IaaC Students Develop Material System with Responsive Structural Joints

Courtesy of IaaC (Instituto de Aquitectura Avanzada de Catalunya), Ece Tankal, Efilena Baseta, Ramin Shambayati

Despite architecture’s continued evolution over the course of , our use of structural materials has remained largely the same since the advent of modern building materials. This reality may be changing thanks to the development of new materials seeking the same kinds of adaptability often found in nature.

Adaptable architecture is becoming an increasingly viable endeavor as a result of recent developments in building technologies and materials. Masters research students Ece Tankal, Efilena Baseta and Ramin Shambayati at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia were interested in “architecture of transition” and have developed a new material system that utilizes a thermally responsive polymer as structural joints with their project, “Translated Geometries.” Read on after the break to learn about how this new material system was developed and its potential for applications in architecture.

How New Elevator Technology Will Allow Our Cities to Grow Even Taller

KONE UltraRope Elevator Shaft. Image Courtesy of Kone/Splash/Corbis

The sky is not always the limit when it comes to building vertically – rather, elevator technology is often the restricting factor when it comes to skyscraper height. With current technology, a single elevator can travel approximately 500m before the weight of the rope becomes unsupportable. This means that ascending a mile-high (1.6km) tower would require changing elevators up to 10 times. However, UltraRope, a recently unveiled technology by Finnish elevator manufacturer KONE, may change the heights of our cities. A new hoisting technology that will enable elevators to travel up to one kilometer, UltraRope doubles the distance that is currently possible.

In an article for The Guardian, “The new lift technology that will let cities soar far higher,” Rory Hyde looks at the current limitations of elevator technology, how its development over the years has shaped our and the impact that UltraRope could have skyscraper design. Read the whole piece, here.

The Solution To Pollution Is…The Rooftops?

, used to keep Richard Meier’s Jubilee Church a crisp white, is now being looked at for pollution reduction at The University of California – Riverside. Image © Flickr User Rory MacLeod

The potential solution to smog and pollution may be hovering right over our heads, now that Students at the University of California – Riverside have designed a pollution reducing rooftop tile. According to their calculations, cladding one million rooftops with the tiles could remove 21 tons of nitrogen oxides — daily. Currently the Los Angeles area spits out 500 tons of nitrogen oxides a day, so the tiles are just one piece of the puzzle in reducing pollution – however the students are imagining their nitrogen-oxide-eating Titanium Dioxide compound in exterior paints, concrete and more. To see all the possibilities, read the full article here.

2,800 iPod Nano Screens Make Up Cornell’s Discovery Wall

Consisting of over 2,800 iPod Nano screens, “The ” at Cornell’s Medical College in Manhattan was a 2.5 year long process in digital art, conceived by Squint/Opera and accomplished in collaboration with Hirsch & Mann. From a distance, the animated screen appears as a single, unified image. But take a closer look and every single screen has its own unique text. As a permanent piece, it shows the plausibility of digital art to integrate with the existing building fabric. Watch the video above and make sure to learn more about the creative process here.

MIT Develops Self-Assembling, Easy-Bake Robots

MIT has developed a way to 3D print sheets of material that self-assemble when baked. With inspiration from Japanese , researchers have developed — among other objects — robots. Head researcher Daniela Rus is already looking for potential applications saying, ”I want a robot that will play with my cat.” Check out the full article at HNGN to learn more and watch a video of the assembly in action.

Timescanners: Digital Scanners Explain Historic Architecture’s Engineering Mysteries

Thanks to state of the art mobile laser scanners, scientists can now document the greatest architecture in history, from The Pyramids to St. Paul’s Cathedral, as digital models with pinpoint accuracy. The digital representations take you inside, around and through the buildings, which means researchers can study and analyze sites without being in the field. The technology is already proving its worth – watch the trailer above to see how  was constructed and more!

VIDEO: “Bionic” Architecture That Moves When You Do

The Brooklyn based firm The Principals are known for their interactive design, industrial design and work. The video above hi-lights their latest “bionic” , which actually responds and reacts to human movement thanks to myoelectric sensors that pick up voltage increases on the skin when a muscle contracts. To learn more head over to their website - and make sure to check out all of The Principals other installations featured on ArchDaily.

