For several dedicated designers and technologists at Sasaki, the first truly chilly days of autumn have become equated with the approach of ABX—the annual ArchitectureBoston Expo (ABX). Hailed as the largest exhibition for the AEC industry in New England, this year ABX partnered with the USGBC Greenbuild International Conference & Expo, both sharing space and programs at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center this November 8-10.
Over the past several years, our firm has been a committed participant—with several of our designers presenting, serving on panels, or otherwise contributing to the growth and knowledge-base of the industry. And, increasingly, many from our office have displayed innovations out on the expo floor. Read on for highlights and photos from our involvement this year.
MakeTANK: No Tools Required
Building on the success of their debut demonstration last year, the Boston Society of Architects’ (BSA) MakeTANK Committee designed, constructed, and displayed a series of benches and other furniture elements [seen the image above] at this year’s event. Co-chaired by Sasaki senior associate Brad Prestbo, AIA, and with significant involvement and support from Sasaki, MakeTANK was founded to support maker culture through exploring the nexus of design and fabrication, of “thinking” and “making.”
MakeTANK’s display was a clear demonstration of the committee’s envelope-pushing explorations in fabrication approaches and material explorations. All components of this display combine elements of origami-esque, self-tensioning folds and felt-laminated plywood.
Several MakeTANKers test out the designs in Sasaki's courtyard in advance of ABX.
“This year, we were inspired by the concepts of zero-waste design, which encourage designs that leave no material scrap behind,” says Andy Cole, designer at Sasaki and MakeTANKer. “We asked ourselves: was it possible to create a bench out of a 4’x8’ sheet of plywood with no scrap? Our early paper-based studies proved it was technically possible. Then we began to push the limits a bit: adding in complex curvatures, conducting elasticity tests on various grades of felt.
Andy Cole and Felipe Francisco demonstrate the "no tools required" assembly of one of the benches at ABX
“The first full-blown attempt [the red bench pictured above], was an immediate success. It took us one hour to laminate, mill on the CNC, and fold together—and, remarkably, it supported the weight of seven people! A few more complex tests failed, showing us the tolerance boundaries of these materials and shapes. Refining back from those failed tests yielded the other two benches you see here.”
For more details on this design process, visit the MakeTANK's website.
Designing in Virtual Reality: Project Parallel
Sasaki Strategies was pleased to take part in a collective demonstration of Virtual Reality (VR) technologies, organized by Jeffrey Jacobson, of ConstructionVR and James Martin of Shepley Bulfinch. Seven other design firms took turns demonstrating their advances in the expanding frontier of virtual reality. During Sasaki’s four-hour slot, Sasaki principal Ken Goulding and VR Specialist, David Morgan, took turns walking visitors through a custom-built VR software that enables users to edit their virtual environments—from stacking boxes in a massing exercise that automatically computes square footage and program utilization, to crafting basic architectural elements, such as rooms and stairs, that the viewer can experience at human scale.
David Morgan explains how to navigate through the VR experience to a participant. Below is a two-dimensional screenshot of the full VR environment designed for this event.
“We wanted to show that VR is a viable medium not only for presenting immersive renderings, but also for drawing, modeling, and designing in a totally new way,” says Morgan. “The VR environment has been intimidating to some visitors today—a lot of people have never experienced it. But once they put on the goggles and get comfortable with the space, we’ve heard a lot of ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs.' Our goal was to show that you can interact with digital objects just as if they're physical objects, and people have really been amazed at how quickly they can create and manipulate objects in this new realm.”
Speakers and Sessions
Sasakians were also busy on the session circuit. Anna Cawrse, landscape architect, won the Women in Design 2017 ABX Symposium scholarship, and attended the “Envisioning the Future: Women in Design Keynote” for her essay, “Naturally Yours.” Prestbo, along with fellow senior associate Gerry Gutierrez, AIA, CDT [pictured below], presented “Architecture Disrupted,” a talk they have delivered at several previous industry events.
“As the title suggests, our talk is all about disrupting traditions in the architecture industry: from business and governance models through to how designers collaborate and iterate on a daily basis,” says Gutierrez. “After our talk today, a lot of people asked how we perpetuate and celebrate these ideas, both internally and externally. The key for us is to treat our culture of collaboration and experimentation as a toolbox that drives us towards bespoke, contextual outcomes, not as an off-the-shelf product.”
As part of Greenbuild's sessions, Senior Associate Victor Eskinazi co-presented on the Las Salinas planning project with a representative from the client team, Inmobiliaria Las Salinas. And, lastly, architect Nathan Butt, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, gave a Greenbuild session tour of the Sbrega Health & Science Building in nearby Fall River, MA. The Sbrega Building is the first zero net energy academic lab sciences building in New England, and is a 2017 AIA COTE Top Ten recipient.
Missed us at ABX, or interested in learning more? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.