SubDivided provides a unifying element in Fenton Hall's three-story atrium, tying each level together visually.In December 2012, the University of Oregon completed a renovation of Fenton Hall (1904), which has been home to the mathematics department for the past 35 years. In addition to sprucing up the interior and upgrading the mechanical systems, the institution hosted an open competition for the design of an installation to hang in the building’s atrium. Out of roughly 200 initial applicants three were shortlisted, and of those the university selected a design by Atlanta-based architect Vokan Alkanoglu. Composed of 550 uniquely shaped aluminum sheets, the 14-foot-high by 10-foot-long by 4 ½-foot-wide sculptural form is derived from the curving geometry created by several opposed ellipses—a nod to the discipline that calls Fenton Hall home. “We wanted to create something that would be visible on all three floors of the atrium to connect the levels and create flow in the space,” said Alkanoglu. “We also wanted to have an interior to the piece, so that you could see inside and outside, to give it a real sense of three dimensionality.” Alkanoglu and his associate Matthew Au modeled the piece, named SubDivided, in Rhino, using algorithms to define the curved surfaces that link each open ellipse. In addition to giving the sculpture a sense of depth, the curves also add to its structural integrity. Alkanoglu tessellated the surface with perforations to keep it lightweight and increase its visual permeability. Once he had defined the form, Alkangolu transferred it into Grasshopper, breaking the model down into 550 unique sections. Each piece was given tabs with holes in order to make connections with rivets, and assigned an identification number. Alkanoglu transferred this subdivided version of SubDivided as .dxf files to local fabricator, MAC Industries. MAC fed the files into its CNC routing machines, which cut the profiles out of .04 aluminum sheets pre-painted in two colors—the University wanted the sculpture to have a duotone appearance, matte gray on the outside and white on the inside. Once cut, the sections were given a non-scratch coating and labeled with stickers. To assemble these puzzle pieces, Alkanoglu recruited three architecture students from U of O. In a shop, the team set about the work of peeling off the non-scratch coating, rolling the sections to give them the requisite curve, and connecting them with rivets. The team assembled the piece in four chunks, which they then transported to the site, where a scaffold had been erected in the atrium. The four larger pieces were connected atop the scaffold and the entire assembly was attached to the ceiling with three narrow-gauge galvanized cables crimped to steel plates inside the sculpture. According to the calculations of the project’s structural engineer, Buro Happold, SubDivided weighs a mere 56 pounds. “It’s kind of like a research project," said Alkanoglu. "A small prototype that could move into a larger building, maybe a facade, or an atrium for a bigger building, which hopefully will come in the future.”
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The Boston Harbor Islands Pavilion roof channels rainwater for irrigation on the Rose Kennedy Greenway.Jump on a ferry in Downtown Boston and in twenty minutes, you’ll arrive at the Boston Harbor Islands, an archipelago of 34 islands dotting Boston Harbor managed by the National Park Service. To entice city-dwellers to make the trip, Boston-based Utile Architecture + Planning has designed a composite steel and concrete pavilion with a digitally fabricated roof for the National Park Service and the Boston Harbor Island Alliance to provide travel information and history about the Islands and a shady respite atop the highway-capping Rose Kennedy Greenway. Two thin overlapping concrete canopy slabs supported by delicate steel beams provide a sculptural shelter. Utile digitally designed the $4.2 million Boston Harbor Islands Pavilion using Rhino to respond to the surrounding cityscape and serve as a playful rainwater-harvesting system to irrigate the Greenway’s landscape. Initially working with a fountain consultant, the design team experimented with the shape of the roof deformation that guides rainwater to a catch basin. The roof’s unique shape was determined using digital models and by rolling BB’s over physical models to gauge how water would eventually behave on the surface. “We realized in modeling the pavilion that the water would ‘prefer’ to follow the same axis through both pavilion roofs,” Tim Love, principal at Utile, said. “Turning the curve would have created unintended consequences in the flow of the water.” The final shape propels water from the symmetric top roof, onto the asymmetrical lower roof, gaining speed as the concrete pinches together and funneling down to what the architects described as a “giant scupper,” finally cascading into a sculptural catch basin on the ground designed to create different splash patterns depending on how hard it's raining. “The roof pinches in as closely as possible to control the flow of the water,” Chris Genter, project architect at Utile, said. The arc of the water had