Posts tagged with "Tex-Fab":

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TEX-FAB explores new frontiers in high performance facade design

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

Competition winner uses composite materials to re-imagine Semper's primitive hut.

The title of TEX-FAB's fourth annual competition—Plasticity—has a double meaning. It refers first to the concept at the core of the competition brief: the capacity of parametric design and digital fabrication to manifest new formal possibilities. But it also alludes to the material itself, fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP). “Plastics have the potential to push contemporary architecture beyond the frame-plus-cladding formula dominant since at least the 19th century,” said competition winner Justin Diles. Pointing to traditional stonecutting and vault work, he said, "I'm very interested in this large volumetric mode of construction, but I'm not at all interested in the stone. I think that composites probably offer the best way of addressing this old yet new mode of constructing architecture." Diles' proposal, Plastic Stereotomy, builds on his work as a KSA fellow at The Ohio State University. But where his earlier Eigenforms were two-dimensional freestanding walls, Diles' Plastic Stereotomy pavilion—which he will build at scale during the coming months—is fully three-dimensional. Inspired by teaching tools designed by Robert le Ricolais, Diles used a finite element analysis 3D modeling plugin to simulate surface buckling by superimposing volumes onto one another. "Those pieces are voluptuous; they create a lot of poché [thickness] as they overlap with one another," Diles observed. While the plugin developed by his friend was critical to the design process, Diles remained focused throughout on the end goal of fabrication. "What I'm really looking at is how we can use simulation to think about issues of construction rather than just optimization," he said. Custom fabrication shop Kreysler & Associates will provide technical support as Diles moves from design to construction. Diles cites the fire-resistant FRP cladding developed by Kreysler for Snøhetta's SFMOMA as an example of how composite materials can ease the transition from two-dimensional to volumetric design. "Even though the project still adheres to Gottfried Semper's model of a lightweight frame and cladding, the panels don't have a frame expression," he said. "They're massive, with ripples and indentations. They point to a new way of thinking about architectural surface and enclosure."
  • Fabricator Justin Diles
  • Designers Justin Diles
  • Location Los Angeles, CA and Houston, TX
  • Date of Completion 2014 (prototype), 2015 (full-scale pavilion)
  • Material FRP, paint, glue, bolts, solid foam blocks
  • Process 3D modeling, FEM, CNC milling, molding, painting, glueing, bolting
Kreysler and Diles will work together to streamline the techniques he used to build his competition prototype, a scaled-down section of the Plastic Stereotomy pavilion. (Bollinger + Grohmann will provide additional structural and material engineering support.) For the mockup, Diles used a 5-axis CNC mill to shape EPS foam molds onto which he layered up FRP cloth. He then removed the pieces from the molds, painted them, and glued and bolted them together, adding stiffeners to the open-backed components. Because the FRP is so light, he used two solid foam blocks to weigh down the structure. "I'm interested in working with Kreysler around thinking through production to make it more efficient," said Diles. For the fabricators, the TEX-FAB collaboration represents another step in Kreysler's journey from boat-building to other applications of composite materials, including architecture. "We're excited to work on this with Justin," said Kreysler's Josh Zabel. "It's exciting to see designers put fresh eyes on these materials we're devoted to." Plastic Stereotomy will be on display at TEX-FAB 2015 Houston at the University of Houston College of Architecture, March 26-29. The conference will feature workshops, lectures, and an exhibition on the theme of Plasticity.
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Next-Level Learning at Facades+ Dallas

Dialog, whether between teacher and student, master and apprentice, or a group of peers, has been an essential element of architectural practice throughout history. At next week's Facades+ Dallas conference the tradition continues, with a series of dialog workshops following day 1's symposium. Facade geeks from around the world will gather at the premier conference's Dallas debut to chew over both abstract and concrete challenges, from designing envelopes for resilience to dealing with the problem of glare. Attendees can create their own dialog workshop experience by selecting from one morning workshop and one afternoon workshop. All three afternoon workshops include a field trip to one of Dallas' many architectural destinations. The morning offerings include "Next Gen Passive: Exploring the Links between Passive Strategies, Smart Design, Sustainability, and Resiliency," coordinated by Atelier Ten's Emilie Hagen. Panelists Z Smith (Eskew+Dumez+Ripple) and Ryan Jones (Lake|Flato) will join Hagen to discuss contemporary developments in passive design and question the conflation of sustainability with the elimination of resilience, with reference to specific examples from the three firms' work. The field trip-oriented afternoon workshops include "Digital Design and Fabrication and the Shifting Paradigm of Architectural Research," with Brad Bell of TEX-FAB and HKS LINE's Heath May. Participants will tour UT Arlington's fabrication lab facilities, hear from Bell and May about their work combining academic research and studio practice, and talk to SMU student James Warton about his doctoral research on metallic alloys. Do not miss this opportunity to rub shoulders with the movers and shakers of the AEC industry: register for Facades+ Dallas today, and reserve your spot in two dialog or tech workshops before they sell out. Besides the hands-on, immersive workshops, the conference offers two full days of exciting keynotes, roundtable discussions, exposure to cutting-edge technology, and networking galore. Learn more at the Facades+ Dallas website.
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UT Student Installation Takes SXSW

