Two new projects prove that concrete’s rigidity is no longer set in stone
From Peter Eisenman’s Berlin Holocaust Memorial to Paul Rudolph’s Art and Architecture building, concrete has been used with finesse in minimalist and brutalist structures and, as such, is mostly thought of as cold or aggressive. Two recent projects in Portugal and Norway are set to change our hard-edged opinion of concrete and show that it can be as fluid as a ribbon waving in the wind. Casa Xieira II, a private home in Leiria, Portugal, designed by A2 + Arquitectos, and the National Tourist Route Rv 889 Havøysund in northern Norway by Reiulf Ramstad Architects both feature winding concrete wrappers that stand out in sharp contrast to their surroundings, a factor that only becomes more important when your primary building material is as stark as concrete. Read More
Reimagining the chair as an architectural material
With their focus on “environmental acuity and a critical digital ethic,” Brian Bush and Yong Ju Lee of E/B Office describe themselves as “digital architects” who design ”real projects that are virtually indistinguishable from their digital visions.” Their most recent vision included 300 of IKEA’s pine wood Ivar chairs arching through the air across the wide lawn at Freedom Park in Atlanta, where SEAT was installed earlier this summer for Flux Projects, a public art organization. Bush and Lee hope that SEAT will encourage people to reconsider the chair as more than just a passive, everyday object, but as an architectural structure in and of itself. Indeed, sitting amongst a swooping pavilion built entirely out of chairs, it would be difficult not to.
No doubt you’ve seen the Ivar chair before, or something like it. Popular for its low price ($24.99) and ability to be painted any color, Ivar is so basic it’s the kind of chair that should pop right up when you do a Google Image search for “chair” (it doesn’t, though IKEA’s Poang does). Because they came from IKEA, all 300 were assembled by hand by Bush, Lee and a team of 15. The chairs were unaltered except for the seat, which was removed from most to make them easier to connect. After Bush and Lee made a 3D model in Rhino with the help of a structural engineer, they launched right into building the full-scale version onsite. Read More
New modeling software enables experimental volumetric design
In a revolt against the realm of the 3D renderings they feel contemporary architects are confined to working within, Matter Design‘s principals Brandon Clifford and Wes McGee founded a studio grounded in digital design that addresses the realities of materials, loads and physicality. Clifford in particular mourns the loss of our “ability to work with volume,” so much so that he spent his year as the 2011-12 LeFevre Emerging Practitioner Fellow at Ohio State University Knowlton School of Architecture researching volume in building with a special focus on stereotomy, the art of precisely carving solids. It was this research that led him to design La Voûte de LeFevre, a vaulted wooden structure that soars thanks to weight and mass, not in spite of it.
A 600-panel tessellation spreads sunlight underground
By now you know about the Lowline, the ambitious project to turn the 1.5 acre abandoned trolley terminal under Delancey Street in New York City into a public park. In just two weeks the project’s founders, Dan Barasch and architect James Ramsey, will unveil a preview of the remote skylight system designed to transmit sunlight into the Delancey Underground in a life-size, fully functional installation currently being built into the Essex Street Market. Ramsey designed the remote skylights with a network of fiber optic cables that channel light gathered by a solar collection dish down below ground where it’s dispersed. To make the most of the available sunlight, Ramsey enlisted the help of industrial designer Edward Jacobs, the former head of design at Confederate Motors, the high-end motorcycle company, who Ramsey describes as “a visionary and pretty much the most talented guy I’ve ever met.”
