breaches the structure’s exterior at various points. “It forms an interior plaza in a building, not as something that’s flat, but spans the height, width, and depth of the building,” Szivos said. The form was generated in Maya. After inserting the apertures along the quadrilinear volume, the physics simulation plug-in generated the smooth, sinuous surface across various levels. For its larger projects, Szivos says the firm typically solves engineering challenges with Arup through an advanced finite software analysis software program. Those optimized, large designs are then sent to Tietz-Baccon, their long-time local fabricator. However for smaller projects where SOFTlab fabricates its own models and project components, the physics tool provides a close approximation of Arup’s services. To generate a model of ATRIUn’s design for the exhibition, the designers translated the Maya drawing into Rhino with Grasshopper to feed to their in-house laser cutter. Since the design was modeled in paper, four sided shapes were fabricated. If the design was realized in Dekton, triangular shapes would be necessary to achieve the complex curvature of the ATRIUn skin. The set volume was 24 by 24 by 36 inches, scalable for a building between 10 and 12 stories. ATRIUn and Surface Innovation is on view at the Center for Architecture in New York through October 31.
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W Seattle Hotel’s Parametric Pilings

LIT Workshop fabricated sleek lodge poles to complement the city’s heritage.

When Starwood Properties began to reimagine a new living room concept for the W Seattle, the existing first floor space featured a disconnected bar, restaurant, and lounge area, much like the traditional layout of a formal home. Portland, Oregon–based architecture firm Skylab Architecture was charged with knocking down the visual barriers for an open floor plan that resembled a more modern, casual living space. Several preexisting columns could not be removed for structural reasons, so a truly open plan had to be amended. “In some ways you could see them as a negative, or they could be seen as a positive,” Skylab principal Brent Grubb told AN. “We try to turn those perceived negatives into a design element and make it unique.” Researching the city’s cultural and maritime history inspired the architecture team to combine the water-worn patina of shore-front pilings with the physical mass of wooden totem poles. The solution was a parametrically streamlined form that was fabricated in modular sections for swift installation.
  • Fabricator LIT Workshop
  • Designers Skylab Architecture
  • Location Seattle
  • Date of Completion April 2012
  • Material furniture grade plywood, kerfed core substrate, walnut veneer, paint, clear coat sealer, concealed proprietary fastening system
  • Process Rhino, SolidWorks, MasterCam, CNC Milling, hanging, stacking
The team designed seven different variations on a crescent shape that rotates and stacks to create unique profiles: round, recessed, and beaked. Depending on the stacking pattern, the lodge poles provide downlighting or uplighting, or exist as a solid mass. Because the sections had to accommodate wiring, Skylab worked with their local fabricator, LIT Workshop, to find a solution for an open interior to the column casing that relayed the weight and size of solid wood poles. Similar to a boat’s construction, furniture-grade plywood was CNC milled from an interior radius to form ribs. The ribs were then wrapped with a kerfed core substrate, over which a walnut veneer was applied. Due to the irregular curves of each piece geometrically even cutouts would not suffice. LIT modeled at least two article parts in SolidWorks as a visual reference that was refined according to feedback from both the architects and the fabricator. Each section was clear coated and embellished with a nine-coat paint process to mimic the ombre appearance of waterlogged pier pilings. According to Jon Hoppman, Director of Manufacturing for LIT Workshop, CNC routers were instrumental in fabricating the framework of the lodge pole sections. “Due to the size and scale of the elements, as well as the process of installation, the sections were required to be produced and repeated under tight tolerances,” he explained. An extensive period of research, design, and prototyping—that included the development of a proprietary fastening system—resulted in an installation period of approximately one week. The resulting columns blend into the W Seattle’s surroundings like bespoke furniture components, at a fraction of the time and cost of traditional crafting techniques. “At once, they’re heavy and permanent, but also light and eroding,” said Skylab’s Grubb. “Technology tells us you can really do something customized with an economy.”
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Snøhetta and Architexas Make Leaves of Steel

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A Dallas pavilion's exposed structure demanded extremely tight tolerances of Irving, Texas–based fabricator, CT&S.

