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bitMAPS was initiated through a client’s interest in a sketch prototype, and developed as an inexpensive patterned wall system. It integrates a custom design through a repeatable mold and integrates multiple functions of the room. The project is intended to create a clean but complex texture that is engaging to sight and touch, encouraged through embedded switches, custom storage compartments and openings for light and air ventilation.

The prototype was developed using sheets of intentionally pierced bubble wrap as a vacuum form mold for plastic panels. The process was further refined with a repeatable High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) mold. The dimpled panels are created by vacuum forming .06” white polystyrene over the mold. Edge conditions were particularly important to address, each panel had to interlock perfectly to generate the appropriate tiled effect using a hexagonal “bubble wrap” pattern. Positive, negative and flat plugs were milled and inserted into the mold based on printed templates. Oriented strand board was milled for each panel to accommodate for the negatives of the corresponding polystyrene tile, acting as spacer and providing the system with rigidity.

The patterning of the panels originated from a bitmap image. Each pixel was carefully choreographed to communicate a pattern at multiple scales. This tuning was achieved using a specifically designed grasshopper definition; slide bars allowed for variable proportioning of positives negatives and flat pixels, as well as variations in distortion and noise.
For this specific residential application, bitMAPS was applied on two walls and the ceiling of the client’s bathroom. Fluorescent cove lighting was integrated, washing the adjacent painted walls with light. Many features of the space which would normally be separate components were integrated into the paneling system, resulting in an unbroken pattern. The light and vent switch are completely hidden, integrated behind the panel system using capacitance sensing. Simply moving your hand in front of the specific dimples engages either the lights or fan. The “console” houses the majority of the bathroom’s accessories. Custom panels extrude and recess from the rest of the system, hiding the magazine rack, toilet paper dispenser, and iPhone holder within a series of polycarbonate shelves. Other considerations such as the fan vent and skylight feature perforated panels allowing the passage of light and air.

The balance between analog and digital techniques was critical to this project. Because the vacuuming forming process reveals every imperfection in the mold, it was necessary that the base mold and plugs be precisely machined. The timing of the vacuum process required similar precision in order to maintain consistency throughout the project. In order to remove the excess material after forming, a stationary armature was attached to the bed of the 3 axis router, locating the part for cutting by a saw bit.

This project has provided an opportunity to develop an idea into a feasible product, which incorporates building systems and various functional elements while serving to define space. The integration of a unique, client-driven, pattern into this system adds another layer of meaning into the finished piece that addresses a client’s specific needs. Hopefully, this process will lead to future clients and further development of the system.

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