Structural Surfaces

This course is about maximum effect with minimum means. Complex surfaces present a wide variety of construction and structural challenges, as well as a rich history of details that range from the surprisingly simple and economical to the elaborate and intricate. But formal sophistication need not be out of reach of modest materials and budgets. Among the most compelling examples of architectural geometry are those which use economical sheet materials such as paperboard and plywood with simple but versatile details to create maximum intensity. It is this intersection of common materials and advanced techniques that we will explore in this seminar.

This class will introduce several canonical types of structural surfaces – thin shells, modular assemblies, folded plates, spaceframes, domes, and so forth – with associated techniques for automated analysis and fabrication. It will focus particularly on modular sheet assemblies and practical details to work with these materials. A workshop component of the course will introduce Grasshopper-based methods for automated design documentation for each of these specific types of construction. This seminar will be conducted in conjunction with the Robotic Spaceframe Assembly project of the Geometry Lab. As such, students will be trained on and have access to two new Universal robots, which may be used in the development of projects.

Students will work in groups of two to present prototype proposals for structural surfaces, along with their rigorous analysis of structural behavior and assembly.