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WIP: Modeling the Vdara-

September 18, 2012
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This is the first in a series of Work-In-Progress posts, to give an idea of the types of modeling and analysis happening at Slate Shingle Studio; and a follow on post to the one last November about the Vdara Death Ray in Las Vegas.  The problem: two shiny glass hotels in the desert sun nicely arranged such that one focuses all that reflected solar radiance right down poolside on the other.  That the solar reflections off the buildings might be an issue was not ignored during the design process, a newspaper article about the Death Ray mentions that a “high-tech film” was applied to the the glass on the south of the Vdara to prevent just such problems.

Annotated site plan showing the Vdara, the Aria, and the pool in between. The red arcs are the first parametrically drawn base areas defining the hotel forms.

The missing piece of the picture is that it isn’t the glass on the Vdara that is actually causing the problem.  Its the Vdara’s sister hotel the Aria, with an enormous curved facade directly across the street, that reflects sun back onto the Vdara.  The geometry of the two buildings is simple, both are composed of circular arcs centered at approximately the same location in the roadway interchange between the hotels.  Unfortunately, the base of a parabolic mirror can also be approximated by a circular arc.  And although the focal points of the two masses are well clear of one another, the convergence zone at certain dates and times appears to be tight enough to overheat the air volume over the pool area. That convergence is what I am exploring.

I’m in the process of modeling and analyzing this hotel complex using Rhino3d and my Heliotrope solar calculator plugin for Grasshopper to understand how the solar focus of these buildings line up across the season.  Based on Google Earth/Maps images and a site plan of the complex published in Architectural Record, I constructed the opposing buildings in Rhino.

The overall model in progress with the solar rays of interest drawn in.

To build the model, I first constructed arcs on the underlying site plan image and then determined where the center points of those arcs were.  Given the center points, I then parametrically generated additional arcs for the various elements of the hotels all with the same centers and with their beginning and end points adjusted to fit the site plan.  The ends of the arcs were connected by segments to form closed surfaces and the surfaces extruded vertically to the published heights of the hotels.  Next steps are to cut away some of the massing volume to match the actual structures, form matrices of points on the surfaces, and use the surface normals at those points to study the incident solar patterns.

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