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program name College of Design

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Var Vac + Hex Wall

Our design research explores the growth of surface complexity through careful attention to program and technical performance criteria. We contend that purposeful difference along the length of an architectural surface can offer locally fine-tuned solutions to the fluctuating situational needs of occupants. This approach is in direct opposition to conventional construction logic. Therefore, our materials research challenges traditional, static construction methods, replacing them with flexible techniques that produce inexpensive, differentiated surfaces. While this type of research is not new, our recent approach to building difference through dynamic mold making is.

Architects are taught that construction works best when it is premised on a strategy of economy and repetition. Construction units (bricks, sticks, sheets, and rolls) are produced and distributed as components that reduce in cost based on volume and standardization. Variation, whether in the form of cutting, specific placement, finishing, or any number of other modifications, will likely add to the expense of a project. This paradigm, "cost-reduction through standardization," dramatically limits the architect's ability to creatively respond to sophisticated sets of forces acting upon a building.

Fortunately, new technologies are challenging the limitations of late twentieth century construction techniques making the aggregation of repeatable variable units achievable at increasingly lower costs through subtractive fabrication technologies (CNC milling, laser cutting, water-jet cutting). Problematically, variation is still more difficult and costly to achieve through casting or forming fabrication technologies (concrete casting, injection molding, vacuum forming). This is because the formwork required for casting or forming a material into its final shape is not adaptable. Value still depends on limiting the number of dissimilar produced. If variation is desired, a new mold must be produced for each unique component. This is typically accomplished at great cost and negatively impacts the aggregate cost of the job. To shift the paradigm, our research explores vacuum forming as a method for producing low-cost, complex architectural surfaces. The research and design work presented in this document aims to develop increasingly sophisticated, minimal, and cost effective molds that allow for endless variation in a fabrication process where variation is typically impractical.

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