Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Translated article: How SketchUp and Rhino Helped Create 5D Installation SLAVA DURAK

Original article in Russian, 2013, editor-in-chief: Below is a slightly abridged version of a large report Evgeny Shirinyan published recently in his blog about his contribution to a unique photography exhibition held at the Moscow Central House of Artists late past February. The exhibition focused on Vyacheslav Polunin, a Soviet/Russian/planetary comedian and performing artist, president of the Academy of Fools and founder of the Snowshow, whose work  demands that his story should be told with utmost creativity. Perhaps the younger readers will be at a loss to say who Polunin is, so this article is a useful piece of information. For those who won’t find the time to click on the links given by Shirinyan let me cite the media news: “The 5D format opens up five senses. The viewers will see photographs, feel the smell of meadows, woods, flowers and bread, get in touch with creativity, hear a special soundscape and taste ice-cream made of natural ingredients and homemade cookies”.
I would have recommended to read the article below even if it had been a simple report. However, Evgeny also describes the process of both standard and unconventional application of such tools as SketchUp (for modeling) and Rhino (for computation), reflects on interactions with real model producers and looks into possibilities of teamwork based on BIM.
Evgeny Shirinyan is a Moscow Architectural Institute lecturer, Digital Culture module supervisor at the Moscow School of Architecture (MARCH), PARALAB group member, PROSAPR blogger and also active contributor and commentator. Among his publications are CAD and Art, or the Fascinating Potential of SpaceClaim, BIM = Architecture? On the Development of Architectural Education, and Inforbix — a View from the Outside, or Web 3.0 is Already in the Making.
Courtesy of the author, the present publication has drawn on Evgeny’s post SLAVA DURAK, or the Way It Was.
This article is the first attempt at recording the process of designing and manufacturing installations, which are in fact a kind of architectural projects. It was perhaps precisely the big number of different teams that had worked to stage the SLAVA DURAK 5D exhibition that prompted me to take a new look at BIM and integrated design problems. For details about the exhibition visit RIA NOVOSTI report and a VESTI TV story.

Troyka Multispace curated the exhibition and Vladimir Mishukov, who did the photographs, acted as the exhibition artist. Incidentally, we have enjoyed working with Vladimir and found his methods of tuning oneself up to a constructive approach very helpful. A good way of conducting talks. 
At the site. Photograph by Dasha Kovaleva

I would like to start with deadlines. Three weeks for the large DNK hall at the Central House of Artists is not much. If we take into account the complexity of the exhibition, it is very little time. At first, I didn’t even want to get involved, but Dasha and Seryozha talked me into it. Almost immediately, we came up with something like a Gantt chart.
Nebotov drew up this chart, and the scale of ”disaster” became clear to everyone

What Was to Be Done
It being a photo exhibition, the main component was Vladimir Mishukov’s photos of the well-known mime Slava Polunin. First we were sent preliminary designs. Sort of tunnels made of fabric with photographs put up inside were the main components of the exhibition space. “Lianas” were to rise up to the ceiling and a spectacular polygonal “tree” designed by Alexander Matveyev was placed in the center, on which guys from Interactive Lab projected mapping. In addition, smells, sounds and, of course, light were paramount aspects of space. In a word, a real “5D foolish exhibition”.
We were to design and monitor the manufacturing and assembly of installations based on our favorite high-tech lycra, or biflex.
Fairly soon we came up with the idea of a curvilinear carcass, and also changed the original shape of the tunnels to that more suitable for biflex.
I am practically convinced that the process of staging an exhibition is very similar to the IPD (Integrated Project Delivery) concept, which many are talking about, but few have had a hand in.

All were working as a single team as it was obvious that everyone was responsible for the outcome. There were, of course, no special contracts, but there was the desire to do a good job. The architect had there and then to get out of his digital design vacuum and think up something optimal and feasible. Any solution was first talked over with the installation personnel because it had to be foolproof.

No Drawings

After taking measurements of the DNK hall and modeling the space in SketchUp, we in fact started promoting the idea of collecting all information within a single (that’s right, a single!) model. Light technicians, Troyka and Interactive Lab all used that model. I can’t say that there was feedback, but for our part we conscientiously brought the different participants in the project together.  
General model in color by layer mode
Eventually, we took our laptops along to the site every time and frequently witnessed the following scenes:

V.Mishukov (in the foreground) and SketchUp. Photograph by Sergey Nebotov

We made use of practically no drawings while SketchUp with its simple interface enabled all the other participants to get involved in the 3D process. Although I think that BIMx from Graphisoft would have served better for communication with the client.

