This representation is composed by the 3-D used to analyze the different possibilities and calculate the structural integrity of the Seattle Central Library. With the assistance of powerful computers, the engineering team calculated the different forces to which the building is subjected in its quotidian. In these representations the building becomes either a clear system of overlapping boxes of columns and trusses, or an elaborate network of columns and beams complemented by the encompassing exterior façade. Faced with such a complex and bold object, the engineering team relied on the calculation capacity of modern computers to devise and optimize its structural system. Complex non-linear analyses were performed to define the structural framework and numerous studies were conducted to find the right geometry for the exterior grid. These electronic calculations, and the way they influenced the final design, are reflective of an identified trend in contemporary architecture driven by a new relationship between thinking and doing – thinking as doing. This trend reveals the techno-optimism of contemporary architectural practices, which by applying open models of practice are able to create a database of knowledge which is then used to inform design decisions, and adapt to external factors. The computer has enabled architecture to rethink the design process in terms of procedure and outcome which was unconceivable before.
This representation is composed of four orthogonal view drawings, two and three dimensional, which combined enumerate different components of the façade in two distinct places, namely on the connection between two planes of the façade and on the connection to the structure. The smaller images situate the detailed sections on the building’s envelope, while the larger images describe them.
The larger images represent an imaginary section and detail the intricate joints of the façade. Two components can be seen in these sections, specifically the drawn and the written information. Having as basis an abstract image, the names, dimensions and drawing conventions convert it into a precise representation of a buildable component. Without these elements, this drawing would be limited to the exercise of aesthetics (on which it also performs on its own right)and be outstripped of its functional meaning. If you can’t name it and you can’t measure it, you definitely cannot (accurately) build it. Like the map and the territory, these sections are frequently scaled one to one (when not bigger). Simulation is devised before the real; in these drawings we observe a generation by models of a real, which has been mapped before its existence, and whose ultimate goal is a physical reality.
Published March 7, 2008
Tags: A+U, conceptual, construction, engineer, exterior, hand drawing, orthogonal, print, professional audience, section
These images depict the sketches used by the engineering team to test and quickly diagram the structural system and its different components. Although they can appear to be different reiterations of the same drawing, upon closer inspection by a trained eye (familiar with the building and with the engineering visual jargon) they are revealed as different drawings, which together explain the structural system as a whole.
The three drawings show the structure in distinct points of the building and emphasize its three components. The left drawing is a cross section, showing the concrete core which holds a part of the floating platforms and helps to stabilize the structure; the middle drawing is a side elevation reflecting the structural façade which also stabilizes the building laterally; the right drawing is another cross section explaining the principal system of transverse steel beams/columns supporting the dislocated platforms.
These simple sketches also reveal the importance of expressive and communicative free-handing drawing, regardless of the reliance on digital technology in the design and construction process. They also stress that man and machine are not competing but complementary elements. If the structure is going to be calculated by a computer, it was envisioned by a man, and in their cooperation innumerable possibilities are created.