A room-filling parametric design makes its way from the classroom to Austin's famous music festival.

When Kory Bieg and his students at The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture began working on Caret 6, they had no idea that it would wind up at this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) music and arts festival. But the rippling, room-filling installation soon took on a life of its own. Within months, Bieg’s undergraduates—who had little previous exposure to digital design—had designed and fabricated Caret 6, and assembled and disassembled it twice, first at the TEX-FAB SKIN: Digital Assemblies Symposium in February, and then at Austin’s most famous annual gathering in March. Caret 6 developed out of a research studio taught by Bieg, who is also associate director of the regional digital fabrication and parametric design network TEX-FAB. Selected to chair TEX-FAB’s annual design competition, Bieg knew that he would soon face a problem: how to display the winning entry in a gallery much larger than it. He put his students to work on a solution. “The idea was to create a kind of counterpoint to the winning entry. [We] needed to fill space,” said Bieg. At the same time, the studio would teach the fundamentals of digital fabrication. “It was really just an experimental exploration of what these tools could produce,” he said. Caret 6’s white and grey diamond-shaped cells cascade from a central catenary vault with three column bases. Two secondary vaults project from either side. The front face of the structure flows down to the floor. “The idea is, we didn’t actually know who the winner [of TEX-FAB: SKIN] would be,” said Bieg. “We wanted to design a ground surface that was modular so that we could replace some of the cells with bases for their models.” The 17 students enrolled in Bieg’s course first created individual study models of aggregations and weavings amenable to digital fabrication. In an internal competition, they narrowed the field to three. Bieg broke the studio into teams, each of which experimented with creating volumetric versions of the designs. In a departure from typical parametric installations, Bieg and his students decided to stay away from patterns that gradually expand and contrast. “Our interest was not [in] doing subtlety, but local variations that are quite abrupt, like going from a large cell to a small cell,” said Bieg. “So part of that was a result of the way we structured it. Instead of aggregating cells, we designed a series of ribs.” The primary ribs form the vaults’ seams, while the secondary and tertiary ribs divide the structure into asymmetrical pockets. Halfway through the semester, Bieg called Alpolic Materials, whose Aluminum Composite Material (ACM)—a thin polyethylene core sandwiched between two sheets of aluminum—he had worked with on an earlier project. Alpolic agreed to donate supplies for Caret 6, “so we refined the design according to the material we had,” said Bieg. He also drafted students from UT engineering to calibrate the structure’s thickness, scale, and cantilever distances. “It kind of just evolved from these different processes coming in,” said Bieg.
  • Fabricator Kory Bieg and UTSOA Design Studio V
  • Designers Kory Bieg and UTSOA Design Studio V
  • Location Austin, Texas
  • Date of Completion February 2014
  • Material Alpolic Materials ACM, polypropylene, high-density polyethylene, binder clips, bolts, o-rings
  • Process Grasshopper, Kangaroo, 3ds Max, CNC milling, manual assembly
Back in the studio, Bieg’s students used 3ds Max for form studies and Kangaroo, a Grasshopper plug-in, to fit the tessellated diamond pattern to the vaults. They also used Grasshopper to develop an assembly system of binder rings, bolts, and o-rings. Bieg and his team fabricated the installation using UT’s CNC mill. They cut the vault pieces out of Alpolic ACM. The elements closest to the floor are polypropylene, while the intermediary pieces are high-density polyethylene. The students assembled and disassembled Caret 6 manually. At first, they tried working with a QR-code system, scanning each component to determine its location. When this took too long, they projected a digital model of the form on a screen, then called out each piece by number. For SXSW, where they had only six hours for assembly, they subdivided the structure into sections that could be quickly recombined on site. Caret 6 travels to Houston in September, where it will rejoin the entire TEX-FAB: SKIN show. But while the installation has already moved beyond its original context, Bieg insists that it remains rooted in the SKIN competition brief, which focused on building envelopes leveraging metal fabrication systems. “[Caret 6 is] not really a program per se, but more of an experiment about the same concepts that were part of the exhibits at TEX-FAB,” he said.
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Tex-Fab’s Rigidized Metal SKIN

A structural, textured metal system wins first place in a competition and the chance to develop a façade with Zahner.

