Text description provided by the architects. The environment that SHoP Architects has conceived at the gateway to this year’s Design Miami exhibition seeks to make visible two qualities—one evident, one latent—in the understanding of the city today. It exists at the intersection of Miami’s celebrated spirit of play, represented by a relocated landscape that mimics the beach, but also the city’s emergent function —demonstrated by the art and design fairs themselves— as a center for creative visioning and technological discovery.
Symbols commonly associated with the beach—sand, parasols, float toys, and even a hint of nighttime phosphorescence—create a ludic foreground for two printed structures that serve as a locus for social and educational encounter. In its explorations of contour, action, process, and materiality, “Flotsam & Jetsam” also aspires to create a link between Design Miami and the physically and conceptually adjacent operations at Miami Art Basel. The installation will have a life after the event as well, when it is demounted and reconstructed as a semi-permanent public amenity at the Miami Design District’s vibrant “Jungle Plaza.”
At once glamorously amorphous and rigorously defined, the dual pavilions of “Flotsam & Jetsam” evoke the geometries of current-borne sea life from diatoms to jellyfish. In their form and mode of fabrication, the pavilions also pay homage to the spirit of collaboration that is an increasingly necessary precondition for success in creative work of every type, including the enterprises now finding a home in Miami’s own surging innovation sector.
Project partners Branch Technology have adapted two industrial robots to implement its pioneering work: using a proprietary method they call Cellular FabricationTM to bring 3D printing out of the realm of prototyping and table-top production and into broader use as a full-scale, practical means of construction. Due to variations in their technical specifications, the product possible from each robot varies along known limits. SHoP celebrated these constraints, determining the form, dimensionality, and structural spans of the pavilions so that each one requires the collaboration of both robots. A close examination of the finished pavilions, themselves a meditation on natural and machine- determined form, may even reveal the “hand” of these eerily anthropomorphic industrial tools that are destined to play an increasing role in forming our shared human environments.
A second material printing technology, bringing with it another set of opportunities and constraints, was provided by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The contrasting method used by ORNL— which employs a biodegradable bamboo print medium—is also capable of enormous output sizes.
In order to optimize an exploration of the possibilities of the print medium, and to create instruction sets suitable for communicating clearly with the production team (in this case, crucially, the robots themselves), SHoP leveraged a longstanding partnership with Dassault Systèmes. Dassault is an international leader in developing creative design and project management platforms optimized for 3D production and direct-to-fabrication methodologies. Using its 3DEXPERIENCE product for all stages including conceptual development, in the design of “Flotsam & Jetsam” SHoP was able to exploit the software’s potential for merging freewheeling creative generation and rigorous production into a single process flow. This mode of working streamlined as well the fruitful integration of the team’s engineering consultants, Thornton Thomasetti, who were tasked with determining and verifying full-scale loading requirements on the printed construction media employed.
Taken together, the installation developed by SHoP, the project team, and our partners at Design Miami presents in microcosm a method of thinking and making that holds the potential to revolutionize the expressive potential of collaborative design in real-world conditions. By evoking a specifically Miami sense of seaside glamor in an environment realized through progressive creative methods, “Flotsam & Jetsam” seeks to be both a celebration of the city as it has long existed in the popular imagination, and an evocation of what it can become.