About
Feedback
Login
NEWS
ORGANIZATIONS
PROJECTS
PRODUCTS
1 to 12 of 12
Arion Doerr via TRI-LOX
A giant NEST has landed on the roof of the Brooklyn Children’s Museum (BCM) — and it’s not for the birds. Brooklyn-based design and fabrication practice TRI-LOX created NEST, the museum’s new interactive playscape built out of reclaimed timber from the city’s rooftop water towers. Designed with parametric tools, the sustainable installation takes inspiration from the unique nests of the baya weaver birds — their nests are featured in the museum’s educational collection — and comprises an organic woven landscape with 1,800 square feet of space for open and creative play.

Opened just in time for summer, the NEST playscape at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum (BCM) in Crown Heights caters to children ages 2 to 8. The woven wooden landscape is set on artificial turf and includes a climbable exterior and a series of ribbed tunnels and rooms that make up a permeable interior with entrances marked by bright blue paint. The reclaimed cedar slats not only make the structure easy to climb, but also partially obscure views for added playfulness. The top of the structure is crowned with a circular hammock area that directs views up toward the sky.

“In exploring the museum’s educational collection, we came upon a series of incredible bird nests and let them inspire our design,” said ​Alexander Bender​, co-founder and managing partner of TRI-LOX, which was commissioned by BCM through a request for proposals in mid-2017. “One nest in particular, made by the baya weaver bird, offers an intricately woven form with rooms, tunnels and multiple entries. This concept was then transformed into a climbable playscape that retains the natural materiality of the nest and tells a story of an iconic design within our vertical urban habitat — the NYC rooftop wood water tower. We quite literally brought the water tower back to the rooftop with this project … it just had to be turned into a giant nest first.”

NEST playscape is the newest focal point for the BCM, which consists of a series of architecturally significant designs befitting its title as the world’s first children’s museum. Rafael Viñoly designed the museum’s eye-catching yellow building in 2008. Seven years later, Toshiko Mori added a pavilion on the 20,000-square-foot rooftop that was complemented with lush planting plan and a boardwalk by Future Green Studio in 2017.



Dan Arnold
Complex and beautiful geometries take on sculptural form in the hands of Mario Romano. His particular brand of poetry is rooted in the language of construction. Specializing in digital fabrication yet heavily inspired by nature, Romano’s Santa Monica, California, art/design studio has pioneered architectural systems that combine parametric modeling software with CNC machining to create facades that undulate like ocean waves or emulate bird feathers.

His latest venture is M.R. Walls, large-scale interior surfaces developed in collaboration with Corian. Panels are carved with intricate and endlessly variable gradient patterns informed by a giraffe’s spots, wind-blown reeds, and other earthly touchstones. These monolithic pieces bond seamlessly and are impervious to water, bacteria, and mold. Better yet, walls can be fabricated locally from digital files, reducing lead times and transportation costs. Blending elaborate organic motifs and cutting-edge technology, Romano’s work demonstrates that the wonder of the natural world never goes out of style.

Interior Design: Your houses are known for their wild exterior shapes. Where do your ideas come from?

Mario Romano: They start from sketches and a very abstract inspiration. Then I flesh out the concept, working from the outside in. I think about creating a sculptural object that just happens to be habitable. A straight-up and boxlike structure can feel domineering, whereas organic shapes are more becoming, feminine, approachable, and inviting.

ID: How does technology affect the surfaces you create?

MR: Digital fabrication is an emergent discipline. I explore the bridge between design concept and manifestation: How do you realize a computational design in the physical world and ensure the result is reliable, functional, and priced accessibly? CNC machines are the core route, currently.

ID: What’s your process for designing and building?

MR: The digitally created house can be realized almost at the click of a button. Every piece is labeled, etched, marked, and thought out, and then gets produced on a machine. The pieces fit together puzzle-like using an assembly map, which renders the construction of these complex structures user-friendly. All the houses I designed were built by local carpenters and framers utilizing open-source construction.

ID: That seems at once extraordinarily complicated and very straightforward.

MR: There’s something beautiful about organized complexity that attracts us to incredible landmarks—whether a constellation, the Grand Canyon, or the way a tree grows. We used to think that nature was random and chaotic; now we know it’s driven by an incredible logic—one we can experience but are only just beginning to understand.

ID: Nature is obviously a big source of inspiration for you.

