PARAMETRIC FRAGMENTATION - Line Point Plane Simulation


Parametric Fragmentation - Line Point Plane Simulation


Trey Meyer
University of Cincinnati


Ming Tang
University of Cincinnati


This winner design is bold, sculptural and makes a clear statement about the possibilities of fabric in architecture. It goes beyond the typical application of fabric as a pavilion and deploys the material to become the building skin. The designer’s use of two different fabric systems, PVC and ETFE, is a thoughtful and sophisticated approach. There is a remarkable complexity and rigor to this project, including the challenge of designing for two very different sites, Ohio, USA and China. There is a clear consideration of solar orientation and shading, and the double ventilated skin is that is very smart and well represented in a nice section diagram. Parametric design is very fitting for this competition in terms of defining the material characteristics of fabric as parameters and constraints, to find form and dynamic solutions. 


“Parametric Fragmentation” studies the implementation of parametric thinking in design as a strategy for deriving form that capitalizes on fabric material’s fluid nature.  The goal of the exercise is to create an adaptable system flexible enough to be executed at a variety of scales (i.e. urban, building, & human scale).  The project combines computer simulation with the human elements of identifying input data and overlaying the resulting products to create a shattered/fragmented aesthetic in both plan and elevation.  The info-graphic relates the process of generating a template to be used as a form driver on any given site.  Ideal circulation paths are merged together through a Newton attractive force simulation before being segmented into points, or social hubs, along the paths.  These points were then used to create a fragmented surface pattern using the Rhino+GH tool, Voronoi.  The system of Voronoi’s fragmentation is affordable to be used in urban planning, site development, and facade treatment.  The system is ideal in fostering innovative strategies for fabric in architecture by exploiting the material’s ability to adapt and take on organic geometries. 

In the project, I identify two key uses of fabric: fabric for living and fabric for monument and apply them to two different sites to demonstrate the adaptability of the fragmenting system simulation.  The two pilot sites, Cincinnati, Ohio and Langzhong, China, are located between urban destinations and a body of water.  The availability of the urban culture coupled with the dynamic of the waterfront is engaged in the design to create a destination point suitable for a resort hotel.  A parameter for deriving the form was to take a secondary fragment generated by the simulation and elevate the section to create privacy for guests while engaging the context by allowing pedestrian traffic to flow uninterrupted below the volume. 

The design is an ETFE (Ethylene-Tetrafluoroethylene) clad structure that creates an aesthetic that continues the ‘shattered’ simulation used in developing the plan.  The ETFE is an air inflated system that acts as an efficient building envelope experienced by the user throughout public amenity spaces as well as in the private guest rooms.  The plastic used for the living spaces is complimented with a PVC Canopy System with integrated structural framing.  The fabric canopy creates open-air enclosures that draw attention and act as a monument to the resort hotel while also creating a buffer between the public surroundings and the privacy of the hotel’s program.  The canopy doubles in usage by acting as a shade to the otherwise exposed Southern façade.

Fabric is an ideal material for parametrically designed structures because of its availability to take on organic, free-ranging forms.  Its ability to be sized based on the needs of the design, while being efficient in reducing structural loads lends itself to be successfully incorporated in panel-like systems in which panel sizes vary in size and shape.  While fabric has benefits of spanning long distances, I found that creating these panels gave the material a more human scale, allowing it to be used as façade treatment as well as a canopy.