Thomas Balsley Reaches Destination with Landscape Forms

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Friday, December 13, 2013
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The Transit Bench was fabricated in Landscape Forms custom project division, Studio 431. (Michael Koontz/Thomas Balsley Associates)

The Transit Bench was fabricated in Landscape Forms custom project division, Studio 431. (Michael Koontz/Thomas Balsley Associates)

Aerodynamics of transit inform the design for new public seating in busy pedestrian areas like train platforms.

Landscape architect Thomas Balsley has been shaping public spaces in urban settings for more than 35 years, from the Bronx to Dallas to Portland. Even at large scales his work underscores attention to detail, all the way down to the furniture that adorns his sites. As a resident of New York since the 1970s, Balsley is all too aware of the way public benches and seating function in densely populated cities. For Transit Bench—fabricated by Landscape Forms custom project team at Studio 431—he designed a seating option for busy pedestrian areas, like train platforms and street-side parklets, where movement engulfs stationary seating.

“I started thinking of the aerodynamic aspects of transit and airline design, where the skin of the plane is an important structural component,” Balsley told AN. “I had the idea that this folded piece of skin could be the structure.” The bench, which rests on two sled base legs, is one solid form, made from a single sheet of stainless steel with laser cut perforations that suggest motion.

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Perkins+Will Canada’s VanDusen Gardens Orchid

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Friday, November 22, 2013
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StructureCraft fabricated 71 timber roofing panels for Canada's first Living Building Challenge-targeted new construction project. (Nic Lehoux)

StructureCraft fabricated 71 modular roofing panels from timber for a Living Building Challenge-targeted new construction project. (Nic Lehoux)

StructureCraft fabricates an orchid-shaped roof that supports vegetation and Living Building Challenge principles.

After serving patrons at one of Vancouver’s oldest botanical gardens for nearly 100 years, the VanDusen Gardens Visitors Centre had fallen dangerously into disrepair. Perkins+Will Canada conceived of a new, orchid-shaped center that meets CaGBC’s LEED Platinum ratings, and is the country’s first structure to target the International Living Building Challenge with features like geothermal boreholes, a 75-square meter photovoltaic array, and a timber roof that supports vegetation. To help fabricate the wooden structure to Perkins + Will Canada’s vision, the team contracted StructureCraft, a Vancouver-based design-build studio specializing in timber craftsmanship and structural solutions.

Initial designs for the 19,000-square-foot building were delivered to StructureCraft as Rhino files. The uniquely shaped rooftop, which mimics an outline of the indigenous British Columbia orchid, had to be economically fabricated in a way that took net carbon effects into account. Within Rhino plugins—mainly Grasshopper—and with the help of strucutral engineers Fast + Epp, the StructureCraft team sliced the shape of the building into 71 long, curved panels of repeatable geometries. “Each curve is unique, so there’s a different radii for each beam,” said Lucas Epp, a structural engineer who worked on the project. “We optimized the global geometry of the roof so the radii of all the beams were in our fabrication tolerances but still achieved the architect’s desired aesthetic.” Read More

Tex-Fab’s Rigidized Metal SKIN

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Friday, November 8, 2013
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University at Buffalo's Nicholas Bruscia and Christopher Romano's 3xLT project won first place in Tex-Fab's SKIN. (Raf Godlewski and Stephen Olson)

University at Buffalo’s Nicholas Bruscia and Christopher Romano’s 3xLP project won first place in Tex-Fab’s SKIN. (Raf Godlewski and Stephen Olson)

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.” Read More

Rojkind Arquitectos’ Mexican Treehouse

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Friday, October 25, 2013
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Templates for a 14-foot wooden treehouse were printed on an HP Designjet T920. (courtesy Rojkind Arquitectos)

Templates for a 14-foot wooden treehouse were printed on an HP Designjet T920. (courtesy Rojkind Arquitectos)

Francisco Saavedra fabricates a template to scale with large-format, Designjet printers from HP.

Founded in 2002, Rojkind Arquitectos is leaving an imprint across its native Mexico through a combination of civic, retail, residential, and hospitality projects. Its innovative design and production methods have garnered international recognition, particularly for projects like Nestlé’s Chocolate Museum is in Toluca and innovation lab in Querétaro, and Mexico City’s Tori Tori Japanese restaurant, but the firm also engages in smaller projects and creative diversions that explore new avenues of the design/build process.

Casa del Arbol is one such example. Conceived as an add-on for a venerable client, the project is a tree house for the family’s three young daughters. “There was a bird’s nest in the garden when we visited the site,” said Gerardo Salinas, partner at Rojkind. “And a 2-meter space between two trees in the yard was an ideal location that wouldn’t damage the existing trees.” Read More

The Twisting Tour Total

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Friday, October 18, 2013
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Aesthetic dynamics for the 18-story tower were designed in Rhino. (Ina Reinecke)

Aesthetic dynamics for the 18-story tower were designed in Rhino. (Ina Reinecke)

Barkow Leibinger designs a precast folded facade that puts a gentle spin on surrounding traditional architecture.

