Professor in Residence, Department of Architecture, GSD, Harvard University, Cambridge MA, USA
To the observer, the building industry strives to develop the most optimized construction materials to build faster, better and cheaper, which has created an expanding pallet of increasingly complex, highly specific product systems. As a result, it is assumed that buildings are comprised of an established collection of parts, selected from a catalogue, and have the consequence of a one-time useful lifespan. This does not suggest that we have abandoned technological development; however, we suspect this approach will stall in its ability to address environmental challenges and create healthy, quality spaces because the sum is not greater than its parts. What if we use and assemble materials in a way that they can serve multiple functions at one time? The 2 in 1 – design strategy is a playful process that assembles materials so one material can incorporate several functions at a time. By finding synergies between well-known, standardized construction elements we can create a positive effect on the quality of building and reduce the carbon footprint.
“Wood City” applies mass timber engineering to the 19 building categories that essentially shape our built environments, otherwise financialized as real estate products by Wall Street. Suburban offices, fast-food restaurants, metal warehouses, big-box grocers, garden apartments, single-family houses, hotels, self-storage facilities, assisted living facilities, strip-shopping centers, etc. constitute 75% of the built environment. Given that the US will double its built environment in just one generation coupled with the urgency to develop low-carbon futures, what if cities were built from the only construction system sequestering carbon and engineered to be “energy positive” – wood? Real estate value chains are undergoing transformations in sectors like fuel retail, fast food, grocery, and logistics, while new interest from venture-capital is hybridizing housing, hospitality, healthcare, and the senior services markets. Innovations in timber-engineered buildings to date have been associated with signature projects involving tall buildings and cultural institutions. Alternatively, Wood City outlines a design research agenda for mass timber through the pattern languages of ordinary building sectors already undergoing novel mixings of space, services, technologies, and experiences.
The cultural elements drive the people’s way of life and ultimately influence their choice of the buildings they inhabit. Man, and his culture and his living environments are always correlated. While measuring heritage architecture, one tends to ignore the cultural and societal factors as the stakeholders. This isolated study can often paint half a picture of what a place was or could have been. An in-depth understanding of the “human element” will help appreciate the true “spirit of the place” despite the style, geometry, material, or construction method. While looking at a piece of craft, present-day perception focuses only on certain limited qualities such as visual or construction. Instant benefit has led to mass use of fabricated materials while ignoring any cautionary examination. Definition of any material’s sensual, social and symbolic worth often remains out of the scope for judgment. If these values are prioritized well, the architecture can continue to progress as a modest expression, adding a personality or realizing a life rather than producing alienating objects.
SILVER TOWER | Bio-Engineered MATTER with Silver Skin project is awareness of global warming and embracing the emergence of the new order of unifying design, science and nature to initiate a dialogue of amplifying the knowledge of architecture. All flora and fauna on this planet need to be understood as partners in the Spaceship Earth. This is the future of architectural practice that encourages and disseminates the vision of the world where every living matter is valued and embraced because of its invisible interrelationship it carries through its cellular level. The research into new organic living material and growth medium is the necessary structures to sustain and expanding the lexicon of performative skins, negotiating adverse environmental conditions. This architectural experimentation demonstrates the interdisciplinary research embedded in technical and design issues that are transferrable to real-world applications. Nature informs design at the molecular level, connecting ecosystems for a healthy and beautiful future.
Identifying materials that can substitute rare natural resources is one of the key challenges for improving resource efficiency in the building sector. With a growing world population and rising living standards, the amount of salt (sodium chloride) produced as waste through seawater desalination and potash mining processes is increasing. Unfortunately, most of it is disposed of into nature where it causes environmental pollution. On the other hand, salt is affordable and can be used therapeutically in various respiratory treatments and to store humidity and heat. It was, therefore, necessary to determine salt materials already in use in building construction. The aim of this research was to identify those that have been used in history and analyzed in scientific studies, to investigate their physical and mechanical properties, and to identify the most promising applications in the construction field. This was accomplished via literature review, classifying the salt materials into three groups (raw salt, composite salt, and processed salt). It was found that salt has been used as a building material for centuries and has potential for future applications.
This article explores the potential of organic material to conceptualize new means of future tectonic beyond the duality of construction technology and representation through a case study of indigenous craft making. Particularly, we propose the understanding of organic tectonic practice as the dynamic action among the human body, spaces, surface, materials, structural systems, and construction. This idea is demonstrated through the tectonic exploration of banana leaves wrapping practices. The practice has been culturally established as a common indigenous technique in Indonesia, and it has been transmitted across generations through the direct practical demonstration of “making.” The findings suggest that the essence of tectonic practice may be found not merely through its materiality but also within the dialogues that occurred during wrapping operation as an integrated set of action knowledge. The exploration of banana leaf wrapping typologies introduced the idea of tectonics as a whole process that considers the relationship between elements that are often separated. This study concludes that the knowledge of action is equally essential with material properties. Such knowledge must be maintained and promoted as a possibility of searching for good materials in contemporary design practices.
