Penumbra

										

Penumbra explores potentials for the design and fabrication of active building skin systems. It extends a design concept proposed by Richard Blythe, Paul Minifie and Jan van Schaik in their architectural competition entry for the ‘House of Fairytales’. This presented a honeycomb arrangement of apertures operating as a highly articulated building skin, opening and closing

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Penumbra explores potentials for the design and fabrication of active building skin systems. It extends a design concept proposed by Richard Blythe, Paul Minifie and Jan van Schaik in their architectural competition entry for the ‘House of Fairytales’. This presented a honeycomb arrangement of apertures operating as a highly articulated building skin, opening and closing to evoke the effect offered by a forest and to work as a pixilated luminous screen which used the open/closed operation of each cell to create shadow images of figures from Hans Christian Anderson’s fairytales moving over the surface of the building. The concept anticipated a modular system that could be produced using advanced manufacturing processes to create intelligent and structurally self-supporting components.

The Penumbra project extends this concept and fabricate prototypes of a component system to act as such a building skin. Drawing on recent research into active building skins, the project will develop designs and prototypes of lightweight, geometrically flexible components with novel technologies for responsive shading systems. The prototype is composed of a series of component cells, an integrated structural frame and an aperture which can switch between transparent and opaque. This aperture is programmable, containing microscopic which can be controlled by an electric charge. This tiny manipulation of matter enables major visual and environmental effects, allowing the skin to provide solar shading, and highly dynamic lighting conditions. This enables the building facade to simulate alternative experiences such as the dappled light of a forest and even operate as an abstracted pixelated screen.

Project Credits:
Lead Designers: Richard Blythe, and Paul Minifie
Prototyping and Detailed Design Lead: Nick Williams
Detailed Design Consultation: Jane Burry and Jan van Schaik
Electronic design and actuation control: Scott Mitchell and Daniel Prohasky
Research Assistants: Amaury Thomas, Joshua Salisbury-Carter, Brendan Knife, Wenjin Lai, Todd Dawson, Guangshan Pan.

Project funding from the Design Research Institute at RMIT University. Material sponsorship and support from SwitchGlass.

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