Ten years ago, the Dallas Parks & Recreation Department launched a revitalization project to update 39 decrepit pavilions throughout its park system. One of them—which was to be designed by the New York office of Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta in partnership with local practice Architexas—sat at the mouth of a meadow lined by old pecan and oak trees on the southern side of College Park. Speaking about the site, Snøhetta director Elaine Molinar said, “You're aware you've left the surrounding neighborhood and entered a more rural setting.” This is the feeling that the team wished to encourage in its design for a new pavilion.
  • Fabricator CT&S
  • Designers Snøhetta, Architexas
  • Location Dallas
  • Date of Completion July 2013
  • Material 1/4-inch plate steel, bolts, green paint, anti-graffiti coating
  • Process Rhino, AutoCAD, water jet cutting, laser cutting, bolting, welding
The team looked to the surrounding foliage for inspiration. The pavilion super structure is made up of miter-joined steel wide flange sections that form continuous columns and rafters. The members feature a variety of angles that, in assembly, create a torqued and folded profile based loosely on shapes found in the park’s tree canopy. The roof and two sides are enclosed with 1/4-inch plate steel bolted to the insides of the structural sections. To meet the city's visibility requirements for safety, the sides were water jet cut in abstracted leaf shapes of varying sizes and densities, resembling dappled sunlight falling through leaves. Though the pavilion is straightforward in design, its execution was a rewarding challenge for the architects and the fabricator. “The form was influenced by the shape of the tree canopies around,” explained John Allender, principal at Architexas. Starting with an orthogonal form in Rhino, the architects pushed the angles to resemble the natural surrounding shapes. The exposed beams and columns on the structure's exterior magnify the twisted form. Since the canted framework is fully exposed, there was zero tolerance for error. “The unforgiving design is a difficult one to build,” said Bruce Witter of Irving, Texas–based fabricator CT&S. “These were tight tolerances, far beyond AWS standards,” he added. After translating the Rhino file to AutoCAD, CT&S laser cut mockups to test the angles. Following a workshop at the fabrication studio, the team took close to 12 weeks to craft the beams and panels, prepare bolt holes, paint the steel, and affix a special waterproof sheet to the ceiling panel. Installing the pavilion over a concrete slab also required considerable preparation and time. During the course of nearly a dozen site visits by designers at Architexas, the fabricators erected the columns and roof beams using 3D scans to ensure the fidelity of the final product. According to Witter, the canted angles injected errors into the digital layout, so hard templates were the most reliable method for a successful installation. “If you don't have the fixed angle, you won't get the reading right,” said Witter. With the heavily collaborative nature of the design, Allender said working with a local fabricator—CT&S' facilities are located 15 miles from the job site—was essential to the success of the project. “There's no way this project could have been done by someone out of town,” he said.
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Situ Fabrication Cracks Google's Code

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HLW’s binary design for Google’s New York office supports the company’s product offerings.

Google is renowned in design circles for its unique offices around the globe, and the main lobby of the Internet search giant’s New York City office is no exception. Architecture firm HLW took its inspiration for the design of the space from Google’s Code of Conduct. The architects rendered the document’s stipulations in binary code, and applied those perforations on a series of 27, 12-foot-tall triangulated aluminum wall panels. This digital-age design feature is a nod to Google’s domain as well as to the process by which the panels themselves were created. Brooklyn-based Situ Fabrication, the newly established fabrication arm of Situ Studio, worked with HLW to achieve a monolithic appearance across each of the 27 panels. Since the design called for “folded-looking planes,” Situ Fabrication opted to work with 1/8-inch-thick aluminum composite material (ACM) for ease of manipulation and the clean edges that the material would produce when processed on wood working machines. To reinforce the ACM sheets, Situ designed and fabricated a triangulated frame from welded aluminum tubing, resulting in a 2-inch-thick panel section.
  • Fabricators Situ Fabrication
  • Designers HLW
  • Location New York
  • Date of Completion January 2013
  • Material ACM (Aluminum Composite Material), custom aluminum fastening system, aluminum trim, flathead screws, adhesive, black paint
  • Process Rhino, AutoCAD, SketchUp, CNC milling, welding, folding
The design and fabrication process involved substantial file sharing as Situ tweaked the geometry of HLW’s designs in Rhino. Then, a rendered view of an adjusted thickness would be sent back to HLW in SketchUp to support the designers’ parameters. “There was a lot of back and forth between our design engineering and fabrication and what the architect provided to us,” attested Basar Girit, a partner at Situ Studio. “We speak the language of the architect, as well as the contractor, and it makes for a smooth process because the architect doesn’t have to fully resolve the design and translate to the contractors.” Situ calculated optimal distances between perforations so as not to compromise the integrity of the 1/8-inch ACM. Working from an image file, the pattern of perforations was laid out on each panel to avoid the interior frame. A 3-axis CNC router punched out mirror images of the pattern on each of the ACM sheets, which were then bent around the frames. This method quickly produced a panel with an identical pattern on the front and back, and seamless corners. Situ coated the interior of each panel with black paint. Backlit by linear lighting along the lobby’s wall, the panels produce a glittering effect as visitors walk through the space. Situ also helped flesh out installation methods with a custom mounting detail on the ceiling and floor, received in a wall niche. A welded aluminum tab runs the length of each panel, like a vertical fin, that bolts in at an angle at two locations. Flat head screws secure the system in place, and the attachments are concealed with aluminum strips, much like traditional trim.
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Mikyoung Kim's Stainless Steel Serpent