On one of the last urban tracts of available land in Berlin, Germany, local architecture firm Barkow Leibinger recently completed an 18-story tower, Tour Total. Highly visible from a neighboring train station, and the first completed project in the site’s 40-acre master plan, the tower has a raster facade with precast concrete panels that were geometrically computed in Rhino to create twisting inflections, conveying a sense of movement around the building’s four sides.

As a load-bearing facade, 40 percent of the surface is closed, and 60 percent is triple-glazed, with every other window operable. In addition to integrated energy management strategies—the first building tenant is French energy company Total—partner Frank Barkow said the firm’s extensive background in digital fabrication and research allowed the efficient development of the dynamic facade. Drawing from the surrounding, traditionally quadrilinear brick facades of the 1920s and 30s, the tower’s lines are imbued with an engrained depth that twists optically to read differently in direct sun or cloudy weather, without actually moving. Read More

Blurred Lines: SOFTlab and Cosentino

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Friday, October 11, 2013
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SOFTlab's ATRIUn model is on view through the month of October, as part of an ongoing exhibition featuring designs with Dekton. (Creative Whirlwind)

SOFTlab’s ATRIUn model is on view through the month of October, as part of an ongoing exhibition featuring designs with Dekton. (Creative Whirlwind)

A new exhibition helps a New York-based firm explore indoor and outdoor applications of a new building material.

Cosentino is celebrating Architecture Month with Surface Innovation, a multi-media exhibition at the Center for Architecture in New York that presents innovative applications of its new Dekton material. A combination of raw, inorganic materials found in glass, porcelain, and natural quartz, the new indoor/outdoor surfacing material is made with particle sintering technology (PST) that recreates the natural process of stone formation. The company invited six local architecture firms to design unique projects featuring the material, including SOFTlab, a design/build firm known for its mix of research, craft, and technology in large-scale installations and building projects.

For SOFTlab, working with a product that could be used for both interiors and exterior applications was an opportunity to reconcile the growing inverse relationship between the skin and volume of large buildings. “We came up with the idea of building something a little more dense than a single story or residentially scaled building, where Dekton may be used,” said Michael Svivos, founder and director of SOFTlab. “We went to a larger scale building, that blurs the inside and outside.” Read More

W Seattle Hotel’s Parametric Pilings

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Friday, October 4, 2013
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Each column measures approximately 36 inches in diameter. (Boone Speed/Skylab Architecture)

One dozen columns are wrapped in a CNC milled wood solution that recalls Seattle’s cultural and maritime history. (Boone Speed/Skylab Architecture)

LIT Workshop fabricated sleek lodge poles to complement the city’s heritage.

When Starwood Properties began to reimagine a new living room concept for the W Seattle, the existing first floor space featured a disconnected bar, restaurant, and lounge area, much like the traditional layout of a formal home. Portland, Oregon–based architecture firm Skylab Architecture was charged with knocking down the visual barriers for an open floor plan that resembled a more modern, casual living space.

Several preexisting columns could not be removed for structural reasons, so a truly open plan had to be amended. “In some ways you could see them as a negative, or they could be seen as a positive,” Skylab principal Brent Grubb told AN. “We try to turn those perceived negatives into a design element and make it unique.” Researching the city’s cultural and maritime history inspired the architecture team to combine the water-worn patina of shore-front pilings with the physical mass of wooden totem poles. The solution was a parametrically streamlined form that was fabricated in modular sections for swift installation. Read More

Snøhetta and Architexas Make Leaves of Steel

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Friday, September 27, 2013
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The pavilion's design is inspired by the surrounding tree canopy. (Courtesy Architexas)

The pavilion’s design is inspired by the surrounding tree canopy. (Courtesy Architexas)

A Dallas pavilion’s exposed structure demanded extremely tight tolerances of Irving, Texas–based fabricator, CT&S.

Ten years ago, the Dallas Parks & Recreation Department launched a revitalization project to update 39 decrepit pavilions throughout its park system. One of them—which was to be designed by the New York office of Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta in partnership with local practice Architexas—sat at the mouth of a meadow lined by old pecan and oak trees on the southern side of College Park. Speaking about the site, Snøhetta director Elaine Molinar said, “You’re aware you’ve left the surrounding neighborhood and entered a more rural setting.” This is the feeling that the team wished to encourage in its design for a new pavilion.

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Situ Fabrication Cracks Google’s Code

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Friday, September 20, 2013
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Situ Fabrication crafted 27 12-foot-panels for the lobby of Google's New York City office. (courtesy Situ Fabrication)

Situ Fabrication crafted 27 12-foot-tall triangulated panels for the lobby of Google’s New York City office. (courtesy Situ Fabrication)

HLW’s binary design for Google’s New York office supports the company’s product offerings.

