Structures #1

In the midst of our Studio and Construction Systems work, our other classes continued ahead at full steam. In Structures 1, after having learned all about beams, columns, etc. and how to calculate their forces, we were tasked to construct a pedestrian bridge to scale. This bridge was to be loaded using a machine in the shop, to test its capacity. The structure also had to include a covering, but had to be open at the very center where the load would be placed.

I teamed up with classmates Jesse, Lauren, Erik, and Miguel for this project. We began with a simple arched design, with a flat path placed below rather than above the arch. Originally we had misunderstood the assignment and designed the bridge such that the load would be placed on the arch. Our hope was that the pedestrian walkway below would act as a tension member to hold the ends of the arch in place (as it had not material to brace against as it might in a building). We constructed the bridge out of laminated sheets of MDF, and this was ultimately our downfall.

First iteration of pedestrian bridge model for Structures 1. Constructed from laminated sheets of MDF.

First iteration of pedestrian bridge for Structures 1. Constructed from laminated sheets of MDF.

When tested, the bridge failed much earlier than we had hoped or anticipated – very quickly the laminated sheets sheared apart, as the glue was not able to hold them together under the stress of the load.

First iteration of pedestrian bridge model for Structures 1, being loaded for testing.

First iteration of pedestrian bridge for Structures 1, being loaded for testing.

Back to the drawing board for the second and final design, knowing this time that if we were to laminate the structure, we would need to provide some sort of cross-member to keep the material from shearing apart.

Moving Forward: Triangulation

Well, it’s been quite a while. About two months ago I said I was back for the summer, but then new commitments started up (namely work around the house as well as an internship at TIA Architects in Amherst, MA) and I just haven’t gotten around to the blog. Perhaps I should just give into the fact that I’m not going to be able to update this consistently, and that’s just how it will be.

At any rate, I would like to try and finish up my 3rd semester’s work so that I can actually move onto the 4th semester before I start my 5th in September. Holy moly, time flies! Let’s see if I can’t get back into the swing of things.

After our midterm with our artist residencies, we all returned to our desks to begin puzzling out the interior of our forms. I had created and organized the exterior shell around a basic space plan, but now I needed to actually see how I might  fit things into the interior. How would I address vertical circulation? Windows and other apertures? What about entrances? These are things that I really hadn’t thought about, and now I needed to.

My first step was to figure out how to meld the existing form for more shape and solidity. Up to this point, the project had been constantly fighting the “mayonnaise plague”, i.e. becoming so goopy as to no longer be recognizable. I needed to really grab the building and lift it out of the slop once and for all. The most drastic change I performed on the structure was a triangulation of the entire surface. I left the surrounding landscape smooth, and allowed this smoothness to bleed onto the surface of the structure at various points, namely the roof (which I imagined as a green roof, a grass-covered extension of the hill behind it. I was trying to capture the idea of “viewing platforms” that the owners of Storm King had mentioned during our tour) and the interior tunnels through the building.

I then created a sectional model to illustrate this change in exterior, as well as to give a peek into how the interior might unfold. Since I wanted the structure to smoothly rise from the landscape, I kept the entire “skin” of the model one material.

Sectional model of Storm King Residency, after triangulation. MDF skeleton with Bristol Board skin.

Sectional model of Storm King Residency, after triangulation. MDF skeleton with Bristol Board skin.

I also began to think about how I might lay out the interior, particularly the upper level with the living spaces for the artists. Following a similar triangulation pattern, I came up with this basic layout seen below. Though this ended up being adjusted fairly drastically as I created windows and vertical circulation, it was a decent place to start.

A preliminary plan for the 3rd floor, where artists in residence would live.

A preliminary plan for the 3rd floor, where artists in residence would live.