to be precise enough to land in the catch basin, “like water pouring from the spout of a pitcher.” Supporting the two 40-foot by 60-foot roofs, a series of steel beams form a sort of Gothic tracery, splitting in half to reduce the effective span of the concrete and minimizing the overall depth of the slab by requiring less rebar. The roof slabs vary in thickness from three-and-a-half inches at the perimeter to five-and-a-half inches at the center. “We were always interested in making the primary material concrete with as slim a profile as possible,” Love said. “The concrete structure enters into discourse with the heritage of concrete architecture in Boston and responds to the heroic modernism of Boston City Hall.” “The steel beams offered enough repetition that they began to look like contour lines,” Love said. “They allow you to more easily read the curve of the slab.” Each metal band, what Genter described as a sort of steel “fettucini,” was fabricated directly from the digital model, first laser cut and then bent to the correct shape using CAD-CAM technology. “You typically don’t see these kind of geometries in permanent structures,” Love said. “There was a lucky convergence of high ambitions all around.” In generating the digital model for the pavilion, the team had to ensure that the data was clear for the multiple fabricators involved in the process. “The curves had to form a describable surface,” Love said. “The model and its geometries had to be translatable to different fabrication processes. The model for the project literally became the model for fabrication.” Working with two separate materials built from the same digital model presented real world challenges when fitting the two together. “The project required more craft in the field than we initially thought,” Genter said. Each steel beam is made up of four pieces welded together and required more room for error in fabrication. On site, the wooden concrete formwork was subtly changed to adapt to small variations in the shape of the steel. “The answer was to get fabricators on board who can get our model translated into the final product,” Love said, explaining that working with contractors on digitally fabricated projects can be a learning experience for everyone involved. “There were a lot of subspecialties working together.” Concrete contractor S+F Concrete brought millworker C.W. Keller on board to create the elaborate wooden mold for the concrete slab. For most of the surface, deformed plywood was used, but as the curve approached its spout, a custom mold was required. “The curve was beyond the tolerance of plywood,” Love said. “Every single piece of plywood in the formwork was pre-engineered before it arrived.” Once on site, the individual pieces were fit together like a puzzle.
SITU Fabrication produces and installs a Dev Harlan-designed projection wall in three weeks flatFor Adidas street fashion line Y-3’s 10th anniversary, the company commissioned New York City-based artist Dev Harlan to produce one of his distinctive 3D light installations. Y-3 wanted the installation to serve as a backdrop for a runway show at this September’s New York Fashion Week. Harlan designed a 170-foot-long wall with a deeply textural pattern of 656 skewed pyramids made prismatic by projected colored light and geometric shapes. He called on Brooklyn-based SITU Fabrication to produce and install the work in three weeks flat. “We had worked with Harlan before on ‘Astral Fissure,’ a sculpture of folded aluminum plates that he projected light on,” said SITU partner Wes Rozen. “This time the budget and timeframe were much less, so we worked with foam core instead of aluminum.” Harlan designed the projection wall in Maya and then transferred the model to Rhino to break down the 3D geometry into rationalized segments for fabrication. SITU took the Rhino files and developed them into 2D fabrication documents before feeding them into a CNC router, which cut the profiles out of the Ultraboard foam core panels. The fabricators were able to derive clusters of three pyramids from each 4-foot-by-8-foot sheet of foam core. The CNC router, equipped with a 45-degree V bit, also scored the back of the panels so that they could be bent into the 3D pyramid shapes. “The material is plastic enough that it doesn’t break on the fold,” said Rozen. “You don’t want to bend it back and forth too much, but it’s fine for one bend.” Once bent into shape, the fabricators applied hot glue along the seams to lock the pyramid clusters into place. Once that was done, the lightweight foam pyramids were stacked and then trucked to the site. In addition to developing the flattened pyramid geometry in the fabrication files, SITU worked out an interlocking tab detail along the edges for the purpose of mounting. Once on site, the team fastened the pyramids to a pre-constructed plywood wall with screws. The pyramids were placed from the bottom up. Once the first course was screwed to the plywood the next higher course was slotted and screwed into place. In all, the 3D projection wall took merely 8 hours to install, all while Harlan and his team worked on overlaying the video projection. See a video of the installation here.
