ARable - Post Digital Architecture System with Augmented Reality

Keung Shing Fung Adwin, Chan Tsz Sun Ovan, Leung Ho Wai Ian
The Chinese University of Hong Kong, School of Architecture, Hong Kong
Hong Kong

Project idea

The project aims to improve Myanmar’s informal built environments and positively impact underprivileged communities. It does so by capitalizing on widespread smartphone technology and locally available material resources and labour force and incorporating these in a novel, flexible building spaces design system.

The project takes place in Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar, which has one of the lowest public space per capita ratios in the world. The developed design system relies on collaboration with local communities who are given the power to directly engage in the design and building process of their public space through the assistance of bespoke smartphone AR applications.

Bamboo is the main construction material, lowering cost and guaranteeing sustainable construction. The project relies on a specific mathematical grid system to construct shell structures from bamboo splits. The system's flexibility allows automated assistance in both the form-finding and construction process. The system has been deployed on several sites adjacent to the Gyo Phyu Pipeline where informal squatter and pedestrian activities can be found. Different context situations and providing results in a diverse built outcome showing the versatility of the method.

Project description

This project focuses on developing an AR-aided deployable bamboo shell structure system. The system mainly focuses on using bamboo as the primary material, as it is one of the most abundant materials in Myanmar which also promotes green material for sustainable architecture. We discovered that bamboo splits have the characteristics to withstand torsions in asymptotic curve networks. Lines in an asymptotic curve network allow them to be prefabricated flat on the ground and popped into shape. A novel movable bamboo joint method has been developed that allows these shape transitions, allowing us to build these structures with great ease.

The chosen 4 sites are next to the Gyo Phyu Pipeline and all have distinctive characteristics. The first application is a bus stop pavilion to provide shelter from weather while waiting. The second application is located at the city centre at the end of the pipeline. Its structure is designated as a welcoming entrance and provides community space for locals. The third application is an abandoned open site. As local communities have many outdoor activities, its sheltered space provides a welcoming resting zone and relatively low activity area. The final application turns a small playground into a multipurpose open space that can house outdoor learning and community activities. With a system that minimizes construction complexity and broadens the design possibility, it is able to generate design solutions for all 4 sites adapting to different constraints and design needs, and to provide construction plans which are easily constructed with local manpower.

After a detailed joint model was built to test out the workability of the design, the bus stop pavilion was chosen for workflow demonstration. A 1:5 scale model was built to test out the whole construction process with AR devices (also commonly available on today’s smartphones). The model building process demonstrates the system’s property of being deployable from a flat grid when force is applied to one end. No advanced building techniques are required throughout the whole construction process. Therefore, the local communities are able to create their own shelter with simplified design guidance and construction procedure under the system.

Technical information

Anticlastic Shells

The project uses kangaroo to optimize the shell structures performance as a double curved anticlastic surface to provide stability on the free-formed shell structure, the system allows the shell structure to be modified to adopt any site constraints such as obstacles and level difference.

Asymptotic Curves

The project uses asymptotic curves system which has zero normal curvature, this allows it to unroll into developable strip members which are more suitable for applying on straight bamboo strip members.

The use of asymptotic curves can minimize the loads on the bending axis of the structure. For members which have a single bending axis such as bamboo strips has one strong axis and one bending axis on its cross-section. The loads on asymptotic curves are mainly transferred on the strong axis direction to allow the members to withstand more load while fully utilizing its bending nature.

Another advantage of using asymptotic curves structure is that the curve system allows the grid to be flatten down for easy construction, while the finished grid has the tendency to be bended and deployed on site to return to its designed form.

AR Form-finding

By using a smartphone application plugin, we are able to utilize daily smartphones as an AR input device to carry out the form finding process, which minimizes the needs of specialized technology and ensures the program can be used in low-tech environments.
The plugin could provide a simple control interface that could instantly feedback designs in real scale to users. The application allows instant analysis including climate, daylight, structural study could be instantly feedback in order to optimize the design.

AR visualization could also facilitate the construction process, the projection of unrolled members and 3D instructions could minimize the use of technical drawings and allow the locals to contribute to the construction process easily. The flattened grid pattern is projected in AR spaces to allow easy construction on the ground, then being bended to the desired shape.

The use of smartphones as AR devices lowers the standard for people to reach and make use of high-tech tools in design and could simplify the construction process significantly especially when applied to low-tech environments such as Yangon.

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