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Firm Profile: Variable Projects

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Centennial Chromograph

Variable Projects is an Oakland-based, award-winning design and research office operating at the intersection of architecture, computation, and fabrication. The office’s work explores the rich territories of overlap between contemporary technology and traditional construction methods. Of particular interest is how new modes of design and fabrication can interface with longstanding architectural traditions of craft, materiality, ornament, and pattern. The practice ranges from small architectural projects to public artworks to consultation services in advanced computational design and digital fabrication.

Recent work by Variable Projects include Centennial Chromagraph, a large architectural installation constructed in Rapson Hall at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. The structure, which received a 2013 Honor Award from AIA Minnesota, is fabricated from 100 robotically routed plywood ribs and over 8,000 colorful pencils. Built as a centerpiece for the centennial celebrations of UMN’s School of Architecture, the project takes its form and color from data analysis of the history of the school and

Modular Variations Prototype I

Modular Variations Prototype I

its 100 years of alumni. The project reflects a broader interest in data-driven, computational design techniques, and how they can be leveraged

to produce new effects and modes of public engagement. It also demonstrates the office’s commitment to using economical, conventional materials in unconventional ways.

An ongoing research project in the office is Modular Variations, an exploration of the design of

Modular Variations Prototype II

Modular Variations Prototype II

reconfigurable molds for the production of modular masonry units. The project involves developing reconfigurable molds constructed from a set of finite, simple components and capable of producing a large range of variable cast plaster modules that can be stacked into a wall assembly. The first phase of this project resulted in two full-scale, proof-of-concept masonry screen wall prototypes consisting of entirely unique cast modules, each produced from a single, reconfigurable mold.

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