As part of my research to inform my final thesis project on the London Housing Crisis, I have created a short multiple choice survey that would benefit greatly from the input of members of the WeWantToLearn community who have lived in London at any point over the past six years. The survey only takes a few minutes to complete and will directly influence the design progression of my project in the coming weeks. Please spare a few moments to participate, and/or share with friends and relatives who may be able to contribute also.
You can find the survey at the following link: Here
“…the main task is to unfreeze architecture- to make it a fluid, vibrating, changeable backdrop for the varied and constantly changing modes of life…”
Reciprocal systems can be used to create a wide variety of movable structures based on pin-joint assemblies, especially in planar form.
One of the most widely known reciprocal kinetic structures is the iris diaphragm which uses four or more elements hinged at their ends with pin joints to generate a sliding motion for opening and closing. The elements join one another at different points along their spans and these intermediate points of connection can be used to determine new kinematic behaviour.
Iris diaphragm with 6 and 8 elements
Jean Nouvel’s facade design for the Institut du Monde Arabe is based on the iris mechanism, with aluminium diaphragm panels employing squares, circles, stars and polygons to generate decorative patterns through rotation. This light-responsive south facing facade uses a photoelectric cell to adjust the admission of natural light by the opening and closing of the mobile diaphragm.
Institut du Monde Arabe by Jean Nouvel
Calatrava’s project for a restaurant in Zurich has some similarities with the principles of retractable reciprocal frames. The roof structure is composed of nine metal and glass tree-like elements 12m high. Each of the nine columns is mechanically operated and folds simultaneously with all the others to provide shelter for the restaurant underneath.
Model for a restaurant in Zurich by Santiago Calatrava
The idea of a retractable roof which operates similar to the iris of the camera lens was first patented in 1961 by Emilio Perez who proposed a dome built of 3D curved segments which retract. The segments twist simultaneously and create a circular opening at the top.
Patent for a retractable dome by Emilio Perez
However, issues such as cladding materials, the changing geometry due to the retraction, design details of the hinges, eliminating the danger of progressive collapse, drive mechanisms which will provide simultaneous reaction to the beams and the cladding as well as overall construction detailing have to be considered and developed.
Chuck Hoberman’s research in the field of mobile and folding structures can have a remarkable impact on the development of kinetic reciprocal structures. His unique approach in the field of transformable design has created created objects that simulate the behaviour of living organisms, fostering a dynamic relationship between structure and user.
The Iris Dome has a fixed perimeter with a centre retracting in a smooth radial motion. A lamella dome with a geometry of interlocking spirals, the structure is based on a Vierendeel grid which carries the load by bending action rather than by axial forces which makes it similar to a retractable reciprocal structure. The main difference however is that the segments which form the Iris Dome are an assembly of pairs of structural elements connected with hinges at their midpoints which move like scissors.
Scissor-like movement is the main generative force also for the Hoberman sphere. The unfolding structure resembles an expanding geodesic sphere which can reach a size up to five times larger than the initial one. It consists of six great circles, each made of 60 elements which fold and unfold in a scissor-like motion. There are also 60 nodes which give rigidity to the structure and prevent the circles from expanding further into elliptical shapes.
Hoberman’s piece emerged in part from working with NASA on their deployable structures programme: ‘rather than constructing a structure in space, you unfold a structure in space’.
I have been researching Miura pattern origami as a structural solution for rapidly deployable structures. Miura ori are interesting as structures due to their ability to develop from a flat surface to a 3D form, and become fully rigid, with no degrees of freedom, once constrained at certain points. Physical and digital experiments with Miura Ori have taught me that certain topographies can be generated by developing a modified Miura pattern. With the help of Tomohiro Tachi’s excellent research on the subject of curved Miura ori, including his Freeform Origami simulator (http://www.tsg.ne.jp/TT/index.html) I have learned that Miura ori surfaces that curve in the X and Y axes can be generated by modifying the tessellating components, however these modifications require some flexibility in the material, or looseness of the hinges. As a system for a rapidly deployable structure, I am most interested in the potential for the modified Miura ori to work as a structure built with cheap, readily available sheet materials which are generally planar, so I will continue to develop this system as a rigid panel system with loose hinges that can be tightened after the structure is deployed. In order to test the crease pattern’s ability to form a curved surface, I have defined a component within the Miura pattern that can tessellate with itself. The radius of this component’s developed surface is measured as it is gradually altered.
With the objective being to develop a system for the construction of a rapidly deployable structure, I have also been interested in understanding the Miura ori’s characteristics as it is developed from flat. Physical and digital tests were performed to determine the system’s willingness to take on a curve as its crease angles decrease from flat sheet to fully developed. I found the tightest radius was achieved rapidly as the sheet was folded, with the radius angle reaching a plateau. This is interesting from the perspective of one with the desire to create a structure that has a predictable surface topography, as well as from a material optimisation standpoint; the target topography can be achieved without the wasteful deep creases of an almost fully developed Miura ori. With the learnings of the modified Miura ori tests in mind, a simple loose hinged cylinder is simulated. As the pattern returns on itself and is fastened, the degrees of freedom are removed and the structure is fully rigid. A physical model of the system was constructed with rigidly planar MDF panels and fabric hinges. The hinges were flexible enough to allow the hinge movement necessary in developing this particular modified Miura ori, however some of the panels’ corners peeled away from the fabric backing as the system was developed from flat. A subsequent test will seek to refine this hinge detail, with a view to creating a scalable construction detail that will allow sufficient flexibility during folding, as well as strength once in final position.
