Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Fabrication Preview

Texas A&M University Spring 2011.
Performance Wall,  surfaces, one exterior, one interior. More two come.
Students: Dale Fenton, Matt Miller, Emau Vega, Aubrie Damron, Adrian Cortez.  
Critic: Gabriel Esquivel

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


As my third year at Texas A&M concludes and after this first long and challenging struggle, I can finally say I am on track with my tenure. I have a long way to go still. A lot of people have been crucial in achieving this modest success. I would like to thank my students Ryan Collier, Mitch Rocheleau, Chris Gassaway and Ronny Eckels for all their help and support for believing in the cause and allowing me to continue with all the original goals. Their valuable help with research, fabrication and teaching has allowed me to focus on new goals. Now that they have graduated from A&M and will have continue with their own professional lives, their void will be felt and it will be hard to find such great collaborators. 
Gabriel Esquivel 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Qualia, a confessionary.

New Fabrication project at Texas A&M University. College of Architecture. Spring 2011.


Designed by Chris Gassaway, with the collaboration of Arnold Ghil, Miaomiao Xiao, Karla Castillo, Kathy Xiao and Austin Homfeld.

Gabriel Esquivel Critic.

Read the next posting for the project description.


Qualia, a confessionary.

Qualia, a confessionary.

“The obligation to confess is so deeply ingrained in us, that we no longer perceive it as the effect of a power that constrains us; on the contrary it seems that truth, lodged in our most secret nature, demands only to surface”.



The degree to which the meaning and sensation of confession has come to evolve over time, confession used to be perceived as the release of an unmentionable power that burdened and constrained us from living our desired “pure” life. In present day, the act of confessing is so common in our daily lives that it now seems to be of second nature. Man now feels obliged to confess the wrongdoings of their daily life by reporting it to the mass media or mass-networking sites. Confession now signifies a daily routine worked into our day-to-day lives; that instead of being optional, has almost become demanded of us to do so. The previously sacred art of confession has now become a routine over-exposed release.


Confessional culture has dominated not only western life but also all the rest of the world as well.  In everyday life, we are constantly revealing ourselves to our family, friends and to unknown public through the medium of verbal conversation, internet and television. In addition, classical confession is ongoing as well. This project proposes the importance to discuss the meaning confession and classical confession in modern society.

People are addicted to confession because of its cathartic effect: relieve of tension.  Stress is a big thing in health of modern society.  Therefore, confession became stress-relieving method for everyday life in our world.

Whether the person is speaking a truth or not, confession is received as reliable source.  It is hard not to believe a person in confessional mode, confession is culturally and historically related to “truth”. If confession is closer to truth, the more you confess in any form of medium, there is possibility of the more you get closer to finding and forming identity of yourself.


However, because of its excessive use of confession through convenient medium, the 'truthfulness' of confession has been reduced. On the contrary, classical confession still has its powerfulness as it used to be, perhaps it is due to its physical place where people are confessing.  The place involves more sensation to its participants. You wait in front of place before the confession and think what you are going to say.  You progress through to the place where you actually confess.    You can smell surrounding materials, touch the texture or ornament, experience light contrast, what is known as “qualia”. You can have the sensation that someone is listening. Classic confession, which involves a place, and a particular sensation, is much more powerful than any of casual confession we do in our everyday life.


Traditional confession, in a religious setting, has been between two people, the confessor and the listener.  However, what other models of confession exist today? Confession can be between one person, an internal conflict of denial and acceptance. Psychoanalysis can be viewed a non-moral therapeutic mode of confession. However following Foucault’s premise we can argue as a need of confession between one person and a mass audience. For example, Tiger Woods and his confessions of adultery.


In the Catholic Church, confession requires three acts; contrition, confession, and penance. Contrition is feeling sorrow for the sins committed. Confession is actual disclosure of the sin. Finally, penance is making amends for the committed sin. Therefore, it is interesting that only one stage of confession actually takes place in a confessional. In some instances, these three acts may not be in the traditional order or even take place in a confessional box. For example, a government official is caught cheating with his mistress. It is only after being forced to confess publicly and with a statement of apology does he begin to feel sorrow for his sins and attempt to achieve penance. Confession is supposedly anonymous. However, with technology, nothing is anonymous anymore.


“A man can certainly avoid facing tragic reality by imagining himself as somehow different than the being he truly is, but only at the cost of turning himself into something unrecognizable” –Michel Onfray,  ‘Atheist Manifesto’.


