Published September 23, 2013
A sculptural wall designed by architecture faculty members Christopher Romano and Nicholas Bruscia is a finalist in SKIN, an international competition in computational design to push the performative and aesthetic potential of facades.
The pair’s Project 2XmT, a trapezoidal-like wall made of super thin, textured stainless steel panels, is among four finalists selected from 68 entries from 14 countries and five continents. The folded metal system, a completely self-supporting vertical installation, tests the structural limits of thin-gauge metals while showcasing the visual qualities of patterned and textured metal
The SKIN competition is sponsored by TEX-FAB, a consortium of architecture faculty from several Texas universities that seeks to advance parametric design and the digital production of building components. Unique to TEX-FAB’s competition model is its support of a built commission. The winner of SKIN will work with TEX-FAB and Zahner, a global fabricator of metal facades, to develop a substantial building component for installation at the next TEX-FAB event, scheduled for February 2014 in Austin, TX.
Jurist Randy Stratman, director of engineering at Zahner, noted Project 2XmT’s specular qualities: “I’m a big fan of how small undulations or changing panels really have a dramatic impact from the viewing standpoint moving around the building.”
Moving on to the second round, Romano and Bruscia have received a $1,000 stipend to develop a prototype of their system for exhibition at the October 2013 ACADIA Conference in Adaptive Architecture in Waterloo, Ontario. With Project 2XmT already built full-scale here in Buffalo, Romano and Bruscia will build a second iteration that pushes the research forward by testing new pattern combinations and design details.
The SKIN winner will be announced on October 25 at the ACADIA Conference, which is co-hosted by the School of Architecture and Planning, the University of Waterloo and the University of Nottingham. Romano and Bruscia will host a workshop for the conference in their Silo City studio and at Rigidized Metals to demonstrate the bending and assembly processes associated with their work.
Romano’s and Bruscia’s research is the result of a partnership between the Department of Architecture and Rigidized Metals, which funded the wall’s construction and has supported related design studios and directed research at the school as a way to explore new uses for its materials. The Department of Architecture, meanwhile, has benefited from the company’s ability to bend and fold metal in ways that the school cannot do on its own. Students have been engaged in the research since its start in spring 2012. Master of Architecture student Daniel Vrana and Philip Gusmano, a 2013 graduate of the undergraduate architecture program, have spent the past several months taking the project from concept to production.
Department of Architecture Chair Omar Khan has launched several collaborations with local manufacturers – outreach that has led to innovative practice applications and new courses and research on materials from metals to terra cotta.