I was an attendee at this workshop, where we explored ‘Archilace’ – a type of woven structure that has been developed by the London designers Loop.ph. The workshop was led by Mathias Gmachl, one of Loop’s founders.
Archilace is constructed from interlinked composite-fibre rods, where each rod is woven around its neighbours, and bent and held into a circular shape that gives it a large planar force, and overall creates self-supporting structures that are very lightweight and use minimal material.
These structures are appealing to study and build because their topology – in this case the position, size and connectivity of these circles – is dictated by the curvature and shape of the input geometry. For example, in places of high curvature the Archilace must either ‘add material’ or ‘subtract material’ to negotiate the change in direction – ie. by reducing/increasing the size of a circle, or by reducing/increasing the number of connections a circle has. This sort of structure is therefore ideally suited to being modelled as an Ngon mesh – where the number of edges for each face determines both its connectivity, and the circle size.
Loop.ph, with support from Daniel Piker and Ramboll UK (John Harding, Will Pearson and Kristjan Plagborg Nielsen), has created a digital toolkit which can build and optimise these Ngon meshes for any freeform shape, by using a remeshing process in GH+Kangaroo, and converting the resulting unstructured mesh into a Plankton Half-Edge mesh (Piker+Pearson).
Once this initial mesh is determined, this toolkit can also run finite element analysis to determine the possibility of localised buckling (the most likely cause of structural failure for Archilace) and then efficiently ‘walk’ through the mesh’s connectivity to find optimum pathways where reinforcement can be woven into the structure. This reinforcement can simply be additional strands of the same composite-fibre rods, or it can be a larger diameter rod if necessary.
The final form can be split into a number of smaller meshes, and each section can then be unrolled and labelled (by number of face edges) as a flat ‘pattern’ for easy assembly. Since these structures are typology driven, any distortion or resizing that occurs when these patterns are laid flat is not as issue.
Our first task in this workshop was to build a small sculpture, to understand how the ArchiLace is woven from these flat patterns, as well as teaching us how it deforms under load.
Building Basic Forms to Understand the Principles of Archilace:
After this Daniel Piker and Will Pearson introduced the digital toolkit – using Kangaroo Remesher, the Plankton library, Karamba for structural analysis, etc.
Introduction to Archilace Toolkit:
At this point we broke into teams to develop our own Archilace structure, optimise it, and build it (all in 1 day!). My team developed our structure by modelling space curves, then using the Cocoon marching cubes components to ‘offset’ them and generate an unstructured mesh around them. This was then converted and cleaned up using the tools described earlier. Everyone thought the final form resembled a Chromosome – so the sculpture has a name!
Modelling Final Sculpture:
(Note the mesh face colours: each colour denotes a specific circle size and number of connections. In many of these images the Remesher is optimising for Cyan 6-sided connections).
Building Final Sculpture:
The end result is the large vertical Archilace structure shown in these photos – a really impressive result within such a short timeframe!
The entire workshop was very enjoyable, and gave me a good introduction to Half-Edge meshes, and Archilace structures. It was also rare for a workshop to seamlessly combine hands-on construction, with exploration of computational design tools and concepts.
It did seem like the process of assembly could be made more straightforward though – perhaps by creating new visualisation tools that make the ‘splice’ positions between separate piece of Archilace more obvious, or even tools to show the construction one circle at a time (thereby removing the need for splice zones). These are subject I’ll investigate further in future.
Note: All images above by either myself, Will Pearson, Tim, or the DMS2015 photographers. With thanks!