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.