This quote, best embodies our present-day society. It identifies the defense mechanism people use to shield themselves from the “tragic reality” that is their life. It seems now that the possibility for an individual to become so submerged in their created persona that they lose grasp of their true character is all too fathomable. What is it that drives man to hide behind himself in what he believes to be a more acceptable and likeable fa├žade? Why is it that man can hold back so much of his true self to the public eye, yet sit in a tiny space and confess the deepest of his emotions to a complete stranger? When man confesses, is he or she confessing the internal sins of a glorified exterior. Is confession still about the idea of repenting? Are we still operating in the mechanisms of guilt? The portrayal a moral condition or is it simply about the exploration of the “other”?

Feelings and experiences vary widely. For example, to run your fingers over sandpaper, smell a skunk, feel a sharp pain in my finger, seem to see bright purple, become extremely angry. In each of these cases, you are the subject of a mental state with a very distinctive subjective character. There is something it is like for me to undergo each state, some phenomenology that it has. Philosophers often use the term ‘qualia’ (singular ‘quale’) to refer to the introspectively accessible, phenomenal aspects of our mental lives. In this standard, broad sense of the term, it is difficult to deny that there are “qualia”. This is where it was decided to call the project “qualia”, today the act of confession implies several conditions, it is not argued as a moral act but as a desire, a need an impulse all accompanied by a specific sensation.


Disagreement typically centers on which mental states have qualia, whether qualia are intrinsic qualities of their bearers, and how qualia relate to the physical world both inside and outside the head. The status of qualia is hotly debated in philosophy largely because it is central to a proper understanding of the nature of consciousness. Qualia are at the very heart of the mind-body problem.


The entry that follows is divided into eight sections. The first distinguishes various uses of the term ‘qualia’. The second addresses the question of which mental states have qualia. The third section brings out some of the main arguments for the view that qualia are irreducible and non-physical. The remaining sections focus on functionalism and qualia, the explanatory gap, qualia and introspection, representational theories of qualia, and finally the issue of qualia and simple minds.

This project is basically a blackbox made out of black sintra with a corner condition strategy made by using a series of carved out voronoid surfaces that indicate the “fleshology” of the internal membrane of the project. The interior space is a figural baroque space surrounded by poche that operates in plan and section with two unassigned spaces for the confessioner and confessionee, however the dialogue can be personal and internal monologue. The interior is created by a striated space created by figural sections made out of polyurethane covered in white swimsuit lycra inspired by the Verner Pantone atmospheric furniture, in this particular case it is a “superficial purple” sensation. This surface is soft but with use it will start to transform and adapt over time to the trace and erosion of the users, a case between Kivi Sotamaa’s “extraterrain” and “orca”.  The confessional internal mid-membrane is a complex surface modeled in Maya and ZBrush that recalls several “qualia”. It is an ear, a kissing mouth, a vagina, or an anus; an undefined surface that produces specific sensations depending on the personal experience. It is interior or exterior producing a condition of being inside looking out or outside looking in. It is primeval or libidinal.  It presupposes bodily sensations as well as mental experiences. 


Saturday, May 14, 2011


Texas A&M University. College of Architecture. Digital Geometry Workshop.
Instructor: Gabriel Esquivel. Special Collaboration: Prof. Ergun Akleman.
Digital Program Consultant: Qing Xing.
Project Managament: Ronny Eckels.
Students: Lauren Wiatrek, Brent Gohmert, Tim Durbin, Catlan Fearon, Kristy Lee.

Part of a series of projects that investigate geometry from developable surfaces to weaving methods in architecture. In an effort to investigate surface logics consisting of highly porous, irregularly defined weaving systems a series of investigative strategies were employed.  This model discusses certain modes of research and their derivatives through a case study, The initial form is conceived is a bunny, a geometrical variant of the pure mathematical “strip”. The base mesh of the initial form is developed using the software TopMod3D and Maya. This base mesh is then processed into a woven object using internally developed weaving software.

Knots and links are interesting structures that are widely used for tying objects together and for creating interesting shapes such as woven baskets. To topologists, a knot is a 3D embedding of a circle and a link is a 3D embedding of more than one circle. We prefer to use the general term link, since each component of a link is also a knot. Mathematical links can be used to represent weaving structures such as a fabric, a cloth, or a basket. While there are a wide variety of weaving methods, the most popular is plain-weaving, which consists of threads that are interlaced so that a traversal of each thread.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

