Mass Imperfections.

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The curved shapes of hand-made figurines are widespread in the Bethlehem’s tourism industry. What is intriguing about all these crafts is the precision of the forms given the basic tools used for their fabrication. An established hierarchy and apprentice curriculum maintains the artisans’ skills to a certain standard. Becoming an olive-wood master carver is, among other skills, being able to reproduce a complex-geometry shaped figurine while only looking at it.

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Olive wood artisan – Credits: AAU ANASTAS

The process of fabrication of olive-wood objects in Bethlehem calls high-tech mass customization into question. Mass imperfections is a project that experiments the potential of artisanal fabrication for the construction of large-scale structures.

The project experiments the ability of craftsmanship of stepping back into the forefront of the fabrication processes. Mass imperfections challenges high tech fabrication processes by monitoring and anticipating imperfections of highly skilled artisans.

Continue reading “Mass Imperfections.”

Our Summer Rammed Earth Experiment 3/3:

While we’ve completed construction on the rammed earth spiral, the project has really only just begun. Moving forward, our team is looking to properly introduce rammed earth into the Princeton community and to further research efforts by installing a sensor system to study rammed earth erosion and by building a solar-paneled roof over the spiral wall.

Community Engagement: Redefining Structures, Sustainability, and Service

Rammed earth is a uniquely sustainable, beautiful building material – and completely foreign to most people. With this project, we saw the opportunity to do more than research and focus on the idea that structures are built to interact with people. We wanted to create something that could broaden our community’s views on structures, sustainability, and service.

Working with the PACE Center for Civic Engagement, we’ve been able to expose Princeton students to rammed earth through volunteer events and service discussions. A student volunteer described how “the project had made us work together and become a single unit,” unknowingly hitting the mark on an ancient quality of earthen construction. Especially in developing areas where heavy machinery cannot be employed, earthen construction is known as a community building event. At a lunch event hosted by the PACE Center, our project incited a discussion between students from various departments about research as a form of service. We hope to hold similar events during the school year, as well as transform the Forbes Garden into a more usable space for all, where students can have class, a movie night, or just a place to relax and study.

Continue reading “Our Summer Rammed Earth Experiment 3/3:”

“Postcards From …” Series: Summer 2016

Throughout the summer, friends of the Form Finding Lab have been sending postcards from the places they have visited. The postcards are also featured on our Facebook page. For this special summer post, we’ve compiled the postcards for all to enjoy!

For the next 2 weeks we are on vacation. Stay tuned for more of our exciting posts in September!

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August 2016
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August 2016

August 2016

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August 2016

Author: Victor Charpentier

A New Design for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Stadium

Looking ahead, the next Olympic Games will be hosted by Tokyo in 2020. The initial Zaha Hadid design for the Tokyo National Stadium helped secure the city’s bid, but was quickly ditched due to its exorbitant cost.  After two international design competitions, Japan settled on the latticed green clad stadium by the Japanese architect Kengo Kuma.

This new stadium is far more subdued than Zaha Hadid’s and does not evoke the same awe as the National Gymnasium by Tange and Tsuboi Yoyogi.

To reflect upon and honor the structural prowess visualized in the sweeping roof lines of the Yoyogi Stadium, as well as to keep an open mind toward the future, the International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures (IASS) organized a conceptual design competition for a new national stadium in Tokyo, open to young designers under the age of 40.

The competition called for a “21st century spatial structure” on the site of the former National Olympic Stadium by Mitsuo Katayama. The competition jury, consisting of professor emeritus Hiroshi Ohmori (Nagoya University), architect Hiroshi Naito, engineer Knut Stockhusen (sbp), professor Ken’ichi Kawaguchi (University of Tokyo, Chair of the IASS2016), and engineer Bill Baker (SOM), considered the innovativeness of the concept system and the soundness of the structure.

I have the pleasure of presenting three design proposals developed and submitted by our graduate students. They all used form finding techniques in innovative ways to drive the geometries of their stadiums.

The Mountainous Gridshell entry by Mauricio Loyola and Olek Niewiarowski has been selected as one of five finalists by the competition jury, and they have been invited to present their design in September at the IASS Annual Symposium in Tokyo.

