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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hopton Street, SE1 London...


Near our (Small Architecture's & 4M Group's) London office there is a strange little street called Hopton Street. In many way a nondescript street, located seemingly in the back of a back alley, it nevertheless is a locale full of contrasts and interesting nooks & crannies. Within its roughly 200 meter stretch it retains an asymmetrical pot-pourri of buildings and interventions from a variety of styles, times and applications...

The images below provide a brief suggestive, and cautiously surreal, summary of Hopton Street's subtleties...













Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Layered Freeforming...


I subscribe to a mailing list called RP-ML, which deals with various topics and issues relating to, what currently is known as Rapid Prototyping (RP), or Rapid Manufacturing (RM), two renditions of fabrication in which a physical object can be directly made from a digital file through a form of 3D printing. The difference between Rapid Prototyping and Rapid Manufacturing is that whilst RP is used to make a representation, a model, of a thing, be this a mobile phone or even a scale model of a building, RM is used to make a usable, final, object that should withstand the wear and tear of a 'real' product. The technology has been around for a while already, but it still quite unknown amongst the wider, even academic, community. There are a number of speculations for why this is, the limits and price of using the related technologies the most prominent amongst them, but they are gaining wider recognition and it seems like that most people have at least a peripheral awareness of these fabrication methods, be this still through references to various sci-fi flicks and such. Both my PhD as well as MPhil dealt with the use of these technologies, and their potentials, when applied in the context of design and architecture.
A few of our previous blogs include samples of work made by these methods. One of the issues that have risen on the aforemention (RP-ML) mailing list is what to call these means of making something. The current (generic) term, Rapid Prototyping, is in general considered a bit passe, as the technology isn't necessarily that 'rapid', and seldom used for (mass) manufacturing, but falls almost exclusively into the somewhat more bespoke realm of (often one-off) 'fabrication'. We've been referring to our activities involving these technologies as 'Layered Freeforming' (LF), as the processes usually do involve a layering of stratums of material through a variety of methods and, in our case, we try to do things which would be impossible or just senseless to be made by any other fabrication methods, i.e. we use the particular idiosyncrasies of the related technologies to catalyse designs or elements of our designs, thus the term 'freeforming' - which represents the almost limitless possibilities and potential(s) we feel these technologies have. We've also been using the term 'Buildware' (see the chart above) to describe such fabrication methods, both additive and subtractive, on a more general level and relate these methods of fabrication on an equal plateau to its fellow 'wares' of hardware and software.


It should be enphasized that the use of 'Layered Freeforming' is not widespread and what the all encompassing (GUT - Grand Unified Theorem) term should be is yet to be agreed upon by people in the know or with an interest in the subject. Many of the terms, such as: Solid Freeform Fabrication (SFF), Fabbing, Direct Manufacturing, to mention a few, are still in common usage. However, the generic term towards which the community seems to be leaning seems to be '3D Printing' as it, in its brevity, is descriptive of what these technologies do.
More related musings in future blogs...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Earlsfield Road Residence, London...



Currently stuck (again) at the Emirates Terminal in Dubai, and thought, according to tradition, it would be appropriate to add another blog-entry of one of our past projects.

The Earlsfield Road Residence project, developed and run predominantly by Eng Ling, was/ is located on a very awkward site, being surrounded by housing with only a 1.8 meter wide access road through which all materials during construction needed to be delivered. As the residence was also surrounded by overlooking windows on all sides both the residence's residents as well as the surrounding residents need for privacy had to be considered and respected.

The Residence is surronded by housing on four sides...

The design consists of boxed islands each with a set aim - a bathroom, kitchen, bedrooms, etc. all partake in a perpendicular composition where the 'squares' form the spaces (rooms) and the in-between volumes form their interlinks (corridors).

The wooden 'Bathroom Box' with its translucent glass wall (facing the livingroom) and skylight.

The implementation of the project was an extended, but ultimately a very well received, endeavour, forming a intricate and bespoke rendition responding to the particulars of the site as well as the needs of its habitants.

The slate and glass shower cubicle.

The residence is a design intended to age and weather along with its owners, allowing them to imprint their own histories and mnemonic anecdotes into its build...

The living room where the fireplace, the traditional hub of a space, is combined with its contemporary counterpart, the TV.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Float Furniture...


Continuing the stream of though of the previous blog-submission, the Float Storage unit and Chair use similar (UV) bonding techniques as the Pourpour does, only in this instance to attach wood and metal elements to sheets of glass.


The Float Store is a storage unit which uses 'off the shelf' aluminium profiles which are attached between two sheets of chemically strengthened glass. Even though the layout of the aluminium profiles might seem random, their placement has an underlying purpose, and is based on the size and preferred access heights of various domestic products, such as books, CD's or DVD's...