Contemporary sustainable and resilient architecture encompasses design with nature, dynamic adaptability to external disturbances, smart redundancy, and changing futures, which are essential to cope with the prerequisites of cultural influences. Contributing to the existing literature, this paper presents a series of built scaled vault prototypes which integrated material performance-based approaches in computational design and advanced fabrication, utilizing locally sourced dredged material (DM) as one of the primary building ingredients. The investigated DM is acquired from Ohio’s Lake Erie harbors and one of the coastal ports in southern Louisiana. Annual sediment removal is a required task for local port authorities and federal agencies to maintain transportation waterways for economic viability. This paper discusses DM processing procedures, and granular mixture methods integrated into a number of computational frameworks to produce a range of vaulting projects from the contemporary DM-compressed stabilized tiles (DM-CST) vault to DM 3D printed vaults, considering material workability, buildability, and extrudability, as well as element’s strength and durability. Each design has to consider these factors while responding to the force of gravity in order to achieve desired structural geometry.
Conventional building uses material as a fungible commodity. This debased understanding of materiality leads to environmental, social, and economic harm. The research program described here valorizes material as a common good: an asset shared by industry and community stakeholders to foster sustainable physical environments. A series of consolidated practices explore biochar as a building material feedstock. Biochar describes a range of byproducts from pyrolyzed (high-temperature, low-oxygen roasted) feedstocks like wood chips, sewage sludge, and farm waste. Biochar itself is a fine, lightweight, jet-black, and highly porous powder. Contrary to its carbon neutral use as a soil amendment, biochar holds carbon-negative promise in construction by removing airborne carbon from the carbon exchange cycle. By repurposing biomass waste biochar offers a corrective to extracting resources for building materials. Using a materially driven design approach the research program explored biochar as a fine aggregate, or sand, replacement in concrete specifically for precast concrete architectural panels. Sand mining, transportation, and scarcity have deleterious environmental impacts, and the replacement of sand with biochar results in a range of diverse thermal, hygroscopic, and mechanical properties.
3D printing, or additive manufacturing (AM), marks the latest in a series of technological and societal revolutions that span from the printing press to the personal computer and beyond. A key asset of this technology is that it aligns the architect with the manufacturing process, integrating the design and fabrication. Additive manufacturing, particularly fused deposition modeling (FDM), can further weave construction typologies like Frank Lloyd Wright’s textile block system by controlling the deposition process to create lightweight stressed-skin blocks with the potential for multiple functions. The research and creation of an initial prototype Woven Block module using FDM printing will be discussed.
Integration of “active” materials into architectural assemblies could have a transformative effect on how we experience dynamics of the built environment. Material actuation offers a different way of generating dynamics in architectural surfaces and components. It operates without a need for multiple mechanical components. Active materials such as Shape Memory Alloy (SMA), electroactive polymers, bimetals, or even natural materials such as wood, have been explored in experimental and research projects focused on dynamic architectural assemblies. This paper focuses on SMA and considers several distinct approaches to integrating it into surfaces/elements and how its capacity to change a length or shape can be used to kinetically activate material systems. It provides an overview of a number of projects and prototypes that use SMA actuation and examines the challenges and opportunities presented by its use. The goal of this paper is to bring new insights into material-based actuation of dynamic material systems. Therefore, it offers a comparative discussion of SMA actuation and attempts to categorize their possible use in architectural assemblies.
Latest SMP (Shape Memory Polymers) materials may allow to produce future building elements that change their shape in various ways. This study focuses on (1) developing shape-changing multi-materials from SMP and (2) control the change in shape by harnessing its thermal responsiveness. We focus on the manufacturing of SMP/PLA (Polylactic acid), SMP/TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) and SMP/PETG (Polyethylene terephthalate glycol) composites, with special attention to SMP/TPU and SMP/PETG composites and their material behaviors compared to single SMPs. The first step was to initially investigate shape-changing and self-transforming composites. We report on (a) a thermo-active SMP capable of recovering from a shape-change after exposure to a temperature of 55°C and (b) testing the concept of 4D printing with FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication) technique. Their printability and cohesion were tested, and consequently, a geometric connection strategy was introduced to design SMP/PLA and SMP/PETG composites. Finally, we managed to activate shape-change in an SMP/PETG with embedded heating wires controlled by a microcontroller.
The Materiality of Architecture
By Antoine Picon
Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2020
5 ½ in. x 8 ½ in.
36 b&w photos
$27.00 paperback (January 2021)