Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Bringing Creativity to EBaac Subjects

Artsmark have published an article on the Architecture workshops held at Furzedown Primary School and their significance in bringing creativity to more technically based subjects.  Artsmark is part of the Arts Council, England and is a school-based award scheme working to promote the relevance of Arts subjects in a heavily EBaac and STEM orientated curriculum.

The article is on their website and copied here below:

Artsmark Article

If I was to offer your school the opportunity to teach a subject that produces creative and exciting results, how many of you would think I was referring to architectural design? A handful of you? None of you? Well, that isn’t surprising as architectural design is not a subject normally taught in schools, and that’s a shame because it can produce very imaginative and inspiring results.
At Furzedown Primary School, I run an architecture workshop with Michaela Truscott, Art Teacher and a year-5 class during the summer term. Looking at structure, spacial design, materials, drawing techniques and model making, the workshop allows children to experiment and play with ideas that help to draw a connection between artistic and cultural subjects with technical based subjects such as math and science.
I have seen many children apply their knowledge and ideas, to produce extraordinary results, especially when children see opportunities to achieve a goal which is very personal to them. I remember one particular workshop that took place outdoors and the children were asked to build an enclosure or den using sheets and boards. Investigating the pros and cons of different shapes and the structural benefit of triangles, one child, who came from a large family, used the project to create her own personal space in her back garden with the kit she learnt to use at school. I’m told that she spent a lot of time outside during the summer. The project was her prototype, allowing her to combine technical issues of structure, material selection and shelter with cultural issues of spacial design and personal aesthetics.
At the same school, another child designed and created a bench. It was important for him to be able to lie down and experience the outdoors to observe the passing clouds. The bench design cleverly combined the application of structural, material, aesthetic and ergonomic considerations.
Combining the arts and Ebacc subjects help schools to address relevant areas of the national curriculum and to achieve targets for child development. I’ve seen this achieved through my workshops. Technical academic subjects might be objective, but it’s the arts and cultural subjects that encourage students to engage with their creative selves to find solutions to technical questions. In doing so, children can explore solutions in ways they may have never known. This is why the arts and EBacc subjects can complement each other and fortify their importance to the national curriculum.

Monday, 19 September 2016

What's at the Bottom of the Garden?

If you are lucky enough to have a garden in London, one recurring question seems to be what can we create at the end?  Its often the place where little grows and is seldom used as a result.  DesignBox has recently completed a garden refurbishment for a family in South London to meet this challenge.  

A collection of distinct spaces was requested for the family to enjoy, including an artist's studio, a shaded seating area and a putting green.  The studio and a timber pergola identify the key areas and open the invitation to visit the end of the garden.  New lines of planting with lighting, including lolly-pop trees flank the garden and animate the route to the end.

The linear arrangements between the spaces allow each to relate to the next and create a connection.  The artist's studio also offers some separation so it can become a retreat from the outside world and a place for concentrated study.  Privacy from surrounding gardens is provided with hardwood trellis to the perimeter garden wall and the shady canopy of the existing mature trees.  Storage units enable the garden to remain tidy and un-cluttered.

The studio and pergola provide a connection between study and relaxation, between indoor space and the external garden.  By contrast to the dark shingles of the studio's exterior, the inside has been made as light as possible.  A window seat and desk are placed either side of the space.  Translucent roof panels diffuse the natural light entering the studio, to help create the artistic environment.  As a result, the interior appears brighter than the outside.

The light makes the space inside feel more like Southern Europe than South London.  The desk offers a place to study without distraction while the window seat gives a picture frame view on to the garden.

Looking in to the garden from the house should now present a tantalising invitation to encourage the family to go out, experience with the garden and enjoy the fun spaces  located at the end. 

Garden installation by the Garden Builders
Photographs by Corin Ashleigh Brown

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Primary school builds two life-sized Pavilions

Exciting news!  The Serpentine Galleries have published a review of 'the brilliant' Furzedown Primary School's Architectural workshops on their Build Your Own Pavilion website.

