Make Architecture



08 – Motion: Moving facade

The aim of this project was  the conceptualization, design and fabrication of an kinetic object utilizing gears. The idea behind this project was to build a gear system that can be used to move flexible panels to allow natural light to enter and natural circulation to take place. This project utilizes belt, rotational and horizontal gear systems.

  • For this project you’ll need:
  • One high torque electrical motor
  • One power adaptor
  • One 1/8″ sheet acrylic (18″ x 32″)
  • Universal laser cutter
  • One rubber band

Step one: Designing the systemIn a rough drawing set out the basic parameters and requirements for the system. Pay special attention to how the forces are to be transferred from one component to another.  In this case belt, shaft and pressure surfaces were used.

Step two: Defining the gears

Since the aim of the design was not the increase or significant decrease of speed or torque from the motor gears and wheels of a standard size were decided on. The gear profiles were created by using the GearGen plugin for Rhino. The module used was 2.

Step 3: Fabricating the components

After the various components were designed in Rhino the design was converted to a two dimensional drawing, scaled for fabrication from a 1/8″ acrylic sheet. The pieces were cut on the Universal laser cutter and assembled using a general superglue.

The copper panels visible in the design were made from thin copper sheet cut and bent to shape.


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Instructor: Nick Gelpi TA: Skylar Tibbits TA: Varvara Toulkeridou
Class Times, Monday, 1-4pm - room 5-216
4.184 is an intensive introduction to methods of making explored through a wide range of brief but focused 1-week exercises. We'll engage the real and leave behind representation in the focused context of this class gaining skills for utilizing a range of fabrication machines and technologies from lasercutting, waterjet, 3D printing, welding, formworking-molding, casting, gears, joints and composites.
In this workshop we'll constrain ourselves to the territory of the 1:1. Students will represent architectural constructions at full scale and develop a more intimate relationship with technology by engaging the tools and techniques that empower us. We will gain access to the most cutting edge machines and technologies in the MARS lab at the Center for Bits and Atoms.
The second layer of information for this course will be to look at a series of case studies in which construction methods and technologies have played a dominant role in the design process .
Over the past 20 years, architects have focused on the technology of representation to create new ideas of what architecture could be. Looking back today, much of that research failed to substantially change the way we design buildings by focusing on apriori formal configurations. This class makes the contention that this failure comes from a lack of considerations of the potentials within fabrication knowledge. We look to the future of what building might become, given the expanded palette of personalize-able technologies available to us as architects. Students will participate in curious technological and material investigations, to discover the potentials, known and unknown, for these various technologies.
The sub-disciplines of what's drawn and what's built have been compartmentalized and disassociated as the representational tools of architecture have distanced themselves from the techniques of making. At the same time the technologies for “making” in architecture have provided us with new possibilities for reinventing how we translate into reality, the immaterial representations of architecture.


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