Author Archives: Joe Russell

Final_Joe Russell

P2C_Joe Russell

For Project 1 we had the opportunity to explore multiple architectural design motifs under the umbrella of “Fabric Architecture.” The inherent qualities of the “fabric” we studied allowed the material to be not only flexible in form but also in use.  The nature of the material rewards creative thinking and a unique perspective for the design problem yields dynamic and provocative solutions that would otherwise be impossible. With such a malleable architectural building block I wanted to do two things: 1) I wanted to create an adaptive/parametric system that responded to some external, uncontrollable force. In essence, I wanted my building to respond to some variable. 2) I wanted to showcase the amount of variance intrinsically available within the fabric.

I eventually settled upon an adaptive exterior skin that responded to the sun’s location. The skin’s skeleton was a parametric design that “opened” or “closed” to reduce solar gain and provide a computationally driven façade (see figure 1 below). Since reinventing the wheel is an endeavor in which much smarter people than I have failed, I mimicked the system created by Aedas Architects for the recently completed Al Baha Towers in Dubai. This adaptive and parametric skin became the focal for my project. I felt that it embodied the flexible nature of the fabric motif and showcased the computational complexity required of parametric systems.

Obviously the design approach of Project 1 strayed from the path of traditional aesthetic design into computational/performance driven design. Just as computational design approaches can be aesthetically stunted, traditional design strategies may not have the capacity to perform. This issue is discussed in greater detail in a paper entitled Performance-Based Generative Design (co-authored by Ming Tang). According to the authors’ research the traditional design method “has certain deficiencies because: (1) it includes simplified assumptions based on rules of-thumb that can be inaccurate (for example, forcing an aesthetic feature); and (2) may not be accurate in relation with performance measurements of design solution.” The article goes on to extrapolate on performance driven design strategies stating that the “building performance-based design method has power in predicting a design solution because it: (1) uses performance measures with actual quantifiable data and not rules-of thumb; (2) aims to develop a model of a complex physical system; (3) uses the model to analyze and predict behavior of the system; and (4) produces a more realistic evaluation of the design” (Tang 2).

Translating this design motif to an urban scale for Project 2 initially appeared to be a futile endeavor. But I analyzed the design forces in my project 1 and once I simplified and abstracted the idea, I arrived at key word: transformation. My entire project hinged on the transformation of the fabric. Transformation, as a driver for design could be applied to a large urban scale and I began Project 2 with this in mind. The invisible forces driving my urban scale are based around the idea of spaces/buildings transitioning and evolving into different spaces/buildings allowing for unique functions at each stage in the evolution. I utilized a grasshopper script that factored in the size of spaces to develop different urban areas (residential, commercial, or institutional). Consequently, the landscape of my urban design is populated by residential areas that transition into institutional spaces that evolve into commercial outlets.

Figure 1:

Sources: Tang, M., Anderson, J., Aksamija, A., Hodge, M. Performance-Based Generative

P2B_Joe Russell

P2_Joe Russell

P1F_Joe Russell

P1E_Joe Russell_schematic design

-initial design sketches + concept

-solidified approach to site design

-developed building form and site plan

-sections, elevations, and roof plan


Building: Galaxy Soho

Architect: Zaha Hadid

Location: Beijing, China

Building: National Portrait Gallery (Smithsonian Art Museum)

Architect: Norman Foster

Location: Washington D.C.

P1C_Joe Russell


Above is a link to a pdf file for my concept.


P1_Joe Russell_San Diego Convention Center


San Diego Convention Center. San Diego, California

Designed by Canadian Architect Arthur Erickson (other works include the Fresno City Hall and the Biological Sciences Building at the University of California, Irvine, and the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver).

The Convention center is 2.6 million sq. ft with over 600,000 sq. ft. devoted to exhibit space. The building is located on the bay in the heart of downtown San Diego. The main architectural feature of the convention center is the roof of the 90,000 sq. ft. Sails Pavilion Center. The roof consists of Teflon-coated fiberglass sails. This feature is designed to reflect and memorialize the maritime history and culture of the city. Teflon is the most common brand name of PTFE which is a synthetic fluoropolymer that has a tremendous amount of applications; it is what coats non-stick cookware, it is used to coat pipes and containers that hold corrosive chemicals, and it can also be used as a lubricant. PTFE is a hyrdophobic material, meaning water and substances containing water cannot wet the material. Additionally, PTFE has one of the lowest coefficients of friction among solid materials. Originally, the Sails Pavilion was designed to be an open-air  facility under the tensile roof. This, however, proved to be problematic because potential clients were skeptical about booking an open-air space. The center was then redesigned and enclosed in glass. This decision greatly enhanced the amount of usable space beneath the roof and maintained the open-air atmosphere that was originally desired.

What I appreciate most about this project is the reasoning behing using the Teflon-coated fiberglass sails. The choice wasn’t so superficial as to be purely aesthetic, but rather the unique structure and modern solution is seamlessly tied into the culture and history of the location. The designer abstracts the form of a boat sail into a beautiful and functional roof structure for a modern convention center; successfully merging form, function, and aesthetics into an intelligent design.