The Build Your Own Pavilion Challenge  is a fab competition to engage kids with their ideas in spacial design.  Workshops are organised around the country and the competition is open to everyone between the ages of 8 and 14.  There are some neat prizes to be won so grab a handful of materials and see where the making adventure takes you.  Be bold, the results could be as striking as the annual Serpentine Pavilion!

More on the work carried out at the ArtBox by the Furzedown kids can be found here on our blog, along with a brief on the Architecture for Kids workshops.

A huge thank you again to the Serpentine Galleries for their article and to Art Teacher Michaela Truscott and Furzedown Primary School for running the workshops.  There's no such thing as an uncreative kid!

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Green Keeping

DesignBox has been busy as Project Manager for the building and service infrastructure works at the Machrie Golf Links and Hotel on the Isle of Islay.  The vision for the Machrie is to create a World-Class, Championship Links Course connected to a newly re-developed four-star Hotel, for the enjoyment of local and international visitors.

To support this, one of DesignBox's initial work has focused on the Green Keeping Facility which has recently completed.  This is a simple and economical steel portal shed on a concrete slab.  It is designed to give as much light, access and flexibility as possible to the many tasks the Green Keeping team will need to do both inside and outside the building, as well as on the course.

Islay is a relatively remote location so anything required off the island can take a little time.  The Machrie has looked to overcome this by equipping the facility with all the key machinery, plant and skilled personnel required to make it self sufficient.

Large roller shutter doors allow for tractors, trailers and the storage of bulk materials.  They also allow the building to open and connect to the forecourt where the team can work outside.

Islay is a very special island and a beautiful place.  The Machrie Golf Links are are absolutely stunning!  When work is complete they will no doubt raise the profile of Islay and set the Machrie as a key destination for island Links Golf.

The Golf Links are due to be ready in time for the 2017 Golf season.  The Hotel is scheduled to open in the following year.  In its regeneration, the Machrie is becoming a very exciting place.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Pavilion Studies

Furzedown Primary School's architecture programme carried out this one-lesson experiment in speed model-making.  After the introductions in structure and design, the class was given a palette of recycled materials and asked to design a pavilion structure.  The results were remarkable for their creativity and invention.

The children tested out what they had learnt against their ideas, expressing a lot of confident thinking and a boldness to experiment with what could be achieved.

As individual models and as a collection the results were incredibly impressive and could easily make a small exhibition of their own.  In abstract it would be hard to tell that the collection was produced by a class of 10 year olds.

One of my favourites (bottom centre on the image above) was a test to see how plastic cups could be arranged to form a structural sphere - very Buckminster Fuller, but I think they all look great.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

A Medium for Creative Self Expression

The prestigious Furzedown Primary School of Architecture has been running its Summer Term programme at the ArtBox with Unit 5B:  A sequence of workshops investigate a range of skills and ideas which led to the design and construction of some kid-scale installations.

Structures started our investigation.  Experiments confirmed that triangles are the most stable shapes for use in a frame and panels offer structural properties in more shapes.  Folded planes and interlocking sheets can create structures.  They also looked at moving and transforming structures with Juno's Spinners, the Hobberman Sphere and the Jitter Bug.

3D Drawing
Tis next step in the sequence of work investigated ways in which ideas can be represented in three dimensions with axonometric paper, 3D pens and SketchUp.

The Class was given the brief of designing a pavilion to engage with the environment and use energy in a productive way.  A short introduction on pavilions with a few examples was given.  With a relatively open set of parameters, the kids interpreted the brief with very unique and individual responses.  Their engagement and focus in the exercise was such that there was no hesitation to standing up and presenting their ideas and the reasoning behind them.

Their designs
Their designs were represented with skills developed from the structural and 3D drawing workshops and also contained lots of personal content.  As an exercise in imagining a space, the kids found it an opportunity to create something individual and meaningful to them.  Here the workshops started to become an medium for personal expression.

Model Making
Using the drawn designs as a guide, materials were gathered which could be used to create their work in model form.  This included straws, pipe cleaners, plastic and card sheets etc.

Models were developed and refined over a couple of workshops.  

Mid-size models
Some of the model and structure ideas were  recreated at a bigger scale in the class room.  Quick experiments with different concepts and materials created some impressive results.

This, playing with cut and folded card.

This experimenting with newspaper made in to structural tubes to make framed structures.