Google is renowned in design circles for its unique offices around the globe, and the main lobby of the Internet search giant’s New York City office is no exception. Architecture firm HLW took its inspiration for the design of the space from Google’s Code of Conduct. The architects rendered the document’s stipulations in binary code, and applied those perforations on a series of 27, 12-foot-tall triangulated aluminum wall panels. This digital-age design feature is a nod to Google’s domain as well as to the process by which the panels themselves were created.

Brooklyn-based Situ Fabrication, the newly established fabrication arm of Situ Studio, worked with HLW to achieve a monolithic appearance across each of the 27 panels. Since the design called for “folded-looking planes,” Situ Fabrication opted to work with 1/8-inch-thick aluminum composite material (ACM) for ease of manipulation and the clean edges that the material would produce when processed on wood working machines. To reinforce the ACM sheets, Situ designed and fabricated a triangulated frame from welded aluminum tubing, resulting in a 2-inch-thick panel section. Read More

Mikyoung Kim’s Stainless Steel Serpent

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Friday, September 13, 2013
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Mikyoung Kim's 70-foot sculpture engages viewers with color changing LEDs and vapor emitted through strategic perforations. (Marc LaRosa)

Mikyoung Kim’s 70-foot installation engages viewers with color changing LEDs and vapor emitted through strategic perforations. (Marc LaRosa)

Amuneal Manufacturing fabricates a “breathing” sculpture for a North Carolina plaza.

For a public plaza in downtown Chapel Hill, North Carolina, landscape architecture firm Mikyoung Kim Design designed a unique sculptural installation that doubles as a stormwater management system. The 70-foot linear form is centrally located to engage the town’s residents with a looped, 10-minute light show. A misting sequence, drawn from a subgrade cistern, emanates through the perforated metal skin of the sculpture, giving the impression that “Exhale” is actually a living, breathing object.

The original concept for the piece incorporated hydrological elements of the site in an engaging and transparent way, but the form was less defined. Over the course of nine months, designer Mikyoung Kim said her team designed countless rock-like shapes from clay, carving each from the inside out to achieve a thin, amorphous shape that consistently collapsed in on itself. Then, one night at home, Kim had a breakthrough when her idling hands picked up a few sheets of trace paper in the early morning hours. “I started folding a piece of trace paper and kept folding, and folding,” she recalled. “It was yellow and easy and beautiful; I fell in love with that.” The sheets also helped Kim balance her aim for delicacy with function and helped define Exhale’s fan-like corrugation. Read More

PROJECTiONE’s Engrained Parametrics

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Friday, September 6, 2013
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PROJECTiONE fabricated 280 fins from polystyrene for a 12-foot, free-standing architectural panel. (courtesy PROJECTiONE)

PROJECTiONE fabricated 280 fins from polystyrene for a 12-foot, free-standing architectural panel. (courtesy PROJECTiONE)

Designers in Indianapolis fabricate a graphic, splintered design.

Indiana-based design/build studio PROJECTiONE employs a multidisciplinary approach to its work that runs the gamut from digital to analog fabrication. Founders Adam Buente and Kyle Perry craftily bridged that gap with Synthetic Grain, a set piece for the Young & Laramore advertising agency of Indianapolis that explores the natural knotting and grain of lumber. The team used parametric software to create a graphic, 3D pattern system for an architectural screen that mimics natural variations of wood.

Working in Rhino, parallel lines—or the wood grain—were drawn and points were defined within. Each point served as a knot, around which the lines would gently curve. “Our only input for this project were those points in 3D space,” said Perry. To ready the design for fabrication, curves and cut holes for the plywood backing were generated in Grasshopper. Read More

Facades+ Tech Workshop: Advanced Facade Panelization and Optimization Techniques

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Friday, August 23, 2013
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Advanced Facade Panelization and Optimization Techniques (Grasshopper w/ Galapagos & Kangaroo)

On October 25th, AN’s Facades+PERFORMANCE Chicago offers participants the chance to collaborate with industry experts on practical projects to cultivate valuable skills required for the delivery of ground-breaking facade technologies. Registered architects can earn 8 AIA LU credits by selecting one of six full-day, comprehensive workshops that take place in small, one-on-one, classroom settings.

Lead by Jonatan Schumacher and Mathew Naugle of Thornton Thomasetti, the Advanced Facade Panelization and Optimization Techniques workshop is designed to discover distinctive systems for the rationalization of envelope surfaces for efficient fabrication, using a selection of plugins for Grasshopper. Participants will ascertain fundamental concepts of facade panelization, and optimization thereof, using Grasshopper’s optimization plugin Galapagos.

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