Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A+DEN/AAO Conference Revisited

In keeping with the spirit of revisiting this past jamb-packed fall architectural conference season, we revisit the A+DEN/AAO conference. If you couldn't make it or you want to hear the speakers again, click on the individual sections labeled Read More, scroll to the bottom and check out the audio recordings. Memorable speakers include Carol Coletta, CEO, CEOs for Cities; Damon Rich, Founder, Center for Urban Pedagogy; Maurice Cox, Director of Design, National Endowment for the Arts and more.

Monday, February 22, 2010

CIC Inaugural Meeting Tonight

As mentioned previously, the Community Interface Committee (CIC) is one of the initiatives that came out of the AIA Bridge Program. The CIC will be a central resource for not-for-profits to find architects and vice versa. The founders intend to have a full time staff including at least one architect and to become the de facto resource for connecting architects with the underserved in Chicago. If you want to be a part of this important initiative from the very beginning, be at the AIA Chicago Chapter Office, 35 E. Wacker Dr. Ste. 250 at 6pm tonight (Tuesday).

Friday, February 19, 2010

Global PechaKucha Night for Haiti Tomorrow

PKN for Haiti logo by Studio Number One

20 seconds, 20 images, 200 cities, 2000 presentations, 200,000 people - with the aim to raise $1,000,000 for rebuilding Haiti.

The event was realized after an email from Cameron Sinclair, co-founder of Architecture for Humanity to Mark Dytham, co-founder of PechaKucha, asking for help. Within minutes they hashed out a plan and sealed the agreement, how else, with a joint PKN presentation at Tokyo's SuperDeluxe. The mission was announced by Mr. Sinclair later on at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Watch the joint announcement:

The 24 hour-long streamathon will be available online LIVE beginning simultaneously in Tokyo, with a presentation by PechaKucha Founders Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham, and in New Zealand's most eastern city. From there the "PechaKucha Presentation Wave" will travel westward hitting every city in the PK Network along the way for approximately 10 minutes each.

According to the Global PK homepage, the stream will begin at 2am Chicago time and can be viewed here and here as well as on your iPhone or smartphone by using this free application here.

It will catch up with Mr. Sinclair and Architecture for Humanity headquarters in San Francisco at about 10pm Chicago time, 1pm Tokyo time, where there will be an event in Tokyo focusing on Haiti.

PKN Chicago Global Day for Haiti Poster by Visualized Concepts

PechaKucha Night Chicago is, of course, participating and this time has teamed-up with PechaKucha Champaign-Urbana. It is being held at its usual spot, Martyrs', 3855 N. Lincoln. The presentations begin at 2pm with doors opening at 1pm and is all ages this time so be on your best behavior. The cost is $25 or $100 for VIP (those tables and seats in front of the screen) and tickets can be purchased online or at the door. The list of presenters is composed of "guaranteed notorious" special guests and can be found here.

There is also a new Donate Button posted on the global and city PechaKucha websites if you can't make an event and want to contribute. All proceeds go to the building of buildings in Haiti. AfH's funding is usually divided into design services, marketing and travel with funding for buildings coming from outside sources. In this case ALL money raised from Global PKN goes to the building of buildings in Haiti.

Don't get Haiti Fatigue. AfH has committed itself to long-term sustained architectural aid in Haiti. Show your support.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

ACADIA 2009 Revisited: Day 3 - Middleware

Ben Raines and Ken Maschke
"Data Flow and Communication in the Design of Complex Architectural Forms"

