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SCI-Arc + Gensler Applied Studies Collaboration 

Image © Gensler

As Gensler continues to further explore the advancement of technology and materials, our interest to collaborate with various realms of the architecture and design field has dramatically increased. Following in the footsteps of successful academic applied studies collaborations, such as the “SLO_Gen Table” (Gensler LA Lobby) and the “Molding Ecologies” Studio, with Cal-Poly San Luis Obispo, Gensler has most recently helped to develop a platform where industry professionals and students can unite to form a clear vision of material advancement. What began as an academic exploration into advanced architectural façades may come to fruition in the form of a full scale mockup through the collaborative work of various fabricators, material suppliers, engineers, architects, and students in a course dubbed “Mat_Lab.”

Image © Gensler

Gensler Los Angeles and The Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) are located approximately two miles from one another in downtown Los Angeles, and a long standing desire by both parties to collaborate in some way was finally quenched during the fall of 2014. The “MAT-Lab” course outline developed by Gensler and proposed to SCI-Arc Director Eric Owen Moss and Applied Studies Coordinator Tom Wiscombe highlighted a multi-disciplinary approach. The Gensler LA team, led by designers and SCI-Arc alums Dave Bantz and Paul Andrzejczak, with the support of Los Angeles Design Director Shawn Gehle, proposed a design and fabrication course focused on façade performance and innovative material applications.

Image © Gensler

Together, the group crafted a course focused on research, exploration, and material fabrication, and tapped Herwig Baumgartner from SCI-Arc’s faculty to facilitate the effort. The thought was that this course could act as an integrated platform that would recognize the increasing frequency of multi-disciplinary design teams and the collaborative design and delivery relationships that occur between design professionals, fabricators and material providers. The ultimately coauthored design brief “The Great Green Wall” outlined a research and design effort followed by a documentation and fabrication phase. The course not only brought together SCI-Arc and Gensler LA, but engaged advanced façade engineers ENCLOS, and international glass fabricators Cristacurva. The course harnessed the combined expertise and resources of the group to deliver an immersive educational experience including studio visits, tailored lectures from material specific practitioners, and a truly hands on learning environment.

Image © Gensler

The ultimate goal of the course was the production of a set of documents that could illustrate a cohesive design for a pollutant barrier wall (similar to acoustical barrier walls lining highways) which capture hazardous particles in the air that pose a major health risk to the population. The first semester focused on design, mock-ups, and documentation.

Students worked initially in pairs to develop site-less facade prototypes, and eventually split into groups to develop design strategies and innovative approaches to meet the performative requirements of the design brief’s “pollutant barrier façade.”

Image © Gensler

Projects were developed and refined using 3-D modeling software Rhino and Maya, and were reviewed and critiqued weekly with design professionals from Gensler LA, façade engineers at ENCLOS, and glass experts at Cristacurva to offer industry insight on constructability, cost and structural integrity. Dan Green, Jeff Vaglio, and Luke Smith of ENCLOS were determined in their efforts to educate, empower, and encourage the group to take a practical, yet highly creative, approach in understanding and developing their facade systems. Javier Sanchez-Gil of Cristacruva visited the school to share images of his fabrication shops and speak about the limits and phenomena of curved, slumped, and patterned glazing. He inspired the students to push their work while obeying and respecting the limits of the material. Bill Kreysler of the reputable custom composite fabrication shop Kreysler & Associates also had input on the integration of fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP) and composites into the students’ design proposals near the end of the semester. Representatives from each of these offices were present at many of the course meetings to help guide the students and facilitate design synergy between designer, engineer, and fabricator.

Image © Gensler

After the midterm review, the student project teams combined and four projects were selected for further development. The result of the semester-long endeavor was the design of a series of prototypes for a pollutant barrier façade that utilized a combination of curved glazing and FRP components capable of reducing and managing fine airborne particles. A final presentation at SCI-Arc focused on the review of 1:1 drawings, 3D printed prototypes, exploded axonometric drawings examining tectonics, and sectional glazing details. The final review of the first semester required the teams to address the hefty challenges of glass fabrication, pollutant filtration, and curtain wall tectonics. Following the review, the findings and design work were presented and reviewed in an open house setting at Gensler LA and spawned a steady dialogue in the office about the current state of the curtain wall in our various studios.

Image © Gensler

These types of academic and industry-professional collaborations are part of a lineage in the LA office and continue to influence our studio work and strengthen our relationships in the community. The projects clearly progressed and had become highly articulated over the duration of the course. The final four design proposals were developed by a total of 18 students, and there was a wonderful symbiosis to the experience. Post-grad professionals, were provided the opportunity to work within an immersive, young, and creative academic environment, while the students were able to benefit from the exposure to a practical and collaborative team of professionals. We hope to continue to develop these types of opportunities, to encourage others to reach out to their community, and to make this type of collaboration and innovation a standard in the future.

Image © Gensler

The Design and Delivery Team

DESIGN AND DELIVERY TEAM: SCI-Arc: Herwig Baumgartner - Instructor of Record, Tom Wiscombe - Applied Studies Coordinator, Sierra Helvey- Teaching Assistant

Gensler Los Angeles: Paul Andrzejczak, Dave Bantz, Shawn Gehle

Students: Hussam Alghamdi,Anahit Asatryan, Leonora Bustanmante, Eliad Dorfman, Alex Franco, Jacob Hartzel, Arjun Hosakere, Sungi Kaylee Hyun, Mina Jun, Yixin Liu, Nima Nikroo, Kelly Poon, Michelle Recio, Tanveer Sami, Jiamin Shou, Vasilisa Sokolova, Leonard Umoh, Qianqian Zhao

ENGINEERING AND FABRICATION TEAM: Enclos - Facade Engineering and Fabrication, Dan Green, Luke Smith, Jeff Vaglio, Cristacurva - Glass Fabrication, Javier Sanchez-Gil, Kreysler & Associates - Composite Fabrication, Bill Kreysler

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