First, we did some research in the topic of Branching. Basically, it is the ramification of any main stem. Branching structures are based on geometric systems that expand through bifurcation without returning to closed loops.
Frei Otto a German architect and structural engineer developed many different branching structures in the early 1960’s. This are two of the experiments we analyzed for further application.
One of the precedents we studied was the Stuttfart Airport in Germany. This building integrates a unique design of tree-like structures. Each “steel tree” passes the loads through the branches down the trunk of the tree.
These are the first branching explorations that we did. Basically, we were trying to analyze how the shape is dictated by the forces applied to the rubber bands.
On the second phase, we used a loose material that does not apply a force onto itself, rather a force has to be applied. This material gave us a little more freedom to explore branching geometries.
We also analyzed another type of branching structures; a system that is influenced by adding data (water) to the organization. As water is added to the material it starts join and create new paths.
In the last phase, we moved into a more rigid material: copper. This allowed us to design a more permanent structure that could function as a pavilion.
The current topic for investigation is: Gridshell Structures. The goal is to explore the possibilities of the grid structure and its ability to create space.
One of the precedent studies we analyzed is the SUTD Library Gridshell Pavilion. Were they used computational design and controlled fabrication to create this organic-form pavilion.
With the use of parametric tools, such as Grasshopper and kangaroo in Rhino, we explored different iterations of gridshells. Using different positions for anchors the shape started to change. Using from 2 anchor points up to 6 anchor points started to see the different effects this had on the gridshell system.
The first physical model we worked with different curvilinear and sculptural forms but still working towards a strong and stable structure. Here we worked with a two-point anchor perpendicular to each other. Working with these conditions became a challenge due to the shape and openness of the structure on one side and directing all loads to two points.
The second model was a four-point anchor. The advantages here where greater in regards to stability and curvature flow. This model showed us that the more curvature we added the more the grid was elongated to a diamond shaped form. Thus, the structure’s length was longer and the width was narrower.
We took a step back in our third model. With previous iterations we understood that some of the curves were really pronounced in order to be fabricated in real scale. For this reason, we tried to keep a more simple shape that could be feasible in real life.
We also started thinking about the skin. The panels were manipulated triangles that would allow indirect sunlight in the pavilion and at the same time will enhance the experience of the user.
This particular 3D model was one that the group wanted to see get built. As the process of building started we also took some liberty in shaping the model as we went.
The final model was based on the strengths of the previous physical and digital models. We stayed with our four-point anchor, elongated structure, maximized the amount of curvatures, strengthen its whole structure system, and directed the panel system against the flown of the grid.
We continue to use the same skin for the final model. The only change was in the scale and transparency of the skin. We use different sizes of panels to emphasize the differences of the curves but at the same time creating a language between the structure and the panel system.
The foundation consisted of wood footings at every anchor. These anchors would seat and lock to the footings. This would allows us for good distribution of the loads from the structure to the ground. It would also allows us to elevate the structure from the ground and protecting it from moisture.
Panel system detail.