Experimenting with interlocking sheets
Picking up on the ideas from previous years, estate agent boards were slotted to make a panel module which can be combined in to a number of different geometric shapes.  At this scale, the boards made dens which the kids really enjoyed building and sharing with their friends.

Large scale pavilions
The goal of the workshops was to create some full size installations from the models created in the class room.  The kids were keen to share ideas and combine their work to create different enclosures and spaces.

Here a series of vertical tubes swayed in the wind (the connection with energy).  The bases were able to be repositioned creating different enclosures and sight lines through, making it adaptable and able to respond to different personal preferences.

Here two designs using folded structures were combined, which added to the spaces within the pavilion and made the structure more efficient.  Energy was represented in the planes of the pavilion which could unfold or move to create different spacial arrangements.

This installation focused on personal energy and created a space to enjoy relaxation, experiencing the environment, passage of the clouds and the swaying of the installation in the wind.

The creativity of the kids seems boundless and it is encouraging that they saw the exercises as an opportunity to to invest so much personal content in to their work.  Collectively the class collected a great body of work and we are looking forward to developing the programme with the school in the next academic year.  

Saturday, 23 July 2016

London Kitchen

DesignBox Architecture has completed a kitchen refurbishment in South West London.  The kitchen faces north on to the garden and the brief was to make as much use as possible from the natural light and a palette of tactile and crafted materials.

The existing kitchen extension was replaced with a new glazed roof and sliding back door.  Large glass panels were used to minimise framework and help the space look as light and airy as possible.

Kitchen carcasses were relined with bespoke oak panels and doors.  Ironmongery was designed out.  Floating shelves were made in the same oak to match.  Concealed LED lighting to the underside of the shelves and wall units neatly illuminates the work surfaces.

The existing side walls were stripped of their plaster to reveal the original brickwork behind which came out really well.

New timber flooring to the kitchen was treated to match the existing in the living and dining rooms.  This helped to open up the ground floor of the house to appear one large space from front to back.

Precast concrete was used for the worktops, end panels and skirtings.  The colour of the glazing framework was selected to match.  Both worked well with the oak, brickwork and timber floor.

From the living room at the front of the house, views created to the end of the garden help to bring the space together with minimal visual barriers.  

Builders: Three-D Build
Glazing: Marshall Double Glazing
Concrete: Paul Davies Design
Photographs: Corin Ashleigh Brown

Monday, 16 May 2016

Transforming Polyhedra

Spaces that can transform have important potential for architecture and building design, weather it is for logistical reasons (transporting buildings as a smaller volume) or for operational uses (if the building needs to expand to open and shrink to close, for example).

We have been experimenting with different types of transforming polyhedra at Architecture for Kids, looking at the Jitterbug, Hoberman structures, Juno Spinners and others.   In addition to any Architectural value, creating mechanical moving structures has proven a lot of fun.

Experimenting with transforming polyhedra

A discovery attributed to Buckminster Fuller, transforms between octahedron and cub-octahedron. It also demonstrates to kids the inherent structure found in triangular shapes, and how this lack of structure in the quadrangle can be used to the advantage of the Jitterbug's articulation.

We have been assembling Jitterbug's using modular origami.

A quickly constructed origami jitterbug
Hoberman Structures
We love the Hoberman Sphere!  It's always great fun in class. The immediate attraction is that an operation to one joint affects the whole model. Different Hoberman spheres work with different members of the Archimedean Solids which has increased class interest in polyhedra, their differences and how they work. 

Polyhedra-head: Playing with the Hoberman Sphere
and framed structures.
Expand-a-ball similar to the Hoberman Twist-O

Juno's Spinners
My favourite, Juno's Spinners were developed by Junichi Yananose.  They are polyhedra held together with an internal structure which also acts as a mechanism to allow them to expand. Rotational joints at the junctions between the structure and panels allow this movement, and like the Jitterbug and Hoberman Structutes, the model expands and contracts uniformly. 

Making Juno Spinners

At first they look complicated, (they are ingenious) but the templates are available on Juno's website and they are straight forward to template, cut out and assemble. We've been using polycarbonate sheet with eyelets for the joints. For most models no real instructions are required because the geometry constructs itself. 