NEW LEAF STADIUM by Xiaoran Xu, Lu Lu, and Iwanicholas Cisneros (click to enlarge):

 

HANA STADIUM by Kaicong Wu, Hongshan Guo, and Isabel Morris (click to enlarge):

 

MOUNTAINOUS GRIDSHELL by Mauricio Loyola and Olek Niewiarowski (click to enlarge):

 

Author: Sigrid Adriaenssens

Our Summer Rammed Earth Experiments 2/3: Construction of swirling rammed earth wall

Before the large swirling structure in Forbes garden could be constructed, a set of tests walls were built to master the construction workflow. The tests walls will also be used to test a different set of erosion protection measures, as one of the goals of our research experiment is to assess the erosion resistance of rammed earth in New Jersey. The first test wall was built out of unstabilized earth with no erosion protection implemented for reference. The second wall was also unstabilized, but plants will be grown on top of this wall in the hope that their roots will slow down the erosion process, while their leafs protect the dirt from driving rain. The third test wall was stabilized on the outside with a 10% lime-earth mixture, which was applied only at the outer 3 cm. This technique is a traditional rammed earth construction technique originating in Spain and referred to as “calicascado” which can be freely translated as “lime shell”. The 4th and final test wall was built unstabilized earth once again again, but half of it was coated using a silicone spray, while the other half was coated with a lime wash. All of the test walls were built with a reusable plywood formwork on top of a blue stone slab..

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Scheme of the test walls
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Rammed earth test walls. Both left walls are unstabilized, the wall still in the formwork was built using the calicascado technique.

After the successful completion of the test walls, we moved on to the much larger spiraling wall inside Forbes garden. As explained in the previous blog post, the spiral consists of a lower bench area and a taller wall, separated by an opening. At its lowest point the bench is 40 centimeters high, and at its highest point it is 3 meters tall. Both rest on a blue stone foundation. Again, different erosion-protection measures were implemented. The bottom 15 cm of the entire wall was made out of a 25% lime- earth mixture, and placed on a water impermeable membrane to avoid capillary rise. The outside of the bench and most of the rest of the spiraling wall was stabilized using the calicascado technique after its promising results on the test walls. A great advantage of this technique is that it allows for a minimum volume of soil that needs to be stabilized with lime and thus requires less material transport. To compare the durability of the technique once again a section was left unprotected. Additionally, one section of the wall was entirely lime-stabilized using 6% lime as an extra test.

Continue reading “Our Summer Rammed Earth Experiments 2/3: Construction of swirling rammed earth wall”

Our Summer Rammed Earth Experiments 1/3: The Golden Spiral for Forbes Garden

Introduction

Dirt—as in clay, gravel, sand, silt, soil, loam, mud—is everywhere. The ground we walk on and grow crops in also happens to be one of the most widely used construction material worldwide. Earth does not generate CO2 emissions in its generation, transport, assembly or recycling and this in contrast to more conventional building materials such as concrete and steel. In rammed earth construction a mixture of  clay, silt, sand and gravel is compressed into a formwork to create a solid low-cost load-bearing wall. Despite the renewed architectural interest in contemporary rammed earth construction in (semi-)arid climates of the USA, little is known about its potential in the erosive humid continental climate of New Jersey. Because of the great potential of rammed earth as a local building material, we decided to design and construct a spiral rammed earth structure in Forbes Garden that will be an enduring representation of Princeton’s effort to create a campus containing sustainable and elegant zero carbon architecture.

The Material:  Dirt

The Form Finding Lab’s team established the suitability of Princeton soil for earth construction though an extensive set of laboratory tests. The team, led by PhD candidate Tim Michiels and supported by undergraduate student Amber Lin ’19 and summer intern Jacob Essig, subjected a series of compacted samples with different water contents to compression tests (the rammed earth samples had an average compressive strength of 1.35 MPa). The team also experimented with lime additives  (3%, 5%, 10%, and 25%)  to test the compacted dirt’s resistance to weathering on a series of prototype walls (See image above title).  All these results informed the design of the structure that was designed for Forbes Garden as part of the Campus as Lab Initiative .

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Testing of compacted samples with different dirt compositions to establish unconfined compressive strength. The local soil was composed of 19% gravel, 42% sand, 24% silt and 15% clay.

The Site: Princeton Garden Project

The Princeton Garden Project at Forbes College is a student led initiative that supports and advances sustainability and food awareness  on Campus. Following with its mission of sustainability, the rammed earth spiral is a sustainable experiment made with local and abundantly available materials intended to enhance the existing organic garden and transform it into a space for research and learning.

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The Garden Project, the ideal collaborator for a rammed earth project (image credit Garden Project at Forbes College)

The Design:  A Site-Specific Golden Spiral

Continue reading “Our Summer Rammed Earth Experiments 1/3: The Golden Spiral for Forbes Garden”

Learning from Japanese Structural Design: Reflections on the Symposium

MoMA’s exhibit on Japanese architecture (through July 31, 2016) examines the “constellation” of influence in the country’s early-21st-century architecture and design community, but perhaps not so explicit in the exhibit are 1) the structural engineers’ parallel relationships of influence and 2) the structural engineer’s role in collaborating with architects to produce these works. In an effort to explore these characteristics of structural engineering influence in Japan, Prof. Guy Nordenson (of Princeton University and Guy Nordenson and Associates) and Prof. John Ochsendorf (of MIT) organized a symposium, titled “Structured Lineages: Learning from Japanese Structural Design,” which brought together some of the top structural designers from both Europe and the US for discussion.

