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A systematic approach to the defining of biological processes to create an Architectural language CHRISTOPHER VOLTL



AR 503

Observing biological processes to `create an architectural language using electron microscopic images

A Thesis Presented to the Undergraduate faculty of The newschool of architecture + design

In partial fulfillment Of the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Architecture

By Christopher Voltl June 2015 San Diego, CA III //


2015 Christopher Voltl All rights reserved

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Emergence- the process by which new and coherent structures, patterns, and properties ‘emerge’ from within complex systems Using this idea as a frame of reference, of how in a biological sense, can apply to architecture as a theoretical beginning. As stated before, Architecture is in a state to which buildings need to become smarter, adapting to the conditions of the location. As designers, we have always looks to outside sources; i.e. nature, patterns, other projects, taking inspiration from nearly all surrounding visual disturbances. The inconsistence of developing from different sources creates a discontinuity in the epistemology of the design process but can be argued to create a new typology of architectural discourse. In the course of the research that unfolded throughout the course of 2015 the understanding between discipline and system became a prominent system in research that I was doing in the topic of emergence. That taking the idea of patterns found at a microscopic level, found in systems that are not understood in the arrangement and complexity of how these systems are compiled. The sea urchin skeletal system has been the epitome of my research analysis, due to the structural nature of this emergent system. The discussion of the sea urchin in architectural discourse did not come about out of thin air but from a deep analysis of cellular structure and the system compiled as in the idea of part to whole relationships and from further development of this project this idea of part to whole became more relevant as this system developed further.

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A Project Presented To The Undergraduate Class Of AR 503

by Christopher Voltl

Approved by

Undergraduate Chair:

Leonard Zegarski


Studio Instructor:

Vuslat Demircay PhD.


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This book is dedicated to my Parents, Julie Voltl and Siegfried Voltl, my Oma, Maria Voltl, and my Brother, Joey Voltl. Without the support, love and funding from these individuals this would not be possible. Always encouraging me to pursue my dreams, always telling me to look forward with your head high and you will accomplish something great. So here is to you, Mom, Dad, Oma and Joey, thank you for everything and I love all of you so very much.



I would also like to thank all that has helped me in the formulation of such a unorthodox idea to be represented as an architectural topic worth studying. Without my professor Vuslat Demircay keeping me grounded and on track for the duration of an academic year and the help of Casey Mahon to guide me in the right direction and to get my idea off the ground and represented in the correct syntax. I would also like to thank select classmate for the great discussions and friendship we shared in our years together and wish you all the best with your future after graduation.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS PREFACE title page....................................................iii copyright page.......................................iv signature page..................................vii dedication............................................vii acknowledgments...............................................ix table of contents..................................................xi CHAPTER ONE Stance Research Time line...................................1 Purpose.....................................................3 Images for Research..........................................6 CHAPTER TWO Research Methods Case Studies............................................15 Louis Sullivan........................................................16 ICD Research Pavilion.....................................20 Evan Douglis..........................................26 FAB Pod......................................................28 SOHO..................................................32 Site Selection..........................................35 CHAPTER THREE Design Prototyping Recreating Sea Urchin Skeleton...................42 Tessellating Geometries...................................49 Weaire-Phelan Tessellation Dissection .............63 Generative Analysis.............................69 Combining Modules...................................85 Panel Disassembly.............................97 Application................................................105 CHAPTER THREE Fabrication & Design Development Panel Fabrication.............................................113 3D Print Prototypes............................................114 CNC Cast..............................................124

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Real World Application..................................131 Final Models....................................................153 Statement of Learning......................................153 APPENDICES Review of Literature...................................166 List of citations...................................167

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The development of Architecture now today is in a mode of optimization, every system in a building is based off a set of data built to ensure the energy put in maximizes the energy exerted. Like the systems in the built environment, the systems in the biologic environment hold many of the same traits and since biological systems provide a great platform to representing a solution to a technical problem. “In the realm of biological organisms, the abundance of shape is a direct consequence of the evolutionary process that living beings undergo to constantly meet changing environmental conditions.� (ITKE) This project attends to understand cell behavior and how the structure adapts to different conditions and how these properties can be translated into an architectural language. The basic goals for this project are with-in the realm of crafting an architecture based around biology and to create way to accurately model and represent these cells to use their properties to apply to structure within the built environment. How do we use the technology in place to create a more efficient architecture while using organisms properties as the inspiration? An objective is to model different diatoms, since they are complex single cell organisms, to understand the complex structure of the cell. My critical position is; Using biological processes as an inspiration for design, Creating an environment that not only functions more efficiently but can also be more complex in form. The reason that this is important to me is be-



cause like professional architect and all around architectural innovator Frank Gehry says,�98% of architecture is shit� we need to be the generation to make architecture more efficient but more aesthetically pleasing. Nature expends less energy to create beautiful geometrical shapes, and to be able to take inspiration in that, architecture can be created in a more interesting manner. Not saying that construction processes are wrong but they are used to create a certain type of architecture that prides post and beam construction. With biological process the implementation of biologic rational we can develop a system that can work to streamline a more advanced construction process that can make more complex geometry efficient and cheap. The method of extraction to reach my goal is to test the properties with current fabrication technology available. I am currently looking at case studies of already build projects the take inspiration from biomimetics and looking at images from Electron Scanning Images to find and be expressed in an architectural language. Basis for choosing these elements are based off a few components; does it contain a spacial quality, a structural quality, is it interesting, can it be applied as a holistic or single component, does it have programmatic elements. This is the scope of the research being processed in this thesis exploration.

