Monday, 3 March 2014

Rock-Cut Architecture 2.0

Draft of the concept workflow:

Monday, 1 April 2013

Excerpts from a recently submitted grant proposal

“CNC a Mountain”:
A Proposal for Contemporary Rock-Cut Architecture
In relation to time, the momentum of contemporary architecture is toward compressing it:  Faster production, of increasingly temporary constructions, responding to ever more fleeting conditions within an urban kaleidoscope.  The assumed goal of architectural production is to keep up with a perceived acceleration of cultural transformation -- respond to, accommodate, and facilitate the quickening cycles of dissipation and emergence of the culture around it.  Implicitly or explicitly, this is the contemporary modus operandi – with responses ranging from design that favors timely decoration, or kinetic facades, programmable LED’s, digital projection and large screens, to simply grounding the design process in planned obsolescence.  The consequence of this direction is not simply a practical matter of shorter building life cycles – it inverts what historically has been a constant core virtue of what architectural production offers: longevity – of all that humans make, architecture set in place the farthest extension into the future.
The current proposal is oriented in the opposite direction: toward extreme longevity, and the questions about our relationship to the future that it entails.  The medium for doing so is through a current day re-visiting of a long dormant form of architecture:  rock-cut architecture.

Few offerings from the history of architecture could be more self-evidently irrelevant to contemporary architectural practice than rock-cut architecture.  This irrelevance is not simply the result of production logistics that make it impractical – it is that the modern lifeworld as currently configured simply has nothing to be expressed through this form of architecture: a raw material left in situ tediously sculpted into something that will last almost foreverRock-cut architecture is fundamentally antithetical to the pathological shortsightedness of the day.  This is precisely what makes it so essentially relevant.  Its fundamental otherness within our myopic period of history is its virtue. 

Speaking purely in logistical terms, rock-cut architecture presents unique test cases for a variety of state-of-the-art technologies.  The process, as outlined in the HOW: Production Concept, is one-to-one scale subtractive digital fabrication, in which the raw material used is an in-situ stone mass.  The concept in summary:  a small army of mobile CNC robots with stonecutting capability, coordinated through a high-accuracy local positioning system, collectively carving an in situ stone mass according to a highly articulated parametric digital model. 
Aside from the R&D required with the technologies just described, there is a more fundamental epistemological puzzle:  how much can we know about an in situ rock mass through non-destructive means?  This is a key piece of the research that extends to the limits of current geological engineering, only explored at a cursory level so far, as described in the IF/WHEN: Structural Analysis section.
There will inevitably be limits to the accuracy possible for the data gathered about the stone mass, consequently the model will need to be parametrically robust to adapt to the changing conditions as information increases about the stone mass through controlled subtraction.
As a friend of mine put it:  CNC a mountain.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Light Chimney Geometry_Generating the Subtracted Form

Light Chimney Geometry Diagram from subtect on Vimeo.

This video diagrams how the form of the central chamber as shown was derived. Using the sun path as the initial construction line, a secondary circle is positioned along the sun path, one per hour, with a diameter related to the initial sphere of the central chamber (shown in red). The light chimneys are then positioned around this secondary circle, the result being that the light chimneys are offset just far enough to graze the perimeter of the central chamber. Most of the interior of the chamber is never hit with direct light, it is only lit through diffuse light reflected in from surfaces around its perimeter. The intersections between the chimneys and the chamber quickly become quite complex, particularly as they increase in density to the point of intersecting primarily with each other. Every variable of this geometry -- from the amount of offset from the perimeter of the central sphere, to the number of chimneys per hour, to every dimension of the light chimneys themselves -- are controlled parametrically. However, each of these settings was manually set through a hybrid parametric/manual process of trial and error. Without parametrically defined geometry, the design process simply wouldn't have been possible.

The final form orbited here is the negative to be subtracted from the greyed out mass shown at the beginning of the video, resulting in the form shown in the Orthogonal Orbit video posted previously.