Presenting in tandem, Ben and Ken as they were affectionately referred to, explained the nature of the collaboration between architect and engineer on three projects undertaken by AS+GG and TT. The projects, Crystal Center, Matrix Gateway Complex (Winner of a 2010 P/A Award), and the Wings Museum, were all 3 located at various locations in the once bustling land of architectural excess known as Dubai. The projects all provided unique architectural and structural challenges. Ben and Ken stressed that successful complex projects are contingent upon the effective transfer of information between the parties involved, in order to provide a fully integrated and coordinated design scheme. In developing the designs both teams satisfy the need for design exploration by building digital models that serve the purposes of unique to their individual trades. For the architects, 3d models built in Rhinoceros 3d can be used to test architectural decisions through massing and surface models, renderings, exported plan and section information, or surfaces that can be exported to analysis software, like Ecotect, to test environmental responsiveness. For the engineers, models built in SAP2000 can be used for finite element analysis, or FEA, in order to accurately determine stresses on load-bearing members, and Tekla to develop and store values for, in the case of the Wings Museum, a diagrid exoskeleton structural system. The diagrid system required especially close collaboration between Ben and the AS+GG team and Ken and the TT team. The architectural team controlled the visual expression of the diagrid and created a mesh of triangular design surfaces and nodes that can be exported in a format that serves the purposes necessary for the structural team to analyze the stresses in all members of the system and size them accordingly. To complete the loop, the engineers then send tabular data from the FEA back to the architects that allow them to interpret the results in such a way that they can give 3d mass to their original design mesh. Using parametric software, in this case Grasshopper 3D, designers can store and order data from both the FEA and 3d model elements from Rhino and subsequently define the relationships between the two to be able to quickly, efficiently and accurately model a diagrid skin of glass and steel. Ben and Ken concluded by stating that the above process is rich yet involves significant forethought to make sure that all lines of communication are open and readily passable and that all parties involved can speak the same language. However, they offered a caution that software cannot make the final decisions and the design professionals involved must close the loop to be able to produce great buildings.

Brady Peters
"Parametric Acoustic Surfaces"

Brady Peters has been at the forefront of the discourse revolving around parametric modeling and scripting for a number of years now. Formerly an associate at Foster and Partners in London, Peters was involved with the Specialist Modeling Group. The SMG, as it is known, is an in house consultancy at Foster's that provides support to design teams by performing a number of advanced modeling tasks including geometric rationalization, optimization, writing of custom computer programs for project specific tasks, and component based design. Examples of projects by Foster and Partners that were heavily influenced by the SMG are two clear span roof projects, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC and the Great Court at the British Museum in London. Both are examples of structures designed, fabricated and installed using parametric software. In both these cases Bentley's Generative Components was used. Peters has moved on from Foster and Partners and is currently working towards his PhD in architecture at Centre for Information Technology and Architecture (CITA) at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. Peters' work focuses on how space and sound define architectural surfaces. Parametric software allows Peters to use metric data from an environment, in this case sound wave energy, and then use that data to drive a change, i.e., size, angle, radius, etc., in a series of local geometries, or components, which in turn influence the global aesthetic. The result is a geometric construct that is performing according to the relationships and metrics that Peters defines.

Monday, February 15, 2010

AfH Chicago Chapter Meeting Tomorrow

Architecture for Humanity Chicago Chapter's monthly meeting will be held tomorrow evening at 6:30 at Brehon Pub, 731 N. Wells. This is the first meeting since the fundraiser last month from which 10% of the proceeds went to AfH's Haiti effort. Many initiatives were brought up including the new competition-winning logo design that was sent to AfH HQ for approval, the announcement that the Chicago Chapter has been selected as one of three Regional Offices, and the launch of the new Chicago Chapter website.

Logo Design by Preema Modi.

According to Communications Committee Co-chair Geoff Malia, being selected as a Regional Office does three important things for the Chapter. It will have its own 501(c)(3) status, it will have its own professional and general liability insurance which means it will now have the ability to provide full architectural services through construction, and lastly it will be able to maintain its own bank account to fund projects. 

The world, and more specifically the profession, is still abuzz about aid and rebuilding efforts for Haiti. AfH HQ is dedicated to focusing its efforts on providing long-term sustainable solutions. At the local level, the Chicago Chapter has been working closely with Peter Exley on Chicago's contribution to Pecha Kucha Global Day for Haiti dropping this Saturday at 1pm at Martyrs'. They've also been in contact with HQ to let them know they are available to help in Haiti as well as pursuing leads directly, independent of HQ.

Other issues on the agenda for tomorrow include the annual USGBC Natural Talent Design Competition, AfH Chicago Chapter's Street Furniture Competition and as always the floor is open for other ideas, suggestions and comments. All this and meetings are held in a pub. What more could you ask for?

See you there.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Staurdays in the Studio - Model Making

Volunteers are needed for the Model Making session of Saturdays in the Studio at IIT on Feb. 20th from 9:00-3:00. There will be a planning meeting on Wednesday at 12:30 at CAF in the 4th floor conference room. Anyone interested should contact Krisann.

