Transitional Morphologies

This project examined strategies and methods to incrementally change an assembly from a vector-active to a surface-active structural system. The transition from space-frame to surface morphology offers a range of performative capacities through related changes of porosity. Finite Element analysis and Computer Fluid Dynamics analysis were used in order to establish the complex interrelation between the morphology of the system and its structural behaviour and environmental modulation. This process began with basic digital studies that simulated airflow around differently articulated single elements, varying the angles of the faces of the tetrahedrons and the size of aperture in each face, as well as the range of sizes within each element. Configurations consisting of a greater number of differentiated elements were then analyzed and the performative capacity of the system was documented and notated in a digital protocol. This directly informed subsequent generations of the system in response to a specific climatic and luminous context.

The investigation of geometric-topological articulation and performative capacity was paralleled by an investigation of manufacturing options. Various approaches to unfolding assemblies into flat-sheet patterns for laser-cutting were examined and tested in a series of scaled physical models. As a specific cutting technique an industrial origami method was chosen that allows the flat sheets to be scored from one side only, while folding is possible in both directions. The associative modelling set-up was developed so that each assembly was automatically unfolded and laid out for laser- or CNC-cutting.

The design was informed by extensive measuring and mapping of thermal, luminous and airflow conditions across a selected test site. Environmental measurements were listed and updated on a data spreadsheet set up to automatically re-interpolate all 20,000 measurement values across the site. This spreadsheet data was linked directly to a map generated within an associative modelling environment. Once the sizes, distribution and orientation of all elements of the material system were established according to the set spatial arrangements, the associative model of the material system could be linked to the mapping set-up. This established an instrumental link and a rigorous feedback between material system and environmental conditions. New environmental conditions can now update the design and, in the same way, the environmental impact of the intervention can be visualised, analysed, evaluated and fed back into the design process.

AA Diploma Unit 4 (Michael Hensel, Achim Menges)
Dae Song Lee, Architectural Association, London, 2005-06