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Scanning university and professional photo depositories for images that have come from an electron scanning microscope was the intent to apply architectural semiotics based on the qualities of each image or group of images. In creating an architecture that can create a better over experience for humans, this project has chosen to explore the structural and spacial qualities found in nature. More specifically looking at images from Electron Scanning Images to find and be expressed in an architectural language. Basis for choosing these elements are based off a few components; does it contain a spacial quality, a structural quality, is it interesting, can it be applied as a holistic or single component, does it have programmatic elements. After finding twelve images from numerous amount of images at my disposal due to the resources available at the university level. Images shown starting from the top left are; Microscopic structures Option One, Microscopic structures Option two, Microscopic structures Option three. Second row starting from the left; Flu Virus, Simian Virus, West Nile Virus. Third row from the left; Cytoskeleton of MCF10A cell, CACO-2 intestinal epithelial cell, sea urchin skeleton.[1][2][3] [3] [7] [8]












[9][5][6] [4]

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Initial phase of research was to identify aspect of existing circumstances that happen on a scale most humans never experience to create an architectural rhetoric

[1] [2] [3] [4][5][6]



As in architecture in the built environment the cell comes from several load-bearing structures; the cytoskeleton, Microtubles, intermediate filaments. Cytoskeleton- is an elastic network throughout the cell, made primarily of actin filaments and many cross-linking proteins. Microtubles- are the stiffest rod like element in the cell and provide both structural support and physical pathways for transport of material within a cell Intermediate filaments- form a structural component that provides elasticity to the cell and bear tension. The stiffness of the networks that make up the cell is highly controllable Looking at how the structure of the inner workings of how a cell is compiled is important for my initial research to move forward into how cells compile into more complex assemblage. The understanding of the cell can influence strategies of how to relate the built environment, urban areas and the structures compiled within these contexts. A cell has developed to a point where it finds equilibrium within this system. Breaking apart the components can invoke a conversation in which an architectural language can develop out of. the bimolecular motors power the internal tension within the cell that is balanced by attaching to the cell wall and the surrounding context by “the compressional load-bearing capability of the microtubles” (IBB) An aspect of the cell that will be heavy investigated in the development of an architectural typeface it the ability of the cell to constantly able to re-generate its geometrical form. A way to traverse into the development of a generative focus into taking aspects of how these

‘The cell is always remodeling it’s shape, and the polymerization of the network components during the course of this remodeling also provides a force. The cell adheres to its surroundings and can exert a tension on the matrix, coupled through focal adhesions, the points where the cell is adheres to the external environment. Motor activity within the cell is coupled to the matrix through these focal adhesions to exert an external force.” (IBB) Another essential aspect or the cell that can promote a new understanding to Architecture is the way a cell can transport materials, this is a process that is ever changing with the cell. A cell over its lifetime will grow and reconfigure the geometric shape and material within the cell has juxtapose within many locations to keep the cell striving. (IBB pg18) Showcasing how adaptable the cell and components are have a place in which the built world reconfigure to adapt to such a static environment. The properties in which the cell uses generatively to update and configure its own entity can also attach to a network of biomolecular mechanics. “The transduction of metabolic energy into work is more than 50 percent efficient” (IBB)

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The purpose of this study was to visualize what has been read in the previous months and attempting to visualize it with an architectural stance. Basing the study purely of the conceptualization of space. Is there an attempt to represent items found in the images of the electron scanning microscope. Images used to conceptualize were of the virus and cytoskeleton in the relationship of single pod elements acting as a the cell attached to an already existing building using tensile members to act as


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support for the element. Implementing the idea of how a representation of biological specimen in architecture can look like.[2]

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The reason this system has been chosen as a catalyst for architectural research is due to the structural factors that are presented with the sea urchin. Bound by a primary and secondary structural system working together to create a system allowing growth but also the secondary system working against the forces in the ocean and the impacts this organism is taking on the sea floor. A system that works well resisting against lateral loads that can relate to architecture and the way that spaces are created allowing for different ways to think about programmatic features and how space is created. Taking inspiration from elements in nature, there are many ways to approach this situation. For example, to the left, the sea urchin has many characteristics that can be useful to the implementation into the built environment as a solution to a technical problem. Similar to a building a sea urchin has to adapt to the site conditions but unlike the static nature of a building structure, the sea urchin adapts continuously due to evolutionary processes. The Skeleton has evolved to this complex arrangement of modular plates. The sea urchin is a great study due to the discontinuous geometric shell, allowing for the shear forces to isolate in between each polygon where the connection is interlocking similar to fingers. The geometrical arrangement allows three different panels to align up to each other allowing for a higher bearing load. Since the edges act as hinges and allow for this species to grow and morph over time without folding in on it’s self there has to be a force that acts internally within the panels, this is where the porous structure has its function. This inner configuration provides a lighter overall weight while being able to distribute the internal forces more even that a solid wall. 13 //