The Hudson Yards – New Development, “Smart” Development

Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s “” is awaiting approval, but other projects are already underway in the 28 Acre Hudson Yards development. Image Courtesy of Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Rockwell Group

The largest private project New York City has seen in over 100 years may also be the smartest. In a recent article on Engadget, Joseph Volpe explores the resilience of high-tech ideas such as clean energy and power during Sandy-style storms. With construction on the platform started, the Culture Shed awaiting approval, and Thomas Heatherwick designing a 75-Million dollar art piece and park – the private project is making incredible headway. But with the technology rapidly evolving, how do investors know the technology won’t become obsolete before its even built?

The Steel Age Is Over. Has The Next Age Begun?

As of now, carbon fiber has only been applied to small scale applications, such as the Textile Room by P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S. Image © Monica Nouwens

Andrew Carnegie once said, “Aim for the highest.” He followed his own advice. The powerful 19th century magnate had the foresight to build a bridge spanning the Mississippi river, a total of 6442 feet. In 1874, the primary structural material was iron — was the new kid on the block. People were wary of , scared of it even. It was an unproven alloy.

Nevertheless, after the completion of Eads Bridge in St. Louis, Andrew Carnegie generated a publicity stunt to prove steel was in fact a viable building material. A popular superstition of the day stated that an elephant would not cross an unstable bridge. On opening day, a confident Carnegie, the people of St. Louis and a four-ton elephant proceeded to cross the bridge. The elephant was met on the other side with pompous fanfare. What ensued was the greatest vertical building boom in American history, with Chicago and New York pioneering the cause. That’s right people; you can thank an adrenaline-junkie elephant for changing American opinion on the safety of steel .

So if steel replaced iron – as iron replaced bronze and bronze, copper –  what will replace steel? Carbon Fiber.

The Depreciating Value of Form in the Age of Digital Fabrication

The ICD / ITKE Research Pavilion 2011, demonstrating an example of a Voronoi diagram at work. Image © ICD / ITKE University of Stuttgart

In this article, originally appearing on the Australian Design Review as “Tolerance and Customisation: a Question of Value“, Michael Parsons argues that the complex forms made possible by may soon be victims of their own popularity, losing their intrinsic value as they become more common and the skill required to make them decreases.

The idea of tolerance in architecture has become a popular point of discussion due to the recent mainstreaming of digital fabrication. The improvements in digital fabrication methods are allowing for two major advancements: firstly, the idea of reducing the tolerance required in to a minimum (and ultimately zero) and secondly, mass customisation as a physical reality. Digital fabrication has made the broad-brushstroke approach to fabrication tolerance obsolete and now allows for unique elements and tolerance specific to each element. The accuracy that digital fabrication affords the designer, allows for the creation of more complex forms with greater ease and control. So far, this has had great and far reaching implications for design.

Read on to find out how this ease of form-making could diminish the success of complex forms. 

Forget Flying Cars – Smart Cities Just Need Smart Citizens

Songdo In South Korea is a brand new city founded on smart city principles. Image Courtesy of Cisco

This article by Carlo Ratti originally appeared in The European titled “The Sense-able City“. Ratti outlines the driving forces behind the movement and explain why we may be best off focusing on retrofitting existing with new technologies rather than building new ones.

What was empty space just a few years ago is now becoming New Songdo in Korea, Masdar in the United Arab Emirates or PlanIT in Portugal — new “smart cities”, built from scratch, are sprouting across the planet and traditional actors like governments, urban planners and real estate developers, are, for the first time, working alongside large IT firms — the likes of IBM, Cisco, and Microsoft.

The resulting cities are based on the idea of becoming “living labs” for new technologies at the urban scale, blurring the boundary between bits and atoms, habitation and telemetry. If 20th century French architect Le Corbusier advanced the concept of the house as a “machine for living in”, these cities could be imagined as inhabitable microchips, or “computers in open air”.