To disperse the sunlight as far as possible, Jacobs developed a tessellated canopy system made up of 600 ⅛ inch-thick hexagonal and triangular panels laser cut from clear anodized aluminum and bent in a hydraulic press. In an effort to maximize the sunlight’s reach, the tessellated curvature is so specialized that no two panels are exactly alike. To get the shape and size of each panel just right, Jacobs worked with the engineering group Arup on materials testing and light readings, noting that 3D rendering only goes so far because “the ideas of light perception amount and reflectance can be quite counter intuitive.” The panels, which are fabricated by Milgo Bufkin in Brooklyn, are labeled according to their position in the overall structure and screwed together with fold-over tabs on each side. The canopy is then attached to a four-cable truss system Jacobs developed so the entire 1,350-pound unit can be easily raised and lowered for maintenance. A few cables will also be attached to the outer edges of the canopy to eliminate any possibility of sag between the structural rib span, completing a system that Jacobs describes as “a combination of cable slings, clevises, electrical winches and safety hooks.” Read More
A 100 percent PET plastic garden grows in London
If you were fortunate enough to visit the London Olympics this summer and happened to walk through Victoria Park or the main quad at University College London (UCL) on your way to the games, then you experienced BLOOM, a big, bright, architectural garden created by complete strangers who gathered over the course of the two weeks to piece together 60,000 plastic game pieces, all dyed official Olympic hot pink. Designed by Alisa Andrasek and Jose Sanchez, two architecture professors from UCL’s Bartlett School of Architecture, BLOOM was selected by the Greater London Authority for a series of events and installations mounted in two locations during the games with a third location in Trafalgar Square to follow for the upcoming Paralympics.
Andrasek and Sanchez had been developing the idea for an open-ended, crowdsourced game that would encourage interaction between people in a large public space when the opportunity to be involved with the Olympics arose. The timing was perfect. Here was a moment in the city’s history when locals and tourists alike would be in the same location to celebrate athletics, and Andrasek and Sanchez hoped to capitalize on that spirit of camaraderie. The game starts with the pink game pieces, called cells. Each 16 inch-long cell is made of 100% PET plastic and has three points of entry, or notches used to connect the pieces together. Once Andrasek and Sanchez created a design for the cells, they were injection molded at Atomplast, a Chilean plastics fabricator that Andrasek and Sanchez had worked with previously. The cells are flexible, durable and can be bent and twisted into different configurations without warping or breaking. There were also several structural steel components on hand for using with the cells to build benches, tables, forts and other larger formations. Read More
Machine collaborates on your design as you make it
Earlier this summer Design Hub Limburg mounted “The Machine,” an exhibition that anticipates what the Netherlands-based design collective is calling the designers’ industrial revolution, a movement that sees more and more designers developing and building machines specially suited to their particular needs, like the Computer Augmented Craft project (CAC) by German designer Christian Fiebig. He was commissioned by Design Hub Limburg to create an interactive machine with a digital interface that makes suggestions to the designer during the fabrication process. Using custom-made sensors, the computer tracks the making process and instantly generates formal possibilities based on the designer’s chosen parameters, bridging hi-tech with traditional craftsmanship.
Fiebig enlisted the help of product and interaction designer David Menting and his company, Nut & Bolt, to devise a system of sensors specifically for spot welding strips of metal. First, Menting used an off-the-shelf CNY70 reflective infrared sensor to detect the position of the metal strips and created an adapted pair of digital calipers to measure the length. A custom-made circular infrared sensor was then created to measure the angle at which two different strips meet. The values read by the sensors are registered by an Arduino, a microcontroller chip that enables a computer to communicate input and output components, in this case the sensors. The Arduino checks whether the infrared sensor can detect the light from a ring of LEDs on the workstation at a rate of approximately a thousand times per second. If not, it knows the light is being blocked by a strip of metal, which it measures the length and angle of, and then sends that information to the computer.
The London Czech House brims over with gold, silver, bronze – and now crystal
So far the Czech Republic’s Olympic athletes have won a smattering of medals at the Summer games, but this year all the country’s athletes, medal winners or not, will be rewarded for their efforts with a crystal trophy courtesy of Lasvit, the official crystal partner of the Czech Olympic team and the country’s leading manufacturer of custom light and glass installations. The crystal trophies will also be doled out to VIPs visiting the Czech House, which is playing host to a series of events meant to promote Czech culture during the games. Inside, Lasvit is presenting the finer side of Czech culture with their Hydrogene Crystal Bar, an illuminated bar in the VIP section, as well as Infinity, a sculptural glass lighting installation suspended in the public mezzanine.
