Research Highlights
January 31, 2017

In the spring of 2016, BBB inaugurated a firm-wide research award competition designed to support innovative ideas that have the potential to positively disrupt BBB’s practice – how we work and how we design. The research awards are sponsored by the firm’s RED – Research Exchange Develop – initiative launched in 2015 and aimed at promoting research; encouraging a culture of open dialogue, creativity, and critical exchange; and fostering development and propagation of ideas and applications that align with BBB’s practice and culture.

Ten provocative proposals – ranging from conceptual ideas and social issues to material, fabrication, and technology – were submitted by individuals and teams from both the New York and Washington DC offices. Two winning teams received stipends after being selected by a blind jury comprised of a cross section of BBB and outside design professionals. Research findings and working process of both teams are currently on display in both BBB offices, and highlights are included in this Story and a related Story on Data Driven (Urban) Design.

FABRICation – Flexible Adaptable Block, a Responsive and Intelligent Construct, by Natalya Shimanovskaya and Lissette Méndez-Boyer, combines material exploration of fabric through knitting and crocheting, with a parallel digital and technological exploration of design through parametric application, ultimately expressed in a physical installation.

Knitting and crocheting present an exercise in exploring design and construction technology through a system of parametric organization instead of two-dimensional design. How do we make the idea of parametrics more approachable and tangible, allowing architects to break the traditional limitations of design?

Intelligence of each unit/surface is the information that has been built-in, otherwise known as the parameters. It is derived from the interplay between the parameter set and how the physical material expression of the unit is manifested. A desired performance is pre-determined and then built into each unit. The performance is then inherited by the fabric created by the addition of a series of smart units, thus allowing for this newly created surface to perform intelligently in accordance with the original intent set forth by the definition of the unit.

Through the study of the art of knitting and crocheting we wanted to gain a deeper understanding of the natural behaviors of fabrics. We also wanted to facilitate a tactile and visual understanding of mathematical forms and computing modeling techniques, as well as the physical forces that dictate how the building blocks of a structure behave. The final installation, which we constructed in BBB’s NYC office gallery space, was the means to facilitate a dialogue that challenges our approach to design. This substructure, which could be woven from a large variety of materials, is filled in with a responsive and interrelated set of units. These units act together with the substructure and in relation to each other. As the interwoven support is pushed and pulled, the units respond accordingly, opening/closing, flexing in tension and also acting as reinforcement.

The two videos below show the construction of the installation, a time-lapse video (top), and the spatial qualities of the installation at normal speed (bottom).

Questions? Comments? Thoughts? Please keep the dialogue and EXCHANGE going by contacting team members Natalya and Lisette.

Related Story on Data Driven (Urban) Design.