Thursday, October 28, 2010

In Theory "Kraftwerk"

An expert panel gathered to discuss the virtues and pitfalls of digital fabrication in ”kraftwerk,” a new episode of Texas A&M associate architecture professor Peter Lang’s “In Theory” talk show.  Lang’s distinguished guests for the “kraftwerk” discussion are Dharmech Patel, an award-wining Austin-based furniture designer and fabricator; John Hartmann, co-founder of Freecell, a Brooklyn-based design and fabrication studio that creates site-specific, 3-D installations that transform and question the use and perception of space; and Texas A&M architecture professors Jasmine Benymin, whose current research focuses on architectural manifestations in contemporary art practice and popular culture, and Gabriel Esquivel, who specializes in the implementation of new digital technology within design practice.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

La Riviera. Finally!!!!

La Riviera. Restaurant and Bakery. Bryan, Texas.
Design Team:
Gabriel Esquivel
Ky Coffman
Jeff Quantz
Dustin Mattiza
Heather Davis
Matt Miller
Michael Tomaso

Commissioned by local restaurant, La Riviera was to renovate the entry space of the restaurant, the scope included a new bar, wall ornament and a ceiling installation. Due to an extremely tight budget, the team developed innovative processes to reduce costs while achieving the desired atmosphere.



The bar uses three off-the-shelf cabinets as its base, each one measuring 60” long x 25” wide x 40” high.   Additional 2x4s provided reinforcement against the heavy loads of the laminated countertop, front panels and foam ornament.  The countertop extends the full length of the bar to form one cohesive module out of the individual components.   Designed not to compete with the other pieces, the countertop is a flat surface with a slight dip at one end to allow for the display of a dessert tray.  Once we arrived at the final form, the model of the countertop was sectioned and the pieces were nested together to reduce material waste during the milling process using a CNC router. The countertop is built entirely out of sheets of ¾” medium density fiberboard (MDF).  After cutting, the team laminated the pieces together, sanded them smooth and finished them with several coats of lacquer.  The designers took painstaking effort to retain the horizontality of the countertop by reducing the visibility of joints in the wood.  They produced a template that spread the joints evenly across the length of the counter to eliminate a singular joint line that stopped the eye from moving along the entire length of the countertop. 


Front Panels:

Two 4’ x 8’ sheets of milled MDF attach to the front of the cabinets to create the façade of the bar.  The panels attach to the cabinets using 6” long 3/8” diameter hanger-bolts spaced out to distribute the weight across the whole structure.  The panels can detach if the bar needs to be relocated.  


Foam Ornament (Bar):

On the top of the countertop rests a golden ornament.  The ornament needed to be extremely durable to resist damage due to its close proximity to guests.  Therefore, the team chose an 18 lb polyurethane foam, which was both strong and easily formed.  The piece had to be sectioned to fit within the 4” depth restriction caused by the length of the end mill on the CNC.  After cutting, the pieces were glued together using epoxy and reinforced with metal dowels.  The entire piece went through several stages of sanding to remove any blemishes and was finished with a coat of golden car paint.   


Foam Ornament (Wall):

The ornament on the wall was fashioned out of lighter 2 lb polyurethane foam in order to stay mounted to the wall and also it was not within reach of guests coming in and out of the restaurant.   The elaborate pieces were modeled in maya and split to fit onto sheets of 4’x8’ x 4” blocks of foam.  After several stages of sanding and coated with a compound to remove any blemishes, they were painted with golden car paint. 




The ceiling serves as an atmospheric installation blanketing the entire entry space.  The light source is masked by layer of translucent forms, which diffuses the light casting an even glow over the entire space.  To achieve this affect, a wire mesh forms the skeleton of the ceiling.  The decision to use a wire mesh served two purposes: first, it allowed the maximum amount of light to permeate its skin and second, the mesh provided a surface for the flowers to attach.    The drawback of using the wire mesh came from trying to construct a double-curved surface out of planar sheets. To fabricate this, the ceiling was split into seven smaller sections (A-G), and decomposed further using the software Lamina.  This software approximated the 3D geometry by generating a number of 2D parts.  These parts were labeled, cut out and joined together using a weaving technique to form the skeleton.



