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Forming With Magnets

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Student name: 
Santiago Alvarez
Master 2
Carrie McKnelly
ARCH 7420: Advanced Architectural Design II
Spring 2016

The basis of the studio was form finding.  Many times in architecture, designers establish their form and the building is then clad in a material that has been altered and fabricated for that specific purpose.  It was our goad to research a number of different materials to see if we could create something architecture through the properties of the material.

The focus of my research for this studio did not so much rely on one material, but the mixture between a fine iron powder mixed with Elmer’s glue.  This iron based adhesive mixture would then be applied to a number of magnets and the form would be created through human interaction, but also by the authoritative power of a magnetic field.  It was my intention to create a structure that could become free of the constraints of gravity and take a new form.  Going through a number of prototypes, exploring possible structures such as columns, bridging and branching, I was apply to test many different forms.  Column being controlled by two stacked magnets, Bridging being controlled by two stack rows of magnets, and Bridging being controlled by 3 variously located magnets.

 After several iterations, I decided to continue with the idea of branching and developed a system where each branch would have 2 or 3 connection points set apart at specific angles and could be attached by a number of pieces to create a structure.  Size of each branch could be determined by increasing the strength of the magnet. 

The final component of the studio was to apply our new forms to a folly on the outdoor roof garden at Knowlton.  I designed a mediation garden for the roof that would implement the system to created different types of spaces.  The magnetic branches could be assembled to create several enclosures for meditation.  Due to the high content of iron and the curvature created from the pulling of the magnets produced a structure that has high compressive qualities.  Also, light could be controlled to create unique effects due to the “spikey” quality of the branches due to the magnetic field. 


Future application to the system would involve a formwork-less concrete that has been mixed with iron and then manipulated into the branching system.   These concrete branches could be joined and held together by the use of magnets and used for many different architecture uses. 

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