Reinforcing the idea that time fosters wisdom, Nicholas Bruscia and Christopher Romano’s third iteration of a structural architectural screen was awarded first place in Tex-Fab’s digital fabrication competition, SKIN. According to Tex-Fab’s co-director, Andrew Vrana, the team’s 3xLP project was selected for its innovative façade system, which uses parametric design and digital fabrication. The 3xLP designers’ exploration of the relationship between academia and manufacturing merged at the University at Buffalo’s (UB) Department of Architecture. Starting their collaborative research with a digital model, Bruscia and Romano solicited the help of local manufacturer Rigidized Metals, (RM), who helped realize the second stage of the project’s evolution with two thin gauge metals featuring proprietary patterns. “The project is important because we’ve partnered so closely with Rigidized Metals,” Roman told AN. “We’ve brought digital and computational expertise, and they’ve provided material knowledge for textured metal—it’s a reciprocal team.”
  • Fabricator Rigidized Metals
  • Designers Nicholas Bruscia and Christopher Romano with Phil Gusmano and Dan Vrana
  • Location Buffalo, New York
  • Date of Completion October 2013
  • Material 1RL+4LB textured stainless steel, 16-20GA, steel bolts
  • Process Grasshopper, Lunchbox, Karamba, Rhino, AutoCAD, CNC Turret Punching, Hydraulic Press Brake humping, Tab/Bolt Connecting
Bruscia said the computational models were heavily informed by material parameters. Working with various patterns in RM’s product library, the team started to see various textures performing differently in structural applications, though the company’s metals are typically used in cladding or decorative applications. “Rigidized Metals’ patterns are stronger than flat metals,” Romano said. “That informed how we selected textures and which became a part of the computational conversation.” Drawn to the geometry of the embossed 4LB sheet, they found the low relief pattern to perform comparably to a deeply stamped-style, and that it complemented other chosen patterns nicely. Structural loading was tested in Karamba, an architect-friendly finite element method analysis plugin for Rhino that was developed recently in Austria. Designed primarily in Rhino 5 and Grasshopper, the team also wrote many of their own scripts. For the SKIN competition, the team adjusted porosity of the screen to increase transparency for façade applications. The screen’s pattern is articulated from all perspectives, creating a dynamic quality that is achieved by a slight twist through the entire structure. “The twist in the system is a result of us getting the geometry on the screen for the system to perform structurally, and to make it possible to fabricate,” Romano said. “Some geometric moves on the screen can be difficult to fabricate, so to remove those you get subtle twisting in the elevation.” At RM’s Buffalo facility, profiles of the system’s components were turret-punched on a CNC, and folded on a press break to achieve a diamond shape. A tabbing system was also milled so the shapes could be fastened with stainless bolts to form a seamless, continuous cell structure. As part of the SKIN competition, Bruscia and Romano will continue working with RM, as well as A. Zahner Company, to fabricate a façade system with a glazing component. The 3xLP team will exhibit their results at the Tex-Fab 5 event in Austin, Texas on February 19.
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Reinventing the Facade: SKIN Competition Names Four First Stage Finalists

