While studying the overall configuration of the Medical Mart facade, we were also developing textural concepts for the surface of the precast concrete panels. We were interested in using the surface texture of the precast concrete panels to build increasing layers of detail to what will be a very large scale facade. The animation below shows how the play of light over articulated surfaces can produce exciting effects, and we hoped to discover similar compelling outcomes through our digital and physical modeling processes.
With very little time to execute the study and produce a constructable solution, we knew we needed to develop a faster way of generating ideas. Our working process developed rapidly into a focused study of rectangular surface forms. Through some initial manual design studies, we established some basic parameters (panel size, maximum textural depth in each direction) which we then built into a Grasshopper definition.
We also made the definition alternate the orientation of the ‘handed’ surface conditions, producing some interesting larger-scale geometric effects. This discovery ultimately became a key element in our design.
The manual adjustment of the base parameters and generation of the rendered output image became a bit laborious. We were interested in using our generative tools to help automate the iterative process, so we extended the definition to run through the constraints we established. We would set the definition to run overnight and in the morning there would be over a hundred new panel types generated and rendered for our review. A large portion of those iterations were unsuccessful, but the vast field of rendered versions allowed the few that were more successful to really stand out.
In looking more closely at the character of the surrounding buildings, we became intrigued with the prominence of the joint between masonry units. Our largest precast panel size of 8′x10′ was much larger than the masonry units used in the surrounding buildings. This removed the necessity of having joints as often but we decided to establish a rhythm of joint-like ribs as the main textural theme.
This led to the development of a new Grasshopper definition that allowed us to flexibly explore the potentials of this concept. These explorations ranged from altering the height and depth of the joints as well as how the joints receded back into the flat base of the panel.
As mentioned earlier, our initial texture studies explored the effects of alternating panel orientation. We returned to the alternating orientations while building a physical model of the varied joint concept. The alternating orientations followed a checkerboard pattern where every other panel is flipped upside down. This creates variation across the facade and an interlocking pattern between panels while using the same number of parts. The ‘A’ and ‘B’ tags are used to document the orientation of the panels. The position of the ‘A’ tag always remains constant while the ‘B’ tag floats with each of the different panel heights.
The varied joint concept produced some exciting visual effects, and it also solved a significant fabrication issue. The cost and production time of the custom polymer formliners would need to be minimized, so each ‘joint’ became a location where the form could terminate. This allowed one master form to be used for creating every panel size. We’ll discuss this further in a later post about the fabrication of our study models and the actual panels…
In the next post we’ll be highlighting another study that happened on the interior of the Medical Mart atrium where we used Grasshopper and Exposure to layout lots of Solatubes.