1. Architecture as Material Discourse
One of the key features of architectural discourse throughout history has been materiality; structurally, aesthetically and the way in which materials can aid the building become more sustainable in terms of harvesting resources, power or water.
Probably the most renound project using this type of technology is the Beijing National Aquatics Cente, more commonly known as the Water Cube designed by Australian based design company PTW Architects in collaboration with several engineering firms.
One material that I find particularly spectacular is ethylene tetrafluoroethylene or EFTE. EFTE has in fact been around since the 1970â€™s but has only just began to surface for the versatile material it is within the architectural profession. Due to its thermal insulating properties,high transparency,high durability light weight compared to glass, EFTE is becoming a very suitable alternative to glass in many designs.
This building is the largest in the world to be clad using EFTE. Its bubble clad exterior not only sets it apart from other modern designs aesthetically but functionally as well. The cladding allows more light and heat penetration than glass and as a result the energy costs of the building are reduced by 30%.
EFTE is being used in two different ways in architecture, firstly as a single layer that is stretched between wire cables or a light aluminium or steel frame. In this way it becomes a very malleable and highly transparent architectural fabric skin capable of stretching and bending in a way that designers are able to create very fluid and organic forms. The single layer designs are more commonly used on a smaller scale; shelters, greenhouses and other similar projects.
The second is as a double or triple layer which can be inflated between a steel or aluminium frame to create pillow, or balloon type forms. Not only is the application of this sort of skin structurally stable but it can also aid thermal insulation of a building.
The Eden Project designed by Nicholas Grimshaw and Anthony Hunt in Cornwall, United Kingdom, the world’s largest greenhouse uses a steel frame and EFTE balloons to create artificial biomes, using the thermal insulating properties and high transparency to grow plants from all over the world. Such a structure would be far more expensive to construct from glass, and it would be difficult to achieve a similar form.
I can observe this application of double layered EFTE on my way home from university everyday as my train passes through Southern Cross Station. Being an open structure the EFTE offers little in terms of thermal insulation however it does provide considerable natural light which would reduce power costs.
During a heavy storm in 2010, hail managed to puncture the EFTE in the roof of the station, however this did display another advantage the material has over glass, If the hail had destroyed a glass ceiling glass shards would have fallen and possibly severely injured numerous commuters using the station. Scientific and engineering innovation is providing designers with new and exciting materials that can be manipulated in order to create more sustainable buildings and opportunities to conduct experiential qualities through systematic artistic expression. EFTE is just one of these materials,
_Garvey, J. 2008, ‘Beijing’s Olympic Aquatic Centre: the eye-catching, ecofriendly Water Cube’ from Gizmag, accessed 7th March 2012 <http://www. gizmag.com/beijing-olympic-aquatic-centre-water-cube/8767/> _Woyke, E. 2007, ‘Material for an Architectural Revolution’ from Bloomberg Business Week, accessed 6th Marchc 2012.<http://www.businessweek.com/ innovate/content/apr2007/id20070424_903199.htm> _2010, ‘The Next Generation of Architecture EFTE Film Structure’ from MakMax.com, accessed 7th March 2012. <http://www.makmax.com/business/ etfe_brochure.pdf>
2. Material Innovation in Computational Architecture
Materialtiy is being experimented with along with computational and parametric design in order to manipulate spaces. In some instances these technologies manipulate atmospherical conditions, lighting, sound reverberation and others, climactic conditions and ventilation. Many theatres and halls are using parametric design techniques in combination with specific material choices and surface treatments to create atmospheric lighting effects and also as accoustic filters. Sydney based design firm DRAW, utilized parametric design technologies to win the University of Technology Sydney’s (UTS) Great Hall Upgrade competition. The interior roof design, ‘The Mantle’, is a metallic skin that integrates ventilation, lighting and accoustic attenuation of the space. In this case the metallic surface of the space is mainly aesthetic, utilizing light refraction to effect the mood of the space. The surface will also create different spatial atmosphere depending on whether it is refracting natural or artificial light.