Like most of Lasvit’s high-end custom jobs, Infinity was designed by Jitka Kamencova Skuhrava, whose long list of projects for the company include several hotels and event spaces in Abu Dhabi, dozens more in China as well as two teal-colored cascades for Tiffany & Co. Her preference for natural forms shows up again and again, in the swirling glass shapes that weave through the air like frenzied schools of fish or the leaf-like forms that twist into a loose interpretation of the figure eight symbol. Read More
How a boutique Brooklyn design-build collective strung up NeoCon’s first major installation.
Attendees of NeoCon in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart rode the escalators and ascended towards Wolf-Gordon‘s large crystalline canopy hanging overhead. Though NeoCon has come and gone, Wolf-Gordon has just begun using the tessellated, prismatic structure for an ad campaign that, for the company’s new Chief Creative Officer, Marybeth Shaw, signifies a renewed approach to design and a willingness to take risks. To announce Wolf-Gordon’s new face to the world, Shaw enlisted the help of advertising agency Karlssonwilker, who has created campaigns for Adobe, the New York Times Magazine, BMW, Vitra and MTV, among others, and The Guild, a Brooklyn-based design and build collective whose clients include Dior, Louis Vuitton, Nike, Hurley and Diane von Furstenberg. It’s a bit of an unexpected mix of talents, to be sure, but Shaw wanted to shake things up.
After developing a concept with Karlssonwilker that was inspired by Bruno Taut’s 1914 Glass Pavilion, Shaw turned to The Guild, where Creative Manager Graham Kelman translated her idea into a spiky, crystalline form onto which Wolf-Gordon’s fabrics, textiles and wall coverings could be displayed. Kelman’s first design had between 650-700 prismatic faces with an area far too small to show off the fabric, so Kelman decreased the amount of faces to around 250 while also increasing their individual size. “I increased the largest spike from three to six feet by using a sheet of material per spike side,” Kelman said. He was able to decrease “the total number of faces by two-thirds and still retain the aesthetic impact, volume and material” he wanted.
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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.”
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Simple materials get elevated in a paper-and-staples homage to Isaac Newton’s cenotaph
French neoclassical architect Étienne-Louis Boullée may have drafted his famous proposal for a cenotaph for Isaac Newton in 1784, but his ideas continue to influence architects to this day, like RISD architecture graduate student, Greg Nemes, whose recent project, Encounter, draws inspiration from the nighttime starlight effect in the interior of Boullée’s proposed monument. “It was an exploration in my thesis project,” said Nemes. “The intention was to make an immersive space out of a ceilingscape using…a defamiliarization of space, scale, and material.”
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Asensio_mah & Harvard’s Graduate School of Design’s moss-covered installation is architecture on the cellular level
When visitors stroll through Quebec’s Redford Gardens, the first of many large installations they come upon is Surface Deep, an undulating, moss-covered structure designed by international architecture firm asensio_mah in collaboration with students from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. It was built last summer, but with this year’s Metis International Garden Festival, Surface Deep is once again getting major foot traffic in the most literal sense of the word. Surface Deep is a mountable, climbable series of snaking panels that invites visitors to explore it in its entirety, from its long, sweeping form to its small, mossy nooks.
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A tree grows in the Colombiere Center Chapel
It all started with a beech tree that has lived for the past hundred years on the Colombiere Jesuit Brother’s bucolic 14-acre site in Baltimore, MD. The tree stands in plain view of the brothers’ new chapel, designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson (BCJ). Alfred Dragani, an associate with the firm and the lead on the project, said that “as our Jesuit clients expressed a greater desire for privacy, we began to study ways of designing a shroud behind the south and north facing glass walls of the chapel that would operate like light-modulating screens. Our hope was that we could simulate the effect of an actual tree canopy, resulting in a dappled and serene light.” Dragani and his team used digital modeling (Rhino and Grasshopper) to simulate daylight conditions in the chapel throughout the year and create an interior installation in the chapel made from perforated wood panels in an organic arrangement of overlapping planes within a repetitive steel framework.