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Amuneal Manufacturing fabricates a “breathing” sculpture for a North Carolina plaza.

For a public plaza in downtown Chapel Hill, North Carolina, landscape architecture firm Mikyoung Kim Design designed a unique sculptural installation that doubles as a stormwater management system. The 70-foot linear form is centrally located to engage the town’s residents with a looped, 10-minute light show. A misting sequence, drawn from a subgrade cistern, emanates through the perforated metal skin of the sculpture, giving the impression that “Exhale” is actually a living, breathing object. The original concept for the piece incorporated hydrological elements of the site in an engaging and transparent way, but the form was less defined. Over the course of nine months, designer Mikyoung Kim said her team designed countless rock-like shapes from clay, carving each from the inside out to achieve a thin, amorphous shape that consistently collapsed in on itself. Then, one night at home, Kim had a breakthrough when her idling hands picked up a few sheets of trace paper in the early morning hours. “I started folding a piece of trace paper and kept folding, and folding,” she recalled. “It was yellow and easy and beautiful; I fell in love with that.” The sheets also helped Kim balance her aim for delicacy with function and helped define Exhale’s fan-like corrugation.
  • Fabricators Amuneal Manufacturing
  • Designers Mikyoung Kim Design
  • Location Chapel Hill, North Carolina
  • Date of Completion April 2013
  • Material marine grade stainless steel, LED lighting, high pressure fog system
  • Process Rhino, Solid Edge, laser cutting, CNC press brake bending, welding, bolting
Through a series of quarter-scale mockups and Rhino drawings, the team worked to refine the size of the sculpture’s perforations, a process Kim likened to “squinting to make it clearer.” There are more perforations on the top than on the bottom, giving the impression of a sturdy base with a lighter feeling above. Another challenge came in integrating the corrugated, perforated surface with a support structure. Parametric scripting helped Kim dictate where the perforations would fall in relation to the framing elements. Kim turned to long-time collaborator Amuneal Manufacturing to fabricate the design. Amuneal converted the drawing from Kim’s Rhino files to Solid Edge. Those files were used to laser cut the sheet’s trapezoidal geometry and perforations from marine-grade stainless steel sheets. Amuneal’s CEO, Adam Kamens, estimated that almost 50 sheets where welded together to create the final form. Radial corrugations were folded on a CNC press brake. Because Exhale was designed for a plaza that wasn’t perfectly flat, Amuneal executed as much pre-assembly in its Philadelphia facility as possible. Sheets as large as the bed of a truck were craned into place and welded together on site. Abrasive finishing smoothed over seams and connections. The curved, stainless steel sheets conceal an internal misting tube that releases vapor through a high-pressure spray, as well as color-changing LEDs. Kim’s favorite part of the design experience was watching public reception of her work, which was unveiled on a warm day in late spring. “The combination of all the elements created a reaction from Chapel Hill that was a pleasure to watch,” she told AN. “I watched kids engaging it immediately and it made all of the hard work worthwhile.”
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PROJECTiONE’s Engrained Parametrics

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Designers in Indianapolis fabricate a graphic, splintered design.