Designs such as this can be used in interior spaces and also exterior. The atmospherical conditioning properties can be applied to halls and theatres like at UTS, or to exterior pavillions. In this way the application of this kind of design technology is quite versitile and when produced for much larger projects and as building skins create exciting aesthetic possibilities, bringing rationized structure to organic forms. 2010, ‘UTS Great Hall Competition & Construction’ from DRAW: De Manincor Russell Architecture Workshop accessed 13th March 2012. <http://www.draw.net.au/ projects/uts-great-hall-competition-construction/>
Computational design technologies and innovative materials are also being used to manipulate climactic conditions in buildings and are revolutionizing the way that we perceive buildings. Buildings are often spoken metaphorically as organisms, however this metaphor seems to have become a goal for some architects, making the building a thinking organism by aiming to give buildings artificial intelligence. Designers are experimenting with facade systems and the integration of microscopic sensors, motes, that allow the facade to react to humidity, carbon dioxide levels and air temperature by transmitting electrical signals through the buildings control system and manipulating structural elements.
Siemens has created sensor technology that could be embeded in glass to read mean radiant temperature and heat flux. By applying a voltage to a coating in the glass the glass will lighten or darken depending on solar gain measured in real time. These sorts of facade embeded technologies are also paving the way for aesthetic design innovation. The Cloud project conceptualized for the London olympics, uses LED integration into inflated spheres which will broadcast timetables, weather forecasts, transport patterns and real time footage. These technologies take aesthetic possibilities as well as the ability of the facade to shelter and mediate exterior and interior conditions to a whole new level.
Such technologies are being mainly in smaller scale experimental projects, critics are sceptical that such technology is not advanced enough to transmit the necessary signals through heavy structural elements. New York based designer company The Living, produced a project known as Living Glass. The project is a modular space utilizing a clear cast silicone membrane with slits lined with wires that contract with electrical current causing the gill system, allowing the ‘building to breath’ adding to this idea of buildings as organisms. This sort of information transferral technology could revolutionize the way that architects control ventilation in buildings. Fortmeyer, R. 2010. ‘The Envelope’ Architectural Review Australia, June/July, pg 40-44
3. Materiallity in Contempory Scripting Cultures
Through observation of other computational projects, what appeals most to my design sensibility is an interaction between materials and the consumer. The gateway project provides a very unique design problem in that the path of movement through the space is very limited and a very short window of opportunity is given to make an impression. The challenge I am setting for my design is that I want the space to interact with the consumer through its use of materials. Originally I looked at how materials could mediate external conditions and hence effect the environmental conditions of the internal. This is still something that interests me however the restraint on this is that the mediation will be purely visual as the consumer will be experiencing the space through another space.
â€œThe challenge I am setting for my design is that I want the space to interact with the consumer through its use of materials.â€?
The main design precendent selected to influence the design is the Cloud project for the London Olympics. Similarly to the goal of the Gateway design, it uses technologically innovative materials to create a visual interaction with the consumer.
The main aims of the Cloud project is to address the short term desires for information and stimulation of those viewing and experiencing the project as well as stimulating our long term conciousness of our impact on the future. The Cloud project, uses scripted design techniques and innovative materials to represent London as not only a city with history but as a city with a cutting edge future it displays the engineering and design feats of London designers and of to ultimately represent the nation. In this way, the next step for the gateway project is to move from thinking about just its physical presence to thinking about what this design means for the city of Wyndham and for the wider Melbourne community. The Gateway should reflect Wyndham and by extension, Melbourne, as a growing, cultured and innovative place to live and to visit.
4. Computational Matrix
These experiementations were conducted on the basis of trying to establish a gradual changes in appature concentration and size. One of the initial concepts we considered was using light to represent the growth of
Wyndham city and the urban spread of Melbourne, representing the connection between the gateway and the broader context of the design.
In order to achieve these sort of variations we experimented with various maths functions to create the fluctuations in the surface appatures of the design. The image sampler association was also used to experiment
with perhaps overlaying a rationalized diagramatic representation of Melbournes urban spread, using Wyndham as a focal point,However this is only the initial concept.