Each semester, M.Arch students enrolled in ARC 509 (Integrated Building Systems), are required to design, develop, detail and fabricate a project. The class, taught by Visiting Lecturer Peter Pelsinski, provides an introduction to building systems and the methods of construction used to realize design in built form. The first half of the course is an overview of the primary systems, materials, and principles used in construction of buildings and the fabrication of elements through lectures and accompanying lab sessions. The second half allows students to design, detail, and fabricate a custom fabrication utilizing principals explored in the lectures.
During the Spring 2017 semester students were tasked to create a canopy that would connect the new Embodied Computation Lab (ECL) to the historic glass pavilion. Students chose to explore tensile fabric structures in the form of upside down cones that would focus water from rain as well as daylight through a series of oculi. Pedestrians wander around and through the oculi and cones experiencing both sunshine, rain, and wind as the cones refocus instead of deflect these everyday occurrences.
The students' solution fills the volume with four conical membranes stretched in tension between hoops cantilevered from the side beam and light hanging connections to the overhead beams of the ECL. The variables of the attitudinous cones are: radius of opening, and height and position of opening. Changing these variables generates changes in the membrane structure. The membranes have been form-found with FormFinder software and are structurally sound. As the sun moves throughout the day the cones project their oculi on the ground. When it rains the cones provide partial shelter, funneling the rain into circumscribed showers. Choice of membrane fabrics opens up further variables: translucency, diffusion, printed patterning / iconography. Design of the building system was broken up into: textile membrane configuration/pattern cutting; wood or metal cantilever structure; metal connection details.