Justin Diles Breaks the Mold for TEX-FAB

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Justin Diles' Plastic Stereotomy took first place in TEX-FAB's fourth annual digital design and fabrication competition. (Courtesy Justin Diles)

Justin Diles’ Plastic Stereotomy took first place in TEX-FAB’s fourth annual digital design and fabrication competition. (Courtesy Justin Diles)

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.”
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Pratt Floats Student Work on a Mylar Cloud

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A cloud-like Mylar net supports architectural models in Pratt's annual graduate school exhibition. (Courtesy Michael Szivos)

A cloud-like Mylar net floats architectural models in Pratt’s annual graduate school exhibition. (Courtesy Michael Szivos)

Installation inverts conventional relationship between architectural models and images.

Each year, a group of Pratt Institute graduate students is challenged with pushing the boundaries of exhibition design as they curate the student work from the previous year. “The basic brief is for it not to be a show where it’s work on white walls, but that there’s an installation component,” said Softlab‘s Michael Szivos, who co-taught the 2014 exhibition course with Nitzan Bartov. The spring show coincides with the publication of Process, a catalog of student projects. “The book shows it in that more normative condition, year by year,” said Szivos. “The installation works in tandem with that. The hope is that the students come up with something different.” This year Szivos’ students passed the test with flying colors, constructing a floating display out of Mylar, medium-density fiberboard, cardboard, and Tyvek that upends the conventional relationship between architectural models and two-dimensional images.

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Radlab Makes Music with Moiré

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Radlab's Clefs Moiré brings life to the lobby of a Boston-area apartment building. (Courtesy Radlab)

Radlab’s Clefs Moiré brings life to the lobby of a Boston-area apartment building. (Courtesy Radlab)

Undulating birch walls create pockets of privacy in an apartment building lobby.

When Boston design and fabrication firm Radlab began work on Clefs Moiré, the permanent installation in the lobby of One North of Boston in Chelsea, Massachusetts, they had relatively little to go on. They knew that the apartment building’s developer wanted a pair of walls of a certain size to activate the lobby space, but that was about it. “Normally we get more information, so we can come up with a story—a concept based on the building and its requirement,” said Radlab’s Matt Trimble. “For this we pulled back and said, we have an opportunity to be a little more abstract about how we approach this conceptually.” Inspired by moiré patterning and a harpsichord composition by J.S. Bach, the team designed and built two slatted birch walls whose undulating surfaces embody a dialog between transparency and opacity.
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Red Deer Lights Up Burning Man

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As visitors climb on and around Luz 2.0, integrated sensors trigger an interactive lighting display. (Dustin Wong Photography)

As visitors climb on and around Luz 2.0, integrated sensors trigger an interactive lighting display. (Dustin Wong Photography)

Prismatic pyramid evokes desert mirage by day, Aurora Borealis by night.

Given that their pyramidal acrylic installation at this summer’s Burning Man was inspired in part by Pink Floyd‘s Dark Side of the Moon album cover, it seems safe to say that the architects at Red Deer “get” the festival’s vibe. “We try to get very intimate with our sites, so it was interesting to approach one that we hadn’t been able to visit,” said founding director Ciarán O’Brien. “Some of the primal forces we could see at play there were the heat of the desert and the way people interact with structures. Specifically, for us it was about light in all its forms.” The UK firm worked closely with the structural engineers at Structure Mode to design a transparent six-meter-tall structure comprising interlocking equilateral triangles, while New York Institute of Technology professor Charles Matz contributed an integrated light display based on the Aurora Borealis. “All kinds of imagery came to mind that held to the desert landscape,” said O’Brien. “By day, the concept evoked a mirage; by night, a kaleidoscope. One is ephemeral, a non-place; the other is specific, a beacon.” Read More

Interactive Thermoplastic Pavilion by B+U

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(Joshua White)

Baumgartner+Uriu designed and built Apertures with students from SCI-Arc. (Joshua White)

A thin shell pavilion with an audio feedback program invites engagement.