4,000 plastic-injection molded flowers populate the skin of the wire mesh.  The design began by folding pieces of pliable felt fabric into flower-like forms.  After several iterations, the team digitized the form and further refined the design on the computer.  The finished model was exported as a stereolithography file (STL) and sent to a factory in Mexico City that specializes in plastic-injection molding.  The factory produced a cast from our model out of solid aluminum blocks.  The cast is made up of an A-side and a B-side.  Melted resin is forced into the two halves of the mold and pressed together under intense heat.  This causes the plastic to harden quickly.  The finished piece is ejected into a receptacle and the process is repeated.  

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Creative Super Cells


Creative Super Cells
“Essential insights into design as the new Strategic Resource”…


Gabriel Esquivel, assistant professor at the Department of Architecture Texas A&M University.

Nicolae Halmaghi. Design Consultant

…. Essential Insight into design as the new strategic resource



·      A 21st century profession has emerged which addresses the need of an era focused upon human needs cognitive science, technology and aesthetics… design  and designers is at the center of this force.


·      Discover new methodologies that deliver quantitative measurements to design innovation.


·      Learn how to and create, understand and harvest value through the cross-fertilization of different disciplines.






The super cell approach constitutes a cross-disciplinary journey into the essence of Design, to understand what happens within the complex systems of mind, body, brain, science and society, how should we evaluate products, environments and experiences.

The main purpose is to move design away from the market of services into an economical force capable of generating change. We need to understand the possibility of mobilizing resources to solve specific problems afflicting our world. By using some arguably utopian concepts from designer “guru”, Bruce Mau, we would like to see designers as “high priests” whose acumen will resolve everything from world hunger to global warming.  The new designers should learn how to interact in a new professional world, expanding their role of designers and learn how to interact with other disciplines. The goal is for the designer to learn how to communicate their ideas based on other platforms of knowledge and information.

The idea for Creative Super Cells comes first from cell division, which is essential to growth, repair and reproduction in organisms. The process of mitosis is designed to insure that exact copies of the DNA in chromosomes are passed on to daughter cells, producing the possibility of life and multiplication of a force. The word “creative” related to the definition of innovative and resourceful.

Finally, the last reference is one of the four major storm types is the “supercell”. We define a “supercell” as a thunderstorm with a deep rotating updraft (mesocyclone). This is an all encompassing effect.

The concept is basically thinking about how to design for the present moment not in the architectonic or aesthetic sense but in terms of contemplating different economic, operative, organizational variants from several points of view (anthropological, biological, ecological, legal, etc. that is a Creative Super Cell.


Before offering an aesthetic solution we should be able to negotiate and provide something completely different for the client, placing you ahead of what the competition is currently offering.  This is to say giving an economic but real value to your ideas.


To sell yourself or others as "design innovators", endorsing your ideas in agreement to a mapping of variants and focusing on being able to completely conquer the complicated, “know it all” client. 


To provide a range of services before spending your resources designing something physical, perhaps before any architectural solution the problem is of organization, structure, brand or marketing to name a few (most offices already offer most of these services, but how can they be more effective?) and after all that process then comes design as we think of it.


The goal is to sell your ideas as a visionary, thorough and professional, not to exhaust your employees' time with unnecessary solutions and fall into the traditional back and forth game with the client. Not only arguing personal taste or whether they like the aesthetic solution without having complete trust on the designer’s expertise. How to avoid this situation especially, in projects of great magnitude and complexity? How to make a presentation perfectly clear, direct and one that indicates the complete strategy and leaves no gap to doubt the focus and therefore the decision? What kind of new employees to hire? An office in the future needs to offer different points of view maybe of an anthropologist, an economist on staff will help to set the new direction.