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As the theoretical framework has been set CASE STUDIES by conceptualizing the idea of architecture ANALYZATION through biomimetic processes, by looking to cell makeup and configuration of organizational relationships at the microscopic scale. Finding real world examples of architects, designers, and artists that use a similar process of biomimetics to help refine and apply the knowledge/ processes that they have gained/gone through. As an application to use and apply to my own research in architecture design. Moving from the conceptual framework to formal implementations is critical in how research of the sea urchin skeletal system can be applied to the built environment. Creating this discourse selection of case studies that were analyze and chosen by representing quality that can be applied to as a real world application. Using this as A basis the cases looked into were; Louis Sullivan, Institute of Computational Design Research Pavilion 2012, Evan Douglas, SOHO Thematic Pavilion, and Mark Burry.

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[5] [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]


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Early considered the pioneer of the skyscraper and noted by Frank Lloyd Wright as the greatest Architect of his time had a prominent history of creating avant-garde designs. Sullivan was known for his book, “A System of Architectural Ornamentation.� is still a prevalent reading in the time of post-digital architectural exploration. He is noted discussing the morphologic systems of that in nature of botanical biology. His Architectural works featured geometry of vegetation that covered the exterior of his building as ornamentation. Sullivan may have been the source of the digital-botanic explorations going on in architecture now. I feel his discussion is still relevant and has its place in the history and adapting principles of his structures to adapt to my own Architecture.

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David, O. (2011, January 1). ICD / ITKE Research Pavilion 2011. Retrieved January 1, 2014, from http://20 [1][2][3][4][5][6]


“In summer 2011 the Institute for Computational Design (ICD) and the Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design (ITKE), together with students at the University of Stuttgart have realized a temporary, bionic research pavilion made of wood at the intersection of teaching and research. The project explores the architectural transfer of biological principles of the sea urchin’s plate skeleton morphology by means of novel computer-based design and simulation methods, along with computer-controlled manufacturing methods for its building implementation. A particular innovation consists in the possibility of effectively extending the recognized bionic principles and related performance to a range of different geometries through computational processes, which is demonstrated by the fact that the complex morphology of the pavilion could be built exclusively with extremely thin sheets of plywood (6.5 mm).� (David)

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Ellers, O., Johnson, A., & Moberg, P. (1998). Structural strength of Urchin Skeletons by Collagenous Structural Ligaments. The 22 Biology Bulletin, 195(2), 136-144. Retrieved January 1, 2014, from html Magna, R., Gabler, M., Reichert, S., Schwinn, T., Waimer, F., Menges, A., & Knippers, J. (2014). From Nature to Fabrication: Biomimetic Design Principles for the Production of Complex Spatial Structures. International Journal of Space Structures, 27-40.




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From nature to materials to fabrication, extracting data from nature to solve a technical problem in the built world. Showcasing the finger-joint on the pavilion, that directly relates to the structural skeleton of the Sea Urchin. The Sea Urchin Is based on a two-type structural system. The primary system is located on the exterior of the shell, used to control shear forces. The secondary system, located on the interior of the shell divides the shell into a hexagonal pattern giving the shell a large load-bearing capacity, with the added support of the tendon joints located within the fingers of without this the shell, as it grows and morphs and adapts to the conditions of its growth but also allowing the shell to defend its self upon outside forces acting on the shell. It is important to show the localization of the solution within the skeleton of the Sea Urchin. Providing the correct relationship from nature implementation to the real world adaptation to a technical problem with in the structural efficiency of the pavilion.

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David, O. (2011, January 1). ICD / ITKE Research Pavilion 2011. Retrieved January 1, 2014, from http://25 [1]



Work from Architect and Educator helps develop the word ‘Autogenic’ due to the advancements of materials relating to organic and inorganic matter. Using these ‘smart’ materials to create a modular morphological process to enhance the built environment. (Douglis) Crafting an architecture based around biology is the basis of my research but my goal is to create way to accurately model and represent these cells to use their properties to apply to the built environment in a way to create an advanced structural component to a building that will both inherently enhance the spatial qualities and performative qualities of the building. How do we use the technology in place to create a more efficient architecture based of the ideas of biomorphology.

