Archive for the ‘Class Projects at MIT’ Category

Customizable Production II: Tree

December 20, 2009

This starts from a project for 4.510: Materializing Design by Prof. Larry Sass.

We made a web applet which support making customizable tree-like canopy for coffee shops. User can access to our website, build his own design in friendly 3d interface, take the generated CAD file to any nearby CNC machine and cut the parts from 3/4” plywood sheets. Following online instructions, he can assemble the parts with a few untrained men. Everything is finished locally.

We have tested the system with prototypes in various scales. The latest ones are 1:6 models made from 1/8” masonite with lasercutter. Metal pieces are cut with waterjet and hand bended. Right now the shape and angle between parts are chosen to simplify design and assembly. Next version in our plan will work with advanced machines and materials to support more flexible and fluid surface designs.


Collaborator: Felecia Davis
Tools used: Processing, Rhino, AutoCAD

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Representations and Processes

November 24, 2009

This is an assignment for 4.580: Inquiry into Computation and Design by Prof. Terry Knight. We were asked to design an extension for Louis Kahn’s Richards Medical Center, and look into the relationship between process and representation.

We translated the plan into two types of components: square units and connections. We then built a program that automatically generate connections from any units layout. The appearance of a connection depended on the sizes and distance of two neighboring units. We believed the program somewhat reflected the underlying logic in Kahn’s original design, and could accommodate most possible extending scheme.


Ironically, in class, most designs submitted by the other groups could not be drawn by our program. Of course we could indicate that they do not follow the ‘true’ grammar of the original plan. After all it is impossible for such a program to accommodate any design intention. Processes are limited by the way of representation we choose. Unless we change the mechanism that machines learn and induce, they can only do things that we understand before them.

Collaborator: Ari Kardasis
Tool used: Processing

Customizable Production I: Umbrella Stand

November 3, 2009

This is a assignment for 4.580: Inquiry into Computation and Design by Prof. Terry Knight. We were asked to make an umbrella stand and discuss the question: to which degree can design process be made accessible for novice user.

We decided to make the most out of our limited material. Our design was a tripod stand with three holder for either long or short umbrellas. Ari did a fabulous job taking advantage of the flexibility of mason boards. The final design could produce 2 umbrella stands from 2 sheets (32”x16”).

Parametric method was used in the testing and implementing phase. The distance, width and angle of legs could be easily adjusted to reach the best performance. We believed this script could be hand to anyone with little training to produce his own umbrella stand. However, it could only exist after all joints were designed by us. It is not easy for a program to invent a way out of its catalog book to implement given design intention.

However, I am an optimist for a upcoming future of far more accessible design-making workflow. The architects tend to be reluctant to accept the idea that ‘anyone can design’. Actually, rural people, as well as city dwellers, have always been empowered to fabricate their own houses and furniture although this ability has waned with industrialization and globalization. If we compromise somewhat on the definition of design – and see it as decision making – ordinary people are already doing it while shopping or commenting.

I see the development in fast prototyping tools as opportunity for designers rather than crisis. One primary reason for architecture’s slow progress over history is the extremely time/resource consuming cycle of design, building and feedback, making it difficult to compare and learn from past experiments. I am doing further attempt on this later this semester for Larry’s class.

Collaborator: Ari Kardasis
Tools used: Rhino, Grasshopper, Illustrator

Moon Chair

October 21, 2009

This is a project for 4.510: Materializing Design by Prof. Larry Sass. I wam supposed to design a chair and run through the rapid prototyping process. My chair was part of a sphere, so it can rock/spin in any direction. The size was limited to one plywood sheet (8’x4′).

I was quite annoyed by the fact that our CNC cutter in the woodshop cannot perform 3D contouring (due to budget cut on software… errr). But I had a lot of fun playing with wood joints. The spine was cut into four segments so the plywood sheet could be used more efficiently. This main joint (#1×3) cost us more than 5 hours to put together. It was very strong. Slightly improved, I believe it can be used in larger scale wood structures.

The plywood sheet we had could be the worst material anyone would expect. It was brittle and cracked under CNC bits. I did realize that my design was not the best for this material in terms of reliability; luckily it worked out in the end (even for Larry) and looked pretty good.

I look forward to an opportunity sometime that I can combine 3d cutting, bending and all other possibilities in wood works. It can be really amazing.

Tools used: CATIA, AutoCAD

the Symbolic, the Visual, the Recursive

October 7, 2009

This is an assignment from 4.580:Inquiry into Computation and Design by Prof. Terry Knight. We were supposed to parse a design into rules that could be passed on and used to regenerate it.

We took Le Corbusier’s plan of Maison Citrohan (1927). It was crucial to which detail one chose to represent the design. We realized that by just extracting out elements from the plans, shape grammar would be very symbolic and become a shopping catalog. The recursive function and flexibility was a must in order to develop a true design tool. We ended up with a Corb automator with recursive functions but also one symbolic architecture element introduced (the stair).

In class discussion it was left an open question whether the nature of architecture is symbolic, but it seemed unlikely that limited rules can describe everything in design.

Collaborator: Joseph Choma, Siobhan Rockcastle
Tools used: Processing

Simple complexity

September 21, 2009

It was my first time using a laser cutter. I decided to start with a perfectly symmetrical geometry to keep things simple. I took a dodecahedron, making each facet a component, then dived into detailing it. The outcome had the smallest number of components, while got amazingly visual complicated.

Click to see the assembly-in-process pictures:

This is a project for class 4.510: Materializing Design by Prof. Larry Sass.
Tools used: SketchUp