In the Dallas office of Gensler, an international design and architectural practice headquartered in California, you will find an incredibly artistic structure, whose highly unusual yet organic design is truly representative of modern architecture. Adorning the office is an enormous, serpent-shaped steel screen, called “Frameworks: Cellure Structures”, that contains hundreds of smaller cells of gradually varying sizes.
For the project, the company hired Arktura, a Los Angeles-based design firm that believes in using modern manufacturing technologies to perfectly translate ideas into reality. With mechanical engineers and also a physicist on its team, the firm was able to deftly recreate the client’s vision, with the help of tailor-made software. Speaking about the project, the head of design and development at Arktura, Sebastian Muñoz, said:
It’s in our DNA to allow a lot of flexibility when we’re working with design teams…They wanted something that was really elegant and light but very architectural. They wanted it to have spatial qualities.
Located in the office lobby, the gently-curving structure resembles a serpent in shape. The steel framework consists of 260 unique, laser-cut boxes that were constructed using an 18-axis metal forming machine. The project included several changes and revisions, but with the help of custom-built software, the team was able to integrate flexibility and structural stability into the design. The complex and widely-varying shapes of the boxes would have otherwise been impossible to replicate individually with custom molds. Speaking about the digital design tool, Muñoz said:
The computing power was not possible not that long ago…We’re excited about it.
Once the metal boxes were built, the designers went forward with the task of aligning them in order to create the screen. Using sheet metal, instead of the more expensive composite materials, ensured that the cost of the project remained well within the client’s budget. As we move from the bottom to the upper portions of the structure, the sizes of the cells gradually increase, with the topmost row protruding out almost like scales.
The structure was constructed in nine, different parts prior to shipping. The prefabricated units were later assembled onsite, which according to Muñoz, further simplified the project execution process. Upon completion, the structure was secured firmly onto the concrete floor underneath. The framework uses a total of 9,500 rivets and as many as 14,000 points of alignment. Each of the boxes features a uniquely-shaped hole that allows sunlight to pass. The varying sizes of these cavities, across the screen, create a wonderful kaleidoscope of lights of different intensities. The individual cells also allow vendors and exhibitors to showcase their products.