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Studio X

Master’s Project

Abstract Introduction Brazilian Artist Interpretation MuBE Addition Site Analysis Floor Plans Module for Facade Warehouse Addition Precedent Time line Precedent Studies Parametric Chair Warehouse Addition location Floor Plans Elevations Warehouse Addition Model Perspective Interior Render Section Model Detail Mock-up Works Cited

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With the emerging technologies in the digital age of design, What will become of the role of the architect? The building industry seems to be one that is not willing to change and has remained fairly unchanged for a good period of time. From the earliest times of Rome and Greece the architect was considered a “Master builder”. With the advancement of architectural drawings and construction drawings, the architect has been pushed further and further away from the construction industry and the final product. “The currently separate professional realms of architecture, engineering, and construction can be integrate into a relatively seamless digital collaborative enterprise, in which architects could play a central role as information master builders”. (Branko) When the architect returns to a more direct relationship with the final product we are reminded of the Bauhaus, a time where many were taught that there should be a direct unity between the craftsman and the artist. For my final project I examined this relationship as architect being “Master builder” with hands on experience of the project from start to finish. This will be accomplished by using parametric modeling to design and build a small scale project and by designing a piece of furniture. This process will become a gateway for me to “get closer to the craft” as Frank Gehry states. To more clearly understand Homo Faber, man as maker, and have an intimate connection between head and hand.



“The currently separate professional realms of architecture, engineering, and construction can be integrated into a relatively seamless digital collaborative enterprise, in which architects could play a central role as information master builders.”1 Stephen Kieran and James Timberlake proposes a thought that can have a huge impact on the Architecture profession as we currently know it. With the rise of the new digital technologies the question is posed, What will become of the role of the architect? There has been a trend starting to arise in the architecture field of creating amorphous and formal looking architecture. But these designs are not based on just form alone. “It is not the parametric, the relentless malleability of form, nor is it complexity for its own sake, but rather a complex of complex relationships that produce architecture.”2 These new designs are not just formal games but architecture that begins to perform and is shaped by given parameters. The designs are becoming a “Digital Continuum”3 of design to production. This thesis is aimed at exploring the relationship between design and production or fabrication. The idea behind this thesis is having the architect gain greater control over the building process from start to finish. If we take a look back to the past, we had architect’s such as Filippo Brunelleschi’s in 1296 who designed the dome of S. Maria del Fiore. He was an innovative architect, builder, product engineer, and material scientist. With his hands on experience in building, the screw jack was invented to help with the building process of his dome. It wasn’t until the Renaissance period when Alberti wrote that “architecture was separate from construction, differentiating architects and artists from master builders and craftsman by their superior intellectual training.”4 This statement had a lasting impact on every profession in the construction industry and pushed each profession further and further away from each other. As the fields separated they became contractually bound together and the construction documents were created.

7 But why can’t we combine emergent technologies with a solid appreciation of the past to create understandings, potentialities and realities that were only glimmers of hope before.5 A connection of architecture and construction through the use of digital technologies. In 1981 the invention of Catia began to change the manufacturing industry in ways never thought of before. Parts could be designed in whole on the computer where all the information to build it was stored. This cut down on any errors that could be made when reading printed documents. The data was then able to be sent directly to the machines that were manufacturing the parts. A prime example of this relationship was the Boeing 777 in 1995, designed completely as a 3D model and fabricated paperless. This was able to happen because of the joint collaboration between all aspects of design and fabrication. In 1997 architect Frank Gehry reworked CATIA, made it architecture friendly and introduced it to the construction industry by designing the Guggenheim museum. The Guggenheim Museum was one of the first examples of the power held within the new digital age of architecture. The software allowed for the design to contain complex curves and a complex looking structure. Many of the construction workers that were involved with the project had never dealt with the extreme shapes that arose from the design. The digital software made it possible for the Guggenheim to be fairly simple to construct and built on time. The software was able to contain all the data for every part to be constructed and used a system of numbering and bar codes located on each piece. When the piece was scanned on site it linked with the digital model and the piece located next to it. Another firm to jump on the digital software boat was Shop architects. Their Camera Obscura built in 2005 was one of the first 100 percent digitally designed and computer fabricated buildings. The pieces were laser cut and when sent to the site the workers were able to snap the building together like a kit of parts.

