Final_Andrew Newman


Final Concept_

Andrew Newman

A building envelope includes all the components that make up the shell or skin of the building. The envelope therefore acts as an interface of sort, between the controlled space and the existing phenomena of place. The skin of a typical building should not only provide an aesthetic function, but should deliver performative value with regard to climate, ventilation, and energy consumption within the structure.

Using natural influences such as the scales of reptile skin served as a primary influence for my concept analysis. A Scuta (latin scutum, meaning “shield”) is the bony external plate or scale, as on the shell of a turtle, skin of crocodilians, and some feet of birds. The concept of the Scuta was very intriguing not only because of its function, but more importantly for its geometrical divergence. For example, the parameters of each scale on the alligator changes depending on its location on the body. I think this metaphor provides an interesting way of looking at the façade of a building. The metaphor can be applied on a variety of scales, from site to the prototypical window components.

With parametric design and digital fabrication, it is easy to get carried away with opportunities and design considerations. I have come up with a few variations stemming from the idea of the scuta. Within Maya and Revit I planned to use a bottom to top approach to design the building. Starting with the issues of protection and ideas for fabrication, the component will then sponsor the process of building the system and the final product.

The parameters of each component, window prototype, vary according to its performative function, which depends on its location within the envelope. Both components will use aerodynamics as a precedent for fabrication and design development process. In order to deal with the harsh climate in the winter, each component will have to provide its own way to distribute loads to the di-grid system fluidly.

Precedent Analysis

One project that shows an innovative way to fabricate the envelope was Herzog and de Meuron’s Prada Epicentre store in Tokyo. The creation of the six-storey, five sided glass tower enabled the architects to maximize the vertical volume within its permitted site boundaries and leave the rest of the portion of the site to an urban plaza. In order to merge the traditions of architecture and fashion, the qualitative attributes of the building focused on the display of the design inside. Association between the outside façade and the fashion inside were ultimately gained through having a fully glassed envelope.

The shape of the building is influence by the possible angles of view from the interior, creating a visceral connection back to the city streets. Its glazed surface pattern, structured in a rhomboid shaped di-grid, is clad on all five planes of the building. Each surface contains multiple convex, concave and flat panels with some of them being transparent and others translucent. The translucent panels are fixed based on the privacy of the program inside. These different geometric panels offer a dazzling display of reflections which give the onlooker and ever changing view of the prada products, themselves and the city. Psychologically this pours a large amount of meaning into the design of the façade.

The grid of the façade is known for more than just qualitative attributes. The framework that holds the glass in place is linked back to the core of the building and holds up the double height ceilings. The horizontal steel tubing helps stiffin the structure of the building against seismic loads and also correlates with the program on the inside. Multiple stairs are shaped with an enclosure that is reminiscent of an extruded rhomboid to further tie back to the shape of the window components offering another way to link the design of the façade into its interior spaces.

Design Development

Using Ecotect as a simulation tool to capture existing thermal and radiation values, I was able to create a blended surface in Maya. Each component used sun azimuth angles to drive the form. On the south side of the building the components will feature a larger extrusion at the top of the window to shade from harsh sunlight and delineate glare to the interior. On the east and west side, the component will have a larger extrusion on the left and right side of the component.


To fabricate the component, I needed to design a prototype that could be formed depending on the parameters of the system. To do this, I milled a component for each polar extremity of the system out of dense foam and vaccu-formed the component out of styrene, which has plastic forming abilities.

Through this process I gained a greater understanding of the process of creating a dynamic system based on simulation that could be re-generated based on computer input. This operation allowed me to develop an understanding of parametric design and its performative capabilities.

The relationship between generational data and material assemblies generate new methodologies and design questions on multiple scales. This project intends to show an inventive approach to merging these new ways of thinking with the basic values that we expect to see out of design products, which are material honesty, functionality and aesthetics.

The scale of each part in the design scheme matches an underlying knowledge of proportion. In every step of its process from computation to fabrication, the evolution of its proportion was well conceived as its design goal. This part-to-whole relationship has been a constant aesthetic problem of parametric design that I believe was answered with this approach. Without the issues of scale and proportion the meaning and aesthetics can be led astray, leaving any number of possible solutions unresolved. With this proposal, I believe the questions that have always been prevalent in design theory are answered.

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