MR: I think it is for everyone. That’s where wonder comes from. It could be the color of someone’s eyes or the shape of a face or a body that gives us that first charge of attraction. Beauty is of incredible value; we’re driven by it, but it’s often underappreciated.

ID: What sparked M.R. Walls?

MR: I wanted to expand the design language of the wall surface. The only existing option was tile: the same shape repeated, with grout lines dictated by that form. You’re trapped by the shape of this one mass-produced object. In contrast, with M.R. Walls, unique pieces fit together to create an uninterrupted design experience that extends over a large area. People want something they haven’t seen before, that evokes mystery and intrigue. When you see a large-scale object, you wonder how it was created. No one thinks that when they see tile. This is what attracts people to marble slabs: They want a continuous slice of nature on the wall. Bookmatching stone is like putting the mountain back together—inside the house.

ID: What led to collaborating with Corian?

MR: Practice, experimentation, testing, and research. Ultimately, we developed a patent-pending software platform linked with low-level robotics; assembly is embedded into the design so there’s only one way to install the product. We then asked which material could perform the role. I also wanted to make the product accessible and affordable. With Corian solid surface, I could bond pieces to make one monolithic slab. Co
Terreform ONE
Terreform ONE

The Monarch Sanctuary (Lepidoptera terrarium) will be eight stories of new commercial construction in Nolita, NYC. Programmatically, the building space will mostly contain retail and office life. Yet central to its purpose is a semi-porous breeding ground, waystation, and sanctuary for the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus). It is a pioneering building – one that aims to be ecologically generous, weaving butterfly conservation strategies into its design through the integration of open monarch habitat in its facades, roof, and atrium. Not just a building envelope, the edifice is a new biome of coexistence for people, plants, and butterflies.

The monarch butterfly of North America is a threatened species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services is currently assessing whether the monarch needs to be granted “endangered species” status, while the monarch population erodes due to the combined forces of agricultural pesticides and habitat loss. Monarchs are a delicate presence in New York City, migrating each year from Mexico and Florida to the city’s precious green spaces to lay their eggs on the milkweed plant.

This project will vitally serve as a large-scale Lepidoptera terrarium. It will bolster the monarch’s presence in the city through two strategies: open plantings of milkweed and nectar flowers on the roof, rear facade, and terrace will provide breeding ground and stopover habitat for wild monarchs, while semi-enclosed colonies in the atrium and street side double-skin facade will grow monarch population. The insects will have fluid open access to join the wild population, enhancing overall species population numbers.Our connection to the community of NYC is essential. The prime location will attract attention and educate the public on Monarch extinction. It has a total area of 30,000 square feet and is to be located in the heart of Nolita, between Soho and the burgeoning art district along the Bowery, and a few blocks west of the New Museum. The site is just around the corner from the Storefront for Art and Architecture and currently exists as two plots occupied by small residential buildings, which will be combined into a single property.Although it is a relatively small commercial building by New York standards, the building will present a striking public face and a powerful argument in favor of a diversity of life forms in the city. It will face Petrosino Square, a small triangular paved public park, named after a fallen NYPD lieutenant. The façade of the Monarch Sanctuary building will add a lush vertical surface to the edge of the square.

The double-skin street facade, with a diagrid structure infilled glass at the outer layer and with “pillows” of EFTE foil at the inner layer, encloses a careful climate - controlled space, 3’ deep and 7 stories tall. This “vertical meadow,” the terrarium proper, serves as an incubator and safe haven for Monarchs in all seasons. It contains suspended milkweed vines and flowering plants to nourish the butterflies at each stage of their life cycle. Hydrogel bubbles on the EFTE help maintain optimal humidity levels, and sacs of algae help purify the air and the building wastewater. Solar panels on the roof provide renewable energy to assist in the powering the facilities. Butterflies can come and go as they need from inside the building skin system and roof.

Other features of the project are equally in service of the insects. LED screens at the street level provide magnified live views of the caterpillars and butterflies in the vertical meadow, which also connects to a multi-story atrium adjacent to the circulation core. Interior partitions are constructed from mycelium, and additional planting at the ceiling enhances the interior atmosphere and building biome. Hovering around the building, a few butterfly-shaped drones take readings and maps of the immediate microclimate. They return every few minutes to recharge, and their combined real-time data works to maintain the butterfly health.