Most architects would have hired an expert like the Permasteelisa Group, the go-to company for Gehry, I. M. Pei, and Norman Foster, to build the facade. Instead, SHoP worked directly with the engineers, fabricators, and general contractor to design and install the wall for an estimated 20 percent less than a specialist would have charged.6 These examples only help to reiterate the point behind this thesis, that only by taking the lead in the inevitable digitally driven restructuring of the building industry will architects avoid becoming irrelevant.7 This process needs to happen at the beginning level with students who are going to be entering the field with fresh minds and new visions. It is very important as a student to understand the relationship between what you design and what can be built. There are few opportunities in school to be able to gain valuable hands on experience of fabricating. This thesis also attacks this problem by creating a facility were students and artists can come and learn the design and fabrication process. The public is able to view the possibilities of this new digital era and the building itself will showcase this notion by being able to be fabricated out of the tools located within it.



Parametric Fabrication Studio X Michael Halflants Mario Gooden


Intro to Brazilian Artist

In the studies in Tectonic Culture, Kenneth Frampton states that the development of 20th century architecture is a “socio-tectonic art form that necessarily places a primary emphasis on the poetics of construction on the role that architecture unavoidably plays in the formation of the social world.” Therefore the first assignment in studio X was to find a Brazilian avant-garde artist and examine their work. Lygia Clark was on the forefront of the Neo-Concretists movement and believed that art ought to be subjective and organic. She was one of the few artists who started to create art as “participant art.” Clark believed this type of art was needed to involve the viewer with the art work they were looking at. In Clark’s work “Rede de Elastico” from 1973, she had the vision of the participant starting with a single module, the elastic band. The users would then attach the bands end to end until they created an elastic net, which could be used to drape, elevate, suspend and encapsulate the user. The point was to break the binary boundaries around identity and for one to lose the sense of “I.” Three of the main goals were activity as agency, shared authorship and reiteration of community. The participants were brought together by physically making and then spacialy bound to one another. In the end there was no single author and no complete object.



Interpretation and Installation

After studying the Brazilian Artists work, the task was given to make an interpretation of their piece by using an object that could be bought from a store as a standard module. This piece could be repeated over and over again with a pattern used to create a whole. From the performance art “Rede de Elastico” one can see that this art encompassed the notion of a singular object (the rubber band) being attached together by the participants to create a sort of net that the user could interact with. In the same way, the found object (the safety pins) were attached together in modules which were then allowed to be connected together as a whole. This created an ever changing and evolving piece of art. The mesh surface was not a premeditated form but a function of how the form evolved by a simple system of joining them together. This mesh evokes notions of changing structures and facades that could be created and made possible by the ever evolving software that is becoming available to the architecture community. From the images on the left one can release the sense of the objects scale and view the piece as a scaleless object. By doing this, one can imagine enclosures or landscapes that evolve in different ways and change by draping and folding to the existing environment. After creating the interpretation art, the site of the Brazilian Museum of sculpture was introduced. The first stab at the site was taken by creating an installation arrangement at a larger scale. By attaching the safety pins into a larger format, this could start to create notions of wall, enclosure and entry. The natural properties of the pins allows a tolerance of light penetration and visual boundaries. A fluid installation that was changing by the user’s movement around and through it but also permanent on the Museum’s site.



The Brazilian Museum of Sculpture (MuBE) Sao Paulo, Brazil

15 The Brazilian Museum of Sculpture (MuBE) in Sao Paulo was designed by the architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha from 1987-1995. The museum also contains a landscape garden designed by Roberto Burle Marx. The museum’s site is located in a upper scale suburban community in Brazil. The architect wanted to create this museum to have little visual impact on the community that surrounded it. To achieve this goal Paulo Mendes da Rocha placed the program of the museum underground and left the upper floor as a place to display sculptures to the public. This helped to create an uninterrupted path from the inside to the outside as the viewer moved through the museum. The main monolithic element of the building is a horizontal slab that spans 60m and is 20m wide. Paulo wanted to “place a stone in heaven.”





Sculpture/Public Space


Sunken Gathering


Below Surface Program

The existing program at the MuBE consists of a cafe, auditorium, classes and exhibition spaces. The museum has recently become underfunded and has become a rather vacant site. The museum has turn to alternative forms of income by hosting antique markets and travelling exhibitions. By adding a Kunsthalle to the museum, hopefully this will provide extra space to hold larger events and attract more people to come see the work of Brazilian artists. The kunsthalle will also allow the museum to have aggressive educational and outreach programs.








The 3D printer allows a designer to explore nontraditional ideas through complex parametric modeling procedures. The craft is not acquired by hand but becomes the craft of creating a detailed model in the digital realm.



Module for Facade

After studying Lygia Clark’s “Rede de Elastico� and creating an interpretation, there had to be a connection between the two that carried over into the final addition to the museum. This final iteration was derived by using the concept of the module to create an element that could morph throughout the project to create something new. After the program spaces were assigned and an overall form derived from function was determined, a module was created. This module contained two parts. The first was a structure and the second was a panel that could be modified and changed throughout the building to react to different spaces dealing with lighting quality, views and the art contained in that space. The panels could be made of different materials to achieve this overall perception of a changing space. To achieve the effect of a changing module, Rhino and grasshopper were used. These two programs combined, are a very powerful parametric modeling tool. The box morph command was used in Grasshopper which takes a specified surface and divides into given X and Y values. This grid is then given a Z value or height and a module is applied to every box within the grid. The result is a standard module that begins to change and create a facade that is unique in every aspect.


