Coloniatecne – Progress

Coloniatecne – Day 4

Nature’s Toolbox: Biodiversity, Art, and Invention Show features Dissipative System by Charles Lee


Charles Lee, USA

Dissipative System


Digital prints, 23.63 x 31.5 inches

Thermochromatic tile wall installation, 46.5 x 27 inches

Courtesy of the artist and Bios Design Collective

The Dissipative System is a study into possible materials and construction techniques for a new biomimetic building. The house in this illustrated model uses a skin of thermo-chromatic tiles to regulate heat and curved smart solar control glass to regulate light transmission. Glazed ceramic cladding, such as the tiles on display, is used for the interior and exterior of the shell. The coated ceramic becomes lighter in high temperatures to reflect more light and darker in cool temperatures to absorb more heat—a system similarly seen in nature. In many color-changing species, including fishes, reptiles, amphibians, and crustaceans, temperature influences the distribution of pigment in cells. The resulting darkening or lightening aids heat absorption and reflection to help maintain the animal’s temperature.

The Field Museum text:
“Reptiles change color to control body temperature. The pigment melanin colors the skin of most animals—including humans. Reptiles can expand or contract melanin within individual cells. When melanin expands, skin darkens and absorbs heat; when it contracts, skin lightens and reflects heat. To absorb more heat, snakes flatten their bodies and lie perpendicular to the sun’s rays. At night, they coil tightly to retain heat. (Imagine buildings that change color and shape!)”
— Alan Resetar
Collection Manager,

Division of Amphibians & Reptiles,

The Field Museum

 Go see the show at the Field Museum in Chicago
A special thanks to Randy Rosenberg, Zorona Bosnic and Alesha Colberg Martinez for the support and opportunity
Find out more about Artworks For Change

ImageTile DiagramFinal

CALIFORNIA HIGH-SPEED RAIL- A New Diridon Station In San Jose

This is a visioning study down by the Perkins+Will San Francisco Office. The designers were Bill Katz and Jess Austin (me!) Andrew Wolfram was the managing principal and Arup provided engineering consultation.


This first scheme was developed to be a lighter weight structure that sailed above the current Diridon Station while creating a new space for The Proposed High Speed Rail. The structural diagram for this option was fairly simple, the large white members held themselves vertically with some basic columns helping out. The smaller cable like wire would provide the lateral support and respond to each unique loading condition. I used grasshopper to build the majority of this model hoping that any sizing or stress information we received from Arup could be integrated into the model. Thereby creating a feedback loop between the design and the structural requirements. Because this project was so short (two weeks!) we didn’t have the chance, but I know it can be done. The incredibly talented Ripon De Leon is updating our ColoniaTecne Project based on Buro Happold’s input.


This second scheme had some input from Andrew Tsay-Jacobs in our office. He went to engineering school and received three degrees before going to Columbia for his March; which is to say I think he’s very interesting. While he didn’t run any analysis or come up with any hard numbers we did sketch out a diagram that we think could work. Essentially the large columns are a vertical cantilever that triangulate at the bottom and there are smaller members that create an overall diaphragm for the roof. All very conceptual but this model was also made with grasshopper in the hopes that each member could be optimized. I am not publishing those definitions because they are a mess, and I think Perkins+Will might own them because I made them there. I hope you like it!

Design Studies Sculpture Studies and Undeveloped Competitions

Posted by Charles Lee.  These are a few images from old studies and projects that I have wanted to share for awhile.  My favorite are the Monumental scale 3d printed sculptures from the BIOS Design Node Series for the city of San Jose.  A Photobioreactor Pavilion also for the same as well as the idea of reused boat sails to create giant windmill sculptures.  Some topological studies.  A concept I played around with for Evolo Skyscraper about re-purposed Oil Rigs that turn into Autonomous community Rigscrapers. A sculpture competition entry for a police station where golden shields form a column to protect the  Pillar of Laws.  There are some Vasari Wind studies for Coloniatechne.  There a sculptural wall proposal for a shortlisted competition at the Denver International Airport. There are some renderings of a residential competition in Dallas that Chris Chalmers and his team submitted a few years ago for Re:Visions. There are some test renders of Canopies for the AIA re:use Canopy using Recycled Newspapers and one with Recycled Magazines.  Mostly it was all a bunch of fun and I thought they made nice images to share.