Tex-Fab has concluded the initial stage of its international competition called SKIN. The two-stage competition invited architects, designers, and researchers to rethink the traditional building envelope by exploring the performative qualities of a facade. Participants selected any context, real or virtual, at any scale and on any building type. Phase one jurors narrowed down 68 entries from across the world to four finalists and four honorable mentions. Jurors Phil Anzalone, Maria Mingallon, Gregg Pasquarelli, Randy Stratman, and Skylar Tibbits conferred on July 9th and initially selected 14 entries to discuss. Varying in type and method, the entries depicted a diverse display of ideas and work, compelling the jury to choose four finalists and four honorable mentions. Finalists include Project 2XmT by Christopher Romero and Nicholas Bruscia, Cellular Complexity by Kais Al-Rawi, Julia Koerner, and Marie Boltenstern, Robot Assisted Sheet Metal Fabrication by Lik Hang Gu, Nathan Shobe, and Qi Su, and Sense by Isak Worre Foged and ANke Pasold. The first of the finalists, Project 2XmT, has a visibly developed working model and reveals the dramatic impact from various viewpoints created by small undulations or shifting panels. Juror Skylar Tibbits commented that “it’s the one most in line with the brief.” The next finalist, Cellular Complexity, has an appealing formal potential that tests the limits of architecture. Juror Phillip Anzalone remarked, “If it’s truly developed 3-dimensionally that would be fantastic.” Robotic Assisted Sheet Metal Fabrication was chosen as a finalist in context with the project per-Forming (HM), which received honorable mention, as both interacted with metal forming in distinctive, yet complimentary aspects. Juror Maria Mingallon trusts that “this one could really push the boundaries of TEX-FAB and could add to the exhibition at ACADIA." The last finalist, Sense, is simple with potential to be very dynamic. Tibbits remarked “it’s a known phenomena that could produce some exciting effects." Honorable mentions include Organized Crime by Kyle Miller, Evaporative Folding by Jeana Ripple, Hydromorph by Camden Greenlee and Brian Vesely, and per-FORMING by Jake Newsum and Ammar Kalo. The phase two jury includes Michele Addington, James Carpenter, Neil Denari, Mic Patterson, and William Zahner. Moving onto the second round, the four finalists will use $1000 stipends to develop prototypes of their projects, which will be installed at the ACADIA Adaptive Architecture Conference at the University of Waterloo in October 2013. At that time, the jurors will select a winner whose scheme will be assembled in full scale for the TEX-FAB 4.0 conference.
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A Game of Cat’s Cradle with yo_cy


Kenneth Tracy and Christine Yogiaman of yo_cy applied research from working with concrete to dispel the singular material tendency of digital fabrication.

Out of 68 submissions from 17 countries across four continents, the winning proposal of Tex-Fab's APPLIED: Research through Fabrication competition at the University of Texas at Arlington came from Kenneth Tracy and Christine Yogiaman of yo_cy, a collaborative design studio that utilizes digital techniques for maximum design effect. Their winning idea is called Cast Thicket, a study in tensile concrete that takes off in variations like a game of Cat's Cradle. "The initial idea was to apply our research toward the competition," said Tracy. The designers used their experience with an Indonesian material called bilik—a soft, woven bamboo mat typically used as a vertical divider—that helped form a fabric, cast concrete wall for a residential project in Southeast Asia. "We wanted to make something from a construction material that is normally very heavy looking [and] invert the stereotype of the carved aesthetics of concrete to create something that is lacy, thin, and delicate."
  • Fabricators TOPOCAST
  • Designers Kenneth Tracy, Christine Yogiaman
  • Location Arlington, Texas
  • Date of Completion February 2013
  • Material limestone powder, white fiber reinforcement, Poraver glass beads, metakaolin, superplasticizer, .03-inch plastic
  • Process Rhino, Kangaroo, Grasshopper
While most concrete molds utilize steel or plywood casing, Tracy and Yogiaman opted for a .03-inch thick plastic that deforms once filled to create a unique textural detail not unlike the bamboo Indonesian mats. To design the columns and create variations in their diameter, yo_cy used Kangaroo. This plugin for Grasshopper simulates the surface shrinking and swelling typical of concrete, giving the designers a good idea of how their project would look when completed. The duo hopes the successful use of a thin, recyclable plastic mold could reduce the environmental impact of site-cast construction in the future. Cast Thicket is composed of 44 struts that intersect at several nodes. The struts are reinforced with a cage flat steel and thin steel tubes spanning between a wooden pallet base and capping sheet. Within the nodes are moments of tension, where the lacy network of lines are gathered together. "You can see this in Kangaroo like a set of strings, like a Cat's Cradle game," explained Tracy. "The idea is that a system can deal with contingencies of a complex architectural form. Rather than make a space with the piece, we wanted to create a set of conditions, like a network that proved its own variability and flexibility." The designers wanted a lightly colored material, something stronger than traditional cement that would pick up light and shadow, thus highlighting surface details. They chose an aggregate of materials void of dark tones, including limestone powder, white fiber reinforcement, Poraver glass beads for weight reduction, and metakaolin—a common material in porcelain. A superplasticizer that reduces viscosity binds the mixture. "It helps to see the way materials behave in construction, but physical testing is critical," said Tracy of Cast Thicket's ability to bear weight. "[With this project] we are reacting to the singular material tendency of digital fabrication and [we have shown that] we can use the computer to coordinate different methods of making a material, and simulate that on a smaller scale."
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PROFILE> Kevin McClellan + Andrew Vrana Decode Parametric Facades, July 27