These are useful exercises to de-mistily geometry and the apparent complexity of movement. It is also good to help develop kid's motor skills with the tracing, cutting, folding and assembly involved, but these tasks don't take long and the goals of finished models are quickly realised.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Drawing in Space

I'm sure Alexander Calder would have taken to 3D pens if they had been available. His wire sculptures of faces and figures and experiments in 'drawing in space' might have been a lot quicker to produce and resulted in many more studies.

From the Calder review in Culture Whisper

But for kids, artists and architects today they are a very useful resource for creating sculptures and spacial studies quickly, to capture ideas and demonstrate skills in 3D thinking. 

Instinctively working in 2D

To begin with it does take a little practice and thought. When used by kids for the first time, they often set out their work on a flat sheet of paper and replicate a single 2D design. This produces a result but might not have the depth of character as a 3D line sculpture, which takes on a new life when seen using shadows, like Calder's work. 

Trying to replicate 'drawing in space'.

Creating the design in a number of parts, using a flat paper surface to create a series of single curve components, allows the overall piece to be constructed into a 3D assembly which is closer to what Calder was trying to do. We could all be great artists! 

A family of sculptural heads

It demonstrates how the simplicity of the line is a such a powerful tool for representing an idea, provoking thought or raising a reaction. 

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Flexible Building Skins

Adventures in 3D printing highlight several valuable examples of surfaces which accommodate double curve geometries and can even transform to create flexible skin-like surfaces.  The possibilities of these are exciting and should be of interest when considering Architecture's futuristic aspirations for moving, transforming or shape-shifting building structures.  Here are some examples of prototype flexible skins, available to print, test and experiment with:

Flexible Skins
Mesostructured Cellular Materials:  3D printed structures with the ability to deform and deflect in multiple directions as a result of their structural and geometric arrangement.

Mesostructured cellular sheet by Andreas Bastian
On Thingiverse  and his blog site

These examples by Andreas Bastian, with other examples of double curve geometries below:

Andrea's other experiments include cellular structural geometries with 3D printing, post-formed over double curve geometries.  These also offer an insight in to how double curve skins could evolve.
Delft University is always a hub of innovation.  These student experiments have led to similar positive results:

Flexible materials developed by Students at Delft University.

Stereolithographic fabrics: There are a variety of examples of stereolithographic fabrics produced through 3D printing.

3D printed fabric developed for clothing by Richard Beckett

Chainmail: An old invention made a lot simpler to produce with 3D printing.  Geometric variations and additions to the units such as scales or feathers add to the possibilities of the material.

Chainmail by Kacie Hultgren.  Square geometry used.
Scale mail armour by Tom West.
Scales could offer some weather resistance in a building application.
Closest I've seen to replicating shark skin with flexible double curved geometries.

Hexchain: A variation on the above using tessellating shapes with mechanical flexibility to adapt to double curve surfaces.

Hex Chain from Jay Jeon.  A variation on scale mail.  

Flex Mesh: A kit of parts with mechanical flexibility between the components to allow movement and tolerance in three dimensions.

Flex Mesh uses flexible components with different geometries to achieve flexible 3D surfaces

3D printing is leading the way in fashion with developments to produce materials with mechanical flexibility to replicate fabrics.

3D printed fabrics by Iris van Herpen.  

Flexible fabrics exhibited at the NYC 3D Print Show.

Mechanically jointed geometric structures to create a flexible fabric by Kinematics

Kinematics Petal fabric

3D printed trainers are on their way from Nike and Adidas, developed with 3D printing because of the potentially superior support and mechanical flexibility which this manufacturing method might offer.

3D printer trainers coming from Nike and Adidas

3D printed clutch using rectilinear chain mail shown above. 

Clutch by Kacie Hultrgen

3D printing is drawing a lot of interest in architecture and building design, but that doesn't mean that building types need to be the same rigid structures or that site processes and prefabrication methods need to follow established patterns. It is useful to look beyond the building industry, into other areas of design and manufacture to see what neat ideas are with developing an a different scale.  Maybe one day buildings might be flexible with the ablity to move and transform as Ron Herron imagined.