Auburn offers a unique experience to its second year ID students - a 10 week collaborative studio in which students work as a team to design solutions to real world problems. Taking place over much of the UK, the studio focuses on a hands-on approach to the design-build process in lieu of a traditional studio.
The prospect of real experience initially attracted me to the program (and who wouldn't want to travel Europe for school credit), and I soon found myself in Ballyvaughan, Ireland, beginning a design-oriented tour of the UK.
We arrived at the Burren College of Art and were given a tour of the campus. Coming into the studio space, a problem was immediately evident. The division of student workspace and the exhibition gallery was almost nonexistent, only separated by a wall with two large openings meant to connect the areas when an exhibition was not taking place.
WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?
This was subsequently explained in the project brief. During exhibitions, visitors to the gallery would often assume the openings were part of the tour and wander through them, disturbing the student workspace. To counter this problem, the school installed wall-mounted belt barriers. However, this did little to seclude the workspace during exhibitions and did not reduce the noise that escaped the gallery.
Thus the challenge was begun; we would have to design a "removable wall." Designing a solution meant meeting a few conditions.
The wall must:
Separate the studio space and gallery while remaining a path of egress
Significantly reduce noise from the gallery
Meet fire and safety codes
Be setup and dismantled by one person
...and be designed, prototyped, and built within 2 weeks.
After the initial project brief, the studio collected in groups to pitch ideas to one another. 22 students can generate a lot of ideas quickly, and this proved to be beneficial with our time constraint. One day of ideation later and we were ready to present potential solutions to our client.
Ideas ranged from solid enclosures to swinging panel-type systems, but one element seemed to be constant among the majority of the concepts. A wall the entire size of the opening could not realistically be handled by one person if built as a single unit. Therefore, in order to meet the accessibility requirement, the wall must be divided into manageable portions. This was further explored with stackable panels to vertically-interlocking panels.
As each group was refining its own idea, myself and cohort Rob Palmer took it upon ourselves to handle the technical aspects of the project. Having experience in both construction and architecture, I decided to carry out the take off and corresponding CAD plan while Rob started on the model.
A few hours later and a few concepts refined, the elevation plan was ready and distributed to each group. As Rob continued to work on the model, I began research into the architectural codes of Ireland.
We found that:
The minimum width of an escape route or exit needed to be 950mm (~ roughly 37 inches) clear to accommodate a crowd of 150 people
a fire rating of 30 minutes must be achieved
At this point in the project the studio was broken into 3 separate groups, with 2 of these groups beginning other projects for the BCA. The wall team now consisted of 7 students and 2 faculty members.
In order to leave enough time for prototyping and construction, we settled on the stackable-panel system, as it would meet the accessibility requirement while leaving enough flexibility to function as a door. However, the questions still remained as to the number of panels, the method of attachment, or exactly how it would open.
With technical details in mind and a final concept ready to pursue, we began prototyping the first mock up. This was useful in determining the minimum gap between the panel and the wall.
After much debate, the stackable panel system prevailed. Additionally, the large gap around the duct-work would be filled in, allowing a solid point of attachment for the uppermost panel. Though removable, the uppermost panel would be fixed in place, unable to rotate like the lower two panels.
I was able to apply my experience in construction as the project moved into the building phase. I was able to take the lead, and we began to construct the final panels.
Details were being decided upon as construction was in full swing.
For securing the panels to the ground, we chose to use a locking-pin. This ended up being a dual purpose piece of hardware; not only did the pin secure the panels to the floor, it acted as an adequate pivot.
We chose to attach the middle and bottom panels with a simple nut-and-bolt fastener.
With a successful dry-fit of the (nearly) complete first wall, we continued building.
In order to meet the fire rating and add further sound-proofing, fire-rated insultation was added to the inside of the panels.
Attaching the last sheet of MDF to the back of the panels, we were finally finished with the first removable wall!
Just rinse and repeat.
Spring 2016, Removable Wall Auburn University in collaboration with Burren College of Art
Luc Riddle, Blake Scordino, Garrison Bullock, Luke Hayworth, Elizabeth Boyd, David Gowan, Chad Bailey, and Mark Hollister
Duration: 2 Weeks
With the walls in place and functioning, we felt comfortable leaving the finishing touch (i.e. paint and personality) to the artists we were there to serve.