The big problem today is that most design offices operate mostly within experience, nowadays navigating through uncontested waters leaving no room for new no-experience designers, using the word innovation as a stylistic marketing slang but never under the real understanding of innovation. The new model should operate within speculation, working within a cognitive research of specific a problem. This poses a dangerous question; is the designer’s office, the classic architect’s office conceived as a master and apprentice paradigm a historical institution that has no relevance in the world of design today? This entity should completely change, otherwise the specific practice as we know it will not survive and the search for innovation will be solely a mere marketing decadent promotional word.


The future of digital technology and how it is going to affect design, manufacture, new materials, fabrication, it is no longer possible to be competent simply with beautiful things or good intentions, the clients look for the extra value, the difference, the new thing, how to offer this and be cost effective? Where do we look for the “new thing”? What is the new thing? Maybe it relies more on the Creative Super Cells research rather in a trend. How do digital programs favor design, manufacture and management of the project? It is about the future of design. As we all know it is very expensive to pay an intern, a designer etc. In the United States and other countries architectural practices are sending their drawings to be completed in China, Russia or India, because the fee standards are much cheaper. So where is the real profit?


The focus is to sell oneself as a “designer visionary” and not to depend on the normative and problematic aspects of numerous contractors and consultants which are supposed to be service oriented; the designer has to reclaim the position of the project leader, historically, theoretically, and pragmatically.  The quest is to exclusively dedicate the power to Visionary Concepts or Creative Super Cells; this will force to reconsider the classic phase of Schematics and Design Development, with a new focus on technology and materiality.


Advanced technologies now infiltrate all aspects of architectural design. Architects today tend to appropriate these digital technologies in basically two ways. Some use digital programs like Maya, or Rhino as aids to form. They focus specifically on a generative process of form-making, and are more concerned with controlled, individual manipulation rather than with the arbitrary making of form. Others use programming and parametric modeling or algorithms to derive these forms or to run the CD phase and manage the project.


The new digital investigation could begin with the assumption that minor or local variations can start the transformation, in their subtle changes, can constitute continuous, yet differentiated composite structures. This proposed paradigm of local variation and differentiation in series could frame the exploration of the computer parametric controlled manufacturing processes, reconsidering building construction as a process of production and assembly versus the conventional manual building process. As a general approach we will have to employ the computational capacity of design software through the modeling of “abstract creative cells”. These abstract cells or models of new tectonic systems present themselves as constraint sets with such limitations as of materiality, fabrication, technique and program. This could constitute the real innovation within the practice.


We need to implement Cross fertilization of technological creativity (Innovation), economic creativity (Entrepreneurship) and Artistic creativity (Intuition) which will morph into a single market force. Most designers are exceptional at creating value; however they do not know how to harvest it. The main objectives are designed to understand how by overlapping different disciplines, related and non-related, by accepting simple though-processes from non-related fields and by reconfiguring them under one governing force, the designer will create unprecedented value


A 21st century profession has emerged which addresses the need of an era focused upon clarity of human understanding and the science of the organization of information. Design is at the center of this profession.  We need know how new design cells could create unprecedented value and emerge as a new Economic Force.


After a direction has been integrated the designers’ tasks should be diverse not only to begin once again by redefining “traditional” research methodologies, but to document research by looking into different entities like wellness, entertainment, science, government and manufacturing. The purpose will be to analyze systems of design as viewed by the different industries in terms of organization, strategies and systems, including complex technological issues. The designers should discuss specific design problems focusing on critical performance analysis of their subject matter with graphic and visual reports. They should take this collected information and exchange their reflections with other teams; the discussions should focus on how these systems could affect products, information, production and communication, urban infrastructure and interior spaces. By the use of code map or charting system, they should be able to show the thought process for the analysis of the case study, the anatomy of the concept itself, as well as relationships between entities and their impact: form, surface, space, environment, time, identity, program, management, fabrication and value creation for innovation.


Possibly the most important part of the Creative Super Cells, is that it should deal with the personal insight of ones knowledge of design, as well as with the notion of the surrender of ones ego for the benefit of the currently deteriorated idea of the “BIG PICTURE”.


The difference in this philosophy is that the “surrender factor” is not based upon arriving to a “common denominator” the way most companies operate at the moment, but fighting, scratching and debating to the point where the creative content is truly based on strong creative differences united under one truly innovative concept. It is designed to strip every student of his/her preconceived ideas and will let them know where they fit in the big picture.


