Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Using 3D Printing to Speculate Manhattan in 2030

Today’s guest blog comes from Peter Macapia at labDORA. 

The project I am blogging about emerged from a design project sponsored by Audi. I was one of five top emerging architects from New York City selected to design interventions for Manhattan that would speculate on the shape of the city in the year 2030. There were two essential elements to my proposal. One was to develop a street that would function as a constantly shifting network of different kinds of movement based on embedded road sensors. This would make the grid of the city flexible permitting areas to suddenly transform in to public spaces.

The other aspect which was crucial to the architectural logic, as well as instrumental for constantly shifting flows, was the development of designs that would lift buildings off the ground allowing pedestrian and vehicular traffic to flow beneath buildings. This required two things -- a structural and a spatial intervention beneath buildings. Rather than insist on a specific building typology, we left the identity of the building generic and concentrated on the structure and space beneath. Using SolidThinking's Morphogenesis tools for structural optimization studies as well as Boolean scripts for massing; we calculated structures and spaces which shifted from cantilevers to asymmetrical trusses. Ultimately the design decisions required 3D physical models, generously provided by the assistance of Z Corp and their partner Microsol Resources. For although computer aided design can simulate certain qualities of geometry and by extension space, one ultimately requires material studies in order to apprehend the spatial effects of these designs at the scale of the city. It is one thing to imagine looking down an avenue from one side of Manhattan to the other, and something entirely different when buildings are lifted off the ground. It is hard to understand what that liberated space feels like without a physical three dimensional experience. Insofar as our intervention was a model more than 20 ft x 20 ft, and the exhibition involved thousands of viewers, using 3D Z Corp models was crucial not only for the design, but ultimately for its communication to a large and general public.

Check out the building intervention models below.