Tuesday, February 24, 2009

the new tool

The students got an introduction to RISD's new CNC router, a beautiful tool (at 11' x 7'!) that they can use to fabricate their installations. It can cut material (wood, foam, plastic, some metal) in the x,y and z axis. Size limitations are around 10' x 6' x 7". No clamping required, a strong vacuum in the basement of the building holds material in place through suction...

visit with VELUX

Tim O'Neill from Velux spent the afternoon with us last Thursday, talking about daylight and the strategies for increasing it indoors that his company's products enable. He showed us the Sun Tunnel, and students got a close look at the makeup of that device. Then we walked our building together to locate the six sites for the first assignment.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

assignment 1

Few things have had greater historical significance for architecture than the introduction of consistent, coherent parallel projection into architectural drawing, and few things have been more transparent to critical attention than its effects. -Robin Evans

projection & measurement

due tuesday, february 24

Read “Seeing through Paper” from The Projective Cast by Robin Evans

In the article above, Robin Evans argues that the parallel lines used so comfortably by architects in orthographic projection are essentially representations of light paths. Not just any light path, but that of the sun whose distance is so great from the earth that its angle relative to terrestrial objects is effectively a straight line. The relationship between our orthographic drawings and representations of light & shadow would thus seem clear cut.

Read “Architectural Projection” by Robin Evans from VIA 11 ‘Shadows’

The site you have been given has particularities to its form and orientation that have direct effect on the conditions of daylight found there. You are to create detailed measured drawings of all aspects of the site that concern light. Use orthographic projection to generate the drawings, at a scale of your choice, but no less than 1”= 1’.

Track and document the patterns of daylight at your site over the course of several days. Determine a methodology that most effectively captures the conditions you find over time. Use technology where it is helpful but manual representation whenever possible. Record all light conditions: ambient, direct, reflective, refractive, color mappings, etc.

Based on what you record, initiate a formal response to the conditions present with specific materials, as any material you choose will have with its own particular characteristics in daylight. Propose a methodology for working within your site based on information gathered in your recordings and drawings.

possible tools & materials: cold press watercolor paper, pencil, charcoal, ink, bleach, water, light meter, camera (film or digital), sunprint or photo sensitive paper, emulsion coatings, cyanotype fabrics/papers
further reading:

D. N. Jordan and W. K. Smith. Simulated influence of leaf geometry on sunlight interception and photosynthesis in conifer needles. In Tree Physiology v. 13 pp. 29-39. 1992

Aljofi, E. The potentiality of reflected sunlight through Rawshan screens. From “Passive and Low Energy Cooling for the Built Environmnet” International conference, May 2005. (download pdf for images)

Frascari, Marco. The Lume Materiale in the Architecture of Venice from Perspecta. Vol. 24. (1988) pp. 136 – 145. (download pdf for images)

Neuman, Dietrich. “The Century’s Triumph in Lighting”: The Luxfer Prism Companies and Their Contribution to Early Modern Architecture from The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians Vol. 54, No.1. (March 1995) pp. 24 - 53

Feynman, Richard. "Photons: Particles of Light" from QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter. 1985.


Welcome to the studio. This is a description of the course:

The cells in the skin of the human body have the capacity to transform sunlight into vitamin D, an essential nutrient to our thriving and growing. Without it our skeletal system deteriorates, and bones become weak. Certain plants have the ability to ‘breathe’ light as we breathe air. Photosynthesis is a metabolic pathway that uses light to translate carbon dioxide into nourishing organic compounds, releasing oxygen as waste. The class will look at the capacity of the skin of a building to harness light and nourish life within, resulting in case studies for a new building typology: the vertical farm.

Taking as a point of departure the sun tunnels developed by VELUX to deliver daylight to interior spaces efficiently and cost-effectively, the studio will begin with full-scale constructions of a device for light sited in the former mill building that now houses the RISD architecture school. Working in teams at existing skylight and window locations in the building, students will measure and manipulate the daylight present. They will construct full-scale installations that transform the physical and ephemeral aspects of the sun as it enters the building from the side (through windows) and from above (through skylights). They will verify their observations through photography and drawings, and the devices themselves will be rigorously tested and documented in detailed studies and working drawings.

Building on the concepts and physical manipulations of light established in the first exercise, the remainder of the semester will be spent investigating an underutilized 19th c. mill building in Providence. Students will analyze and then reconfigure the existing structure to develop a rich and varied day-lit environment indoors. The building will be modified into an environment for growing, harvesting and selling food. The program will be a ‘vertical farm’ and marketplace, with offices and incubator spaces for new food products.

Light and its very real relationship to an interior will be studied and then crafted through subtractions and additions to the existing structure. Traditional and experimental growing technologies will be explored to illustrate the potential for ‘cradle to cradle’ local, year round food cultivation. The program will address (and question) food farming in all its aspects: space requirements, initial nutrient generation, light, air and water requirements, sustainability, community and labor, infrastructure, harvest and the market/commerce of harvested foods, food waste and compost. Students will investigate these infrastructural, cultural and formal issues through the architectural problem of reusing and re imagining an existing heavy timber & masonry building sited in a particular neighborhood in Providence RI. Parallel to this, students will delve into the role daylight plays in nurturing people in their homes and workplaces. How does daylight affect those employed at the vertical farm in terms of morale, creativity and efficiency and those visiting the market in terms of purchase decisions, frequency of visits and attitude toward the enterprise?

Innovative re-imagining of interior spaces through the judicious deployment of daylight both from above, via skylights and vertically, from windows, will be the center point of the class. The studio is sponsored by VELUX, and is endow
ed with a budget for full-scale work, as well as a travel fellowship for a single project at the end of the semester. Students will explore the differences between lighting from above and vertical lighting and will learn from the model of innovation and contextual problem solving which is the foundation of the VELUX company. The company’s history, mission and technological innovation in day-lighting will serve as the cornerstone for the student’s own innovative look at adaptive reuse and new building typologies.

In an effort to further their specific knowledge of daylight, students will also be able to collaborate with light artist Paul Myoda and light engineer Rashid Zia from Brown University. A workshop at the beginning of the semester will introduce certain concepts, and ongoing critique of the work will help guide the projects. The semester will end with a publication and formal exhibition of the students’ projects. These documents will serve as a demonstration of the innovative reuse of buildings for urban agriculture, and to illustrate the new building typology of the vertical farm to a wider audience.

Criteria for Evaluation:

The following are the expectations for the studio, and form the criteria for the juried prize:

• The project must artfully employ daylight, from early concept through the construction of a full-scale mock-up to the translation into a comprehensive building proposal. In particular, the project will demonstrate the creative use of lighting from above via skylights in conjunction with other openings in the building’s skin.
• The project must artfully and comprehensively develop an enclosure or a ‘skin’ system that promotes the program and the day-lighting strategies.
• The project must successfully develop the programmatic relationships internal to the building and outward with the community.
• The project must successfully develop from conceptual origins to fully realized building proposal.
• The project must clearly communicate these attributes through artful documentation and representation.