The research represented by project 2XmT has an underlining goal of producing self-structuring and lightweight architectural screens built entirely from thin-gauge sheet metal. Using only textured stainless steel, the research attempts to investigate the relationship between structure and appearance through performative analyses at full-scale.
The project incorporates a computational workflow that is informed by the material's fabrication parameters, and attempts to provide evidence for thin-gauge textured metals as a high performance material by identifying structural rigidity and specular quality as inherent characteristics born from the rigidizing (texturing) process. Perhaps most important to the research is the visibility of structural capacity through geometric texturing. Because the texture is embossed into the steel (thereby adjusting its molecular composition), the aesthetic result and the structural capacity is interrelated.
A conceit drawn from the research suggests that the rigidizing process allows a very thin material to perform structurally at a level similar to its thicker counterparts. The free-standing prototype is intended to test the performance of rigidized materials against harsh environmental conditions and observe the nuanced variations in light reflectance by mixing in complimentary textures, thereby speculating on the potential for these systems to become viable building envelopes.
To our knowledge, a sheet metal system this thin and at this scale, performing in a completely free-standing, self-structuring application (vertical cantilever structure), has not been done before. The project represents the efforts of both the designers and the fabricator / manufacturer of the textured metal, the Rigidized Metals Corporation, and is exemplary of a strong collaboration between academia and industry. This kind of knowledge share between designers and material experts allows academic research to move off-campus by incorporating real-world contingencies and, in the process, broadens the computational capabilities of the manufacturing facility with the hope of expanding the scope and marketability of their products.
Published May 31, 2013