“The concept of variation suggests, like diversity and resilience within an ecology, that it is possible to show that when certain monolithic or reduced genetic bodies develop (interbreeding), the overall organism or ecology becomes vulnerable to annihilation. Diversity in this model is equivalent to resilience and survival. However, raw and unfiltered diversity isn’t enough. As Greg Lynn used to say, one can’t just toss programs in the air like a salad and get a good program mixture. The process needs to identify the places of contact between systems—hence the need to clearly mark boundaries, moments of transgression, collapse, and commutation.” (Evan Douglis)

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Qualities show from his work shows the technical adaptation of simple geometrical form to create complex spatial qualities. This research goes back to cell morphology and the how the cell can manipulate its form based on complex construction of pure geometrical configurations. Now being show architectural examples the

research starts to ground itself into a scale that is now relevant to the built environment, instead of the electron microscope. The ideals of Evan Douglas and the way he manipulates form to stand in for cultural issues just adds another justification to the argument to the use of such radical form as an architectural concept. 27 //

FAB POD Mark Burry

The fab pod presented an interesting addition to the research that is being conducted for this thesis project. The idea of panels to construct and assemble a complex assortment of component is something I can apply to my own research. Mark Burry, the man behind this project, has been given the task to create a meeting room enclosure in an area with an open floorplan and not able to connect this proposed structure to the ceiling. Given this task while working on Antoni Gaudi’s Sagrada Famila, and the project being relevant due to the obsessive use of the hyperbole geometry (Burry), a great shape that can be utilized in the diffuse of sound based off a study that students and researches explored during a smart geometry workshop at CITA, Copenhagen 2011. (Burry) Using what was learned during this workshop about diffusion of sound, this process was applied during the design of Fab Pod, uniquely created around a center focal point, being the meeting table, where the panels were aligned to as to create dead spot for sound. (Burry) splitting the design into panels allowed for ease of construction and the ability to break a part unique shapes and allow for the inward facing panels to change geometry making the desired outcome of space easier to achieve than with a system of construction such as building a

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As you can see in the images to the left, this enclosure being built from a panelized system created that was able to take advantage of unique panels in a part to whole system adaption. An outcome being sound diffusion on the interior of the created space, a design development utilizing a parametric process so that each hyperbole is oriented in the correct location developing a better outcome for sound diffusion. (Burry)

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Panel Kinetic Movement


Glass Fibre Reinforced Polymer Construction


Composites are materials made up of chemically distinct constituents on a macro-scale, with properties that cannot be obtained by any constituent working on its own. In fibrous polymeric composites fibers with high strength are embedded and bonded together by a polymeric matrix. In the case of fiber reinforced polymer (FRP) composites the reinforcing fibers make up the foundation of the material and they determine the physical properties of the material. The initial engineering and scientific understanding of FRP matrix composites was provided by glass fiber polymer composites. Glass fibers in composites offered various advantageous properties, such as ease of processing, competitive price and superior strength. As a result, glass fibers are currently the most widely used reinforcing fibers for polymeric matrix composites.`

[1] [2] [3]

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Anchor points where source of composite skin deflection happens

Structural rib

Glass Fiber Reinforced Polymer


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Location of the site was not crucial to the overall process of the thesis investigation but still SAN DIEGO needed to be grounded to a real world application of the idea. In doing so, a site that is located in the vicinity of San Diego seemed to be the best idea for choosing sites being that site visits to gather information on the area would be much easier than choosing a site not in reach of weekly visits. Using San Diego as the case study for creating a project that still identifies the use of a full scale architecture project with a high emphasis on the system created from the research developed of the sea urchin skeleton.

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Location of the site requirements; undeveloped parcel located within an urban setting. Within a zoning area that allowed the use of mixed public and private space, in a high traffic location, in a location that can serve as a great redevelopment project with the applied system. With these as requirements of the site, locating allocation that fulfills what I am looking for is the next step. The best way to understand the context of the area is to traverse as a pedestrian. Grabbing my bicycle, taking off into the greater San Diego area and started the search. Some locations that seemed promising seemed to be in the waterfront and North Park areas. Site selection boiled down to an areas in the waterfront along Broadway. This area presents a great opportunity to open the area to an integrated public space opened to the waterfront while combining the need for private program.

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Implementation into the built environment has provided to be complex in it’s self due to the conditions presented in the real world and the limitations of my knowledge in representing the data in an accurate way. The first step in my process of revelation of the recreation of the structural configuration compiled within the sea urchin skeleton is defining how the distribution of the connection nodes are distributed, in understanding this will help give the project a way to create a point cloud as a data input to create architectural geometry form Thus thrhe development in creating a solution to mimic the tessellation of the sea urchin skeleton comes down to representing geometry in a way that can be reproduced by using primitives, such as a cube, cylinder, sphere, cone, pyramid. Looking at these geometries and finding ways, through logic, to manipulate said shapes into a form that satisfies the requirements of the geometric makeup of the sea urchin skeleton. The first process that was looked at was taking generative computer software and developing a system that would be able to manipulate the values of each perimeter defined by the create system, as to make minute changes to keep the precision high and the system able to adapt to changes within the global scale.

