The goal for this project was to examine the translation of a design for a light screen across various media. What began as a vertical screen of varying opacity, became a layered atrium canopy that could permit/deny views, stratify the intensity of natural light, or scatter it.
The phenomenal transparency of the canopy responds primarily to the optimal light levels in a building. Each canopy creates differing light levels and views in the space below, and effect of multiple canopies allows for a gradient of diffuse light. The vertical edges derived from each surfaces cuts provide also provide diverse systems of light distribution, with more transverse surface area scattering more light.
The driver for this process is the extent to which a plane is stretched vertically in Maya. Utilizing a soft selection and an exponential curve, a surface is subdivided with Ming Tang’s weaving MEL Script. Flattening the resulting distorted web creates areas of higher and lower density, which control the admittance of light. Furthermore, the width of the web’s segments was also adjusted to control shading and the material’s propensity to sag or deform.
For the physical model to have a relation to its digital counterpart, the desired material needed to stretch rather than merely drape. It should therefore be able to deform in tension, yet also resist compression. A flexible polymer would have required a rigid skeleton or an abundance of tensile connection. The same concern existed for Lycra, which may have curled after being laser cut and suspended. The solution was to laser cut acrylic and deform its shape with a heat gun. This process aimed to shape the canopy like the digital model, while also responding to the material’s inherent willingness to bend. A more flexible material would have stretched of its own accord, but would have also required a separate logic of reinforcement or post-tensioning for the desired effect.
Focusing on the desire to scatter light and vary its intensity, we were able to apply the same logic to a vertical screen and a series of horizontal panels. By examining the final model, it is apparent that such a series of canopies could yield a stratified lighting condition in an atrium or a light well. To better demonstrate the effect of the project’s shadows, it would have been necessary to make the objects opaque. In its current state, the series of canopies could scatter light, control views, block UV rays, or mitigate reverberations in a large space.
Regarding methodology, the translation of a form across various media highlights the possibilities and limitations of each step of the process. Part of the project’s interest is noticing what changes and what remains constant when a plane is warped and flattened digitally, fabricated, and re-warped manually. The result is a balance between controlled intentions and an openness to serendipitous outcomes.