RCD have collaborated with the staff and students of the Architecture and Fine Arts departments at Oxford Brookes University on a striking new urban intervention/sculptural pavilion at the entrance of the new Abercrombie building. The structure compromises 20 extremely tall and slender steel ‘trees’ that support a thin folded steel plate ‘leaf’ or canopy. The overall impression is that of a wooded glade where light is filtered through varying diameter circular voids in the canopies and the stems bathing the visitors to the installation in a dappled light. RCD were an integral part of the conceptual design process following the initial student competition.
The extreme slenderness of the stems (only 89mm diameter and 6000mm tall) required extensive input from Ramboll’s fluid dynamics team in Copenhagen and fatigue analysis by our Advanced Engineering team in Southampton to model the complex wind interactions in order to prevent dynamic failure and to keep the structure as slim as possible. The canopies are 2500mm at their widest but only need very thin steel plate (2mm) because of the inherent stiffness provided by folds and creases in the form.
We developed routines to allow the circular voids to intelligently self organize on the surface of the stems and canopies in relation to the level of stress. High stress in a particular area meant that voids were fewer in number. Dampening factors were built into the initial coding to ensure that the overall impression of the holes was a gradual fading rather than unsightly bunching. The work will be extended to include our work on integrating a lightweight finite element solver within the automatic void generation and movement process in order to give more control and instant feedback on structural performance. A technical paper will be presented at a future paper conference.