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PERIMETERS node connection: neighbor node relationship: center line radius: connection radius: Node count:

random three nodes half of connection six inches twelve per inch

System was created with a set of points distributed randomly with in a bounding geometry (Square). Point set density was created at twelve randomly distributed points per inch. This system was defined by the nearest point within a certain area. Each point has a sphere with a defined radius to create a location to create an area in which the connecting line was to look for a (AB) connection. The partnership amount was set to look for the three closest connections with-in the radius of the sphere, conditions of the

statement were, if there were more than three points in the sphere then the searching would stop at three but if the amount was less than three points in the circle, the search would stop at the boundary of the sphere radius.

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The limitations of this system presented in term of creating a system that would become fabricated with the technology currently available, such as a; laser, CNC router, and 3d printer. Using these tools to fabricate these attempts to create a system that can be used in new construction or replace old. In looking at how this system relates to the skeletal plates in the Sea Urchin, it does produce qualities that relate, creating a differation of aggregations that create a porous geometry. Fitting the primitives to work, part as whole. This configuration did not work in creating an accurate system by leaving the gaps that were too large between each corresponding part. In term of fabrication, creating this part with the fabrication technologies at my disposal was possible on a smaller scale but when it came to fabricating for a 1:1 scale, the system deemed to complex.

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List of transformations using a set of perimeters to distinguish the transformational changes. using the diameters of the members and scalar properties, transforming the individual attributes associated with the function. In the diagram to the right you can see that small changes incrementally can make a drastic change to the overall shape of the object getting closer to the desired outcome of the sea urchin skeleton geometry.

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TESSELLATING GEOMETRIES Looking towards creating an architecture system that has traits of consistency throughout, and not only a trait of complexity but that complexity dissembled into parts that are not unique to each self but can be replicated a multitude of times with-in the system to create an efficient cost for fabrication on larger projects. With this requirement, one hundred percent space filling tessellations allow for a the system to be complex in the part to whole, this also allows for consistency in the system by creating a modular system easily replicate the system no matter the size of the project being constructed. This allowing for fact and cost effective construction.


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Compiled of three different shared faces where the angle of where the three faces meet are 120 degrees; in the space filling array, this tessellation has two classes of verticies: four edges meeting at a vertex of 109degrees 28minutes and eight edges meeting at a vertex at angles of 70degrees 32minutes (Pearce)

area: 50.91 in2 faces: 12 face length width ratio: 7.35 in each face edge is equal in length

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7.35 in

in 7.35

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Truncated Octahedra- A space filling tessellation based of off two geometric planes. Using the hexagon and square tiled to create a full pacing geometry (Pearce)

area S1: 46.76 in2 area S2: 18 in2 faces: 14, two unique face length width ratio: 4.24 in each face edge is same length

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4. 24


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Weaire-Phelan- Consisting of three geometric planes, where unlike the other tessellating geometries, the weaire-phelan is compiled, in majority, pentagon faces, similar to the sea urchin shell and made of similar size faces even though the geometry is compiled of three geometrically different configurations. (Pearce)

area S1: 41.25 in2 area S2: 56.07 in2 area S3: 26.80 in2 faces M1: 14, two unique faces M2: 12, two unique face length width ratio S1: 6.07 in, 4.64 in S2: 6.07 in, 3.99 in S3: 3.99 in, 4.64 in, 2.67 in

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9 3.


4.64 in

4 .6


6.07 in

3.99 in


4i n


2.67 in

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WEAIRE-PHELAN TESSELLATION How the weaire-phelan relates to the sea urchin geometry it that in the structural porosity, there are definitive locations in which the geometry showcases polygonal shaping. A requirement in creating a geometry that would create similar results would be to find a space filling geometry that had similar sized faces as shown in figure (Pearce) This eliminates the truncated octahedra and the rhombic dodecahedron, due to the faces not having edges that either are too similar, resulting in a redundant surface aggregation or due to the large differences in edge lengths, not allowing for the openings to have a consistency to them while allowing for a certain wall thickness on the faces and creating a pattern of faces that vary too much in terms of area.


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PART TO WHOLE RELATIONSHIP Assemblage of two modules, compiled within the weaire-phelan tessellation comes together to conduct a one hundred percent space filling geometry. Using this as the initial basis, the individual qualities that were then assessed during the selection of the different tessellating geometries. The weaire-phelan, based on the studies, will be used in further investigation to create a more adaptive architectural system for future building systems. In the diagram to the left, the configuration of how the assemblage of the tessellation is show in the completed stage and how the internals of the tessellation compiled with three rows shown.

module two module one

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Knowing that each face in identical to each con- TESSELLATING GEOMETRIES necting face in the whole system, the next step is to disassemble the system to create porosity GENERATIVE ANALYSIS throughout. In an attempt to mimic properties, visual and structural, to the sea urchin, creating perforations with in each face of each module satisfies the results of this condition visually. Breaking down the use of this software and how aspects of the software was used in the creation of the system can invoke discourse for future use of parametric software in the design process as well as this definition which will be available on my website for use of any kind.