Difference, Repetition and Ontology


 Design as Gesamtkunstwek, which is a German term attributed to the German opera composer Richard Wagner which refers to an operatic performance which encompasses music, theater, and the visual arts.

“Gesamtkunstwerk”, or "total design," implies designing every detail of a whole so it becomes, in a sense, greater than the sum of its parts. A concept perhaps better described as nomadic condition.  In a building, this would mean not only designing plans and elevations, but every detail must be considered; furniture, fixtures, tectonics - extending to the outside environment as well, so as to give integrity and harmony throughout. The main problem for the sake of this argument is that this German concept because of the moment of its conception did not consider a very important factor for our situation; technology. However in 1916 F. T. Marinetti’s writes “The Futurist Cinema” a manifesto declaring film to be the supreme art because it embraces all art forms through the uses of all media technology. Only cinema had a totalizing effect on human consciousness.

“The Futurist cinema, which we are preparing, a joyful deformation of the universe, an alogical, fleeting synthesis of life in the world, will become the best school for boys: a school of joy, of speed, of force, of courage, and heroism. The Futurist cinema will sharpen, develop the sensibility, will quicken the creative imagination, will give the intelligence a prodigious sense of simultaneity and omnipresence. The Futurist cinema will thus cooperate in the general renewal, taking the place of the literary review (always pedantic) and the drama (always predictable), and killing the book (always tedious and oppressive). The necessities of propaganda will force us to publish a book once in a while. But we prefer to express ourselves through the cinema, through great tables of words-in-freedom and mobile illuminated signs”.(1)



Super Cells is not a simply problem of technology and its application, or a problem of representation, or of movement or a new future, it becomes an issue of difference and that is the main variation from the traditional concept of the “Gesamtkunstwek”, and in the futurist cinema as well, it is not only the illusion to push Wagner’s total experience similar to what Nietzche believed that it was still possible to push Wagner’s concept.  The revision of all entities incorporated in what we call “design process” is absolutely necessary. This so called “process” is an entity in itself it is has tremendous narcissistic qualities, it loves to look at itself, trapped in its own reflection. The problem is that normative design tends to believe that process is the project; we need to review this tradition.  Deleuze looks at the problem in this particular point of view.


“The break with Wagner is not a matter of theory, nor music; it concerns the respective roles of text, history, noise music, light, song, dance and décor in this theatre of which Nietzche dreams”.(2 )


The problem of Wagner according to Deleuze is that Nietzche inverted and distorted theatre to a complex relationship of the spectacle creating a difficult way to navigate the stage. Everything is staged and leaves little for change and innovation. We can follow this principle but we must reinvent the formula to something we can easily walk through, conceived philosophically but entirely actualized for the design process.  Theatre is after all the interiority of movement, not opposition or mediation, therefore super cells concepts attempts to operate in repetition. In the theatre of repetition according to Delueze, it is contrary to representation, “we experience pure forces, dynamic lines in space which without intermediary upon the spirit and link it directly with nature and history with a language which speaks before words”. (3) This proposes an argument that goes back to develop a genetic archeology of design based on a system of absences to reconstitute the power of design, operating within emergent biological principles and cognitive sciences moving away from classic Cartesian notions and more in tune with Immanuel Kant's "skeptical view, arguing that we can have no positive knowledge about the nature of the mind, then the need to propose it, design it, shifting away from the normative traps of the representation theories of design.

