The Big Belt HouseArchitect: William E. Massie Presented by: Hoda Homayouni
The Big Belt House • The architect and his works • The project • CNC Techs and Materials • Design and construction process • Advantages and challenges
William E. Massie • The New Architect-in-Residence and a professor at the University of Montana. • Pioneer in the use of computer and other advanced technology in designing inexpensive but daring homes. • Received Progressive Architecture awards from Architecture Magazine for the design of the “Big Belt House”(2000). • Believed that architect should make as well as design.
Massie’s words “What I’m trying to do is an extension of modernism [that goes back to] its true beginnings –when modernist homes were reasonably priced. If someone is thinking of building a typical suburban house, I can do an interesting modernist house instead for the same amount of money. People don’t have to pay a huge premium to live in a beautiful and somewhat experimental space. The way light rakes across something curving is completely different from the way it strikes a flat wall.”
Massie’s words “It’s those kinds of things that are now possible. And we know from the auto and aerospace industries that the ability to develop complex shapes is not just an aesthetic [achievement]. In making an automobile side panel, for instance, you can use less material to form a shape that is stronger on impact. I’m applying the same fabrication processes to architecture.”
Big Belt House • Relationship to the landscape • Foreground topographies are assembled to develop the space of the building.
Big Belt House • Visual rhyming • bounding together by distinct visual similarities. • Continually connect to and move in relation to the landscape.
CNC Techs & Materials • Massie digitally designs a home and then breaks it down into small interlocking pieces. Many of these pieces, Massie manufactures himself. He uses inexpensive but durable materials, such as cut steel and concrete.
CNC Techs & Materials • Massie uses a lot of laser-cut and water-jet-cut steel. But he still uses a lot of Styrofoam because it is strong enough to build a construction form into which they can pour concrete.
CNC Techs & materials • Computer-driven laser-cutting and milling machines shape the pieces at the shop of Massie’s four-person firm, pieces then are delivered to the site for the contractor to fit together like a giant puzzle.
Design & Construction • The foreground topographies were assembled as the initial spatial construct in the form of a virtual computer model. • The obtained program and structure became a critique of the building’s form. • Methodology of section: A software calculated complexity within digital space by cutting a series of precise sections through the surfaces.
Design & Construction • The code that was generated digitally was being analyzed as section. • The code was deconstructed to create the formwork Utilizing a Computer Numerically Controlled milling machine.
Design & Construction • 1500 individual pieces of rigid foam was CNC-cut from the architects digital files, like a child’s puzzle (reducing the necessity to measure on-site).
Design & Construction • The concrete was cast with the forms laid flat on the ground slab, then left to cure before the resulting beams were tilted up into place
Design & Construction • After the concrete cured, the foam formwork was removed and recycled. • Gaps between these pieces were filled in with hand-applied foam and ties and spacers added as needed to stabilize the forms.
Design & Construction • The forms impressions on the concrete surface were in this case left exposed, where they create an interesting motif.
Design & Construction • Other details of the project produces with the assistance of digital techniques include the milled, transparent urethane gaskets into which the window glazing is set.
The Details The kitchen sink cast in cement using a mould milled from urethane.
The Details • Another Massie innovation is a software program that simulates the physical performance of PVC piping. • Massie has used this achievement in large scale at his PV1 project.
The Details • The Big Belt house uses the same PVC pipe, bound together with twist ties for its roof structure. Only the ribs are concrete, the rest of the house is shotcrete over PVC pipe.
The Advantages • Architect William Massie’s innovative designs go directly from PC to construction site, cutting costs dramatically. • The use of computer technologies and primarily the output capability of Computer Numerically Controlled processes allows for a re-understanding of formal complexity with the main objective being the development of a more meaningful architecture.
The Challenges • The big challenge now is to change scale. There are still limitations to the equipment and resources. But William Massie is hopeful that he will be able to do a large building using these techniques soon. There is a company called Maloya Laser that now buying a huge new, highly automated German laser machine with a capacity of something like 10 feet by 20 feet. He would like to do a commercial building using that.