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[Above] is the completed definition for reference, featured in this algorithm are the components that I used to disassemble each module for assembly in the finished building assembly. In the next couple of pages, the definition stated, will be broken down and show the logic that when into the development. 70 //

components used: Brep Debrep Volume Area Scale Join

Loft Number Slider Brep Edges Crv End Points Srf 4 Pts Dimension

Smaller List Length Divide Add List Item Cull

Extrude Flip Srf Simplify Mesh Join Mesh Catmull-Clark Smooth

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Setting the poly-surface geometry to reference back in Rhino

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Breaking the polysurface into separate surfaces and extracting the area point of each individual face

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Scaling the face edges from the area centroid from each face, creating a variable proportional edge boundary

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Lofting the first extracted edges and the scaled edges to create a surface

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Scaling the original polysurface from the volumetric center to create interior surfaces

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Using the same scaling of the exploded polysurface as in the previous step to create the interior surface

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Lofting the scaled curves for the creation of the interior surfaces

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Extracting all curves from the lofted surfaces and select all end points to create surfaces connecting the scaled and bounding surfaces together79 //

Lofted surface from four points

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Deleting inside surfaces base on the size of the surface area with a cutout tolerance to create a closed polysurface for accurate smoothing81 //

Create polysurface with inside surfaces deleted

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Cut-Mull Clark mesh smoothing operation to create final geometry

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TESSELLATING GEOMETRIES Creating this geometry using grasshopper has allowed the process to be replicated in a fraction of the time if needed to create a different iteration of the same object, as in the opening in either larger or smaller. Moving forward, in development of creating a system that looked at multiple different options. Weighing the pros and cons of each option I have selected twenty-four variations to analyze. Starting from thin modules with a slight opening to thick modules with a large opening. The advantage of this study is to look at how each handle stress under a certain load, the slenderness ratio, what the cross-sectional properties are, and how much material can be lost in the overall system because the slightest change can amount to a large difference in cost and material for a project.


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Shell thickness deep

Shell thickness moderate

Shell thickness thin

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Using a rapid prototype method to find a module that fits the criteria of aesthetic properties to take in for structural approximation with loads applied, the importance of this process is to select a set of modules that will pass a visual test now to streamline the tedious process of structural simulations, reducing time spent to increase work flow.

openings moderate

openings large

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[Shown To the left] Displacement diagrams showcasing the amount that each module would displace with a load applied on the top surfaces of the mesh containing around a resolution averaging 30,000 faces and a 1000 faces used for the z-axis load to be applied to and another 100 faces to secure the geometry in the X/Y/Z axis, for the sake of the simulation. This all while also considering the gravity load with each simulation. Scan and Solve was used as a plug-in within Rhino 5 to compile the information using the native Rhino mesh, untouched from Grasshopper to analyze a more accurate representation of the real-world geometry. Each geometry went through the analysis software one by one with a face selection factor of the load to be applied is +/- 100 faces. The analysis was solely used to showcase, based of similar physics based in real life, how the geometry would react to a load applied. Each module had the same load applied of 120 psi and as expected the thicker the wall the better reaction to the load but as the opening became larger the displacement of the geometry with the same load applied, the difference seemed to be negligible. This resulting in a design choice to consider other factors other than just the load factor.

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[Shown To the left] Max stress and Von Mises structural diagrams, a module with a natural load path such as show, due to the smoothing, allows for a more natural load path, discerning a buildup of stress due to a hard line crease. [Above] Max stress colors ranging from blue to red, where red being not desirable, due to failure if not reinforced with a tensile member. While blue shows a more desirable trait being near perfect based on the material quality of concrete and how concrete deals with compressive forces. [Below] The Von Mises diagram, show casing whether the give geometry will withstand the given load amount. (Citation) as one can see in the visual, as the object nears the upper left-hand corner the applied load seems to be distributing much better than that of the entire first row of distributed modules. In this given case any of the top row and center modules of the second row would be adequate to take to the next step of analysis to create a system representative that of the sea urchin.

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dimensions xyz: 15.61, 15.61, 12.00 thickness scale from center: 50% perforation scale from center: 75% volume in3: 720.42 in3

dimensions xyz: 15.68, 15.68, 12.00 thickness scale from center: 50% perforation scale from center: 85% volume in3: 582.79 in3

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dimensions xyz in: 15.37, 15.37, 12.00 thickness scale from center: 50% perforation scale from center: 50% volume in3: 1051.48 in3

dimensions xyz: 15.56, 15.56, 12.00 thickness scale from center: 50% perforation scale from center: 65% volume in3: 890.06 in3

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Visual process of the smoothing process from the interior workings of faces compiling the geometry to the thickness before and after the smoothing process. An analysis in how to judge future thickness of the smoothed panel to account for lost in girth and where to adjust.

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Due to construction processes, figuring out the TESSELLATING assemblage of the module into the whole system needs to be critically analyzed. Assem- PANEL DISASSEMBLY bling the whole module with a mold that can be reused and retain a long use period is the constraint considered to be of the up most priority in the disassembly of each of the two modules. With current fabrication technology available at this university, the development process in limited either to working large but only in three axis’s or not considering the constraints in terms of the axis but limited in the size. A goal to be obtained is to create each module as on solid piece but limited to resources currently available in fabricating a form that exceeded 90 degrees in not considered.


