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A Gnarly Review at Portland State

May 14, 2010

Professor Andrei Gheorghe at Portland State University hosted an interesting mid-term review last week which I was happy to have the opportunity to attend.   Undergraduate students in his 482 Architecture studio presented preliminary design work on a high-speed rail terminal to be located on the east bank of the Willamette River here in Portland’s Rose Quarter District, for those familiar with the area.

The students were asked to integrate parametric design into their conceptual design process.  Each of the four presentations I viewed did so by using the Rhino/Grasshopper environment in unique and interesting ways.   The modeling work was presented both in images and physically printed using a 3d printer.

Philip Chen

Philip Chen first presented a series of models derived from a planer model representing the programmatic spaces within the terminal.  The model surfaces were warped and drawn towards one another at different locations when to activities were expected to connect those elements on the site.  For example, the side most planes represented access to the station at the concourse level.  The upper surface represented the inhabitable station roof.  In some instances, these were drawn together to facilitate access to the roof from the concourse level below.  Similarly, the shape of platform and entry areas were warped by site forces from the adjacent river and light-rail transit station.

Arielle Baune

The following presentation by Arielle Baune projected a 3D representation of connectivity patterns within the station envelope.  Arielle modeled the connections between station elements and estimated the volume of traffic between — the number of passengers arriving by bus versus cars for example — and mapped that traffic onto the physical site.  The model was then created based upon that traffic, the station space was divided into a grid and the mass placed at each grid point smaller if it was a point used more for transit than as a destination and vice versa.  The resulting model provided a tactile and informative view of the site program.

Pavel Sandu

Next, Pavel Sandu presented a model with the most immediate architectural feeling to it.  He was interested in site fragmentation that occurs when a transit station imposes a new grid onto an existing one.   The model was complex and and projected the feeling of a dense cityscape arrived at over years of development and change.

Chris Boon

The final presentation by Chris Boon showed a series of strong images.  Chris focused on linearizing the flow of traffic through the end-to-end train riding experience.  The model he presented was of a single station bay and possibly the most representational of the final form he was targeting for the overall design.  Interestingly enough, this was the one instance in which the physical model was less evocative than the 2d imagery because it was more fully refined.

All in all these were interesting and successful projects.  They raised some interesting thoughts on how parametric modeling can inform early design thinking as well how those models can best be presented as imagery or physical models.   In particular, one of the jurors commented that the students were tending to show the 3d printed model along with a visual image of the same thing, begging the question of  how the two media could be better used in a not so redundant manner.   This is Andrei’s first year in the quickly growing PSU program and he looks to be a great asset there.   I am looking forward to returning in early June to see the final presentations and how these experiments in preliminary parametric modeling inform the final results.

– Brian –

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