Thursday, December 12, 2013

AE27: Honeycomb Oculi

Nature has a good way of explaining to us humans how things can be structured. Think trees, termite mounds, beehives, the list goes on and on. A couple recent projects made me think of the latter -- beehives -- for the way they are structured with hexagonal, honeycomb like modules. Neither regular nor mimicking beehives, these two projects have another interesting thing in common: at the apex of each cell, if you will, is a round opening, an oculus that makes each the enclosure porous.

The first project is the Picoroco Wall from Emerging Objects (design by onald Rael, Virginia San Fratello, Seong Koo Lee):

It is a freestanding wall system with a "variegated pattern [that] allows for views and light to pass through in some areas of the wall, but not in others." The front (above and below) lets the cones and holes come to the fore, but the underlying geometry is apparent where the aggregated pieces meet.

But it's the back of the 3d-printed wall (below) where we can see the structural geometry: hexagons, but also pentagons and the occasional trapezoid. A regular orthogonal grid of vertical and horizontal pieces add additional structural support.

The second project is the “Pavilion for one Summer” by Manuel Fabian Hartmann and his team from the University of Innsbruck:

Unlike the Picoroco Wall, this installation was constructed free of CNC, robotic, and other hi-tech techniques. This isn't to say computers did not play their part, for the modeling of the form was derived in the computer, with help from Buro Happold. After finding a decent pavilion form, the class researched "so-called D-Forms or simple curved surfaces, [and] 30 D-Forms were arranged in a voronoi-pattern on the generated form. By intersecting these forms with each other and the main form, the corresponding structure was developed."

Underlying the whole design are the hexagonal elements that bow out to the round openings. Therefore the pavilion is less about shelter from the elements (as the name makes clear, it was constructed and meant for only one summer) than in creating an enclosure that changes one's way of seeing the surrounding landscape of Alberschwende in Vorarlberg, Austria.

Believing that other projects must use what I'm calling "honeycomb ocluli," I searched the Internet and found the Shellstar Pavilion by Matsys (photos by Dennis Lo):

The way this installation in Hong Kong encloses space is similar to the pavilion in Austria (both were modeled similarly on the computer via D-Forms), but here we see the introduction of structural elements: ribs span from one clustered base to another. The secondary structure of the hexagons (below) is made by the exterior panels themselves, which are folded down and zip-tied together. 

But are the arching ribs necessary? Yes, to achieve this particular form. But as the time-lapse video of the construction process below shows, the hexagonal pieces, once clipped together, are quite malleable and lightweight, meaning they can be hung, draped, or structured to enclose space in a variety of ways.

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