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panel type one

panel slots

Looking at the constraints, the first mode of action was to dissemble the modules into individual panels for fabrication of the fourteen and twelve surfaces. Examination at this state brought up a few issues due to splitting the thickness of the modules in half. Module B was looking promising in terms of volumetric properties but due to the thin wall construction of each panel would provide to be too brittle being that the thickness would be under ½ of an inch. In light of this information Module A was the next on the selection for being 720.42 cubic inches. The thickness between each perforation seems to be fine as it looks in the moment, the situation could change as research into this configuration becomes more in-depth or the full scale model has issues attributed to it.

panel type two

panel type three

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Showcasing the individual panels and the solid they originated from

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[Shown To the right] The importance of this system is to simplify it down to a realist, constructible design that can be integrated into construction of today. Configuring the geometry by disassembling it, can be assumed to be counter-intuitive by making a simple object more complex. Fabricating this object can not be completed as a whole by breaking the object down into its constituents allows for an examination of multiple angle to come up with the most efficient solution. In this stage it was not efficient to construct an individual module from fourteen different parts containing three unique panels. With some assessment, the design was simplified down to six parts and two unique panels. Fabrication of the newest individual panels for casting the concrete does not inflict any problems with a three axis CNC router as it lays in the drawing. Each panel does not exceed 90 degrees past vertical to create an overhang where the CNC would not be able to cut accurately. Development up to this point has become successful in its intent.

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Use of the created geometry that was devel- TESSELLATING oped from the biomimetic process of recreating the qualities of the sea urchin skeleton. Rep- APPLICATION resenting the right scale will determine the application/use. Each scale with different properties associated, tracing back to reveal the qualities that are presented within that scale/ use and test back to the sea urchin properties.


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Looking for an application representative of the scale, the module is now set up for use that represents the scale in an appropriate manor. The first idea was to enlarge the system to the size of a room, each inter-connected module would be another passage into a new space.

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Acting as a wall facade, the next iteration of the module depended sole on the panels of the module split to create an exterior wall enclosing the boundary space. The size of the panel decreased from the first application but still didn’t accomplish the full ability of the system. The previous examples seemed too primitive and further investigation is needed to extract the full potential that is representative of the sea urchin’s ability.

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As with the other systems using the natural packing of the system but on a much smaller scale. this will ultimately be the final scale type used in the design development applied as a modular wall system

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With current technology that was only available TESSELLATING to large scale businesses a decade ago, 3D printing has played a large role in the devel- PANEL FABRICATION opment of furthering the discourse of this projects current research. Being able to fabricate new iterations of the different geometry to an accurate representation being that much more important when each small detail is crucial in a process where development and forward progress is based on small changes.


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Prototyping the geometrical configuration through a 3D printed process. To fully understand how what the physical geometry looks like and just being able to touch and hold is completely different that staring at a screen and approximating how this geometry works or how the properties can be applied helped to create a scale representation. In doing this helped push the research and open up more possibilities that come with being able to physically recreate an item designed. To the left is the two modules of the tessellating geometry.

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research by making

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Printing the full wall assembly with caps attached

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Printing the full column assembly with caps attached

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The fabrication process using the Universities CNC cutter to process the concrete molds from MDF

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With a complex mold such as the one pictured above, the CNC file was split into four separate pieces for a single panel assembly. As a prototype, I have decided to use MDF as it would allow me to manipulate easier than other woods due to being a fiber composite. Using simple hand tools if need to make changes.

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Development from concept of idea to implanta- REAL WORLD APPLICATION tion in a real word situation calls for reflection on the old systems of construction while thinking of the new. It is with this design that the relationship to the history of the built environment and articulation of new system integration that makes this concept strong. In previous stages of development the design has gone through a multitude of changes that slimmed the options for a great design down to the best option available all coming from a system of ideas that emerges in an already constructed organism, the sea urchin skeleton. Details of how the panels hold the whole system together with a list of materials with a real application is how the development will lend itself to being constructed in context of the built environment. 131 //

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Primitive geometry to smooth geometry with the additional locking caps added. Within the system, when the tessellation develops, encompassing the wall, within the undulation there is a differentiation containing small shifts in depth in a pattern that does not create a smooth finish as one would see in traditional wall construction. To combat this deformity in the system, I created a larger half module that now creates a smooth finish to the wall system while adding other functional attributes to it contained on the interior of this module, that can be fabricated as one whole ,and not as a separate joined in pieces.

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[As shown to the left] There are three types of caps the finish the system with an architectural material. With this system, being able to adapt the finish with in the context of the program is crucial, without tearing down the complete wall. Pieces of the system can be replaced with a different material that is part of the finishing selection. Finishes can include but are not limited to fabric, metal, insulated, ect‌ creating this allows for repurposing of used material if traded in giving the buyer credit to be applied to a new purchase, lowering the cost of the new material placement.

