Materials & Design (1) – An Introduction to Structures

Outside of our main studio/design class, all of the first years also took our first structure-related course, entitled “Materials and Design” – here we were introduced to not only basic structural systems such as the column and beam, but also to various materials. Most of our learning was through hands-on, exploratory work as opposed to straight research.

The first portion of the class, which lasted for about 4 weeks or so, tasked us with the creation of various structural systems that were required to hold a certain amount of weight, usually bricks, without breaking. For the majority of the tasks I was paired up with a fellow student and friend Jesse. Our process usually consisted of various sketches and incredulous head-scratching as we tried to figure out how we were supposed to support a multitude of bricks with such a small amount of material. Eventually we would build a design and test it, at which point it would inevitably fail catastrophically. We would examine the breaking points of the structure, and attempt to modify it to support more weight. This typically repeated a couple times until we had satisfied the weight requirements for the project (or were at a loss as to how to proceed). We would then bring our various designs to class to have them be tested there and allow the professor to comment on the design.

At the end of the project(s) we compiled all the designs into a small booklet, which I have included here.

final-document

First Semester – Gallery of Work

Field Study – Drawings

Beyond the creation of our field model, we were also asked to explore our surface through drawing and photography, similar to our exploration of our original joint. These drawings consisted of a diagrammatic study (two 30″ x 30″), a second abstract perspective exploration, and four new photographs. Once again I utilized the blue/grey color scheme, which at this point had become part of the work and was a great way to give unity and clarity to the entire project.

All of our second semester work up to this point created our body of work for our midterm review.

The first of the two 30" square studies illustrating the structure through to-scale plan and section. This was our first usage of human figures to illustrate scale, and while originally I was a bit apprehensive, I soon grew to enjoy them.

The first of the two 30″ square studies illustrating the structure through to-scale plan and section. This was our first usage of human figures to illustrate scale, and while originally I was a bit apprehensive, I soon grew to enjoy them.

The second of the two 30" square studies.

The second of the two 30″ square studies.

The second abstract perspective drawing of the semester, which, like the first one, I used to attempt to explore the exploded nature of the structure.

The second abstract perspective drawing of the semester, which, like the first one, I used to attempt to explore the exploded nature of the structure.

Four photographic studies of the final field model/surface.

Four photographic studies of the final field model/surface.

Moving Forward – Field Studies

Having now explored and ultimately created a basic ruleset/design mode to guide the exploration of our pavilion, we were asked to construct a portion of the pavilion using our current iteration of the 4″ x 4″ x 12″ joint. This portion had to create some form of “surface” – be it ground, roof, or wall – that ideally the rest of the pavilion would then extend from. I and my classmates found this to be increasingly difficult, as our smaller structure was just that – small, and the concept of transforming it to become a larger structure was very foreign. Ultimately the guidelines regarding the specific function of our new exploration (specifically one of the three necessary surfaces) were blurred/removed, allowing for a more open design process.

Looking back at some of the photographs I had taken of my smaller joint in various configurations formed the basis of my inspiration – I decided to quite literally stack my joint multiple times, creating a sort of smaller module which was then repeated over the course of the structure. The idea was simply to use one basic form of module (derived near-directly from the original joint), which was then slightly transformed to create eight basic modules. These parts were then stacked in various configurations to allow for openings and multiple surfaces.

Because of the construction of my original joint, I found it made the most sense to take one half of the joint and split it down the middle, effectively deriving my basic module from one quarter of the original joint. These quarters were then turned on their side, allowing the vertical nature to then become horizontal. This created various platforms across the surface as the modules were stacked and shifted. The exact function for each surface was unclear – I wanted their purpose to emerge naturally as they were used. Some surfaces were quite clearly stairs to upper levels, but all could then be used as seats or other forms beyond my limited imagining in the studio. I also decided to keep the idea of a “key” or anchor for the structure, creating three pillars that held the space together (although physically within the model they were not required to keep the rest of the parts together – but the idea was that perhaps they would).

Of course, the entire model was also to be constructed within Rhino, our primary modeling software. In anticipation of creating the actual model, I created some quick renderings of my design to get a feel of how it would ultimately look, some of which I have included below.

A sample of some of my renderings of the concept as designed in Rhino

A sample of some of my renderings of the concept as designed in Rhino

For the first time we were also introduced to the concept of space having a primary function – part of the requirements for our final pavilion was to ultimately create multiple spaces that could be used as a) public seating/conversation space, b) private space, and c) public demonstration/presentation space. While we weren’t expected to explicitly address these modes of space in this iteration of our development, they were something to keep in mind.

The final constructed model, built at 1″ = 1′ scale (so the model stood at 12″ tall and about 20″ long):

The completed field model. Like the original joint, I chose to construct the model out of a mixture of cold press and basswood, both because of ease of cutting/assembly and also to maintain a sense of continuity between the two models.

The completed field model. Like the original joint, I chose to construct the model out of a mixture of cold press and basswood, both because of ease of cutting/assembly and also to maintain a sense of continuity between the two models.

Like the original joint, the field model could also be disassembled, although unfortunately not as much as before - this time, only the wooden "keys" or anchors were removable, but the rest of the structure was stationary.

Like the original joint, the field model could also be disassembled, although unfortunately not as much as before – this time, only the wooden “keys” or anchors were removable, but the rest of the structure was stationary.

A view from the side of the field model/surface, to help illustrate how I shifted the alignment of the modules to create a more broken surface on the interior.

A view from the side of the field model/surface, to help illustrate how I shifted the alignment of the modules to create a more broken surface on the interior.

The exterior of the field model/surface. I chose to cover up various portions of the surface in an attempt to make the exterior feel more closed, to contrast with the broken/more open interior.

The exterior of the field model/surface. I chose to cover up various portions of the surface in an attempt to make the exterior feel more closed, to contrast with the broken/more open interior.

Don’t Worry – I’m Still Here!

Hello everyone. It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

First off, I’d like to apologize for the lack of posting for the past 3 or 4 months. Studying architecture is certainly a time-consuming process, and in the midst of my busy schedule I let this blog slip away a bit. I then subsequently forgot about it and only recently realized that it has been way too long since I have posted. Much has happened in that time!

Now I am on my summer vacation, and have the time to bring this blog back up to speed. Over the next month or so I’ll be writing posts to cover the second half of my second semester. Unfortunately, the ideas behind the work will not be fresh, of-the-moment ideas, but I’ll try and capture my thoughts at the time as best as I can. I will also try and include a date estimate so as to give a proper sense of the timeline of the work. One of the benefits of being done with the semester at this point is I now have much better photographs of my work after documenting everything at the end of the semester.

Again, sorry about letting this blog fall to the way-side, but don’t worry. I’m back!

 

–August