Kevin McClelland and Andrew Vrana of TEX-FAB, the Texas-based fabrication think tank, are also pioneering members of the Digital Fabrication Alliancean international network of  digital fabricators, academics, architect, designers, and developers of hardware and software with a goal of sharing information and knowledge. The TEX-FAB partners bring their expertise into the classroom at Texas A&M, and also host the annual REPEAT conference and competition. On July 27  McClellan and Vrana will delve into the making of such facades in “Parametric Facade Tectonics,” a special workshop that is part of AN‘s upcoming conference Collaboration: the Art and Science of Building Facades, taking place July 26-27 in San Francisco. "Projects develop along specific and delineated steps of implementation, from conceptualization, through to implementation," according McClellan. "These are standard within all projects, however, what is not standard are the procedures used within those steps." McClellan and Vrana will break it all down at an upcoming workshop "Parametric Facade Tectonics." By understanding those procedures, via reverse engineering the steps used to implement them, workshop attendees will learn a repeatable analytic technique applicable for understanding other projects. McClellan and Vrana's upcoming July 27 Parametric Facade Tectonics workshop,8 LU Credits, will will use a procedural method of constructing an integrated facade system in Rhino. It will begin with associative modeling advancing into Paneling Tools while progressively implementing Grasshopper throughout. As a reverse-engineered case-study developed through design vignettes applied to successive layers of a building enclosure, a holistic design strategy for using the tools will be covered that will include: quantitative approaches in design scope, adaptive feedback of building information, optimization and tolerance control in design and iterative strategies for managing data setsTo register for this workshop and the preceding July 26 symposium, click here. RELATED: On July 27 Bill Kreysler and his associate Joshua Zabel will lead a special workshop on how composites are used in facades today as part of the AN‘s upcoming conference Collaboration: the Art and Science of Building Facades. UPDATE: This workshop is 8 LU/HSW Credits.
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Tex-Fab Competition Proposals Harness “Research Through Fabrication”

While a winner has not yet been selected, Tex-Fab’s new APPLIED: Research Through Fabrication competition has already produced interesting results as four semi-finalists emerge. The competition solicited proposals that best displayed "research through computational fabrication." The four proposals selected in the first round of adjudication address acoustics, structure, construction, material, and surface effects, each using on digital modeling and fabrication techniques. The proposals, described in more detail below, will be shown at ACADIA 2012 this October at the Synthetic Digital Ecologies conference, hosted at the California College of the Arts. Spin Valence Emily Baker With a repeated pattern of shapes cut into a single sheet of steel, a steel panel can become two planes joined by repeated triangulating struts. Each shape is individually spun out of the original panel and then rejoined to surrounding units. The completed construction is structurally sound, light diffusing, and inexpensive to construct.
FAB POD Jane Burry and Nicholas Williams FAB POD explores the potential of hyperbolic surfaces to create an acoustically controlled space that can be constructed and deconstructed in different settings. The hyperboloid surface forms allow the designers to experiment with sound diffusion, less understood than sound absorption and reverberation. Each piece of the structure is conceived using digital modeling materialized using gypsum plaster and laser-cut formwork.
Cast Thicket Christine Yogiaman and Ken Tracy Cast Thicket is both a form of construction and a finished design product. To produce finished forms of reinforced concrete, construction begins with the design of prefabricated steel struts, which are positioned using a system of interlocking laser-cut plates. Formwork is also prefabricated and attached to the joints. Plastic formwork is then detached and reattached as the structure grows upwards. The final product has the possibility for infinite variation.
Latent Methods Eli Allen The Latent Methods project focuses on exploring the possibilities of an existing material—in this case, shingles. The process begins with exploration of possible forms before they are "rationalization and articulation models through parametric tools." Computer models then determine the process of shingle size and placement, giving a designer the ability to create Gehry-esque forms coated in a traditional material. More information on these proposals, the competition, and other entries can be found at Tex-Fab's website. Click on a thumbnail below to launch the slideshow.
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Profile> Kevin Patrick McClellan & Brad Bell

