Giant Pixel’s Binary Star Wars Canopy

Fabrikator, Interiors, West
Friday, February 7, 2014
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The steel canopy introduces a Star Wars theme with a binary translation of the trilogy's opening text. (Jasper Sanidad)

The steel canopy introduces a Star Wars theme with a binary translation of the trilogy’s opening text. (Jasper Sanidad)

A software developer gets a subtly intergalactic theme for its new San Francisco headquarters.

For the Giant Pixel corporation’s new headquarters, Studio O+A evoked the feel of a sophisticated galaxy far, far away in a renovated San Francisco workspace. With the help of Chris French Metal, Nor-Cal Metal Fabricators, and Seaport Stainless, O+A designers Denise Cherry and Primo Orpilla designed an interior environment that invokes themes from the client’s favorite movie, Star Wars, without delivering a set design for the Spaceballs parody. One of the office’s most notable features is an entry canopy constructed from ¼-inch hot rolled steel plate with laser-cut perforations that sets the office theme with a binary translation of the trilogy’s opening crawling text.

“The Star Wars theme placed subtly throughout the office was what the client wanted,” Orpilla, who is one of the firm’s co-founders, said. “With the screen, they also found a way to vet job applicants and collaborators.” Doubling as a puzzle for visitors to the office, the software development company’s founders built an application that converted the film’s opening text crawl into binary code that could be visually translated for fabrication.

The intergalactic canopy is made of eight 3-foot by 8-foot panels. (courtesy Chris French Metal)

The intergalactic canopy is made of eight 3-foot by 8-foot panels. (courtesy Chris French Metal)

  • Fabricator Chris French Metal, Nor-Cal Metal Fabricators, Seaport Stainless
  • Designers Studio O+A
  • Location San Francisco
  • Date of Completion December 2013
  • Material ¼-inch hot rolled steel plate, steel bar stock, mechanical fasteners, flush socket cap screws, threaded rod, custom hanger clips, black silicone, single-pane glass, VHB tape, custom doors
  • Process custom scripting, Adobe Creative Suite, AutoCAD DXF, laser cutting, welding, hanging, screwing

According to Cherry, the ones and zeros from Giant Pixel’s software were translated to a computer punch code series. In an AI file, letters represented by zeros are punched out, and letters translated to ones were left solid, which was then exported to a DXF that fed the cutting machine. Each panel measures three feet by eight feet, so the character text fits well across most sections, though the blocking bleeds words across lines in a few places.

The canopy had to be framed for stability, so Chris French Metal fabricated a from cold rolled steel flat bar and mechanically attached the canopy panels, said Jamie Darnell, project manager and designer for Chris French Metal. For the vertical portion, flush socket cap screws affix the frame to the floor. For the canopy, threaded rod and custom hanger clips suspend five panels from the rafters. To expedite installation, a tooth-like detail locks the panels together and aligns the edges.

Letters represented by zeros are punched out, and letters translated to ones were left solid. (Jasper Sanidad)

Letters represented by zeros are punched out, and letters translated to ones were left solid. (Jasper Sanidad)

Less than one year after completing the interiors, an update to the storefront called for a variation on the pixelated theme from the interior. Within the brick and stucco façade, three openings were filled with an oversized version of the binary code that reads as a direct interpretation of the Giant Pixel brand. Eight-and-a-half-inch apertures—filled with tempered single-pane glass and sealed with VHB tape and black silicone—are bookended by two custom pivot doors weighing 800 pounds each.

“We push to get in early on projects with the hope of developing collaborative relationships with the designers,” explained Darnell. “It’s more fun that way and the process and end product are usually more interesting in a collaboration than in a traditional design-bid-build process.”

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