The Upcycle Studio: Transforming SIA Aircraft Components into Sustainable Architecture

AY2021 Term 6
Instructor: Peter Ortner

Introduction

The Upcycle Studio challenges students to reuse retired aircraft windows donated by SIA within an architectural prototype that exemplifies design for circular economy. This studio runs in parallel to and is affiliated with the SUTD X SIA Upcycling Challenge 2021/2022 – Giving New Life to Parts from Retired Aircraft.

The circular economy concept proposes the continuous reuse of materials in biological and technological cycles as a sustainable alternative to the take‐make‐use‐dispose paradigm of the linear economy. Circular design challenges architects to incorporate the goals and metrics of the circular economy into new ways of crafting the built environment. Architects have been leaders in laying the foundation for circular design with William McDonough, Peter Zumthor, Shigeru Ban and Keng Kuma making notable contributions. The switch to circular design requires reduction of raw material consumption during design and fabrication, creating affordances for reuse and longevity, and eliminating waste from the lifecycle of architectural components and assemblies, and conveying through architecture the aesthetics of a more sustainable way of life. Upcycling, increasing the value of reused materials, is a high priority strategy for realizing a circular economy and a challenge for circular design.

Upcycling and circular design as sustainability imperatives overlap with technological imperatives of computational design, mass customization and design intelligence. Computational tools permit the generation of complex assemblies with optimized structural and sustainable performance. To integrate upcycling with mass customized construction, where digital fabrication generates very many unique components, designers are challenged to combine many identical components within a highly variable framework. The upcycling studio takes on this challenge by asking student designers to combine many identical aircraft components within a mass‐customized structural framework, growing overall value of all materials in a beautiful structure embodying the aspirations of the circular economy.

Programme

Students will propose an architectural structure, fitting within a 3x3x3 cube, that incorporates upcycled industrial components into a mass‐customized and digitally fabricated architectural assembly.

The structure will demonstrate design intelligence and elegance in the service of circularity: reducing material use in structure, reducing fabrication waste, minimizing overall embodied carbon.

The construction will echo the technical systems of an architectural facade screen with repetitive cladding components, mass‐customized structural components and a system of fasteners and brackets connecting the two.

The overall form, programme, and reuse narrative for the project is open to creative re‐interpretation by students.

Fabrication

The Upcycle Studio emphasizes fast prototyping. Students will be given fabrication training in the beginning of the term. In pairs of two they will produce a single module prototype for midterm. One selected design from the midreview jury will be constructed as multi‐module prototypes with students working in a full‐studio team to support fabrication prep, fabrication, and assembly.

Further contributions to a larger pavilion may take place via IAP/ UROP 2022.

Studio Objectives

The studio will prepare students to practice architecture in a circular economy by:

  1. Providing hands‐on prototyping experience upcycling high‐value components in architectural assemblies.
  2. Supporting students to appropriate/ develop computational techniques to generate complex assemblies combining mass‐customized components with upcycled industrial components.
  3. Supporting students to appropriate/ develop computational evaluations to measure the multi‐faceted concept of circularity via 1) embodied carbon calculation, 2) reuse potential
    evaluation (robustness or other), and 3) efficiency/ light‐weighting of design.
  4. Requiring students to articulate how their upcycling design would retain material value at the highest level.
  5. Requiring students to articulate a personal stance on the aesthetics of circularity.

Studio Expectations

Students will engage in computational design in a Rhino/Grasshopper platform supported by python scripting. Students will create beautifully crafted physical prototypes using digital fabrication tools in the SUTD FabLab. Students will produce exquisite technical and presentation drawings of their assemblies. Students will articulate in written texts and verbal presentations the goals, methods and value of their designs with evaluation at mid and final review. Students will work together initially in teams of two, and each student’s effort to support the larger team.

Studio Modules

1. WORKSHOPS/ FABRICATION TRAINING (weeks 1‐2)

Workshops will take place in Rhino/Grasshopper with Python scripting and the use of several plugins. Workshops will provide a refresh on NURBS form generation in grasshopper, population of complex surfaces with structural elements, and computational aggregation of discrete components. Analysis based on finite element analysis via Karamba as well as analysis for
embodied carbon will be covered. Fabrication training is provided for CNC and waterjet.

Students exhibit their work at the end of all three workshops in a MIRO board.

Students form groups of two at the end of the final workshop.

2. BIG SHAPES/ INSTANTIATION/ AGGREGATION (weeks 3‐4)

Students begin work with aircraft components. Students generate a series of ‘big shapes’ and in a second step instantiate their components within that big shape. Geometry of components is refined, including connections.

3. ANALYZE/ PROTOTYPE/ COMMUNICATE (weeks 4‐6)

Students analyze their designs for structural stability and embodied carbon. Students communicate design intent through annotation, ornament, patterning, or tectonics of the proposed design. Students communicate design intent through a rendering, axonometric technical drawing of a multi‐module pavilion. Students write a short explanatory text. (Single A0 sheet) Each student team designs and builds a one‐to‐one scale prototype of a single module.

