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EXOtique is a quick design through fabrication installation at Ball State’s College of Architecture. The Institute for Digital Fabrication invited us to lead the workshop/installation with student help, following three main constraints:

*Timeline- 5 Days: One day devoted to design, one day of modeling in Rhino / Grasshopper and materials testing, and three shared days of fabrication, assembly, and installation.

*Budget- $500 materials budget: white acrylic, white polystyrene, and 55 cord sockets and bulbs.

*Site- Ceiling above the foyer at the west entrance of the architecture building.

Through the use of computational tools (both software and hardware) the design through fabrication process can be drastically condensed. However the use of digital tools and design thinking for the purposes of fabrication rather than representation is not always at the forefront of designer’s minds. This project was aimed at using tools purely as generators for fabrication without the need for representation. As designers and creative thinkers, we do not have to lean on these tools for the purposes of imagery; imagination can act as renderer, and understanding of materiality acts as logic in the physical world. Yet, in order to create the complex and infinitely different component systems, we are dependent on, and benefit from these digital processes.

Our intention was to create a simple, hexagonally based, component system that would act as a lit “drop ceiling” for the space. All fabrication data was generated from a surface in Rhino, with all other processes accomplished through Grasshopper. The surface was triangulated and then associated into hexagonal groups. This was done with an understanding that the bending and folding could achieve non-planer geometry through the correct choice of material. The groups were unrolled and all other details were created. This includes joinery, labeling, patterning for distributed lighting, tolerance adjustments and other fabrication techniques (i.e. tabs for milling). Allowing flexibility within the computer to adjust tolerances made the feedback loop between digital and physical space easier and quicker.

There was no hardware used for connections besides the given hangers for the lamp cords. This cut costs and allowed our materials to work to each other’s benefit. Tabs on the styrene lock into the solid acrylic connectors as rigid sidewalls, causing the material to bend within the component as apposed to its edges. This let all the components meet evenly and create a rigid shell after being connected. The lit hexagonal panels act as the hanger connection point for the piece, and a custom acrylic tabs were created to hold the socket cable after being thread through the components, which attach to clips tied to the ceiling.

EXOtique combines an understanding of how materials react, then intelligently embeds that into the design process.

We would like to thank Curt Schriner and students from Atilier 3+U for their help assembling the piece, as well as The Institute for Digital Fabrication for their continuing support.

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