This research project focused on developing a design method of form finding in which the overall shape results from the behavioural tendencies and local actuation of interconnected elements.This project aimed at developing a variable grid shell structure that is based on a simple element consisting of an upper and a lower chord connected by spacer elements. Changing the setting of these spacers, in this case simple threaded rods, allows for changing the curvature of the element.

This relation between spacer setting and resulting geometry was parametrized and, once articulated in a larger grid system, used to achieve double curvature within the initially entirely flat grid by actuating the structure through differential spacer settings. The parametrisation of the local behavior allows computing the overall shape in both an analogue as well as digital manner. Thus a programmed application enabled the generation of various system configurations that were subsequently analyzed in regards to their specific performative capacities and spatial qualities. The computational set up also provided the required construction data as well as the specific settings for all spacer elements. This enabled the construction of a full scale prototype. Initially constructed as a flat grid the structure rises into its structurally stable, double curved shape through a process of incrementally actuating the local spacer elements. The project is emblematic for the research on an integral design approach that shifts from defining a particular shape to employing the behavioural patterns and capacities of a material system in order to unfold the system’s particular gestalt from its inherent material and construction logics.

AA Emergent Technologies and Design (M. Hensel, A. Menges, M. Weinstock)
Sylvia Felipe and Jordi Truco, Architectural Association, London, 2002-03