MIDREVIEW/ COMPETITION JURY (October 21)

Students present their designs and prototypes at midreview. The invited jury of experts vote on one design to be built at larger scale in the second half of the term. Winning designers submit material requests for the larger multi‐module prototypes over recess week.

4. REDESIGN (weeks 8‐9)

All teams redesign their proposals based on mid‐review comments. Improving accuracy of model, and refining drawings, renderings, and texts.

5. FABRICATION PREP (week 10)

Students work as a single team to create a fabrication plan, cut sheets, print files, scaffolding layout if needed, safety checks for fabrication and assembly of the multi‐module prototype.

Update and implement strategy for component annotation, communication, ornamentation.

6. FABRICATION (weeks 11‐12)

Students fabricate all components with support from FabLab staff, teaching assistants, and faculty.

7. ASSEMBLY + REPRESENTATION (weeks 12‐14)

Students assemble all components. Students create additional set of detailed analysis, textual description, technical drawings and renderings for the multi‐module prototype.

FINAL REVIEW + GALLERY (December 13)

Jury joins to view the final prototype. Students share updated design posters in a gallery.

Photography session.

Readings

Carpo, Mario. 2017. The Second Digital Turn: Design beyond Intelligence. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Harries, Karsten. 2016. ‘The Need for an Environmental Aesthetics’ in Philosophy of Architecture: Lecture Notes. Yale University, online. (274‐285)

McDonough, William, and Michael Braungart. 1992. “The Hannover Principles,”

McDonough, William. 2002. Cradle to Cradle Remaking the Way We Make Things. New York: North Point Press.

McDonough, William. 2013. The Upcycle beyond Sustainability – Designing for Abundance. New York: North Point Press.

Picon, Antoine. 2013. Ornament: the Politics of Architecture and Subjectivity. AD Primers. Chichester: Wiley.

Picon, Antoine. 2021. The Materiality of Architecture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

United Nations Environment Programme. 2019. UNEP Circularity Platform. https://buildingcircularity.org/

Schedule

WeekMonday 2:00-6:00pm Thursday 2:00-6:00pm
113.09LOTTERY16.09WORKSHOP 1 FABRICATION + TRAINING
220.09WORKSHOP 223.09WORKSHOP 3 + EXHIBIT + PARTNERS
327.09BIG SHAPES30.09INSTANTIATE
404.10INSTANTIATE07.10ANALYSE, REPRESENT, PROTOTYPE
511.10ANALYSE, REPRESENT, PROTOTYPE14.10ANALYSE, REPRESENT, PROTOTYPE
618.10ANALYSE, REPRESENT, PROTOTYPE21.10MIDREVIEW + COMPETITION JURY
725.10RECESS28.10RECESS
801.11REDESIGN04.11REDESIGN
908.11REDESIGN11.11REDESIGN
1015.11FABRICATION PREP18.11FABRICATION PREP
1122.11FABRICATION25.11FABRICATION
1229.11 FABRICATION 02.12ASSEMBLY + REPRESENTATION
1306.12ASSEMBLY + REPRESENTATION09.12 ASSEMBLY + REPRESENTATION
1413.12FINAL REVIEW AND EXHIBIT16.12

Instructor

Peter Frederick Ortner
Assistant Professor

F. Peter Ortner is Assistant Professor and MArch and PhD Coordinator for Architecture and Sustainable Design at the Singapore University of Technology and Technology and Design. Peter’s research leverages computational techniques to create sustainable architecture and urban design. His current research introduces optimization into the process of design for circularity, augmenting the ability of the architect to contribute to zero-waste, carbon neutral cities. Predicting urban metabolism data for urban design scenarios is another on-going research pursuit. In recent research Peter has applied computational design to challenges of urban resilience and automated mobility. His doctoral research built on insights from critical data studies and computational design to elucidate the changing role of architecture and architect in complex, data-driven urban systems.

Peter received a PhD from EPFL where his doctoral thesis was nominated for the EPFL and City of Lausanne prizes. At EPFL Peter was a collaborator with Media x D Peter received a PhD from EPFL where his doctoral thesis was nominated for the EPFL and City of Lausanne prizes. At EPFL Peter was a collaborator with Media x Design Lab, a crossdisciplinary team of designers and computer scientists. He holds a Master’s in Architecture from Harvard University where he was recipient of the Faculty Design Award, and a Bachelor of Arts cum laude with distinction in architecture from Yale University. Peter has practiced architecture in the United States and Switzerland.

View his full profile at https://asd.sutd.edu.sg/people/faculty/frederick-peter-ortner

Students

  • Aaron Soares
  • Ang Yang Zhi Julius
  • Chan Xi Levona
  • Joshua Ng Kay Wern
  • Jovin Lim Jing Kai
  • Kuan Yi Heng
  • Ooi Tian Sheng Christopher Brian
  • Rachel Cheah Jiawen
  • Ryan Chua Jie Jian
  • Sharmayne Lim Zhiyu