Screen capture of the Grasshopper3D definition used to produce the form shown above:

Monday, 11 March 2013

Daylight Simulation, Early Morning to Sunset

Early morning to sunset, 1 frame per minute from subtect on Vimeo.
This animation shows almost a full daylight cycle on a day somewhere around the middle of June. The time lapse is one render per minute, animated at 5 frames per second. It is composed of 640 renders, each of which took over 8 hours on a fast dedicated rendering machine -- which means this animation took over 200 days of straight processing time. To get it even this fast, I had to make optimization compromises that resulted in some pretty unfortunate faceting of the render mesh that shows up at different points in the sequence.

Rendered at 1080p, so Vimeo full screen should play at full res...

Friday, 9 March 2012

Daylight Simulation, 9:00 - 17:00

Daylight Simulation 2 from subtect on Vimeo.

9:00 - 17:00, one frame per 3 minutes of sun passage. Maxwell's sun and physical sky are the only sources of light in the render, which makes it a reliable simulation of daylight in the space.

Daylight Study_Triptych from subtect on Vimeo.

Daylight Study_ Triptych Tonal from subtect on Vimeo.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Geometry Walkthrough_Exhibition Final

Conceptual animation to clarify the geometry and sequence of spaces. Central chamber subtraction is colored red, as in these videos:

And clarifies the location of this video, looking into the chamber from just out side the central chamber:

This a reduced version of the 1080p final for display on the large screen HD TV's at CIRS for the exhibition, Mar 18. For more event info:

Friday, 2 March 2012

Daylight Simulation 1 + Tonal Composition

Daylight Simulation #1 from subtect on Vimeo.

Abstracted to tonal extremes, to emphasize the degree of compositional change the space undergoes as the sun moves throughout the day. This view positioned just outside of the main entry threshold looking into the central chamber -- the area marked by red in these videos:

- 13:00, frame per 2min.
Latitude similar to Vancouver.
A day close to an equinox.

Unfortunate artifacting near the center (triangles below the edge) due to pushing the mesh resolution too low in the name of reducing the render time within maxwell, same reason that results in the graininess...

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Central Sphere, from below_DRAFT

Best viewed in 1080p HD...

This shows the central subtracted sphere viewed from below (ground plane omitted), still colored red as in this video (, for another view of how the light chimneys intersect both the red sphere and themselves.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Orthographic Orbit_DRAFT

Best viewed in 1080p HD.  Link for "Couch Mode":

This animation shows an orbit around the stone canopy in parallel projection, effectively showing the form's surfaces as seen by incoming sunlight.  One of the architectural challenges presented by the project's premises (as explained on the "Production Concept" page)  strips architecture down to two of its most basic elements:  light and stone.  The challenge is: what possibilities are open to us now in terms of sculpting a stone form that channels and distributes light, perforates the mass, opens it to incoming light, a porous form, a light sponge, carved from solid stone.

The central chamber is a sphere subtracted from the starting rock mass. This sphere is then grazed around its perimeter by cylindrical/conical light chimneys subtracted from the remaining rock mass, such that the center of the chamber is never hit by direct sunlight, but is diffusely lit by direct sunlight striking the surfaces of these light chimneys around the perimeter of the chamber, regardless of what time during the day. What remains of the inner wall of that initial subtracted sphere is colored red, to help clarify.  As these light chimneys increase in number, they begin intersecting with each other, generating a geometric complexity that easily gets out of hand.  The current geometry of the stone canopy, which will be the final for the purposes of this project, is the result of manually tuning the variables governing the geometry of each light chimney to compose their intersections with both the central sphere of the chamber, and each other. 
There is a final stage of minor sculpting after the form is baked from Grasshopper. The design process would not have been possible without a parametric software like Grasshopper3D/Rhino -- makes possible testing the result of a 0.5% adjustment to a variable in a form that has ~20 downstream difference booleans.  Soon I'll have diagrams to further explain how this form was derived.