At Autodesk's 2016 conference in Las Vegas, a team from Autodesk's BUILD Space led by principal research engineer Andrew Payne collaborated with manufacturer Quarra Stone, engineers Simpson Gumpertz and Heger, and University of Michigan assistant professor Sean Ahlquist to unveil its new Generative Design Pavilion. The project is an exploration of materiality, with stalagmite stone forms that rise up from geometric floor panels to meet fabric that stretches down from a canopy above. The junction of textile and stone aims to emphasize the distinct behaviors of the two materials.
The 8,500-pound (3,850-kilogram) stone base was robotically milled and hand-finished in Indiana limestone. A team of engineers led by Paul Kassabian of Simpson Gumpertz and Heger and Quarra's digital fabrication team conducted load-bearing performance tests to develop the real feat of the base: its 12-foot (3.6-meter) bench, which was milled down to as thin as 2 inches (50 millimeters) out of a single block of limestone. This was accomplished using glass pultruded rods inlaid into the top and bottom surfaces of the bench and affixed with anchoring epoxy.
Under the direction of Sean Ahlquist, the fabric canopy is made up of custom-designed nylon-elastic panels in "an iterative workflow that combined digital simulations and physical mockups." Exaggerated seams between each panel highlight the material's ability to stretch and pull, further contrasting the stone's strength with the flexibility of the fabric.
To create the illusion of seamlessness at the tendril-like intersections of the two materials, Autodesk built custom connection plates using a waterjet and CNC router within the BUILD Space in Boston. In addition to the plates, every column embedded an LED bulb that visitors could control via iPad.
Watch the following video to find out more about the design and production process.