Academic - Carnegie Mellon University - Third Year Studio II - February through May 2015 - Studio Commendation - In collaboration with Amy Rosen
Voxels, or three-dimensional spatial elements on a regular grid that associate their position in space based on their location relative to other voxels are the organizing factor of the entire project. VoxelCentre aims to shift away from the normative prescribed floorplan and storage system present in today’s architecture and existing maker centers. In essence, individuals have the moral and literal freedom to make their own space and use it for whatever they desire. The center simultaneously becomes a space for making as well as social experimentation; for instance, two woodworkers may find themselves next to each other one day, working on similar machinery, and may be on opposite sides of the center the next, separated by a large orange robot arm and a laser cutter.
Naturally, architecture is not meant to involve movement, so this core concept requires an immense amount of care in detail, such as allowing for the power, gas, and other resources necessary for fabrication to be embedded within each Voxel and perhaps “plug” into the large space of the building, and designing for potential failure. In addition, the mechanics of the building will need to cater towards human movement, so as to allow Voxels to transport from their maintenance and storage facility in the roof of the building to the lower floors while not interfering with key means of egress and program elements. These key areas of attention will be crucial in successfully creating a space where teleological theory in architecture can reign true: where function and human purpose are highlighted and revered. In addition, the contract theory is heavily involved in the building, especially in terms of fairness and co-existence. Individuals are not given preferential treatment, but may reserve the amount and location of space necessary for their work without restriction. The organization of the space deters from territoriality in an attempt at democratizing making.
The voxels move through the larger structure of the building suspended on a series of tracks that allow them to move between different voxel pads in different programmatic regions. The voxel pads themselves, shown above, are designed to be practical and multifunctional. When not occupied by a voxel, the area is freed up and can be occupied with work tables.
The structural system of Voxelcentre is more of an infrastructure to facilitate the movement of the voxels than a conventional building structural system. Everything in the structure is completely designed around the voxel, from the 24ft floor-to-floor height, to the tight spacing of the column grid. The form of the building itself stems from programmatic needs to balance the movement of the voxels around the makerspace with the remaining program that includes classrooms, a library, administrative offices, and a café. Although in practice, the various program elements need to be isolated from each other, showcasing the voxel system as a means of attracting new users was a paramount concern as well. By placing the secondary, more conventional program in the center, namely the library, classrooms, and café, users would be spatially immersed within the voxel infrastructure, without physically needing to be present in the maker area. In this way, the operations of Voxelcentre become its own best advertisement for new users.