Wednesday, October 8, 2014


This work was done in August, four months after my initial efforts ran aground and conscious that I needed to either give it up or find a new angle.  One weekend I happened upon the idea of an octagon.  Suitably islamic, could match up with an 8 lobed pumpkin dome, let's see where this leads.

I'm going to jump straight into point world this time.  But of course we can nest vanilla families into Point World, so it's going to be mix and match.  Let's start with an egg shape to represent the pumpkin/auditorium and an octagonal extrusion to act as the rig for a table top hosting gardens above and below plus exhibition galleries suspended around the perimeter.

The rig will be hosted off a Vanilla GM family.  Just 8 model lines and a single parameter which pushes each line out from the centre.  Actually we will be using and "input * scale" system to make the profile scalable.

The egg is also a Vanilla object.  Three parameters this time, controlling two partial ellipses that help to defint a revolve.  Simple formulae will give me a "width factor" and an "eccentricity" to vary the shape, and a single parameter to determine size.  I chose height, but it probably should have been width (to make the linking of octagon to egg more logical).

Not to worry though because I am not emphasizing total parametric control at present. We can do some manual tweaking, in fact it will be essential.  Get in there and massage things around based on an intuitive sense of proportions.  Don't let technicalities dominate.  Think design.

I decide to place conical towers at the 8 corners.  These are GMA families with a single adpative point.  Size controlled by "Height", shape by "Slenderness" and "Taper". Stick them on the corners.  Add a sweep around the top edge of the octagon. A simple rectangle will do for starters.  Now we can "load into project" and get a feel for the relative size of the elements.

I'm not going to go for columns this time.  Perhaps arches will be more appropriate to the regional context.  I start with an elaborate contraption derived from the Neimeyer arch I created for RTC Chicago.  I thought this might be a nice blend of islamic and modern.

But what about the interior space.  How do we give this some character ?  And what about the link from the galleries to the auditorium ?  I don't think a full scale table top is going to cut it.

And how about the galleries themselves?  I decided to use a Vanilla Generic Model family as the profile for this sweep.  Something about drafting in vanilla seems a little simpler, more direct.  Maybe it's just an illusion.  By saving out alternative versions with different names I can swap between them.

Formally I want to keep this very simple, but functionally we need some well shaded daylight: indirect lighting for the galleries.  We used to say that "form follows function" but it's more like a tennis match: swatting the ball back and forth until something starts to make sense.

The window openings allow me to maintain the profile as a continuous loop while using it to define internal spaces.  Starting to think in terms of external terraces also, and spaces that overlook other spaces.

And the spaces below the galleries.  There is potential there.

I came up with a form to link the galleries to the dome.  Three levels of corridors giving access at performance times, and stout legs providing support to the great bowl of the ampitheatre.  I also developed the idea of a corridor/buttress linking each of the corner turrets to the auditorium.  This will have a dual function, structural support and circulation.  It will also help to shade the internal courtyards.  I'm not going to have a continuous table top this time.  Need to get some light into the interior.  Maybe will have a lattice-like shade structure

But zooming in on the facade, I get the feeling that the arch form isn't working.  Somehow the transition from arch to galleries above rings false.  This arch was not meant to carry anything above.  That's how Niemeyer used it, holding up nothing but the sky.

So I ditched the arch.

What about a horseshoe arch.  Keep it simple and abstract, grand in scale and it might work. .

The family itself is vanilla.  Lots of equalisation with all the parameters linked to a global scale factor so it can be resized along with the master Point World family.

It's always important to view your work from a variety of angles.  That's a classic BIM thing.  Jump between plan, section & 3d as you work.

The rows of arches are repeaters.  This means nesting the vanilla GM inside an adaptive family which gives me the ability to easily rotate the orientation.  In the end I came up with a rotation parameter because their always seemed to be one segment of the octagon that behaved differenly from the rest.

Each of the 3 rows of arches needed a slightly different combination of "number of elements" and "end/beginning indent".  There is clear advantage to be had by linking these back to parameters in the master family.  Keep all 8 segments in sync.

I'm starting to enjoy the "forest of columns" feel around the perimeter.  I'm adding a few "flat people" to better judge the scale.  Is it monumental enough ?

The linking corridor spokes add definition to the interior space.  Time to put in a little image-editor time.  If we are going to use BIM for concept design, it's important to integrate image-making into the process.  This might involve some 2d drafting within Revit, or it might involve exporting different versions of the same scene (rendered & shaded views perhaps) and combining these with a filter or two in the image editing software of your choice.

So, what have we got?  That was a productive weekend's effort and a much better result than the original "squared circle" concept.  But it's still not quite right if I am to be brutally honest.  It remains a collection of different ideas that don't quite hang together.  There are some nice touches and the internal spaces are quite compelling, but is the octagon sufficiently pumpkin-like ?  Don't we have too many straight lines ?

A work of art needs to hang together as a whole.  The central concept needs to be sufficiently strong to weld the entirety together.  Let's say we've learnt a lot, but it's time to start over once more.

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