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Elastic Envelopes
2010 - UCLA AUD

Instructor – Heather Roberge
with Brian Barnes, Brittany Boyd, and Michelle Liechty

Published – Fresh Punches: Experimental Architecture Exhibition Catalogue (2013)

Concrete façades, due to the inherent weight and nature of production, has been defined by two primary methods of fabrication, precast modular units and cast-in-place concrete pouring. Precast modules, while economical, lack the ability to create unique moments within a field while cast-in-place solutions can achieve this, but only through specialized formwork that is cost prohibitive. This project aims to achieve formal variety while incorporating economic constraints. This desire was met by marrying repetitive precast molds and cast in place formwork of fabric.

By embedding mass-produced, plastic molds into fabric, a supple and variable casting machine is produced. The machine incorporates technologies from two existing construction processes to achieve panel variation without formwork waste or added cost. The combination of hard, predetermined molds and elastic, dynamic seams creates a panel where geometric tiles are arrayed across a field, and the spaces between these tiles become bulging seams which swell and thin with the modulation of interior space and floor plate edge geometry.

This variable casting machine is then inlaid and stretched within a larger, low-tech ribbed form which programs overall geometric form into the panels, further informing variablity within the casting process. Through the process of casting in these reusable, quickly fabricated forms the machine can create geometry that can flow over several panels at a time, informing a larger scale of formal variety in the construction system.

In addition to the variations of form, subtraction and slicing of panels create further variability. Within the machine, frames can adjust based on the diagonal grid of the tiles, slicing the panel on a diagonal. In conjuction with large scale geometry formed by the ribbed form, openings in the panels are made, offering opportunities for glazing.

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