South Elevation


North Elevation



Moving Forward

Upon completion of studio X there was debate on how the project would translate into the final Master’s project semester. Luckily the transition was smooth as there still needed to be more research done into the ever evolving digital age arising in architecture. The end of the semester left the addition to the museum at a standstill. The design was almost done but there was still a huge gap in the ideas behind how the actual construction of this building could be done. The ideas behind this thesis about acknowledging the advancements in software but also taking a step back to see what has just been created and figuring out a way to use these softwares but help the architect and designer understand what has been made. There are a lot of designers who use software such as Rhino, Grasshopper and Catia, but never get into the details of how their design works in the real world. There is a large amount of knowledge and exploration that can take place within this topic. The following work is an example of how the architect can begin to better understand his designs and as Gehry states “to get closer to the craft�. To more clearly understand Homo Faber, man as maker, and have an intimate connection between head and hand.



Parametric Fabrication Master’s Project Stanley Russell Robert Hudson Mike Calvino


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Precedent book studies


Camera Obscura

SHoP architect’s have been on the verge of the new digital age and are focused largely on craft and how things go together. Their building the Camera Obscura, completed in 2005, was designed as a complete 3D model. This model contained all the data necessary to construct the building in a simple manner, as a kit of parts. Every unique component could be extracted directly from the model, input into a laser cutter or CNC machine and built at full scale. “The goal was to construct a building entirely from digitally fabricated components. In the past, SHoP had utilized digital fabrication for individual trades, such as laser-cut metal panels or CNC mill work. For the first time, we brought multiple processes together, to test tolerance and coordination issues.�9



Guggenheim Bilbao

Architect Frank Gehry was the first architect to introduce his version of CATIA to the architecture profession. His design for the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain was one of the first buildings to take on the methods of design used in other fields such as airplane and boat design. This process introduced architecture to a system of 3D modeling that created a building as a complete package of information. The software also allowed Frank Gehry to use complex curves in the design and mass customizing of the cladding for the facade of the museum. Using CATIA allowed the “simplified construction by providing digital data that could be employed in the manufacturing process, thus controlling costs.”10 The structure for the museum was bar coded so that adjacent pieces were easily matched up. By creating scale-model, based designs many different scales of the museum were able to be tested before construction. The Guggenheim also allowed for material testing and titanium was chosen for the exterior facade. Digital technologies allowed the facade to be calculated using only “four standard sizes for 80% of the titanium-clad areas. However , the remaining 20% used 16 different types of panels.”11


“One of the key factors in construction was the massive use of CAD/CAM technology, something fairly unusual in architecture. Without this technology, the Bilbao Guggenheim would still be under construction today.�12

Puppet Theater

The puppet theater is located inside of the Carpenter Center and designed by Pierre Huyghe. The puppet theater is a prime example of an exhibition being created using parametric modeling, into a compact easy to assemble process. The theater consists of 500 panels that can be joined together with simple tools to create the whole envelope of the theater.


This instillation shows how digital technologies can be used and methods of fabrication that can place flat panels on a structure that is curved. This process also allows for simple construction and has an appealing form.

New Dali Museum

The New Dali Museum is an example of architecture using advanced digital technologies but made so that it is easy to assemble. The amorphic shape attached to a standard concrete rectangle evokes a certain interest and curiosity to how the element was constructed.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion

This pavilion was designed by Alvaro Siza and Eduardo Souto de Moura Cecil Balmond. The object of this pavilion was how to build a roof? The pavilion consist of 427 pieces of timber that were five-axis CNC routed and no drawings were need to construct it. The units expose the relationship between elements and joints.


Chair Angle

To transition between semesters, a study of the human body was done to use as the parameters in Rhino. A lounge was created out of plywood and different levels of comfort were recorded based on different types of seating. These parameters were used later to create surfaces to be lofted together.




After finding an arrangement of angles to work with. The surfaces were lofted together to create a unified element which could then serve as the base element for the structure and skin.




While the model remained in the computer, different renderings were done to try and figure out a material to use for the surface of the chair. Two different surfaces, Rattan and Eternit, were examined. It was important then to get the design out of the computer and use hands on exploration of materials.

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When designing the chair it was important to understand the object out of the computer as much as it was understood in the computer. After laser cutting the ribbed structure for the mock-up, there was an exploration in the application of fiberglass and bondo. This helped bridge the gap between the digital realm and hands on exploration of real world materials.