House for the Future


The goal of this workshop will be to imbed building systems into a surface in a way that exceeds engineering towards the ornamental. Way were considered so that aesthetics and infrastructure can interface into irreducible composites, foiling the often black and white discussion of formal invention vs. performative problem solving.  The students began by developing surface to strand morphologies. Surface to strand morphologies included pleats, seams, relieves, tracery, delamination, exo and endoskeletons and a number of transformative hybrids. Surface to strand morphologies allow for the design of continuous gradients of flows of force; air fluids and luminosity. By interweaving surface geometry and vector geometry they were able to open up a wide range of behaviors and the ability to reorganize locally in response to particular shaping environments. Ultimately, surface to strand morphologies move beyond the Modern frame and skin categorical, characterized by collages of discreet systems, and the 1990’s topological project, characterized by homogenous smoothness and lack of articulation of systems and subsystems. The site for this project will be the Farnsworth House by Mies Van Der Rohe, establishing a dialogue between the modernist paradigm of endless horizontality and dematerialization and our messier contemporary approach driven by jungle thinking and atmospheric sensations.


The Mitchell Lab systems research and design combines an integration of complex patterning with new HVAC and electrical technologies; the essence of the design is the articulation of a fluid flow system. This system operates performatively and in terms of sensation. Indeed, the goal of the Mitchell Lab was to design a house for the future that explored the argument of transparency through a different language that was used in the Farnsworth House by Mies Van Der Rohe. The Farnsworth house allows views to the outside from every point of the house, giving a visitor the sensation of having a connection with nature while still being protected from its most extreme conditions. Our house of the future explores the argument of transparency distorting the view of the outside while still offering the experience of viewing nature. We can refer this to the sensation of looking through stain glass. In fact, this distorted view is created by transparent ETFE panels separated by rubberized polycarbonate booms; an embedded system within the “membrane” specifically, the booms on the membrane continue onto the surface of the “shell”, an opaque carbon fiber composite structure which includes the HVAC and electrical systems. These systems are characterized by fluid flow articulation.

The documentation of a geothermal system into the house supplies radiant heating and cooling to the house. In our house, the coils collect water from pools inserted into the flood plinth of the house. The radiant heating and cooling fluid circulates through the rubberized polycarbonate booms that are on the membrane of the house. Rubberized polycarbonate is a flexible material that also gives rigidity to the membrane. Therefore, the booms have dual uses: they circulate the fluids that feed both the geothermal and electrical systems, and they provide structural rigidity to the membrane of the house.

The electrical system in our design departs from the standard method used in typical building design. Our design incorporates a grey water collection system, water circulation within booms, and artificial solar leaves developed by scientist at MIT. A description of this process begins with the collection with grey-water from the pools. This water is pumped into a Pump and Storage room where it is stored, purified and injected with phosphate powder that is catalyst for the photosynthetic reaction. Water dissolves the phosphate and is then pumped through the booms into polycarbonate bubbles located within the opaque shell of the house between layers of fiber composites and condensed foam. An artificial solar leaf uses sunlight to the lithium battery complex inside an electrical room, the lithium battery complex receives all power produced by the fuel cell. These batteries will constantly charge during sunlight hours when the reaction occurs. The battery also redirects electricity produced in the system to the pumps in the Pump and Storage room. This electrical system produces more electricity than is actually needed; its efficiency allows electricity to be given back to the grid.

The primary function of the bubbles is to store water and prevent water contamination by pollutants. Hundreds of bubbles are placed with the shell of the house in a grid-like organization, increasing the number of photosynthetic reactions that occur. These bubbles are made of transparent polycarbonate material held in place between a layer of transparent polycarbonate shell and an extremely condensed, yet flexible, foam layer. The placement of the bubbles with layers rater than exposed element supports the argument of embedded systems, what we called “extreme integration”. Also the sizes of the bubbles vary as they are organized in a gradient pattern, with the performative bubbles in a central cluster holding one gallon of water with a single artificial solar leaf each. The artificial solar leaf can produce 45 hours of energy. According to Lori Zimmer; a writer for the design website “Inhabitat”, the leaf created by MIT scientist is composed of silicon, electronics, plus cobalt and nickel catalysts. Only of the size of a playing card, it mimics the process of photosynthesis, supplying the fuel cell with Hydrogen and Oxygen atoms. These individual Hydrogen and Oxygen atoms are sent to a fuel cell where they used to create electricity. An embedded micro-capillarity systems placed between the transparent polycarbonate shell and the condensed foam feeds water into the bubbles while removing separated Hydrogen and Oxygen atoms.