The Float Chair is based on the same principles as the Float Store, only in this instance instead of using aluminium profiles the chair has wood beams spanning between its flanking glass sheets. If you look carefully you can see that the profiles of the glass sheets are cut with the top slightly curved. This allows the chair to be used in two ways - as a 'regular' chair with its floor side profile flat (as in the image below), or, if turned 180 degrees, as a rocking chair, as the slightly curving glass sheet profiles are now on the floor side. The 'S' shape of the back also makes this possible.
These prototypes were again made with the assistance of i-Glass.


Friday, January 16, 2009

Pourpour:ing... :


From one of our larger to one to our smaller designs...

The Pourpour is a glass condiment dispenser with two opposing perpendicular chambers which are angled in such a way that when one is poured, the other one, even though open, doesn't leak.
It can be used for various matching condiments, such as salt & pepper; white & brown sugar; flour & arsenic, to mention a few... We made the design a few years back in collaboration with a London based glass fabricator, i-Glass.


The name of the design can be interpreted in different ways. One rendition uses 'Frenglish' as in 'for pouring' - a somewhat stretched effort, so perhaps the more viable description is the one where a 'pour' is applied once for each of the design's chambers, thus 'Pourpour' (as in, if the design had three chambers it would be called 'Pourpourpour').


It was a fun project to do, as viable results are produced on a much quicker time-scale than in architecture, and it would be great to get involved in similar projects in the future...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Take Two - Maybe...

This is the second time we, Maysaa, and I, live together in Kuwait. Our first venture happened shortly after we got married. During that period, which lasted for about a year and a half, we got involved in various different projects, ranging from architecture to advertising... One of those projects was a design for a private villa in Rawda (a district in central Kuwait), our first opportunity to design something on our own, and thus a project which will always have a special place in a special spot for us. For various reasons the project was delayed and consequently, during its construction phase, put on hold, and later, we assumed (as we had moved back to London by then), eventually abandoned...
However, recently (during our current stay in 'K-City') we decided to visit the site, if only to reminisce about what could have been. To our surprise the house was still there, and not only was it standing, but it was well on its way to being completed!
We're not sure if the owner is still the same, nor if the design has been changed (its exterior looked, more or less, according to its original plan and our original consultant sign was still in place), but either way we were thrilled to see it again. It brought back lots of memories... Good times...

Included are some of the original sketches of the project and some site photos taken during initial phases of construction.


Sketches of Facade proposals

Section through the central skylight topped 'Canyon' stairwell.

Image of the stairwell during construction. At ground level the skylight is 14 meters above the 1.5 meter wide stair/ lightwell.

The pergola covered pool-side courtyard, seen from the 'kitchen' (looking towards the second living-room)...

The outside pool, which (eventual) surface continues as a reflective pool, along the side of the large, floor to ceiling, kitchen window.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Scrumptious Scaps...

Whilst walking around the studios today at KU (Kuwait University), where I teach 'Design 3' with Architects Jassim Al-Shehab and Maysaa Al-Mumin (my wife and one of the founders of smArchitecture), I came across a number of left-over models, 'left over' from our initial project, as well as, now that we've finally gotten the students to realize their designs through our recently aquired laser-cutter (thank you Dr. Dashti!), some of the residual cut-outs, remnant subtractions of the student's cutting templates, which in their own right, in their haphazard stacks, formed interesting and suggestive arrangements.

Included below are some pictures of these ad-hoc, but evocative, compositions (along with a few photos of models being made and some semi-completed models)...












Saturday, January 10, 2009

Lamella at Dar al-Funoon, January 2009

Finally some images from the Lamella exhibition at the Dar Al-Funoon Gallery in Kuwait, which is located in a beautiful traditional courtyard house a stonesthrow away from the sea.




The entrance and courtyard of the gallery

The gallery itself wraps around the central courtyard, in an extended 'U' shape, allowing natural light to enter the spaces, forming a light, but not too bright, sheltered and beautiful space in the middle, which functions perfectly as an area for various more intimate reception and gatherings. The gallery spaces themselves have high wood planked ceilings, which are 'exhibition' neutral, whilst still retaining the character (the nooks & crannies) of the original building.







As mentioned, the work was very well received, and we would like to extend our thanks to Ms. Lucy Topalian, the director and curator of the gallery, for providing us with the opportunity to exhibit our work, particularly considering how different it is, both in format and concept, from the themes and types of work usually exhibited at the gallery. We found it all very exciting and engaging...

Thank you also to all, both students and staff from KU as well as all other worthy visitors. We are truly chuffed you made the time and effort to come by...

Further images from the exhibition included below...








































Portrait of Dr.T (image by Ghadad Al-Kandari)