At Miami Basel, a digitally fabricated pavilion marries classic origami techniques with advanced technologyFor this year’s inaugural Miami Project Fair, the design team at FXFOWLE Architects, led by Sarah Gerber, created a temporary architectural pavilion, the FXFOWLE Lounge, from both cutting-edge technology and good-old-fashioned manual labor. The 24-foot-long pavilion embodies the “duality of this very high-tech and sophisticated fabrication and this very low-tech material and assembly process,” said designer Lucio Santos. Over the next few days, the sculpture will be housed in a lounge and bar area outfitted with beanbag chairs and a carbon fiber bar that FXFOWLE also designed for the event. In past years, architects such as David Adjaye, Marc Fornes & THEVERYMANY, and Rachely Rotem and Phu Hoang (now of Modu), have designed temporary pavilions for Miami Basel—introducing their work to a wider audience. This project is “a first” Santos said, but this might be changing for FXFOWLE, which is trying to branch out on the digital side of architecture. “FXFOWLE has never designed a pavilion like this fully utilizing scripted computational methods for design and fabrication. We typically work on much larger scale projects where computational and parametric processes are sometimes used in conceptual design phases for form finding and especially for facade studies,” Santos said. “The office is making an active effort to explore the potential of different digital tools, platforms, and workflows. We have used this pavilion as an internal research project and will continue developing and integrating these digital processes to other projects in the office.” From the get-go, Santos knew that FXFOWLE “wanted to create an organic sculptural form with a non-repetitive textural pattern utilizing computational design and fabrication methods.” Using RhinoScript, Santos and his colleagues created a series of scripts to first generate a pattern onto a base surface, then unroll and label each component, create tabs around each component for assembly, and generate score and cut lines for laser cutting. Through layer controls and color values, they were able identify all the components. And, since all 180 segments are unique, this enabled them to “organize the enormous quantity of components,” Santos explained. The process, which required some dexterity, took three weeks of folding in-house, and then four days of assembling in Miami. Santos and his team—which included Kazuhiro Adachi, Karen Bookatz, and Miwa Fukui—set out to “test the structural properties of paper,” and then employed “basic origami techniques” using museum white board, which is typically used for picture frame mats. The segments were then assembled into 18 ribs (ten panels to a rib), held together by Elmer’s glue and a stock adhesive, and then secured with cable ties. “It took a few iterations, but we finally found the right fit,” said Santos.
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A new modeling program can give any material a makeover.TUFTIT is a fabrication program developed by Alexander Josephson and Pooya Baktash, two students who put their studies at the Architectural Association in London on hold to found Partisans, a research-based architectural platform they started in Toronto following the financial meltdown in 2010. What seemed like a risky venture at the time might just be Josephson and Baktash's best career move, especially if TUFTIT is an indication of the kind of technologically innovative projects they're executing. The modeling program was born from a desire to reinterpret popular traditional styles, like "Edwardian tufted leather furniture" featured in a Restoration Hardware catalogue, for a contemporary audience. "To us, this was an apt example of where innovation and reinvention could occur, especially with the use of parametric modeling," said Josephson. "The goal was to create a radical new interpretation of that model, one that was completely organic and free in its scale and use." The program makes it possible for any surface to be milled with the tufted look of soft leather or fabric-covered furniture, such as marble, wood, plastic and foam in sizes ranging from a single stool, an eight-foot-long day bed (pictured here) or, potentially, the facade of an entire building. Partisan's goal is not to create a specific object, but to develop a formal language that can be applied as easily to a chair as to a concrete facade. The programming of the script enables a high level of precision from micro to macro, with the added benefit of manually sculpting the form for custom jobs. "It starts with a hexagonal point grid which is deformed in parallel with the seat depressions," Jospehson explained. "A Voronoi algorithm is applied to this grid, leaving a free flowing set of 3D curves. The button dips come next, some of which extrude through the piece, leaving holes for ventilation or for drainage in outdoor situations. The surface patterns can be rotated, mirrored, or cut to create continuity between any tiled modules. " Once the program has been scripted in Rhino, Partisans takes it to a CNC fabricator, in this case Tim Sheppard, President of Styropatterns, a Toronto-based polystyrene pattern manufacturer specializing in large CNC milled patterns. Once the piece has been milled, Josephson and Baktash make a silicon mold in their model-making studio in order to cast multiples of the form in materials ranging from plaster to resin and concrete. They then finish each piece by hand, according to client specifications. "A client asked me recently if I would have a problem creating softer edges at the legs to a bench we are doing," said Josephson. "That’s no problem at all. It's the language that seems to be the only thing that's really designed. The specific details of any given piece regarding size or edge are left intentionally open to interpretation. We like the idea of mass customization and as a result each piece can ostensibly be quite unique."