John Desmond Bernal – The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1929)
A space habitat intended for permanent residence; radical changes to human bodies and perception and the implications for society;
Aldous Huxley – Brave New World (1931)
Radical social changes due to technological advances. Huxley’s other work is worth checking as well.
Olaf Stapledon – Star Maker (1937)
It is a masterpiece that AC Clarke, F Herbert, OS Card and other great sci fi writers have quoted as a major influence. Virginia Wolf was a fan as well. I would say architectural references in this book are not very direct, but it is nothing but pure inspiration. A conventional guy has a disembodied visionary experience that takes him across time and space and slowly allows him to merge his consciousness with the Universe. There is a mystical beauty about the way the cosmos is described, sci fi and philosophy at the same time. It has some interesting relevant concepts as well, such as the Dyson sphere – an artificial mega structure entirely surrounding a star in 3D to capture the entire power output.
George Orwell – Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)
Relevant for the issue of surveillance and how it reflects on social life and implicitly, architecture. The descriptions of the ministry buildings are memorable.
Isaac Asimov – Foundation series (1951)
A sci fi classic novel in which Asimov anticipates big data and open source encyclopedias and envisages a science which can use information to predict the future on a large scale. It is interesting from an architectural point of view as Trantor, the capital of the Galactic Empire, is a completely built up planet, covered in its entirety by a continuous mass of metal high-rise buildings and subterranean structures.
Stanislaw Lem – Solaris (1961)
Questions alien nature and the issue of communication between alien species. The Russian film by Andrey Tarkovsky is also a masterpiece.
Philip K Dick – all his work
Man in the High Castle (1963); Ubik; A Scanner Darkly (1978); Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (1968); The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965) – all have subtle architectural references and address contemporary issues like immigration, mass-media, politics, drugs. Dark paranoid atmosphere throughout.
Frank Herbert – Dune (1965)
Not so much about architecture, but it is a realistic depiction of the layered complexities of a planet: politics, religion, sociology, economy, ecology, technology, etc.
Larry Niven – Ringworld (1970)
Larry Niven, in 1970 theorized the Niven Ring – a continuous ring-shaped mega structure that rotates around a star to create artificial gravity force; Architecture at a star-system scale.
Arthur C. Clarke– Rendezvous with Rama (1972)
One of Arthur C. Clarke’s most well-known works, the main architectural interest is on th 50 Km cylindrical alien star ship which has its own geography and cities. Clarke comes from a scientific background and this is reflected in the rigor of his novels. Also check 2001:A Space Odyssey and his work on fractals.
Gheorghe Sasarman – Squaring the Circle – A Pseudotreatise of Urbogony (1975)
Written in the style of Calvino’s Invisible Cities. it is a collection of short stories full of mythical and symbolic references about utopias, politics, geometry and of course, urban design. <Spoiler> Babylon is an egalitarian society where everyone is allowed access to the top of the ziggurat but the steep ramps are greased every day. Rome is a fractal city made by recursively placing forums at the intersection of the cardo and decumanum; tunnel cities, underground, or moving, or towering ones, Atlantis, all linked to a poetic idea about their creation.
Douglas Adams – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979)
This is a comic series, but it has some unique ideas. My favourite is that Earth and some other planets are artificial mega structures manufactured on Magrathea for some wealthy clients. A planet-building factory! <Spoiler> Earth was originally commissioned as a mega human driven computer to compute the ultimate question about life, the universe and everything. One of the characters, Slartibartfast is a coastal designer and won a prestigious award for the design of the Norwegian fjords.
Serge Brussolo – Territoire de Fievre (1983)
Brussolo has an intimidating imagination. Short novels, easy to read, you can also check Les mangeurs de murailles (about a cube-shaped dystopian city), Portrait du diable en chapeau melon (about a labyrinthine prison city), <Spoiler> In Territoire de Fievre people live on a breathing planet and their planet gets ill.
Stephen Baxter – Ring (1994)
A mega structure formed of cosmic strings;
Stephen Baxter – The Time Ships (1995)
A sequel to HG Wells’ The Time Machine; It has a few architectural references, but the main one is the Dyson Sphere at the centre of the Solar System built by an advanced civilization;
Vernor Vinge – Rainbows End (2006)
It is a critical insight into plausible extensions of technologies available today, seen through the eyes of a man who just recovered from Alzheimers.
Eric Brown – Helix (2007)
Galactic-scale mega structure; Depending on the complex relationship between the geometry of the Helix and the stars, various ecosystems form;
My study about a custom G-Code for FDM 3d printing geometries based on a central axis (not necessarily a straight line! – any curve would do). Rather than printing layer by layer horizontal sections that are uneven and inefficient in terms of travel time, the slices are consistent and always perpendicular to the central axes. Moreover the transition between layers – rather than being done from a single point through a vertical motion which is the traditional approach – is a continuous gradual motion upwards, the travel path resembling a spiral, thus improving efficiency.