Saturdays in the Studio
model-making @ IIT
Crown Hall
3300 S. State St
February 20
9:00 - 3:00
(workshop is from 10:00 - 2:30)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

ACADIA 2009 Revisited: Day 2 - Software

Judit Kimpian, Josh Mason, Jeroen Coenders, Dan Jestico, Steve Watts
"Sustainably Tall: Investment, Energy, Life Cycle"

This cross-disciplinary collaboration brings together the major players involved in a design team for a tall building - architect, structural and mechanical engineers, and cost consultants - to develop a Tall Building Simulation (TBS) model that can act as an interactive platform for clients and design teams to quickly and efficiently evaluate the effects of shape and form on energy use, embodied energy, CO2 emissions and capital/life cycle cost of tall buildings. One of the driving concepts for the development of this parametric model is to address the assumption that the majority of the decisions that effect a tall building's sustainability are made at the very earliest stages of the project, and yet the information required for an accurate sustainability assessment is not made available to design teams until well after the initial concept phase. This model allows different scenarios to be evaluated by the client and the design teams at an early stage, thereby maximizing the effectiveness of a given strategy in achieving a projects sustainability goals. As with any forecasting effort, the accuracy of the forecast relies on defining the right parameters and on the gathering of good data. In this case the team collected real energy use data collected through post-occupancy evaluations and other recognized sources of data, and bench marked performance comparisons against published research on the energy use of tall buildings. The quantitative parameters that the team chose were general enough to allow the designer to apply concept level qualitative thinking, yet tangible enough to allow them to easily assign a value to each parameter. The parameters used are:
  • Occupancy
  • Wide versus Slender Towers
  • Shape
  • Floor-to-Floor Height
  • Orientation and Cladding
  • Mechanical Systems
  • Daylight Controls
  • Cooling/Heating Set Points
  • Equipment Efficiency
  • Hours of Operation
  • Carbon Factor
Weighing the carefully thought out parameters against one another allows the design team to work together to achieve an integrated solution of high-performance. To me the interest is not as much in the computational aspect of the project as it is in the nature of the collaboration involved. Collaborative thinking is absolutely essential to creating an integrated response to both client demands as well as the need to build and operate tall buildings sustainably.

Nathan Miller
"Parametric Strategies in Civic Architecture Design"

This paper highlights digitally driven projects done by the Los Angeles office of NBBJ that demonstrate how the office utilizes parametric and generative processes to design and deliver buildings with speed, efficiency and precision. Miller starts by outlining the 2 ways that digital technologies are employed at NBBJ - as tools & as methods. As a tool, advanced modeling software, in this case Grasshopper is used, is used to support and enable a design idea through rationalization, optimization and production. This represents the way digital technologies are usually used in their office - to digitally automate the documentation of a set of analog instructions. In more unique cases advanced modeling software is used as a way to achieve new architectural possibilities by allowing the software to assume control of the execution of an algorithm that can result in potentially unforeseen outcomes. The algorithm, controlled by the designer, in concert with the ability of the computer to carry out the instructions results in a process-driven approach to documentation and fabrication as the rules, relationships and constraints describe the desired physical output as opposed to physical dimensions. Miller highlighted the Hangzhou Main Stadium in Hangzhou, China as an example where parametric thinking was employed early on in the design process and advanced as the design became more articulated. The project is an 80,000-seat multipurpose stadium conceived of as a premier sports venue for the expanding city of Hangzhou. The exterior of the stadium is a series of structural "petals" that create an enclosure around the sides and a roof. Each of the petals were designed as a parametric "component" derived from unique edge curves which were derived from concentric planar curves through a design surface. There is variability throughout the array of petals achieved by applying the same rules, constraints and instructions to different seed conditions. The resulting associative geometries respond to structural and material concerns and provide logic for the documentation and fabrication of the petals that have utility beyond that of a design study tool. In this particular case NBBJ sent Miller and his team to China to work with the local architect, CCDI, to develop construction documents from the parametric model they developed. Reporting on that process can be tracked

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

ACADIA 2009 Revisited: Day 1 - Hardware

Silvan Oesterle
"Cultural Performance in Robotic Timber Construction"

