April 1, 2007
by Canadian Architect
From May 18July 8, 2007, SCI-Arc presents The Dragonfly, a site-specific installation designed by Los Angeles-based architecture firm EMERGENT and international engineering firm Buro Happold. Rather than a sculpture, the biomimetic structure explores the relationship between structure and form and is an experiment in the fluid feedback of design sensibility, engineering innovation, and the logic of digital fabrication.
The morphology of dragonfly wings is the complex result of multiple patterning systems, interweaving in response to force flows and material properties. Dragonfly wings consist of both honeycomb patterns, which are flexible and behave like membranes, and ladder-type patterns, which are stiff and behave like beams. A composite of distributed and linear structural formations, The Dragonfly is a field of continuous variation and adaptation, developed using evolutionary computingan iterative process similar to Darwinian natural selectionand created using a file-to-fabrication process that involves a parametric fabrication model and CNC routing devices on aluminum panels.
The process reflects the forefront in engineering and can be further appreciated in the context of SCI-Arcs Applied Studies program taught by EMERGENTs Tom Wiscombe, among others, and in which Buro Happold has become involved since the cutting-edge engineering firm expanded its operations to Los Angeles last year.
Founded in 1999 by Tom Wiscombe, EMERGENT is dedicated to researching issues of biomorphology, engineering innovation, and materiality through built form. EMERGENT is a platform for experimentation, leveraging technologies, techniques, and approaches from fields including complexity science, aerospace engineering, and computation. EMERGENTs approach is informed by contemporary models of biology and systems theory rather than by the arts, to achieve an architecture based on structural pattern formation and emergent behavior. The work is part of a larger movement referred to by Detlef Mertins as Bioconstructivism, where biology, mathematics, and engineering combine to produce an architecture characterized by its wild variability and performativity. The work questions the dialectic of excess and efficiency in architecture in favor of a more complex understanding of both through biology. EMERGENT won the 2003 P.S.1 Young Architects Program for their courtyard design and their exhibits include Glamour at SFMoMA in 2005; the 2006 London Biennale; and Los Angeles A+D Museums 2006 New Blood: Next Gen. Additionally, the firm was shortlisted for the Czech National Library, one of Europes largest new cultural institution projects.
Buro Happold provides cutting-edge solutions across a wide range of sectors, producing high-quality engineering design and delivering economical, functional and inspirational designs that perfectly meet the needs of both clients and users. The firm is noted for its research and continual investigation of new methods of construction, new materials and new thinking.