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Fabripod Configurator Mockup is Live!


 posted by Chris Chalmers, Fabripod 

Fabripod configutator mockup

This is a mockup of the lamp configurator I’m putting together for Fabripod, the company I’m starting that sells lamps. The mockup opens in a new window. Use the sliders on the left to control options like scale and materials. The resulting size and price is shown on the right. You cant buy laps with this configurator yet so the “make it” button doesn’t do anything yet. This is currently tested and working in firefox on both mac and windows. Its  working in chrome on windows, but not on mac (at least not on mine).

I’m still working out the kinks in the back end, so the pricing is not accurate yet. Stay tuned for the official release coming up soon! If you absolutely need to buy an Urchin lamp right now, check out the one size available in the Ponoko store!

Cabinet Wall Generator


 posted by Chris Chalmers, Fabripod 

This is a fun project I did for a friend who wanted to design a wall of cabinets with an integrated work surface. This definition takes lines on the ground as input and helps to compose a wall of individual doors, with sizes that you specify. Then it  projects a pattern be CNC cut into the doors. (cut it at Techshop or with 100k garages!)The pattern comes from an image that you add yourself so it could be anything. The example below used a photo of some shadows on the ground.

download the grasshopper file and rhino base file here

Chrysalis – Maker Stories #1


 posted by Chris Chalmers, Fabripod 
What would you use Chrysalis for?

That’s the question I have been asking each person who has backed my project on kickstarter . Listed below are the best answers so far, in no particular order.  I will continue to post the really outstanding ones on this blog and onBIOS in the weeks to come, so stay tuned!

Quoted directly from kickstarter backers’ comments:

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Cat in the Bag table by Filson Rohrbacher

Cat in the Bag table by Filson Rohrbacher

“My partner and I have designed a series of customizable furniture objects ( We designed the furniture to be parametrically transformed, exported into 2D cut files, downloaded for local CNC fabrication, and finished and assembled by a user. We’ve managed to design transformations in Grasshopper, and are in the process of (slowly) making it happen with Processing. But, really, Chrysalis is our holy grail that would help us more immediately realize the co-design process that’s really important to us and the project.”

Anne Filson – Filson and Rohrbacher Architecture
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“I want to be able to visualize data sets in 3D to create data embodied objects. ”

-David Bellona, Brooklyn, NY
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“Community involvement in public architecture, is another purpose that comes to my mind. So say the city of SF was going to contract the construction of a new sculpture in the park, The designer could create the basic forms, materials, construction methods, etc., and allow the citizens to manipulate a few variables to taylor it more to their liking. The designer could then consider the possibilities from public input, and create a hybrid product from their considerations. A more democratic form of public works can be achieved this way. I would definitely pitch it to the city… once it exists.

-Slate Werner, Santa Barbara, CA
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Check out the Chrysalis project on kickstarter here

ColoniaTecne Approved for Design Development-Invited To Group Exhibition in Seattle Gallery

BIOS Design Collective was invited to present some recent work and we thought this would be a great opportunity to share our latest design of ColoniaTecne our project that will be in the San Jose 2012 Biennial. This is one of the boards created for the group show at The Art On The Ridge Gallery in Seattle Washington. The project is an interactive pavilion that will engage the public through site and sound. The person experiencing the project will move through a “net” of sensors that interpret movement, sound and proximity and re-interpret that information as a display of light and sound. ColoniaTecne will react to its environment and create a new environment through interpretation, there by changing the paradigm of a typical structure from environmental control to environmental responsiveness. This project takes systemic cues from the cooperative nature of corral reefs. In corral reefs many individuals work in unison (coral polyps) to create the overall reef. Each individual responds to environmental factors that affect the final reef structure. Environmental factors include heat, light, food etc.

Latest renderings of the the project showing a more detailed understanding of connections and construction.

Two scaled models were also made for the exhibition. These models show our latest idea about structural bracing throughout the form. The waffle system is doubled with one on top of the other creating a triangulation between the two systems. This allows us visual complexity through simple design principles.