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A wayfinding beacon for New Orleans’ electronic music festivalWith a successful debut last month at Mardi Gras World in New Orleans last, the electronic music festival Buku Music and Art Project could become a mainstay of city’s lineup destination events. Envisioning what a success the event would be, Tulane architecture professors Nathan Petty and Sheena A. Garcia jumped at the opportunity to create a temporary installation for the event site at the edge of the Mississippi River. Petty and Garcia founded their design office, Npsag, in 2008 to work with radical architectural forms and emerging technology. While much of their work is speculative, the Buku installation had the practical purpose of being a wayfinding device at the event’s main entrance. The team calls their piece Grass-To-Grid. It is meant to operate as an arrow, pointing the way to a concert’s VIP areas and main event spaces. "Our client was interested in the re-use of materials from the industrial landscape," said Petty. "However, the name comes from our idea to translate the grassy field of the traditional concert site to the industrial edge of the the Mississippi River. This manifested itself as a completely new digital artifact inspired by digitally composed electronic music. The name itself represents music's evolution from an analog source to a digital one while incorporating this re-thinking of the site" The piece is designed as a series of peaks that can be reconfigured depending on desired crowd interaction. On the first day of the Buku festival, the piece was assembled as a continuous surface, with a small opening for attendees to walk into the center of the piece. “We wanted people to be able to go inside of it to create an immersive experience,” said Petty. On the second day, the installation was divided into two parts, allowing concertgoers to walk through its roughly 4 ½-foot-tall landscape. Npsag designed the installation as an unfolded surface, designing in Rhinoceros, 3D Studio Max, and VRay, then translating the pieces into AutoCAD for construction. The 200-square-foot piece has more than 100 special angles created from the designers’ initial kit of parts and cut and assembled by hand. Twenty-two unique surfaces are framed and hinged to create eight peaks. The piece’s vinyl exterior is a nod to the truck tarps and billboard signage that make up the concert site’s industrial landscape. A black-lined graphic on the skin reiterates the overall shape of the piece. “We kept a keen eye on white surface because we wanted to shine black lights on it, to transform it during nighttime,” said Petty. Will the duo create similar event installations in the future? “We’re certainly interested in working again at this 1:1 scale and having a progressive concept to support it like this kind of super event,” said Petty. “We would certainly love to go bigger. On the other hand we want to go higher-definition, which means higher detail and integration.”
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A geometric ceiling installation creates an organic, light-diffusing shape in a new Port Washington restaurantNew York-based architecture and interiors firm Bluarch has become known for innovative designs that have people looking up. The group has created ceiling installations for residences, restaurants, and retail locations across the world. One of their latest projects is close to home, at Innuendo restaurant and bar in Port Washington. Located on Main Street, the restaurant’s seamless storefront reveals a cloudlike ceiling installation with integrated lighting designed to create an ever-changing atmosphere. Drawing on the idea of fractal geometries, the ceiling’s shapes are the same whether observed from near or far. As the viewer’s distance from the shape increases, “the visual understanding of the form multiplies with the same detail, thus being non-differentiable,” explained Bluarch principal Antonio Di Oronzo. Using Rhino and Autodesk 3ds Max, Bluarch created every layer of the ceiling with simple 6-inch cubes as its basic unit. The design files were handed off to Brooklyn-based fabricator Interiors Palace, who manufactured the cubes with ½-inch-square poplar members. Pieces were preassembled with small metal fasteners into larger sections for installation. Though composed of cubes, the pieces take on a softer form when viewed as a whole. From a functional standpoint, the cloud also softens the space by absorbing sound and providing a surface across which integrated lighting can play. Recessed light fixtures with 60-degree MR 16 RGB LED bulbs fitted with DMX controllers are installed in the ceiling above the cloud, creating points of color and shadow throughout the dining room.