This presentation presented work done by students at the Dept. of Architecture at the ETH Zurich under the guide of Fabio Gramazio and Matthias Kohler. Kramazio and Kohler's work has focused primarily on fabrication that focuses on the use of robotic processes. The challenge of their work has been to explore spatial relationships through digital logic. In this case, the digital logic is utilizing a six-axis industrial robot arm to handle and place building components. The precision and efficiency with which the robot arm carries out its specified tasks results in highly articulated transformative structures. In this presentation Oesterle employed the robot arm to fabricate timber structures that elaborated upon vernacular building techniques and strategies to create serial constructs of wood slats. The interest in this particular process lies in the rationalization of the construction process to enable the designer to "talk" to the robot arm and feed it a series of instructions that it will recognize and that will compose the desired effect. Oesterle outlined the following as the constraints for the design that needed to be coded:
  • A minimum required overlap of half the slat's width between the slats of one layer to the next layer to allow for proper nailing connections.
  • A maximum allowed cantilever of approximately 70 cm for the overall structure during production in order to avoid sagging and deformation.
  • Placement logic for the slats either predefined or through optimization to prevent collisions between the gripper (tool attached to the end of the robot arm) and the already built wall.
  • An end angle that adheres to the +-45 degree limit of the cutting machine to ensure closed flush placement of wood slats.
The result is an elegant proof-of-concept installation that exhibits a high level of 'digital craft.' Oesterle demonstrated command over the analog-to-digital translation process that one must have to successfully rationalize, define and represent a dynamic condition in a parametric environment. Check out Silvan's work here.

Ziggy Drozdowski and Shawn Gupta
Hoberman Assoc Inc.and Buro Happold Ltd.
"Adaptive Fritting as Case Exploration for Adaptivity in Architecture"

Drozdowski and Gupta presented a part of a much larger body of work called the Adaptive Building Initiative, a research endeavor that explores the use of mechanism design that creates adaptive systems in buildings that use less energy, offer more occupant comfort, and use space more efficiently than static buildings. This particular paper presented Adaptive Fritting, an adaptive shading system comprised of multiple layers of glass with identical frit dots, separated and controlled by a disc actuator device that rotates all layers of glass independent of one another in such a way that, from an initial state, the frit dots, in elevation, create a variable pattern as the actuator completes its' 360 degrees of rotation. The resulting variability ranges in its' coverage and demonstrates that it could be programmed to respond to the time of day position of the sun to provide maximum shading of direct solar radiation when it is needed, and can adapt to provide more maximum views when sun angles allow. I highly encourage you to view the animations here, as it can surely explain it better than I. The paper concludes that while adaptive systems are traditionally seen as expensive and impractical, 'movement' in buildings can be accessible if done with high economy and simple elegance.

Herzog and de Meuron
"Digital Technologies, Methods, and Tools in Support of the Architectural Development at Herzog and de Meuron"

As the Head of Design Technology at Herzog and de Meuron, Strehlke is charged with execution of work that stems from the HdM design philosophy that emphasizes the uniqueness of every project. To a group of academics at a conference revolving around computation and advanced modeling. That means a lot of custom computer programs written without much of the overlap needed to reuse a script more than just once, a task that Strehlke demonstrated to be as complex as one might expect. At the beginning of his keynote address he outlined a design process prevalent at HdM that, first and foremost, utilized top-down architectural thinking that originates with the principals, Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, and only employs computational methods when a level of complexity that is too difficult to manage by hand is reached. Strehlke exhibited 3 projects that each reached the aforementioned level of complexity: The City of Flamenco in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain (2003), Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, Germany (2003) and Bird's Nest Lamp (2009).

The City of Flamenco in Jerez de la Frontera
The project is a cultural complex that includes an auditorium, a museum, a school, and a documentation center. For one particular aspect of the project a perforated, load-bearing wall constructed of poured concrete was designed that also embodied ornamental qualities which reflected the cities Moorish past. Strehlke and his team, the Digital Technology Group, a small group of HdM employees created inside the office to enhance and support the creative abilities of the office as a whole through the creation of custom scripts and complex geometric models, took on the task of creating and managing a collection of digitally generated tags, or components, to create the ornament. Each tag contained geometric data for CNC manufacturing, as well as program adjacency information and structural analysis data that assured that the wall provided the necessary points of attachment for stairs on the interior as well as assuring the structural performance of the wall.

This project is a cultural complex in the harbor of Hamburg that combines a pre-existing brick warehouse with a crystalline tent-like structure with two concert halls, a hotel, residential units that float above. A parametric scripting approach was used for a sound diffusing surface pattern for the interior of the symphonic concert hall, as well as for the design of the custom frit pattern of the glass facade. Parametric models of the exterior wall enabled the accurate delivery of a highly complex and varied system of 2,200 glass elements with a high variety of different sizes.