Indiana-based design/build studio PROJECTiONE employs a multidisciplinary approach to its work that runs the gamut from digital to analog fabrication. Founders Adam Buente and Kyle Perry craftily bridged that gap with Synthetic Grain, a set piece for the Young & Laramore advertising agency of Indianapolis that explores the natural knotting and grain of lumber. The team used parametric software to create a graphic, 3D pattern system for an architectural screen that mimics natural variations of wood. Working in Rhino, parallel lines—or the wood grain—were drawn and points were defined within. Each point served as a knot, around which the lines would gently curve. “Our only input for this project were those points in 3D space,” said Perry. To ready the design for fabrication, curves and cut holes for the plywood backing were generated in Grasshopper.
  • Fabricators PROJECTiONE
  • Designers PROJECTiONE
  • Location Indianapolis
  • Date of Completion February 2013
  • Material polystyrene, plywood, wood stain, steel, screws
  • Process Rhino, Grasshopper, laser cutting, friction fitting, screwing
Two hundred and eighty slats were laser cut from 4- by 8-foot sheets of polystyrene, including exacted “teeth” along the back of each fin that would slip into negative space scored into plywood backing. Because the screen was decorative, industrial plastics were a suitable project solution. “We needed something flexible so that the fins wouldn’t snap on us, and the pure white color really helped,” said Perry. Laser cutting also produced smooth edges that didn’t require any finishing. Though most of the tolerances were worked out digitally, the designers tested tolerances of the laser cutter with several mockups, and also determined how much of a bend could be applied before the plastic snapped. In addition to physical testing, line angles were also explored within Grasshopper. Since each fin was bent to the plastic’s inherent tolerance, enough tension was created to friction joint each fin into the wood. Eight plywood backing panels were also laser cut with varying curved edges to best optimize the curved patterns of the adjacent fins. A steel frame was fabricated to support the freestanding, 12-foot-long installation that reached 3-1/2 feet in height at a depth of 4 inches. The application for this installation of Synthetic Grain was predetermined, but Perry and Buente were not shortsighted in their plans for the future of the design. “We thought we’d make the Grasshopper definition variable,” explained Perry. “We tried to make it flexible enough to adjust ‘this’ and output ‘that’ quickly, so it could be scaled for a building typology.” At a grander scale, a building screen or parking garage facade could be fashioned from metals or thicker plastics. Retail storefronts could benefit from the visual transparency of the faux bois rhythms, or hospitality projects could adopt it as an alternative to a porous surface.
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Facades+ Tech Workshop: Advanced Facade Panelization and Optimization Techniques

On October 25th, AN’s Facades+PERFORMANCE Chicago offers participants the chance to collaborate with industry experts on practical projects to cultivate valuable skills required for the delivery of ground-breaking facade technologies. Registered architects can earn 8 AIA LU credits by selecting one of six full-day, comprehensive workshops that take place in small, one-on-one, classroom settings. Lead by Jonatan Schumacher and Mathew Naugle of Thornton Thomasetti, the Advanced Facade Panelization and Optimization Techniques workshop is designed to discover distinctive systems for the rationalization of envelope surfaces for efficient fabrication, using a selection of plugins for Grasshopper. Participants will ascertain fundamental concepts of facade panelization, and optimization thereof, using Grasshopper’s optimization plugin Galapagos. Schumacher and Naugle will examine a number of cases for facade optimization using Galapagos before imparting an assortment of advanced panelization techniques using the dynamic relaxation plugin Kangaroo. Participants will delve into the TT Toolbox plugin, which will permit them to track the development of the design through various iterations with Excel. This workshop is catered for participants with beginner to intermediate knowledge of Rhino and Grasshopper. Personal laptops loaded with the required software—Rhino 5.0 Evaluation or SR3, Grashopper 0.9.0056, and Kangaroo Add-On for Grasshopper—are required to attend this technology workshop. Schumacher is the Director of Advanced Computational Modeling (ACM) at Thornton Tomasetti, where he has worked since 2010, with the goal to create new workflows and processes to enhance building design. He oversees and implements strategic developments related to integrated structural design, facade design, environmental analysis, and building information modeling. Naugle is an Integration Engineer at Thornton Tomasetti’s ACM group, where he focuses on instituting digital workflows catered to the company’s multifaceted modeling processes. He teaches and develops methods that utilize parametric modeling, interoperability, integrated analysis, BIM management, and geometry rationalization.
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New Rhino Plugin, Ay-Karamba!

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A fellow at the Knowlton School of Architecture expounds on the work of Le Ricolais with a new plugin for Rhino.

