Author Archives: Tim Shamblin

Riverside Fabric Hotel_Tim Shamblin

Site Magnetics
The Sawyer point site by its very nature contains the collision between the urban Cincinnati and the fluid Riverfront. Using Grasshopper, the forces can be revealed using magnetic analysis, showing where forces collide, and paths flow. These forces and points can be extracted then to help guide decisions on where to place buildings, pathways, and features within the site. Through Voronoi analysis, bubbles of space can further break down the site into human scale.

Building Concept
The Chinese pavilion/pagoda is a traditional form that is created through a system of base geometry, offsets and proportioning to create their dynamic form. Often a part of gardens and water features, the pagoda system is readily able to inspire the modular rooms of the hotel, creating individual spaces with each face. Though not traditionally fabric, their sweeping form can be easily be envisioned as and adapted into fabric structures very readily, and hearkens to the idea of canopies, providing shelter. The hotel’s form being aligned by the site analysis, the horizontal, stretching canopies also provide and encourage relaxing views along the river, the perfect backdrop for a hotel room.

Morph System
While experimenting with fabric, the most noticeable quality it had was its ability to form, morph, and adapt based on its constraints. While not inherently stable, it can be immobilized reliably by securing it along more than one axis. Using this in conjunction with the pagoda form, an active morphing canopy system developed, transforming the canopy into an opening – closing system, similar to an eyelid. In deference to the event of needing to see but not suffer the environment,  the idea of the nictitating membrane eyelid present in eagles, was used to allow for two layers of canopy, one translucent, and one transparent.

Animated Video

P2C_Tim Shamblin

Adaptation happens slowly in some cases, many times taking place as hundreds of small iterations before a final form is reached which reaches a peak of optimization. However, while all projects iterate, often simple evolutionary solving discards certain characteristics that are beneficial while keeping others that are only utilized under certain circumstances. So ultimately adaptation that can happen quickly can highly increase efficiencies and allow for fluid situations. In Both projects 1 and 2, focus was placed on systems that adapt or morph existing typologies, sometimes actively, as in Project 1’s Pagoda-metrics. With modern technology, using simulation and parametrics, a system can be designed to morph a response to one set of constraints into another, fulfilling many more goals.

T Diewald’s adaptive folding system (Image 1.1) represents this type of systemic adaptation well. While it has certain rigid capacities and size, it will fold, twist and cover like fabrics, but will stay rigid more so than fabric when fixed. This system has both adapted to user needs at the moment by taking the set form, but can also change in the future, adapting to newer needs.

Image 1.1

Ultimately, Project 1 is about taking an existing typology, the Chinese pavilion style pagoda, which creates well-segmented and proportioned spaces and facades, and allowing its positive characteristics to act, while then identifying other characteristics and situations that a space might need and allowing the system to morph to adapt to those ideas as well, as needed. Take for instance, the astronomic observatory at Tenerife, Spain (Image 2.1).

The equipment here needs protection and containment during a large amount of the day, and thus needs a completely enclosed environment sometimes, but also needs openness and flexibility when operating the telescopes. Enter the Pneumatic structure, a dome comprised of 2 rotatable arches (See Image 2.2) with a following set of compressible air pockets made of plastic fabric. When closed, the dome insulates the equipment, but when open, the building does not in any way restrict the motion of the telescopes, allowing for ultimate freedom.

So what if that principle could be applied elsewhere, with other forms? The application of morphing buildings is still very limited due to technology and scale, but on the size of something like a single hotel room, the idea seems very plausible. In this case the base form of the room blocks is based off of the proportional system of a pagoda tower (See Image 3.1).

Pagoda Diagram

The aesthetic and proportioning system here is created using Grasshopper’s ability to create systematic geometry, thus segmenting the formal system across new geometry (Image 3.2).

While great for the open air experience, the form is not private, so include the ability to morph, and viola, the structure can adapt to the privacy needs of its occupants (Image 3.3).

While possible to make these kinds of creations without the aid of simulation and parametrics, the systems’ complexity can work against the goal, and not always respond. Using newer simulation techniques, the responses of morphing building forms can be more accurately modeled, allowing for a greater complexity of form and change. In this case, Parametic design, as in Grasshopper, allows a set of rules to morph existing systemic geometry to new constraints, and simulation allows for further testing and morphing to add to a structures ability to respond. Ultimately, the goal of creating adaptive structures that respond actively to wider conditions requires a system that can both define existing and ne rules, and adapt them to new constraints.


Canobbio S.p.A. Canobbio, n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2013. <>.

Thomas Diewald. T. Diewald, n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2013. <>.


P2B_Tim Shamblin

This project uses Maya and Rhino Grasshopper in a hybrid fashion, using Grasshopper for some sections and Maya for others, While moving some sections back an forth between methods.

Using Grasshopper, a method for outer regions and sub divisions creates smaller sectors between road spaces and then parcels them out to various types Based on footprint.

For the More Urban Center, a more dense solution is created by using Maya Simulation to Generate pathways and optimizations using the Frei Otto method, creating various super blocks and regions.

The regions are broken into parcels using Voronoi in Grasshopper, then populated using a MEL Script sampler that places building based on RGBA Values.

See the PDF HERE.


P1F_Tim Shamblin

Magnetic and Directional PLanning Diagram Done in Grasshopper.

Here’s my full presentation PDF hosted from my Google Drive:

Planned Tensile Structure Generated in Grasshopper

Open Fabric Structure for Hotel Rooms

Closed Fabric Structure for Rooms

P1E_Tim Shamblin

Click here to see my Presentation PDF.

P1C_TIm Shamblin

Open Form

This concept uses fabric stretched over a series of ribs. Since fabric is an inherently stretchable material, this allows for movement among the ribs, which can then pivot around a point  or move on a track and thus change form between open and closed states.

Closing Shell

Rotationally, The movement can be be applied in a quarter rotation, half rotation, or varying degrees in between. Along a track, the system can move in straight lings or possibly in curved extensions.

While this concept would be far too massive to apply properly over an entire building if the idea is taken and Populated in smaller scale to a surface, it can be used as an active skin element that can respond to a variety of conditions, from wind and ventilation to Solar impact and lighting conditions.

Quarter closed

Furthermore, the idea could be applied at a somewhat larger scale, creating shading devices or even active enclosure sections for a single room.

Half Rotation extension


P1_Tim Shamblin_Anticlastic Curvature

In its most basic mathematical form, an Anticlastic Curvature is “…a curvature, at a given point and in a particular direction, that is of the opposite sign to the curvature at that point in a perpendicular direction…” (TFD). In normal conversation, it is often simply called “Double curvature,” meaning that it is a surface that curves in two directions. That being said,  a visual is probably more helpful.

Picture, if you will, the classic Pringle potato Chip:

As you can see, the chip’s surface bends along two axes which are perpendicular at a point along the axis and bend in opposite directions. This type of form is just the basic definition, it can be seen in other forms, such a simple arch:

Or more complicated forms:

But what does that have to do with tensile structural elements? Well, Anticlastic curvature is largely seen in tensile, stretched fabric elements, such as canopies.

Canopy design

Or more popularly, anticlastic curvature is seen in a series of waves, creating an almost faceted appearance, at varying scales:

Denver Airpor internals

This Anticlastic curvature, whether on a large scale (the canopy) or small scale (the pleated structure) keeps fabric stretched and somewhat rigid in 3 dimensional space. The double curvature keeps the entire skin pulling in 2 directions, ensuring that the fabric body maintains a consistent form as defined by the forces on it. This makes the multidimensional curved surface a popular form in tensile structures.