On February 17, Kevin Patrick McClellan and Brad Bell will lead RHINO Design, a workshop focused on the digital design program Rhino, as part of DAY 2 of the upcoming COLLABORATION conference on fabrication and facades in NYC. Kevin Patrick McClellan is a designer, artist, and founder of Architecturebureau, a design research office exploring complex systems and their material effects on form. After receiving his Masters in Architecture and Urbanism in the DRL from the Architectural Association School of Architecture with a Project Distinction in 2005, he subsequently worked in New York for Kevin Kennon and in London with Zaha Hadid Architects. There he led the development of two highly publicized temporary installations, one for the Serpentine Gallery titled Lilas and the second for Swarovski Crystal Palace exhibited in the 2008 Milan Furniture Fair. He teaches design studio at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Kevin is a founder and co-director of TEX-FAB *Digital Fabrication Alliance, a regional platform for the dissemination of issues related to computational fabrication. Brad Bell is an Assistant Professor at the University of Texas Arlington where he researches and teaches on the integration of digital fabrication technologies into the architectural design process. He has lectured, taught, and written on the uses of such technologies for the past 10 years and has been an invited critic at schools of architecture throughout the United States. Brad is a founder and co-director of TEX-FAB *Digital Fabrication Alliance, a regional platform for the dissemination of issues related to computational fabrication. And as principal of brad bell studio, he has completed projects in Colorado, Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. His practice focuses on adapting contextual and regional construction methodologies with new digital fabrication techniques. TEX-FAB co-founders Brad and Kevin will present the day-long workshop, Rhino Design, and will cover user interface navigation and provide a broad understanding of the different tool sets and workflow options within the software. Step-by-step design problems will address both Solids Modeling, NURBS Modeling and documentation methods. Advanced techniques for complex geometries and the use of the paneling tools plug-in will be covered in the afternoon session.
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Vlad Tenu′s Minimal Complexity: Tex-Fab

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The winner of the second annual Tex-Fab competition explores ideas of modular assembly and material efficiency.

Earlier this year, design practitioners from across the world converged on Houston to attend Tex-Fab 2.0, a two-day conference featuring experts, lectures, and workshops. Tex-Fab is a non-profit initiative founded by Brad Bell (Brad Bell Studio), Kevin Patrick McClellan (Architecturebureau), and Andrew Vrana (METALAB) to create a network of Texas designers focused on exploring issues of parametric design and digital fabrication. The organization hopes to serve as a bridge between academia, professional design offices, and industrial fabricators throughout the country.
  • Fabricator Tex-Fab
  • Designer Vlad Tenu
  • Location Houston, Texas
  • Completion Date February 2011
  • Material 14-gauge aluminum
  • Process laser-cutting, automatic tumbling, manual assembly
Part of the group’s second annual event was the Tex-Fab Repeat Digital Fabrication Competition, which drew teams of one to four designers from 19 U.S. states, 18 countries, and five continents. The jury, including Patrik Schumacher, Marc Fornes, Chris Lash, Lisa Iwamoto, and Blair Satterfield, reviewed 73 entries and chose Minimal Complexity by London-based Romanian architect Vlad Tenu as its winner. In addition to a small cash award, Tenu received the fabricated piece as his prize. Minimal Complexity was developed out of Tenu’s desire to create a minimal surface structure using modular construction. The infinitely expandable structure simulates a virtual soap film optimized for fabrication with only 16 different components. Tex-Fab began by constructing a half-scale model of the design in the University of Texas at Arlington’s Digital Fabrication Lab. Tenu collaborated with Tex-Fab’s co-directors during the three-week process, working out the ideal fabrication and assembly methods for his design. The model’s 2,368 parts were cut and assembled by UTA students into 144 sets of 16.   The Tomball, Texas-based CROW Corporation machined the finished components, cutting them from 14-gauge aluminum sheets with an Amada 4000 Watt laser. The pieces were then passed through an automatic tumbler to de-burr the edges, making for a safer assembly and resulting in a finer material finish. Working with production manager Thomas Behrman and students in the University of Houston Digital Fabrication Seminar, the Tex-Fab team assembled the parts into a 12-foot-high, 115-square-foot structure within the atrium of the university’s Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture building designed by Philip Johnson and John Burgee in 1985. Plans for Tex-Fab’s third conference and competition in February 2012 are already in the works.