The building is intended to serve as an object lesson in enhancing the urban environment with green technologies, including plant life and other creatures, in designing for other species, and in conveying images of new possibilities for the urban environment. This project alone will not save the Monarch but it will crucially raise awareness about our much-loved insect residents.
MIT Mediated Matter Group
the aguahoja pavilion — this tall, honey-skinned cocoon structure — is composed of the most abundant biopolymers on the planet. molecules found in insect exoskeletons, tree branches and yes, even components found in our own bones were printed by a robot, shaped by water and formed into this organic tower by MIT media lab’s mediated matter group — a team of researchers led by neri oxman.

it looks sort of insecty, sort of leafy, orange, yellow and brown, with milky white bones hugging it all together for now… but heat, humidity, light and time will of course run their course on these water-based materials. programmable or not, fabricated-digitally and printed robotically or not — from dust to dust and from water to water, these organisms will serve their purpose then vanish to create something else — unlike the 300 million tons of plastic produced globally each year. only about 10% of that will vanish.

aguahoja was created by researchers at the MIT media lab’s mediated matter group, led by neri oxman. within this project: a pavilion and a wall of artifacts. what you’ve seen thus far, the tall leaf-like cocoon, is the aguahoja pavilion, which replicates nature in its appearance and, more impressively, its life-cycle. ‘[aguahoja’s] environmentally responsive biocomposite artifacts are composed of the most abundant materials on our planet – cellulose, chitosan, and pectin. these components are parametrically compounded, functionally graded, and digitally fabricated to create biodegradable composites with functional, mechanical, and optical gradients across length scales ranging from millimeters to meters. in life, these materials modulate their properties in response to heat and humidity; in death, they dissociate in water to fuel new life.’

‘in old growth forests and coral reefs, waste is virtually non-existent,’ says the mediated matter group. ‘within this framework, matter produced by one member of an ecosystem, living or nonliving, inevitably fuels the lifecycle of another. the result is a system fueled by water with unparalleled efficiency in the use of energy and resources. this cycle of birth, adaptation, and decay allows ecosystems to use materials in perpetuity’. the environments we build are rarely as natural or as efficient as coral reefs. instead, we extract materials from earth faster than they can grow. we build things that outlive their functions, then throw them under a rug of land or dump them in the water as we turn the other way to begin looking for more materials to prematurely extract and use for a short while.

adjacent to the pavilion, environmentally responsive biocomposites line the wall in a crescendo of color: ‘the aguahoja artifacts.’ glossy, dense, soft, brittle, strong and tough as leather — each material responds very differently to environmental factors, but all of them respond nonetheless. some get cold and hot easily. others darken and lighten as the seasons change. humidity is a catalyst for all of them in life, and in death they all dissociate in water and return to the ecosystem. chitin, for example, may go on to compose the exoskeletons of crustaceans, or the cell walls of fungi.

Common Edge
Recently I received a small, thick book from Monacelli Press with the enigmatic title, Now We See Now. I like their publications so I immediately opened it and began to read. The book was by “The Living.” That didn’t register with me, as I didn’t know what sort of work “The Living” might do. Was it architecture?

Apparently the answer is yes. In our new age of bioengineering, all sorts of promising new avenues of research have emerged to renew better ways of making buildings. It turns out that Columbia professor David Benjamin and his firm—“The Living”—are pursuing some fascinating methods for harnessing biological processes, and advanced computer software, in order to design and fabricate things. Some of what they make is undoubtedly architecture, though their rhetoric suggests that they are uncomfortable with any kind of conventional description of what they do.

One of the promising aspects of bio-morphic design is the prospect of getting buildings that come closer to satisfying the most basic human needs and social requirements. Another is that designers could touch and come closer to the things they want to produce than is possible in our current system. Most architects sit behind computer screens and never see the buildings they design until the ribbon cutting ceremony, if then. They don’t dirty their hands collaborating with makers. That’s a problem, I think. I also agree with Benjamin that designers should be much more familiar with life sciences, including neuroscience, than they are in our current educational system.

But that’s where we part company. The research of “The Living” mistakes biological processes of cell generation and growth for the very different means by which humans make useful things. By starting with the blatantly false statement that “all buildings are living organisms” the premises behind Now We See Now are flawed. Buildings are like living things, and contain living things, as Francesco di Giorgio Martini confirmed during the early Renaissance. Humanism and classicism use the body and mind as the basis for all design, but rely on analogies and metaphors in order to do so. They do not mistakenly equate natural organisms with human-made artifacts, as Benjamin clearly does.