Teachings project | Blowup | Medial design processes

First year second semester architecture students are exposed to rule surface based geometries and their developable properties (similar properties as those found in clothing and footwear). Generative design and fabrication concepts are introduced via a series of analog and digital exercises exploring the carving of space on a micro scale.

A 10cm3 polystyrene block is shaped using rigid hot wire cutters to approximate ruled surface geometries.

The new elements are traced using Mylar sheets and digitally scanned for post-processing using vector based CAD software; in this instance Abode Illustrator.

The task is to scale the scanned parts by 300% and generate two dimensional drawings communicating the assembly of sheets to rebuilding the solid shapes out of flat paper stock; nesting patterns, labels and cutting paths are manually created in the digital environment to prepare the data for laser cutting.

Parallel to this pseudo numeric process the students are introduced to generative and parametric design tools: Rhino 4, its accompanying Grasshopper plugin and the Kangaroo physics engine. Their proto-shapes are now remodeled in the virtual 3D world, unfolded with interactive scripts; labels, notches, nesting patterns and cutting paths are automated.

These procedures address notions of: transformation, translation, scaling, materiality, and digital-crafting.

The final step "blows-up" / scales the prototype by a much as 60 times. The digital scripts generate all the parts for manual tracing onto Mylar foil using a beamer. The fabrication process requires a coordinated team effort to produce the large scale piece in two days. The shape is assembled in three stages and "welded" using clear adhesive tape. The Mylar foil is extremely fragile and requires utmost handling care. The final envelop is inflated in approximately 30 minutes using two small hairdryers and occupies a volume of 6m3.

Directed by Christophe Barlieb