CASULA: A design-build experiment (Authors: Ana Rolim and Vinícius Lemos)
Casula is a case of non-Euclidean geometry applied to a low-budget architectural prototype for temporary use in a campus. It was conceived by professor and last-year student, and built in 3 days by 12 undergraduate architecture students with the help of two carpenters from the school’s woodshop. The object translates a complex geometry, obtained from the deformation of a cubic form, using modeling and coding software, based on the technique of parallel stacking sectioning (Iwamoto, 2009).
It fits within the realm of architectural experiments, markedly in the last twenty years, using digital methods to expand the possibilities of material and formal production. In this context, cases of 1:1 scale experiments, such as Casula, have played an important role as ‘thinking and doing, design and fabrication, and prototype and final design become blurred, interactive, and part of a non- linear means of innovation’ (Speaks, 2002).
The ‘loft’ method was used as a substrate for the application of a surface material and to achieve a smooth final shape, which fully expresses its construction system: curvy shapes made of thin sheets of blue-edged locally sourced OSB plywood are stacked horizontally and spaced equidistant from each other while supported by pine timber beams. The structure generates certain sections in which people can sit alone or in groups, in different positions and postures.
As financial resources acquired through a grant were limited and did not allow for laser cutting of large panels at the time, the process combined digital design with analog construction. It was necessary to make the most out of the panel surfacing (38 sheets total), so that each layer derived from a 1½ plate, including base sections, A (lower portion), B (middle portion) and C series (top).
Both as a means of representing an idea and as an integral part of the creative process, the use of computational tools allowed for making it possible to adapt the project to the constraints that a real project normally demands. In the end it was a very informative and awarding experience for the students, as they could practice the need to think about the project and its construction in a rational systemic manner, characteristics inherent to several cases of contemporary works in which digital resources are applied.
Casula set in the campus' library garden
The artifact is permeable and inviting
Code: Rational of OSB sheets
The loft tool is key for shaping the object
Cutting layout of OSB sheets
The full code
Construction phase: OSB sheets are stacked and secured one to another with solid wood blocking
Construction phase: Cutting and finishing OSB boards
Assembling parts at site
People immediately started using Casula
Casula seen through the grass
The construction strategy of using solid blocks for structuring allows for a permeable object
The artifact sitting quietly at the site
The more squared side of Casula
Casula's top opens up to the tree canopies and sky above
Not your regular corner detail
Night view of Casula being used
The object is visually and physically permeable, and integrated to the site