Apertures, the amorphous pavilion designed and fabricated by Baumgartner+Uriu (B+U) with students from SCI-Arc, challenges two of architecture’s defining dualities: the distinction between wall and window, and the division between exterior and interior. “Conceptually, we were looking at objects that are multi-directional and have apertures as their main theme,” said partner Herwig Baumgartner. “That was one aspect of it; the other was the barriers between inside and outside and how we can dissolve these. We’re interested in architecture that’s responsive through either movement or sound.” As visitors pass through or otherwise engage with the 16-foot-tall, 1/8-inch-thick structure’s many rounded openings, attached heat sensors trigger sounds based on human bio-rhythms, creating a feedback loop that encourages active exploration of the space. Read More

IIT Students Explore the Potential of Carbon Fiber

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Undergraduates at IIT designed, funded, and fabricated FIBERwave PAVILION during the spring semester. (Courtesy Alphonso Peluso)

Undergraduates at IIT designed, funded, and fabricated FIBERwave PAVILION during the spring semester. (Courtesy Alphonso Peluso)

Composite materials are on display in the undergraduate-built FIBERwave PAVILION.

Carbon fiber’s unique properties would seem to make it an ideal building product. Untreated, carbon fiber cloth is flexible and easy to cut. After an epoxy cure, it is as hard as steel. But while the automobile and aerospace industries have made widespread use of the material, it has gone virtually untouched by the architectural profession. Alphonso Peluso and his undergraduate students at the IIT College of Architecture set out to change that with their FIBERwave PAVILION, a parametric, sea life-inspired installation built entirely of carbon fiber. “We want to make the studio an expert resource for people trying to get into carbon fiber in terms of architecture,” said Peluso, whose students designed, funded, and built the pavilion this spring. “There’s a studio in Germany that’s in their second year of working with carbon fiber, but I don’t think anyone in the United States is working with it.” Read More

UT Student Installation Takes SXSW

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Undergraduates at UT designed Caret 6 as a backdrop for TEX-FAB's annual competition exhibition. (Casey Dunn)

Undergraduates at UT designed Caret 6 as a backdrop for TEX-FAB’s annual competition exhibition. (Casey Dunn)

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. Read More

An Impossible Stair by NEXT Architects

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The steel staircase is based on a Möbius strip. (Sander Meisner)

A folly in a Rotterdam suburb draws on residents’ complex relationship with the city.

The residents of Carnisselande, a garden suburb in Barendrecht, the Netherlands, have a curious relationship with Rotterdam. Many of them work in the city, or are otherwise mentally and emotionally connected to it, yet they go home at night to a place that is physically and visually separate. When NEXT architects was tapped to build a folly on a hill in the new town, they seized on this apparent contradiction. “This suburb is completely hidden behind sound barriers, highways, totally disconnected from Rotterdam,” said NEXT director Marijn Schenk. “We discovered when you’re on top of the hill and jump, you can see Rotterdam. We said, ‘Can we make the jump into an art piece?’” Read More

Boston Valley Brings a 100-Year-Old Dome into the Digital Age

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BOSTON VALLEY FABRICATED 18,841 INDIVIDUAL TERRA COTTA COMPONENTS FOR THE RESTORATION PROJECT (BOSTON VALLEY TERRA COTTA)

BOSTON VALLEY FABRICATED 18,841 INDIVIDUAL TERRA COTTA COMPONENTS FOR THE RESTORATION PROJECT (BOSTON VALLEY TERRA COTTA)

Boston Valley Terra Cotta restored the Alberta Legislature Building’s century-old dome using a combination of digital and traditional techniques.

Restoring a century-old terra cotta dome without blueprints would be a painstaking process in any conditions. Add long snowy winters and an aggressive freeze/thaw cycle, and things start to get really interesting. For their reconstruction of the Alberta Legislature Building dome, the craftsmen at Boston Valley Terra Cotta had a lot to think about, from developing a formula for a clay that would stand up to Edmonton’s swings in temperatures, to organizing just-in-time delivery of 18,841 components. Their answer? Technology. Thanks to an ongoing partnership with Omar Khan at the University at Buffalo’s School of Architecture and Planning, the Orchard Park, New York, firm’s employees are as comfortable with computers as they are with hand tools.