Formations Workshop 2011 – Revit Conceptual Tools

California College of the Arts has invited Charles Lee to give a workshop for the yearly set of instructional classes called Formations 2011 .  The workshop will be given with Co-Instructors from Autodesk with a focus on Revit Conceptual Tools.  For more information and to register go to . Here is a version of the photobioreactor sculpture and an ETFE Panel Study generated in Vasari 2011


SJ01- New Conceptual Pavillions

This is new iteration for our ongoing study into ColoniaTechne. The project that was selected to be in the SJ01-2012 art exhibition. In this first study I was thinking that the pavilion could be made out of strands of some inexpensive, durable and fully recyclable material. The members would take the compression and tension like a net or membrane structure. This would have the advantage of being light and hopefully strong.

This was made in grasshopper through the blending of a couple of simple definitions. First there is the surface from curves, then Diagrid from surface and the image sampler, and lastly project to surface. The idea being that the circles represent interactive components on the skin of the pavilion, and that skin and component relationship can be adaptive to differing criteria.


the next test is really geared towards a larger project or venue. Last year Charlie and I got to the final round of a competition for  Denver International Airport. Although we didn’t win (we lost by 1 point!) it started me thinking about larger scale projects with different criteria for aesthetic evaluation. This is a study of a sculptural installation based on the work of Erwin Hauer. The diffuse light qualities and the structural integrity of the overall piece are something pulled from investigations into Hauer’s work. 

Scale Pavillion

This is the inside of the Scale Pavilion. The hope is that this temporary structure would sustain itself once fabricated. The PV affixed scales would provide any energy needed. The open shaded space would work well as a temporary respite from very warm climates like San Jose or Phoenix. This is of course derivative on a biological/ morphological level to many creatures that exist in arid hot climates.

I enjoy the process of making, both digitally and physically. I hope this image which is taken from a line drawing shows some of the complexity in the project. That part of the designing is my favorite, when I am less critical of a project but really thinking about how the project will be built. This project was created mostly with Paneling Tools from Rajaa Issa ( Thank you! click here: and some of my own add-on techniques.

Ultimately the question of aesthetics and this type of project must come up. For me it is important to see a project through to a certain stage before self-evaluation can really begin. If I as a designer start to evaluate to early the creative process can become stifled and tendency towards style can lead down a very wrong path. Having reached a part of process that I am now comfortable with I can evaluate this project. I think literally it is not beautiful but the idea is very clear and that is a beautiful. With more refinement this may turn out…

posted by Jess Austin

AIASF Parametric Canopy Install Photos


 posted by Chris Chalmers, Fabripod 

see more photos at our flickr site!


the cable mesh was designed using a grasshopper definition that Chris wrote to calculate resultant vectors for all the backstays, and output cable lengths to an excel spreadsheet.

ScreenHunter_02 Sep. 15 00.45


volunteers used these laminated cards to arrange the cups on the canopy in an algorithmic pattern…P9110012

which actually worked out pretty well!





Working with Found Objects


posted by Chris Chalmers

More often than not, new parametric component-based designs rely on custom fabricated pieces for their construction. Their form is allowed to be free-flowing only because the individual pieces vary dimensionally to accommodate. However, the use of re-used or recycled materials often means working with fixed dimensions.  Some of my current work  involves negotiating free-form designs using either found objects, or stock items which are available only in a finite number of sizes.


This project uses translucent plastic cups, attached to a laser-cut cardboard substructure. cupwall-1

The mockup below was made with actual beer cups from a party (They have been washed).


cupwall-1_6cups-5Tcupwall-1_4he corrugated cardboard ribs have  attachment clips laser-cut into their profiles.

The cups are also held- together with the plastic clips used in the mockup, which are  laser-cut from acrylic sheet.

Tile Wall

This project attempts to create surface with variable texture using a fixed module. We began with FOA’s use of moon-shaped pavers in their South East coastal park project because they adapt well to the compound curvature of the surface.IMG_2792 Our project  uses hexagons tilewall_11 (2) in order to accentuate the pattern formed between the tiles as their spacing is varied. tilewall_40As the spacing increases, a second system is introduced between the tiles: small square windows. The idea here is that the tiles could gradually dissapear as their spacing increases, giving way to more glass in an Escher-esque transformation.


Ctilewall_11 (2)upWalltilewall_11 (2)tilewall_2tilewall_40