Computational Model

As we used SketchUp to assemble the installation and our tunnels were fully curvilinear, major calculations were made in Rhino. Kangaroo plug-in was used to simulate the behavior of soap films. Rhino coped 100% as far as production was concerned. More about it later.

Resultant Kangaroo grid
“Liana” production principle. Left: simulation result, right: computational grid
Physical modeling
Despite the diverse means of modeling and computation, we started working with physical models almost from the outset. For example, it proved next to impossible to create the “liana” system in digital media. Too many variables precluded digital modeling (as well as made any scheduling impossible), while the desired systematized chaos of “lianas” could be attained rather easily in a model. 
Dasha working on the model. Incidentally, we used a similar principle in our System at ArchMoscow
It proved especially productive to make 1:1 models. Just the same, the computer did not give a full sense of space. That was how we arranged tunnel layouts and verified the size of the tunnel’s inner space.
Dasha, Vladimir and I. Photography by Sergey Nebotov
A tablet and pen made it possible to register various solutions instantaneously.
Sergey acting as Modulor
Dasha is tired
Carcass, Rhino and Production

The carcass was a closed contour made of bent 2 mm thick aluminum tubes 30 mm in diameter. I should say we had a tough time with the carcass. One of the greatest accomplishments was us mastering the tube bending technology on NC machines (Stroiplast LLC). Rhino facilitated the transfer of NURBS-curves into the grappling of arches, material estimates, drafting of design specifications for production and overall carcass optimization. I should say, AutoCad is unable (at least I failed) to estimate the length of the curve. That’s that.
Optimized and marked elements of a standard tunnel carcass
The approximate look of design specifications for production
For the fun of it, I decided to visit the plant and monitor the production process. As a result, I spent there three days as the managers could not meet the tough deadline. In fact, I was giving out assignments just standing by the machine. Sketching the tube by stencils came next. That was when we realized that some items were bent a wrong way: something was screwed up at the input stage. The way I understood it, the trial element was not bent. It had been a rush job. In general, you can’t rely on telephone calls and under the circumstances should engage in purchases, formalizing commissions, etc. as much as possible.
Metal proved a very “live” and finicky material: yield points, diameter limits, bend radius, etc. Immersion in the strength of materials. Unfortunately, we failed to make a strength analysis, but we tried to minimize stress through roundings and turning joints.

Finished elements. About to cut off technical sections
Pattern Cutting and Sewing

This time it was not we who did the sewing, but at the final stage, when it was getting really tough, we joined in. Dasha alone could do the “lianas”: after all, it was she who had thought them up!
Working on the 1:17 scale

Nerve-racking commotion usually starts at the assembly stage. That time was no exception. Unfortunately, we did not have the time to make a trial tunnel and test every solution on it. Interestingly, when working on a close-knit team to a backbreaking deadline you cannot pick up the culprit. Under the circumstances and provided there is mutual trust (which is precisely the main component of IPD, see this book), all those involved try to find the optimum solution rather than dig in their heels and start acting up. 

The carcass itself. Photography by Sergey Nebotov

Vladimir Mishukov decides to leave it as is. Photography by Sergey Nebotov 

We all had the jitters, but the shape of the tunnel was so successful and transformable that it all came out even better than we had imagined. The tunnels transformed into suspended awning structures. They looked surreal in line with the exhibition concept.

When it came to mounting, we worked nonstop. It was hard, but we did it. Below are some of my photographs of the result and a small video I did with the help of a YouTube editor.

I should say that the most extraordinary impression came from watching how people get their bearings in an unusual space and interact with it. It seems to me that it is yet difficult to simulate that on a computer.

1.    Such undertakings are the best testing ground for training architects. This option is harder, but more productive than any abstract workshop.
2.    How new technologies (even the artless ones such as SketchUp) should be promoted? Only through personal example that should motivate others. And you can’t do without psychology here.
3.    What matters is not the availability of technologies, but the desire (!) to interact and meet each other halfway.
4.    Technologies are powerless if people do not want to listen, hear and make suggestions.
5.    Architects should swap their vague position of a designer or free artist for a proactive involved role in the process. Anyhow, it seemed to me that the team of guys who did the mounting job appreciated our initiatives.

6.    IPD, even on such a “homemade” scale, calls for total commitment. Are you ready to commit yourself?

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