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Public’s Tree-Like Transit Shelters for UBC

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Friday, February 21, 2014
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THE TRANSIT SHELTER'S DESIGN WAS INSPIRED BY THE TREES LINING UNIVERSITY BOULEVARD (PUBLIC: ARCHITECTURE + COMMUNICATION)

THE TRANSIT SHELTER’S DESIGN WAS INSPIRED BY THE TREES LINING UNIVERSITY BOULEVARD (PUBLIC: ARCHITECTURE + COMMUNICATION)

An abstracted version of a street tree, a canopy of tessellated irregular polygons balances atop slim steel posts.

When Public: Architecture + Communication visited the site of the transit shelters the University of British Columbia had asked them to design, they found that something was missing. The main point of entry to the campus, University Boulevard is lined with trees—except where the bus shelters would go. “There was this language of gaps that we noticed,” said Public’s Christopher Sklar. The shelters themselves, they decided, should fill in the tree line. The designers were left with a question, articulated by Sklar: “How does it be a quiet piece but also something interesting and unusual that relates to its surroundings?”

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At SCI-Arc, the Magic is Inside the Box; Eric Owen Moss Explains Why

SCI-ARC IS PLANNING A NEW DIGITAL FABRICATION LAB KNOWN AS THE "MAGIC BOX" (SCI-ARC)

SCI-ARC IS PLANNING A NEW DIGITAL FABRICATION LAB KNOWN AS THE “MAGIC BOX” (SCI-ARC)

“Actually, the box isn’t magic, so don’t be disappointed you didn’t get ahold of Merlin the Magician,” Eric Owen Moss said at the start of a recent interview. Moss, director of the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), was referring to the school’s new digital fabrication lab.

Dubbed the Magic Box, the two-story, prefabricated steel structure will be constructed at the south end of the SCI-Arc building. But Moss didn’t want to focus on the laboratory itself, which was designed by several architects affiliated with SCI-Arc (including Moss’s own firm). Instead, he said, “the game is, what’s inside is magic. It’s not so much the object, but what the object contains.”

Continue reading after the jump.

MAD Museum gets Out of Hand

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Friday, November 1, 2013
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The ICD/ITKE Research Pavilion by Achim Menges and Jan Knippers is part of MAD Museum's new exhibition. (Achim Menges)

The ICD/ITKE Research Pavilion by Achim Menges and Jan Knippers is part of MAD Museum’s new exhibition. (Achim Menges)

A cross-section of postdigital design work illustrates the role of parametrics in the built environment.

Spawned from his 2011 show on Patrick Jouin, Museum of Arts & Design (MAD) curator Ronald Labaco conceived Out of Hand as a more comprehensive show that clarified the role of digital design, from its capabilities to its significance in our daily lives. “People just didn’t get it,” said Labaco of Jouin’s 2011 MAD show. “Unless you’re immersed in it, it can be hard to understand so I thought if we showed something like this in the galleries again, we needed to provide information that can be digested more clearly.”

Staged across three floors of the museum, with two exterior sculptures, Labaco said the show is an important program for MAD among other New York art institutions like MoMA, Cooper Hewitt, and the New Museum. The goal to raise awareness of 3D printing is timely, by chance. “Paolo Antonelli’s Design and the Elastic Mind, and two shows from Material Connection were complements to my show for the uninitiated,” Labaco explained. Out of Hand’s broad scope includes digital designing and fabrication processes like CNC milling, digital weaving and knitting, laser cutting, and 3D printing to display how these technologies influence the built environment. “It’s a historical look at the last 8 years and works from as early as 2005 are incorporated because, in my mind, that was when the major shift between rapid prototyping and 3D printing really occurred,” said Labaco. Read More

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