[As shown above] what makes this cap unique from the rest it the large opening that allows for a compartmentalized system to hold a tension cable system connecting this module to a similar module on the mirror side of the wall. Being able to crank the tension cable to set the system in compression allowing for the system to unify. In between these two connecting modules is a opening large enough to fit the cable with no obstruction, even leaving room for plumbing pipes and electrical wiring tubing. Defining this system as adaptable to each arising program that might inhabit the space. Also allowing for the movement of components within the wall to be shifted around due to being only covered by a finishing cap that can be removed with ease.

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Glass fiber reinforced concrete Formed plastic 1/16� Spray foam insulation Fabric finish

Glass fiber reinforced concrete Formed plastic 1/16� Brushed metal finish

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The idea behind creating the panel system separated in to smaller pieces came from the FAB pod create by Mark Burry. His idea was simple enough to emulate with a few tweaks. Use the concrete module inner surface as the base for each material form created after to ensure the fitting is snug for each unique panel.

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[Assembled to the left] the combined panels in each corresponding face location. In the image shown the panel caps finished with a white material to show the depth of the wall pattern from the natural stack of the wall modules. Off to the right of the image, exploded, showing the concrete module behind.

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COLUMN SECTION Module Type One Grout

Cable Tightner Lock Wheel Hard Body Infill Tension Cable Cap Panel Module Finish Material Module Type Two

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[To the right] A section cut of the assemble wall to show the interior workings of how the system is tied together using the tension cable to transform the individual modules into unified system with callouts of proposed materials. Allowing the system to breakdown into individual parts allows for isolation of the area and disassembly to retrieve the damaged component to be replaced. Unlike current systems only allowing for full deconstruction due to the system being inseparable between material/ components.

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[To the right] As shown in the previous section giving the identity of how the system works with each detail. Connecting floors to this structure system requires the use of a unique panel separate from the currently developed. In the development of the connecting module, it was the intention to create a module that received the greatest amount of surface area where the floor is connected, as shown in the small detail of the pre-cast wall/floor assembly. Using this detail as the intention to adapt the old system with the new by facing the challenges that arose with in the development process of creating the floor connection.

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Isometric view of the connection of the floorplate to the column

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Through the rigorous process of developing a system from a biomimetic approach has taught me the value in resources. Many of the hours were spent looking for qualities in organisms to bring into the built environment that might change the way construct our surroundings. It is detrimental to the progression of human civilization to look around us and examine, not take everything at face value. I have through this process of research and development learned to better find qualities in places might seem to hold attributes that are worth it. Being more critical on how problems are solved and looking for correlations that can be used in solving problems that arise with unconventional but practical solutions. With the help of my professors, advisor’s, and colleagues I have taken an idea from nothing to something I think is a platform to develop my future architecture research on and create a streamlined building environment. Taking note from nature and what is already present can help what we have been evolving for 1000s of years and warp gate it to natures millions of years of development.

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The New Mathematics of Architecture by Jane Burry and Mark Burry Emergent Technologies and Design towards a biological paradigm for architecture by Michael Hensel, Archim Menges and Michael Weinstock Autogenic Structures by Evan Douglis Eugenic Design streamlining America in the 1930s by Christina Cogdell Inspired by Biology from molecules to materials to machines by National Research Council Digital-Botanic Architecture by Dennis Dollens Patterns in Nature by Peter S. Stevens Structure in Nature Is a Strategy for Design by Peter Pearce

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Adams, J. (2006). Shape, Size, and Similarity. In Mathematics in Nature (p. 33, 45). Princeton University Press.

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Burry, J., & Burry, M. (2010). The new mathematics of architecture (pp. 34-39). London: Thames & Hudson.

Magna, R., Gabler, M., Reichert, S., Schwinn, T., Waimer, F., Menges, A., & Knippers, J. (2014). From Nature to Fabrication: Biomimetic Design Principles for the Production of Complex Spatial Structures. International Journal of Space Structures, 27-40.

David, O. (2011, January 1). ICD / ITKE Research Pavilion 2011. Retrieved January 1, 2014, from

Pearce, P. (1990). A Theory of Structure. In Structure in nature is a strategy for design. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Douglis, E. (2009). Autogenic structures. New York: Taylor & Francis.

Semper, G. (2002). Stereotomy, Biology, and Geometry. 33, 80-87.

Dollens, D. (2005). Digital-botanic architecture. Santa Fe: SITES Books ;. Ellers, O., Johnson, A., & Moberg, P. (1998). Structural strength of Urchin Skeletons by Collagenous Structural Ligaments. The Biology Bulletin, 195(2), 136-144. Retrieved January 1, 2014, from http:// html Hensel, M., & Menges, A. (2010). Emergent technologies and design: Towards a biological paradigm for architecture (pp. 12-76). Oxon [England: Routledge. HEUER, A. (2000). The structure of sea urchin spines, large biogenic single crystals of calcite. JOURNAL OF MATERIALS SCIENCE, 35, 5545 –

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Analysis Emergent  

2015 Architectural Thesis Book Newschool of Architecture + Design

Analysis Emergent  

2015 Architectural Thesis Book Newschool of Architecture + Design