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A research project explores techniques from the past to learn about building stronger structures in the futureSometimes research involves destruction in the name of creation. Architects and engineers from Zurich-based BLOCK Research Group at science and technology university ETH Zurich recently teamed up to build, and destroy, a vaulted masonry structure that was designed with advanced digital fabrication methods but constructed with traditional timbrel, or Catalan, thin-tile vaulting techniques. Through its research of freeform shells, tiling patterns, building sequences, and formwork, the group hopes to construct increasingly radical forms without sacrificing efficiency. Now rarely used, centuries-old timbrel vaulting methods were commonly employed in Spanish architecture and in many Beaux Arts landmarks. The form is known in the United States as a Guastavino vault after the Spanish architect Rafael Guastavino, who patented a version of the system in 1885. Traditionally, the vaults’ structural form followed a lightweight wooden structure that would guide the mason as he placed tiles. Using Thrust Network Analysis (TNA), a new form-finding method, the BLOCK group has created new possibilities for freeform vaulted shapes that can be constructed using a continuous cardboard formwork system. After creating irregular geometries with TNA, the researchers establish the shape of edge arches, close in the adjacent surfaces, breaking the pattern with a groin vault to begin another arch section. The group also aims to show that recyclable and reusable cardboard formwork could dramatically reduce the material and labor costs of construction while making complex vaults possible. Fabricated with a 2-D CAD-CAM cutting and gluing process and assembled on site, the formwork for the group’s Catalan prototype was supported by a system of stacked shipping pallets. These reduced the amount of cardboard used and allowed the unrolled cardboard pattern to fit the CNC equipment’s size requirements. The team implemented custom RhinoScripts to translate the self-supporting vault surface into machine code to produce 200 cardboard boxes. The group also discusses techniques for cutting tiles to be used in the prototype vault in its research paper, available here: “The most ideal cutting logic for the high double-curvature of the prototype vault would be a two-cut system, employing a combination of oblique and bevel cuts to ‘bend’ a surface in space.” Because of the tool constraints on this project, the team developed a simplified version of the cutting system that allowed for curvature in one axis of the tile while relying on hinging and the mortar joint to achieve a double curvature. Removing the formwork from the surface of the shell, also called de-centering, was another critical step. The supporting structure had to be removed all at once to avoid asymmetrical loading from below, which could cause the vault to bend and crack. In order to allow the formwork to lower slowly from the masonry surface, the frame sat on a series of sealed plastic tubes containing cardboard spacers consisting of a folded stack of cardboard sheets taped together. The team calculated the dry compressive strength of the spacers to carry the load of the shell, the pallet and box framework, and the masons. But once the vault was complete, the tubes were filled with water, which saturated the cardboard and caused it to compress under the load of shipping pallets. After successfully de-centering the structure, the team tested its strength, adding more than three pallets of sandbags to its surface before it finally collapsed. BLOCK’s future work will seek to streamline the TNA form-finding process as well as improve the efficiency of its construction techniques, ultimately working to identify design criteria like maximum vault curvatures with a range of tile sizes and patterns.
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An aluminum prototype structure at FRAC explores non-linear design and fabricationThe new nonLin/Lin Pavilion at the FRAC Centre in Orleans, France, is a coral-like structure of 40 pre-assembled white aluminum modules made of 570 CNC-cut single components punched with 155,780 asterisk-shaped CNC-drilled holes and held together by 75,000 white aluminum rivets. But these pieces, as designer Marc Fornes of THEVERYMANY has demonstrated throughout his work, are much more than the sum of their parts. Neither an art installation nor a model, the pavilion is full-scale architecture that pushes the limits of its materials and of physical fabrication processes with custom computational protocols. The pavilion’s form began with the idea of a “Y” model—essentially the most basic form of multi-directionality. The study indicates Fornes’ interest in architecture’s shift away from linear spaces, including tube and doughnut shapes, to tri-partite forms that cannot be described through one bi-directional surface. Even in the avant-garde architectural repertoire, writes Fornes in his project brief, the bi-directional surface is still often the main medium of representation: “In order to resolve such an issue, it is required to address morphological models of change and introduce split or recombination—or in other words, how can one become two and two become one.” The computational model developed to create the structure describes it as a set of linear, machinable elements that can be unrolled and cut out of flat aluminum sheets. But the process could not be applied globally to the pavilion; that strategy would fail because the structure’s “defects” are recurring yet shifting. Nodes contain varying numbers of branches, and double-curvatures and radii are constantly shifting. Instead, the model was designed to create an individual solution to each surface while keeping in mind nearby conditions including branches and holes, connections, end rings, and open edges. Though the amount of variation is massive, the information was translated to a series of stripes that would be CNC-cut, drilled, or engraved into 4-by-8-foot sheets of aluminum. Machining took less than 2 ½ hours, but pre-assembly using pneumatic rivet guns to fasten the stripes into 40 modules took several weeks. Now part of the FRAC’s permanent collection, the self-supporting structure is 30 by 18 by 15 feet. Fornes’ model is also scalable to a degree and could appear in other applications in the future, but even at the current size it will inspire visitors to think bigger.