For Justin Diles, Ohio State University’s KSA LeFevre fellowship was a fateful progression of past experiences and ongoing professional work. While studying under Cecil Balmond at the University of Pennsylvania, Diles encountered hand-built models that Robert Le Ricolais constructed with his students in the 1960s. “Le Ricolais built models with his students for 20 years,” said Diles, “and one that I found he had built out of tubular steel and loaded to failure. It produced a really beautiful deformation pattern.” Two years later, Diles was teaching at the University of Applied Arts Vienna in the master class studio of Greg Lynn. While in Austria, he met Clemens Preisinger, a developer who, with support from Klaus Bollinger’s firm Bollinger Grohman Engineers, wrote a new plugin for Rhino called Karamba. The plugin is an architect-friendly, finite, element analysis method that delivers fast, intuitive graphic information, along with the requisite numbers. The plugin would figure heavily in Diles’ fellowship work.
  • Fabricators Justin Diles
  • Designers Justin Diles
  • Location Columbus, Ohio
  • Date of Completion April 2013
  • Material Styrofoam, Plaster of Paris, Duratec StyroSheild, marine-grade gel coat, resin, chopped E-glass fiberglass, paint
  • Process Rhino, Karamba, Grasshopper, CNC milling, sanding, painting
When he arrived in Ohio, Diles’s work progressed along two parallel tracks: The first was developing a computational design component with a formal vocabulary of the structural deformation Le Ricolais’ model. The second was developing a material capable of realizing the design. In Karamba, Diles augmented a tectonic simile from le Ricolais’s latticed models as surfaces for fabrication with composites. “That was an ah-ha moment for me,” said Diles. “I began taking a single assembly and ran it through multiple iterations of buckling deformations.” Diles layered multiple deformations into patterns that produced a puzzle of nesting components. Black and white coloring helped him track the layers and lent a graphic, architectural appeal. After the design was finalized, Diles made a series of molds from lightweight Styrofoam. “It was interesting because it’s usually a junk material and, in a way, has a very bad reputation as a material,” he said. “But it’s recyclable and can hold a tremendous amount of weight and is easily worked on a CNC mill.” A 3-axis mill generated components of a mold, which were taped together and sealed with Plaster of Paris to prevent resins of the composite from bonding to the foam. “We used a lot of tricks from Bill Kreysler’s fabrication shop,” said Diles. The final mold was sealed with Duratec StyroSheild. Diles and his team coated the mold with layers of different materials, not knowing exactly how the final components would safely release from the cast. An outermost layer of marine-grade gel coat was applied to the mold and roughly sanded so a chopped E-glass fiberglass reinforcement could be affixed to it with resin. Since fiberglass is a lightweight material, about three layers were built up to realize the final 11 1/2- by 6-foot form. Convex white sections and hollow black pieces were friction-fitted, sans glue, with maximum gap spaces of only 1/32-inch.
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Fallen Angels Rescued Parametrically

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Classically trained sculptors breath new life into four 20-foot angels with the help of Rhino.