Most of the lectures presented by the guests focused on the works and experiences of specific Japanese structural designers and educators such as Yoshikatsu Tsuboi, Mamoru Kawaguchi, Masao Saitoh, Gengo Matsui, Toshihiko Kimura, and Mutsuro Sasaki. Each half of the symposium brought the speakers together for a vibrant panel discussion moderated by our Prof. Sigrid Adriaenssens and MIT’s Prof. Caitlin Mueller. The final panel discussion welcomed Prof. Sasaki himself to the mix.

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First panel discussion moderated by Prof. Adriaenssens. Left to right: Seng Kuan, Marc Mimram, Sigrid Adriaenssens, Mike Schlaich, Laurent Ney.
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Second panel discussion moderated by Prof. Mueller. Left to right: Guy Nordenson, Chikara Inamura (acting as Prof. Sasaki’s interpreter), Mutsuro Sasaki, Caitlin Mueller, Jane Wernick, Bill Baker.

Several fruitful discussions and themes arose from the independently-constructed lectures. Reflecting the literal implications of “lineages,” Prof. Seng Kuan referenced the traditional lineage model in which Japanese arts and crafts get passed down for seven or more generations. As Prof. Ochsendorf demonstrated in his lecture with the help of Chikara Inamura, such a “lineage” is visible in 19th-20th century Japanese structural engineering:

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Destructive form-finding using robotics

Can you improve the resistance of a shell structure by smashing, and subsequently repairing it? To do so you would require a very controlled environment, and thus Form-Finding Lab researchers resorted to Princeton’s School of Architecture robot.

Interactive digital fabrication environment to explore gypsum shell reinforcement from T Michiels on Vimeo.

In the context of the course ARC 596 “Embodied Computation”, a project was developed to explore novel forms for gypsum shell by repeatedly breaking and repairing these types of shells using digitally controlled tools.

The School of Architecture’s ABB 7600 robot is used to repetitively break, scan and repair gypsum shells. The broken shells are repaired by selectively gluing weak areas in order to create a bond that is stronger than the initial unreinforced gypsum. The investigated hypothesis is that after every iteration the newly repaired shell has the potential of a greater load bearing capacity than its predecessor. The reinforcement pattern is directly determined by the shell’s crack pattern and does not arise from an analytical approach typical to common reinforcement strategies. Indeed, the process is not dependent on a preconceived design, but much rather evolves from the intrinsic material properties and the initial form and imperfections of the shell. The process can still be steered by the designer in real-time through a set of interactive overlays in a custom control software.

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Ash wood – catastrophe or opportunity for creativity?

Since 2002, the emerald ash bore beetle, Agrilus planipennis, has destroyed more than 20 million ash trees in the US, with only 30% of the waste timber recycled into low-end products such as mulch and firewood. High value uses could turn this “waste” material into a valuable resource and an economic opportunity, especially considering that, before the widespread development of plastics, aluminum, and carbon fiber, the high tensile strength of ash wood was optimal for fabrication and use in the form of vehicle undercarriages, industrial infrastructure, and sporting goods. The ash bore beetle only established itself in New Jersey, a state with 24.7 million imperiled ash trees, in Spring 2014. The movement of ash wood is currently under federal and state quarantine.

In Fall 2015, Joe Scanlan (Director of the Visual Arts Program, Lewis Center of the Arts) and Sigrid Adriaenssens ran the course CEE418/VIS418 Extraordinary Processes to adopt new ways of thinking about and finding novel uses for local infested ash wood as a catastrophically available material.

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The MEDIA STUDIES exhibit, Lucas Gallery, Lewis Center for the Arts, Princeton Universy, features  sculptures crafted from ash wood by our students (from January 12 through February 5, 2016). These artworks exploit ash’s exceptional strength and flexibility and are at the same time unusual and beautifully crafted.  

Author: Sigrid Adriaenssens
Images: Sigrid Adriaenssens, Tim Michiels, Victor Charpentier

Form exploration of shells in seismic areas

News broadcasts showing images of collapsed buildings, ravaged roads and torn-apart cities regularly remind us about the destructive power of earthquakes. While decades of research have greatly improved the understanding of these cataclysmic events, building professionals and researchers continuously try to adapt and employ the most sophisticated numerical methods to improve the behavior of buildings during a seismic event in order to safeguard their occupants.

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Las Manantiales Restaurant in Mexico City, a concrete shell designed by Félix Candela that behaved excellently during the 1985 Mexico City earthquake. (Image courtesy Félix and Dorothy Candela Archive, Princeton University)

Researchers at the Form-Finding Lab of Princeton University (http://formfindinglab.princeton.edu/) are exploring the design of elegant and expressive structures that can safely be employed in seismic areas. They focus on shell structures, which are very thin, curved and typically large span structures made out of wide range of materials going from steel and glass, to concrete and even bricks or mud.

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