Location and Program

Moving forward from Studio X through the exploration of the human body, there was still a need to encompass the thoughts into an overall project. This Master’s Project, from the beginning, has been about understanding digital technologies and real world applications of these technologies. There has been an aim of connecting the digital realm with hands on exploration through study models. While learning Rhino and Grasshopper, a thought arose about how these thoughts could be made real. How about designing a facility were students and artists could come and learn the processes of parametric design and hands on fabrication? So, the next step was to find a location that could accommodate this type of facility and thinking of the program that would be needed within it’s design. Since there was going to be a warehouse needed in the design, instead of redesigning one, an existing warehouse was sought out. This facility should also be located where the public could view the work that is being produced within it’s walls. The Channelside district in Tampa Florida is known as a point of departure for many cruise ships, and it just so happened to have an existing, abandoned warehouse near by. The warehouse is located at 223 S. 12th St. Tampa, Florida. This Site is located near a manufacturing area that has a great potential to grow. Some areas of a relative relationship included Cooper Johnson Smith Architects, Sound Asylum, Spectrum Video, Rustic Steel Creations and Expressions Custom Furniture. All of these locations, including the future facility, have a connection with fabrication and the final product. After the location was chosen, a program was decided upon. Some key elements in the design needed to incorporate exposure to the public, fabrication areas, student workspace, display areas and the building needed to be designed so that it could be created with the tools located inside the warehouse. The process for designing the warehouse addition was similar to the creation of the lofted seating arrangement mentioned earlier. The program spaces were configured together and then made into a continuous flowing space. The idea was that the space would be as open as possible to allow design freedom to those who inhabited it.






One of the key elements in the design was the pattern of the roof. By using parametric scripts in Grasshopper, the shading panels of the facade were able to change according to the program below it. The skin becomes more dense as it covers the workspace of the students, and as the skin spans over the entrance areas and outdoor spaces it lets more light through. The panels were also positioned on the southern corner of the ribbed sections to allow for the most light deflection.














Section Model

When moving from the computer to building a section model, a key component to the structure was realized. Instead of the traditional ribbed structure, why couldn’t it be made into a component? The structure was then transformed from a set of ribs, to a system of triangles that could be prefabricated, numbered and then joined together with simple nuts and bolts at the site. This would help to enforce the power that can be achieved through using digital design.




The support for the floor would be based on a grid that contained tectonic steel rods with concrete foundations. These rods would attach to the ribbed structure allowing the building to have an elevated feeling.


Interior render showing how the support for the ridge in the roof could be supported and also tied back into the railing for the upper studio floor. Keeping a minimal impact on the open space. The bend in the columns would be supported by tension cables that connected back to the main vertical support. One can also see the pattern that is being created by the structure in the roof and the open space that is being created throughout the project.




By constructing a scaled mock-up of a detail component, there were a lot of technical questions that were answered. The system of triangles that was discovered through the section model could now be tested. The triangles would be prefabricated most likely out of steel. After these triangles are attached together they create and quadrilateral which then becomes the structure for holding the shading panels on the outer facade. The panels are held on by L shaped brackets. The under side of the quadrilaterals would then comprise of a system of spider brackets that would suspended the glazing below the structure allowing for water to pass over the surface of the glazing and not become trapped within each triangle in the super structure. Another benefit of building the detail was again emphasizing the need of the designer to fully understand what he makes in the digital realm.



Endnotes 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Branko Kolarevic, Architecture in the Digital Age (New York: Spoon press, 2003) V. Kolarevic 27. Kolarevic 7. Stephen Kieran and James Timberlake, Refabricating Architecture (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004) 27. Kolarevic 57. Shop Architects <> Kieran and Timberlake xii. Kolarevic V. Shop Architects <> Center for Design Informatics, Harvard Design School <> 10 CDI 13. CDI 14. Kolarevic 10. Richard Sennett, The Craftsman (2008) 20.


References Center for Design Informatics, Harvard Design School <> Kieran, Stephen and Timberlake, James. Refabricating Architecture (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004) Kolarevic, Branko. Architecture in the Digital Age (New York: Spoon press, 2003) Kronenburg, Robert. Flexible (Laurence King Publishing, 2007) Sakamoto, Tomoko. From Control to Design: Parametric/Algorithmic Architecture (Actar-D) Sennett, Richard. The Craftsman (2008) Shop Architects <> Spuybroek, Lars. The Architecture of Variation (Thames & Hudson, 2009) Spuybroek, Lars. NOX (Thames & Hudson, 2004)

Jonathan Brannon Master's Project USF  

Final Document for University of South Florida's Architecture Program