When Old Structures Engineering engaged Boston Valley Terra Cotta in the restoration of the 1896 vintage Beaux-Arts building at 150 Nassau Street in New York—one of the city’s original steel frame structures—the four decorative angelic figures, or seraphs, that adorned the corners of the uppermost story were in serious decay. “Up close, they were in an appalling state,” said Andrew Evans, engineering project manager. “The biggest issue we had with the angels was understanding what happened with the originals.” The seraphs were carved from stone by Spanish immigrant Ferdinand Miranda in 1895 and had suffered years of exposure and improper maintenance. By the time the facade was up for rehabilitation, the angels were haphazardly strapped to the building with steel bands and supported with bricks. Their state was such that repairs would not suffice and Boston Valley’s artisans began the task of recreating the 20-foot-tall Amazonian figures.
  • Fabricators Boston Valley Terra Cotta
  • Designer Ferdinand Miranda
  • Location Buffalo, New York
  • Date of Completion April 2013
  • Material glazed terra cotta, plywood
  • Process Rhino, Zbrush, Agisoft Photoscan, laser cutting, hand sculpting
It was the company’s first foray into parametric modeling. Like Dorothy stepping from sepia tone into Technicolor, the sculptors at Boston Valley Terra Cotta proclaimed, “We’re not in Kansas anymore,” when they fabricated the 20-foot angels using parametric modeling and lasers. “I have a history in classical sculpture, so when this came in front of me, it was sink or swim,” said Mike Fritz, master sculptor at the Buffalo, New York–based ceramics company. “We went to Oz and everything changed after that.” Henceforth, the newly constructed terra cotta angels came to be known as “Dorothy.” The most decrepit angel was photographed onsite and then disassembled for shipment to Buffalo. In Boston Valley Terra Cotta’s ceramics studio, the images were converted with photogrammetry software and transferred to Rhino to build a digital model. The model was divided into sections, such as an arm, a face, several feathers of a wing, etc. Then a laser cutter was used to cut plywood profiles that matched each section.   “Those [plywood] profiles of her face or her arms were packed with clay to realize the full forms,” said Mitchell Bring, the project manager for Boston Valley Terra Cotta. Each of Dorothy’s parts were hand-finished by Boston Valley’s staff of 30 sculptors. Once the clay had set, negative molds were made of each section to form the parts for Dorothy’s identical sisters. The finished sections, each of which weighs upward of 500 pounds, were shipped back to 150 Nassau Street in pieces and assembled onsite with mortared joints. Since completing the project, the digitally enhanced sculpture methods have been refined and wholly embraced by Boston Valley’s team of artisans. “Through this work flow, we’re able to get a little closer to our material earlier in the process,” Fritz said. “If we went without the new tools, it would have been six weeks of work in total. But even with our substantial learning curve the modeling and the build on the shop floor only took two-and-a-half weeks total.”
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The Cartesian Collection: A 17th Century Design Reboot

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An ambitious designer used Rhino to design and fabricate 20 variations on a chair in four months.

For a designer aiming to streamline the gap between design and manufacturing, parametric modeling tools are a natural solution. LA-based Alexander Purcell Rodrigues found a place to work in just such a way at the Neal Feay Company (NF), a 60-year old fabrication studio in Santa Barbara, California, that is known for its exceptional metalworking. Together, the designer and the fabrication studio created the Cartesian Collection of chairs, aptly named for the analytic geometry that helped facilitate close to 20 design variations on the same aluminum frame in just under four months. “Not only were we pushing the boundaries of aluminum fabrication, the aim was to simultaneously create a lean manufacturing process,” said Rodrigues. Using Rhino with a Grasshopper plugin, Rodrigues developed a design for a chair that weaves together the simplicity of Western design with the complex ornamentation of traditional Eastern aesthetics. While the lines of the chair are clean and smooth, intricate embellishments on the back traverse multiple planes and angles, all on a shrunken scale. The time savings involved in designing with Rhino allowed the creation of another 19 variations on the theme.
  • Fabricators Neal Feay Company
  • Designers Alexander Purcell Rodrigues
  • Location California
  • Date of Completion May 2013
  • Material aluminum, ombré anodized finish, screws, oak, walnut, upholstery
  • Process Rhino, Grasshopper, SolidWorks, Mastercam, CNC milling
Rather than working with large billets of aluminum, Rodrigues and NF’s Alex Rasmussen opted to fabricate the chair from ½-inch stock, with an option for wooden legs or an upholstered seat. “The most difficult thing was the back rest because it required the most unconventional process,” said Rasmussen. “Once it was bent into a the basic form, the back was put into a four-axis machine that works in an X, Y, Z, and rotational axis to apply texture.” An anodized finish, which transitions between two colors for an ombré effect, adds to the bespoke appearance. Working collaboratively to solve hiccups in the fabrication process was a key component to the success of the project, and experimenting with tool paths helped create new patterns. Manipulating the original design in Grasshopper accounted for even minute deflections in the real-world fabrication scenario. “With this formula, you can play with variables that go in a hundred directions and multiply quickly,” Rodrigues said of the freedom of working in the program. “The world is your oyster in Grasshopper.” The team worked with aluminum for the frame of the chairs, a material choice that was made in part due to the fact that NF specializes in the material. In addition, the lightweight metal allowed a greater degree of accuracy than injection or press molding. “You can get all the screw caps and holes so exact with a precision of perfection you can’t recreate in other materials,” said Rodrigues. “And experimenting with the ombré anodized finish, NF pushed the boundaries very well, for something so thin and elegant.”