Tree Forks As Natural Composite Joints In Architecture

A problem facing architects when designing complex three-dimensional structures lies in their joints, which must be strong enough to take the loads and vector forces applied by the structure, yet light enough not to dominate it. Many efforts have been made to use generative design techniques or clever composites to fabricate them, but as Dezeen reports, a team at MIT are exploring an unexpected alternative in the form of naturally occurring tree forks.

The point at which a tree branch forks from its trunk is a natural composite material formed of an interlocking mesh of wood grain fibres. Timber processors discard these parts of the tree as they interfere with the production of smooth timber, but the same properties that make them support the weight of a branch are it seems perfect for the architects’ needs.

The clever part of the MIT team’s work lies in scanning and cataloguing a library of forks, allowing them to be matched from the database to vertices in an architectural design. The forks are subject to minimal machining before being incorporated into the structure, and to prove it the MIT folks have made a test structure. It’s not uncommon to see medieval barns or half-timbered houses using curved pieces of wood in their natural shapes, so it’s not surprising to see that this 21st century innovation isn’t an entirely new technique.

Ditching X86, Apple Starts An ARM Race

At its annual World Wide Developer Conference, Apple dropped many jaws when announcing that their Mac line will be switching away from Intel processors before the year is out. Intel’s x86 architecture is the third to grace Apple’s desktop computer products, succeeding PowerPC and the Motorola 68000 family before it.

In its place will be Apple’s own custom silicon, based on 64-bit ARM architecture. Apple are by no means the first to try and bring ARM chips to bear for general purpose computing, but can they succeed where others have failed?

Continue reading “Ditching X86, Apple Starts An ARM Race”

Advanced Timber Architecture Gives New Life To Wooden Structures

When it comes to building materials, wood doesn’t always draw the most attention as the strongest in the bunch. That honor usually goes to concrete and steel – steel embedded in concrete provides support and a foundation for tall buildings, while concrete increases tensile strength and can be formed into a variety of shapes with the help of rebar. Wood, on the other hand, decays and is vulnerable to moisture damage and fire.

That’s not necessarily the case anymore, thanks to the development of advanced timber. New materials like glulam, or sheets of timber bonded with moisture-resistant structural adhesives, can be produced using two to three times less energy than steel, making them environmentally-friendly alternatives to other building materials. Granted, this requires the beams to be burned at the end of their lifespan, but glulam still has an equivalent or better environmental profile compared to steel, not to mention a lower cost.

Among engineered wood, there are some varieties more commonly used among hobbyists – MDF, plywood, or particle board for instance. Others, like Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) are more common among building materials. While CLT buildings have existed for decades, recently major cities like Stockholm and Vancouver have seen a resurgence of timber construction. Since wood can theoretically store carbon for the entire length of its lifespan, up to 0.8 tons in a cubic meter of spruce, some architecture firms like Oslotre are building houses with a negative carbon footprint.

Projects like Sidewalk Labs and Masthamnen are proposing entire neighborhoods and skyscrapers built from advanced timber. Compared to International Style architecture, characterized by gray concrete, shiny metal, and glass, this movement could be a step towards returning to natural architectural forms. Given the stress reducing effects of green spaces in cities, engineered wood buildings could bridge the gap between modern architectural styles and natural woodlands.

 

How To Build The Strongest Arches

When it comes to architectural features, there are probably not many as quintessentially memorable as arches. From the simplicity of the curved structure to the seemingly impossible task of a supposedly collapsable shape supporting so much weight in mid-air, they’ve naturally fascinated architects for generations.

For civil engineers, learning to calculate the forces acting on an arch, the material strength and properties, and the weight distribution across several arches may be familiar, but for anyone with only a basic physics and CAD background, it’s easy to take arches for granted. After all, they grace the Roman aqueducts, the Great Wall of China, and are even present in nature at Arches National Park. We see them in cathedrals, mosques, gateways, and even memorialized in the case of the St. Louis Gateway Arch. Even the circular construction of watch towers and wells, as well as our own rib cages, are due to the properties of arches.

But what really goes into constructing a strong arch? Continue reading “How To Build The Strongest Arches”

The Pontoon Bridge Being Floated As An NYC Transit Fix

New York City’s L train carries about 400,000 passengers a day, linking Manhattan and Brooklyn and bringing passengers along 14th Street, under the East River, and through the neighborhoods of Williamsburg, Bushwick, Ridgewood, Brownsville, and Canarsie. About 225,000 of these passengers pass through the Canarsie Tunnel, a two-tube cast iron rail tunnel built below the East River between Manhattan and Brooklyn in 1924. Like many other New York City road and subway tunnels, the Canarsie Tunnel was badly damaged when Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge inundated the tubes with million of gallons of salt water. Six years later, the impending closure of the tunnel is motivating New Yorkers to develop their own ambitious infrastructure ideas.

Continue reading “The Pontoon Bridge Being Floated As An NYC Transit Fix”

The Unity Of Dance And Architecture

In an ambitious and ingenious blend of mechanical construction and the art of dance, [Syuko Kato] and [Vincent Huyghe] from The Bartlett School of Architecture’s Interactive Architecture Lab have designed a robotic system that creates structures from a dancer’s movements that they have christened Fabricating Performance.

A camera records the dancer’s movements, which are then analyzed and used to direct an industrial robot arm and an industrial CNC pipe bending machine to construct spatial artifacts. This creates a feedback loop — dance movements create architecture that becomes part of the performance which in turn interacts with the dancer. [Huyghe] suggests an ideal wherein an array of metal manipulating robots would be able to keep up with the movements of the performer and create a unique, fluid, and dynamic experience. This opens up some seriously cool concepts for performance art.

Continue reading “The Unity Of Dance And Architecture”

Geodesic Dome Build At Rev Space Den Haag

[Morphje] has always wanted to build a geodesic dome. The shape and design, and the possibility of building one with basic materials interest him. So with the help of a few friends to erect the finished dome, he set about realising his ambition by building a 9.1 metre diameter structure.

The action took place at Rev Space (Dutch language site), the hackspace in The Hague, Netherlands. [Morphje] first had to create a huge number of wooden struts, each with a piece of tube hammered down to a flat lug set in each end, and with a collar on the outside of the strut to prevent it from splitting. The action of flattening the ends of hundreds of pieces of tube is a fairly simple process if you own a hefty fly press with the correct tooling set up in it, but [Morphje] didn’t have that luxury, and had to hammer each one flat by hand.

The struts are then bolted together by those flattened tube lugs into triangular sections, and those triangles are further bolted together into the final dome. Or that’s the theory. In the video below you can see they make an aborted start assembling the dome from the outside inwards, before changing tack to assemble it from the roof downwards.

This project is still a work-in-progress, [Morphje] has only assembled the frame of the dome and it has no covering or door as yet. But it’s still a build worth following, and we look forward to seeing the finished dome at one or other of the European maker events in the summer.

Continue reading “Geodesic Dome Build At Rev Space Den Haag”