Bird's Nest Lamp
The Bird's Nest Lamp was a project to post-rationalize a lamp that was created in China using a traditional Chinese method of creating a mold with hand tools and casting with the chosen metal. A parametric model was built in much the same way that a parametric model for the iconic Bird's Nest stadium was built. Structural ribs run over a double-curved surface and intersect at predefined structural nodes that have been engineered to assure a sound construct. Using this process it was easy for Strehlke to analyze the existing hand-made lamp to derive these nodes, or 'knots,' input them into a parametric environment and construct the ribs by performing a simple sweep of a consistent profile along curves projected onto the circular lamp geometry.

Strehlke's paper presentation left me, someone most interested in understanding how environmental and structural analysis software can shape a building for high-performance, with a burning question. If computation and advanced modeling is used only when architectural thought has reached an unreasonable level of complexity, what happened prior to the advent of pervasive use of the computer in architecture? I am curious to know how the top level decisions have been influenced knowing that there is a skilled digital craftsman like Kai Strehlke on your side ready to bail you out.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

ACADIA Conference Revisited

In an effort to keep Chicago's conference season of last fall going, David LeFevre will be posting follow-up content from his experiences at the ACADIA Conference. Please look for these postings for the next three Wednesdays beginning tomorrow.

Monday, February 1, 2010

AIA Young Architects Forum Presents: Architects and Beyond

Last Thursday, the Young Architects Forum of AIA Chicago Chapter put on a presentation hosted at HOK's office. In the description, there was mention of learning how to identify skills and networking techniques. It turned out to be more of a presentation, however we had the opportunity to ask questions in these areas if we wanted. Aside from the fact there wasn't any beer provided I thought the event was both timely and great.

All four presenters were traditionally trained in architecture but the first three have since gone on to start their own, non-architecture, businesses while the last, Cagri Kanver, works with HOK's Advance Strategies division.

The first presenter, Jessica Lybeck, runs a business consultancy called Till Creative. She quit her job at SOM's Urban Design Studio to start her own business which she sort of fell into. That is to say, she had a number of ideas for a business but it wasn't until she helped a friend start hers that she realized she had a natural talent for it. Since starting Till Creative two years ago she has received media attention from Time Out Chicago, The Wall Street Journal and Crain's Chicago Business.

Next up, Nathan Benjamin, principal and founder of Planet Reuse, LLC., a first to market company whose goal is to make using reclaimed building materials effortless, matching materials with designers, builders and owners to save projects money.  Their main customers are people building sustainable projects. As such, they provide LEED services of the reclaimed materials portion for new projects - free of charge. They have decided to make their money from selling the material, not from the consulting services. The recession has actually been good for him. Aside from all the material available from places that have gone out of business, much of it practically new, it has given he and his associates the time they need to restructure and organize things after learning more from their experience and past mistakes.

The third presenter was, Annie Mohaupt, founder of Mohop Shoes. Ms. Mohaupt has one of those American Dream stories you've heard of. In her words, one day in 2005, while driving in her car she had and epiphany: "Shoes!" After 18 months of trial and error with steaming and bending plywood and testing different straps the first shoes were ready to go out. Today she runs a small shop off of Elston and employs 10 people. Her manufacturing method has changed slightly. Instead of bending plywood the soles are carved out of wood blocks from a CNC machine. In her words again, "I model everything in Rhino, set up the blocks on the CNC machine before I leave for the day, and when I get back in the morning, poof, I have shoes!" Priceless. A friend of mine commented afterward on the contrast between how lightly she described her process whereas architects are normally very intense and serious when talking about the design process involving technologies like Rhino.

Adina Balasu, co-chair of YAF for AIACC,

Given that the market is not calling for Architects we thought it'd be a good idea to provide architects with inspiration to take their skill sets outside of the pure "Architect" arena and identify new areas where they can apply their vision and thinking by learning from those that already made the jump.

Adina says they received some great feedback and people were inspired so they are now planning the next session. She's currently looking for presenters,
I'd like one to be an architect that successfully marketed themselves to land a position and talk about how they did it. An architect that has a positive story of how they took matters in their hands and did something out of the ordinary to defeat the market.
The presentations were certainly inspiring and it's easy to be envious of people like Ms. Mohaupt that are doing what they love while making money at it. Whatever their advice for those about to embark on their own endeavors, personality has got to have a lot to do with it. After she finished presenting about her shoes even I wanted a pair, er, for my wife, I mean.

Photo Credit: Darya Minosyants