CSS1 is the beginning of a series of 7 experiments aimed at using common materials in uncommon ways, and to bridge the gap between business as usual construction and formally complex design. Its about speeding up the transfer of technology and empowering architects to convince clients and contractors that what we design is truly accessible with nearly any budget or time constraint. It is my belief that the architect that can prove an idea’s constructability and affordability will be able to see more of these ideas come to fruition.
Cold-formed Steel Studs are a very prolific and attainable material that is widely used by the current labor pool. Many contractors have reliable sources of this material, and the tools to manipulate it. The cost to use this commodity is easy to estimate and budget for, when used in a common manner. What is missing is form beyond the vertical and horizontal surface, and an understanding in how to pull it off. Time to experiment.
Each specimen had to be convincing and durable; freestanding and easy to repair. Three final modules were completed. Each can be experienced differently in their own right, i.e. walked under, sat upon and peered through. As it pertains to the transfer of technology, in this case, the translation of points in 3D space to the physical environment is where this particular experiment paid off the most. Example: a work point in the digital environment and the physical environment was established. Subsequent points were placed using string, laser pointers, scaffolds anchored in cement blocks and tracing on walls. Turns out that the form that is being “mimicked” in the physical environment seems to favor certain techniques. Those are now classified. No paper drawings were used.
Contractors gained much more confidence in bidding and constructing the forms once the connection locations were identified in the physical environment. The computer model did very little for them (and for many clients for that matter). A module that was “strung-out” with surveyors string to outline the edges was all they needed. CSS2 will be focused on “projecting” the desired forms in a physical space in a manner that is not easily disturbed by the people building it (imagine a tool belt or two hopelessly tangled in string and scaffold). The same modules could be built in pieces off-site, using a jig or mold but that does not solve the larger scale issue of being able to make real-time changes that respond to on-site discoveries, that is, making a change in the digital environment and seeing it happen in the physical one at the layout phase (read “lower-risk/easily modified phase”).
We find the design that works best, and then hit the “bid” button. Clients get comfy with the cost/time, funds the project, and we hit the “build” button.
The three modules were on display in Los Angeles Fall 2011, and are currently living in Fullerton, CA. They are expected to reappear publicly in 2013 at the Fullerton Art Walk.