Title: archKit (Architectural Kit)
Name: Joshua Gigantino
Quote: “Schematics never fully prepare you for the real thing.” – Admiral Patterson, Star Trek: Voyager, Relativity
Description: archKit is a first step in building a life-size rapid prototyping or sketching system for architects. A kit of full-sized, projection-ready wall panels are presented along with a reconfigurable ceiling to provide a first system of rapid prototyping for architecture.
The system is intended to explore the quality of light in space in the context of defining the negative space needs of the architectural design process organically inside an experiential collaboration framework.
As shown December 9th, 2014, the kit consists of 7 interlocked panels of wood and muslin fabric. Together they form a 28’ (8.5m) wall or a 64^2’ room, a hut, wall or hogan with included fabric doorway. Hogan are 8-sided Dene (Navajo) structures that mean “Sacred enclosure” according to Nabokov & Easton (1989). Similar ritual and functional spaces existed among the Hohokam, Hopi and other Puebla nations. archKit includes a simple adjustable roof that can move between peaked and flat configurations. A simple re-rigging would enable the roof to also form 2-, 4- and 8- fold peaks to follow these various Puebla people’s architectures along with geodesic domes and yurt structures.
Architecture is the construction of thoughtful shelter or the “human-based differentiation” of physical space by the “creation of a BOUNDARY” according to Alexander (2002) . Architecture’s roots are in ancient permanent structures, temporary shelter and the definition of space. Examples of these three states include the Parthenon atop Athen’s Akropolis, ancient North American Tipi tents and palisade walls of wood or cloth.
archKit provides the basics for realizing full-scale prototyping of architectural projects. This is in direct contrast to the standard process of sketching leading to small models to CAD renderings. It allows architects and others to participate in a more hands-on approach.
Alexander makes a point of boundaries, centers and “emerging wholeness”. CAD systems can “just as easily create a monstrosity as something good.” because “There is no such thing as neutrality in such matters.” Instead, Alexander starts by sketching with small bits of material to “find out what harmonious volume would unfold from the site itself.” This process continues on-site with full-size wall segments and materials tests in ever more accurate design spirals that eventually lead to a complete solution.
Current implementation is a ‘Wizard of Oz’ approach of obvious theatrics involving simple projection and artist’s tape combined with narrative components. Further implementations will use AME iStage systems and other digital sensing to present increasing levels of fidelity to these kinds of architectural simulation.
Further systems will include wrap-around graphics for environmental/in-situ placement, digital manipulation of window and other elements. Critical digital elements should include accurate projection of horizon, slope, water drainage, sun angles and accessibility features.
Janich (1984) writes that “A topological space is a pair consisting of a set and a set of subsets”. In this project that set is the iStage blackbox theater, the subsets are the defined and undefined spaces generated by the archKit. Typically, the projector system and supporting computers are part of the closed set of the theatrical/studio space and the wall system provides an open set of enclosed space.Topologically the boundary should not exist but with feedback from architects it is clear that the walls need to be significantly thickened. The current panel set is only 7 panels, additional sets would modify but not negate this open set. In wall configuration the panels still define a space.
In creating a performance out of a design practice, elements of Artaud’s Theater of Cruelty organically emerge from the process. The audience are the performers, the only spectators were technicians and students maintaining the iStage’s technical systems, even they became actors inside the closed topological set. Artaud (1934) writes of a goal to make “…theater a believable reality which gives the heart and the senses that kind of of concrete bite which all true sensation requires.” Creating a prototyping system for a specialist field requires that believable reality be as representative and high-fidelity as possible while maintaining flexibility to improvise.
Highlight Color Explorer – rapid iterations of color for accent walls and other interior exploration.
Mobility – Light, mobile panels that can be quickly reconfigured.
5-8 Panels – Seven panels allows for a simple room to long wall.
Experiment with LEDs for color illumination.
Long-term Development Goals:
Wall Tracking: using RFID or optical tracking for wall positioning.
Interactive wall interfaces for color selection, windows, etc.
Sound Space: changes echo with size and shape of wall using convolution reverb.
DWG output: flat architectural CAD file output.
Wall-thickness units of dense foam.
Produce open-source stack of equipment plus bill of materials for architects and others to build and use as needed.
1×2” spruce strapping
108” bleached muslin fabric
archKit is being developed using action-research and ethnographic approaches. Current methodology is purely qualitative. A more quantitative approach can be achieved when archKit is fully digital with wall sections and people able to be tracked. Construction of the current set of panels consisted of assembling spruce strapping and muslin cloth panels in the AME FabLab. Ethnographic research has consisted of interviews and brainstorming sessions with two Architecture graduate students at the Design School at ASU who both have interests in hybrid digital-physical systems.
Three forms of color projection are being explored. First, using video projection for full color and motion graphics, but also Arduino-powered NeoPixel LEDS and a generic multicolor LED lighting strip.
Construction was with spruce strapping cut to length and mitred together with small braces for stability. 108” white muslin cloth was then stretched and stapled over it. Eye-screws were attached at top and bottom to complete each panel. The panels were then lashed together with paracord into a 7 panel array. The arrangement is mostly self-standing. A simple roof structure was rigged using paracord, mason’s twine and translucent construction plastic. Materials were kept as simple and construction-oriented as possible to provide a familiar environment for architects.
Testing has so far been conducted only in final critique. archKit will continue to be developed as a deployable component or kit for AME to spur collaboration.
Interviews with two architectural graduate students that are now collaborating on the project:
AF interview notes:
Roof & Foundation are critical to avoid just an interior paneling system. Light angles, drainage and domes need to be considered.
Book: Architectural Graphic Standards
Floor grid-system – IT style lifted floor or elevated floor tiles.
JC interview notes:
Interior panel partitions that mimic thickness of real walls. Office partitions crossed with SIPS panels.
Accessibility prototyping will be big – ramps, handholds, etc
System integration with BIM
Small scale mockups for high-tech buildings like hospitals and urgent care facilities.
Phoenix vs. Chicago: very different building materials. How to take into account?
Alexander, C. (2002) The Process of Creating Life. Berkeley, CA. Center for Environmental Structure.
Artaud, A. (1934) The Theater and It’s Double. Unknown translation or publisher.
Janich, K. (1984) Topology. Silvio Levy, Trans. New York, NY. Springer-Verlag.
Nabokov, P. & Easton, R. (1989). Native American Architecture. New York, NY. Oxford University Press.