For, as Deleuze writes at the conclusion of Difference and Repetition:

Repetition—even in its most mechanical, quotidian, habitual, stereotypical forms—has a place within art . . . For the only esthetic problem is how to insert art into everyday life. The more our daily life appears standardized, stereotyped, submitted to the accelerated reproduction of consumer goods, the more art must become part of life and rescue from it that small difference which operates between levels of repetition, making habitual consumption reverberate with destruction and death; linking cruelty to inanity; discovering, beneath consumption, the chattering of the schizophrenic; and reproducing esthetically, beneath the most ignoble destructions of war (which are still processes of consumption), the illusions and mystifications which are the real essence of this civilization—so that, in the end, Difference can express itself . . . even if it's only in the form of a contradiction here or there, thereby liberating the forces needed to destroy this world. (4) 

The way to discuss design as difference is to search for way to be able to integrate art, biology, cognitive sciences, political and economic strategic models, to become a generating force. The quest to search beyond simple consumption as well as the reintegration of all aspects of architecture; design, program performance and technology. Thus it is discussed as taking a precedent from Wagner’s Gesamtkunstwerkas a moment of departure then as an all inclusive condition redefined by Futurist’s cinema manifesto, developing conceptually into a problem of representation and existence. There are three major orders in which we encounter repetition: language, nature and freedom.


If we discuss difference and repetition, we can introduce another Deleuze concept that of the 'machinic', which is a process that expresses our capacity as humans to form alliances with non-human forces, be they animal, insect, plant or virus. 'Machinic Alliances' takes this Deleuzian premise as the basis from which to propose unholy affiliations between categories of human/animal/technological.

Design found in biological connection with plants and animals and continuing a strong connection history however, being able to look into other precedents in order to produce innovation. By slowly penetrating into this discourse we will then clearly conceive why design needs to be reconsidered ontologically to turn into an economic force.

Design is intellectually, methodologically and materially connected to other fields in ways never before imaginable. It is becoming a less pure and more composite discipline. Design processes are thus constitutionally affected by logics traditionally defined as existing outside the field. After looking carefully at the original concept and certain components that “Gesamtkunstwerk” does not incorporate, I will propose to use a different phrase “Allumfassende Daseinsgestaltung” which means all embracing design-existence (ontology).

The shift from “Gesamtkunstwerk” to “Allumfassende Daseinsgestaltung” The move from standard to non-standard approaches signifies above all a fundamental change in understanding and managing complexity, both in theory and practice. While the former approach uses a reductive logic with regard to systems and their constituent elements, the latter recognizes that the emergent-adaptive behavior of complex systems is more than the sum of its parts, and thus has to be examined as a whole, “the machinic”.  Now think of design no longer as consumption but as one of the agencies in this global ambience of mutual environmentality.

The incorporation of this all involving fabric resembles genetics, a complex and highly abstract science where it is always present in life but it is never visual, revolutionizing the normative quest for aesthetics in operational models. Today designers should embrace scientific discoveries, applications and ideas by reinterpreting this scientific paradigm. In a DNA vision any entity is defined a code of information, we need to understand its constituents. Genetic investigation has branded itself and has become a commodity; a patented product, whose reverberation has deeply affected the mechanosphere and biosphere of design, potentially this integration could redefine our world.




    1. The Futurist Cinema, by F.T. Marinetti, Bruno Corra, Emilio Settimelli, Arnaldo Ginna, Giacomo Balla, and Remo Chiti (Milan L’Italia Futurista, November 15, 1916.
    2. Difference and Repetition, Gilles Deleuze. Columbia University Press p. 9.
    3. Ibid.
    4. Difference and Repetition, Gilles Deleuze. Columbia University Press. Conclusion p. 270.






  • Deleuze Gilles. Difference and Repetition. Columbia University Press. Translated by Paul Patton. 1994
  • Chan Kim w, Maubourgne Renee. Blue Ocean Strategy. Harvard Business School Press.
  • Deleuze Gilles. Bergsonism. Zone Books. 1988
  • Mau Bruce. Massive Change and the institute without boundaries. Phaidon.
  • Kwinter Sanford. Foar from Equilibrium: Essays on Technology and Design Culture. Actar. Barcelona. New York.
  • Koolhass Rem editor. Mutations.



Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Prehispanic and the Modern Exhibition.

Anza-Falco Museum Houston. November 10, 2010. 6pm.
Gabriel Esquivel wrote the Introduction Essay for the Catalog.
3 Allen Center. 333 Clay St. Houston. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Studio Preview Fall 2010.

Kaiji Zhou

Studio Preview. Fall 2010

House for a Future
陶匡义 TAO Kuangyi