Read on for more about the rise of Smart Cities

Autodesk Launches Foundation Aimed to Solve “Epic Design Challenges”

Butaro Doctors’ Housing / . Image © Iwan Baan

Autodesk has launched the Autodesk Foundation, an organization which will “invest in and support the most impactful nonprofit organizations using the power of design to help solve epic challenges.” In an effort to aid those tackling global issues such as “climate change, access to water, and healthcare,” the foundation will provide select design-oriented grantees with software, training and financial support.

VIDEO: A Mobile Phone That Maps Your World

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Johnny Lee, a project leader in the Advanced and Projects group at Google, wants our phones to experience the world more like we do: “we are physical beings that live in a 3D world, yet mobile devices today assume that the physical world ends at the boundaries of the screen”, he says – which is why his team has been working on Project Tango, a mobile phone which uses movement and depth sensors to build a 3D model of the space around it.

Project Tango brings a whole new dimension (the third one) to what we could potentially do with our phones: imagine creating a 30 second model to take away from a site visit, for example, or using augmented reality to show a design or an installation in situ, navigable in real time. Currently, is in the process of distributing 200 prototypes to app developers, who will hopefully help it realize this tremendous potential.

“Invisible Cities” App Turns the Data of City Life Into an Extraordinary Landscape

The social life of cities is complex. Where once the networks which operated within could be understood – to an extent – through their physical infrastructure, in the internet age much of the network that supports city life is hidden, existing only through intangible data.

Invisible Cities is an app which makes this network tangible, using geocoded data from Twitter and Instagram to morph the landscape, displaying where the most activity is occurring. These hills of activity can then be linked by lines representing keywords, showing underlying affinities between different geographical areas.

How Should We Implement Smart Cities?

Tokyo. Image © Clry2

In this article, originally published by Arup Connect as “Anthony Townsend on Smart Cities“, Townsend discusses his book “Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia” and explains how, in his view, the push towards smart cities is being led by the wrong people – namely companies with short term goals; the architects, planners and scientists who should be leading this change, however, often struggle to share their knowledge.

Your book argues that there’s a need for grassroots action rather than top-down, corporate-led implementation of smart cities. How do you see architects and engineers fitting into this picture?

Architects and engineers for the most part have to serve the interests of their clients. There’s a balance that has to be struck, almost on a project-by-project basis, about how much they can push back in saying a piece of technology related to the business model for the project, or even a placemaking strategy, has unintended consequences, or that there may be a more democratic or innovative approach.

A lot of the vision of smart cities has been shaped by IT engineers and marketers. The problem there is not just that it’s sort of a naïve vision being pushed by companies with very short-term sales goals. It just doesn’t appreciate the complexity of good urbanism, and the role that both communications and information play in creating good places that people want to buy, work, live in.

Read more about the challenges facing smart cities after the break

Adobe Photoshop Becomes a Tool for 3D Printing

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Adobe has unveiled a major update to Photoshop CC () with the hope that a “radically simplified process” will make their software the “go-to tool for anyone who wants to print a 3D model.” Their new software allows for designers to create a model from scratch or refine an existing design leading to perfect print ready 3D models. Since one of the most common problems with is the human errors in virtual modeling, Photoshop includes automatic mesh repair and will insert a support structure if necessary to ensure that the model will print reliably and without faults.

You can find out more about Adobe Photoshop and 3D Printing here. This update to Photoshop is already available for those who are subscribed to Adobe’s Creative Cloud.

VIDEO: Angles on the View with Parametric Design

This two-minute video with NBBJ’s Andrew Heumann highlights a valuable capability of parametric design; whereby the architect can optimize the shape and orientation of a building to appropriate a variety of viewing conditions at the client’s request.

The aptitude for quick, cost-effective variation and the capacity for intuitive visual re-presentation of scripting plug-ins like this one (Grasshopper for Rhino) is a gold star for parametric design.

TEDx: Designing for the Internet of Things / Rodolphe el‐Khoury

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Filmed at TEDxToronto in September 2013, this talk by architect, educator and theorist is based on the inevitable “internet of things.” As TEDxToronto described, “More than ever before, the line between the digital and real worlds is increasingly blurred. Historically, computers and devices have functioned as a separate layer within our lives… In this world, our homes, workplaces, and the objects within them will all be digitally connected, intelligent, and responsive.” It is only a matter of time.