The integrated systems within our house were designed with concern for the future; specifically, the technology implemented in our design can be developed and utilized in countries with weak economies and weak infrastructure. While the bubbles and booms are the main argument for embedded systems, the key component to the design of integrated HVAC and electrical system is the artificial solar leaf. According to Lori Zimmer, the technology of the artificial leaf could be used as an alternate sustainable energy source for use in developing countries. Our futuristic design fro extreme integration goes along with the goal of the Mitchell Lab, to create a new architectural aesthetic that challenges old forms of geometry and seeks bold, pattern-inspired forms.      


The students conducted research on a series of skin typologies that would be conducive to the desired geometry. Their intention was to find a moldable form of materiality that would seamlessly integrate structure, systems, and visual appeal, into one composite shell. The research essentially evolved and was dictated by the chronological constraints of constructability. Each step of the integration moved further into the future of composite skins, the first iteration was a Monocoque structural system with panels of carbon fiber composites on the interior and exterior, the second application involved North Sails 3Di tape application, then a high density foam and composite shell. Carbon fiber is applied in all three of these applications in very different ways. Carbon fiber is extremely useful because of its ability to resist tension but it is very unpredictable in compression

Monocoque structural systems are the most practical and economical solution to form generation at this point in time. Aerospace engineers have been applying this to jets, space shuttles, and even cars for several years now. The steel structure can be assembled on site with traditional means of construction and can easily form the desired geometry. Although this would seem most practical it was assumed incorrect for a house for the future, because it is assumed that in the future architectural skins will be a direct embedment of performance and visual appeal, the lines will be blurred into one object instead of a composition of steel, systems, then panels.

North Sail can hold in tension up to 10000 pounds, it is a mixture of carbon fibers, aramid, and dyneema. When applied to sails the come in almost 20 different blends that are best suited for the particular type of sail. The geometry of the house is designed very well for this type of application because it cantilevers at every edge of the design making it possible to layer the tape in a fashion that will pull the layers into tension. The issue with the tape like plain carbon fiber is that is does not work in compression. So in this application it was decided that the tape be impregnated with resin, which works very well in compression.

The final application was high density foam that would have a shell produced on site. The fibers would be applied directly to the foam mass, wrapped, coated in resin, than sucked to the surface. The foam will then essentially become what is known as a “lost mold” meaning the foam is permanently embedded within the entirely integrated skin. Once again these fibers are only useful in tension so with the impregnation of resin, the compressive strength aspect of structure is addressed.

Along with carbon fiber composites, the students also conducted research on a similar material named E-Glass. E-Glass is a form of fiberglass composite that is used in many different applications today. In thinking of our project, we thought E-Glass would be a more logical solution due to the economic and performative values it features. E-Glass is very lightweight and strong, similar to Carbon fiber composite, but much cheaper. In combination with these features, it also able to be applied as a unidirectional tape, as researched previously. It would face a similar process of production, but would also cut costs drastically. One example of this application is the Monsanto House of the Future previously featured at Disneyland. This house featured certain fiberglass composite applications and was one of the leading forces that pushed composite design to what it is today.


In having composite material make up the entire structure, there is a certain process for construction. The first step of this process is to fabricate the double-milled foam shell to perform as a guide for tape application. These foam pieces would be milled in several separate chunks. After these chunks are milled, we would then start to install the embedded systems on top of the foam. Once the systems are installed we would begin to apply the E-Glass composite to the chunks. To fully seal the pieces as one, the entire chunk would undergo a process of vacu-fusing (in which the entire chunk is surrounded by vacuum packing, air is sucked out applying high amounts of pressure while resin is impregnating the tape layers). Once the chunks are fully constructed, they are then shipped to the site by means of truck transportation. Once the pieces arrive on site we would then lay the concrete plinth foundation. This plinth is molded to fit the shape of the overall house form and also features several pool areas to perform as part of the overall house systems. After the foundation is laid, we would then begin to construct the house by combining the chunks together. The connections of these pieces are a basic male-female connection that is secured with a structural adhesive. With a combination of these materials and construction methods, we are able to achieve a fully integrated structural system.


House for the Future

Construction System.
Mitchell Lab 2011. Texas A&M University. School of Architecture.
"House of the Future"
Emergent: Tom Wiscombe, Robbie Eleazer.
Texas A&M University: Mitch Rocheleau. Project Designer.
Ryan Wilson, Brent Gohmert, Adrian Cortez, Hong Bea Yang, Tim Durbin, Dylan Weiser, Oscar Diaz, Joe Lock, Steve Wisdom, Rachel Trimm, Daisy Salinas, Kendra Cole, Austin Homefeld, Gabriel Aura, Matt Hurst and Elvin Richard.
Project Manager. Gabriel Esquivel