McGill University

The Depth of Comfort

Group project by a team of 7 in 1.5 months
Instructors | Manon Asselin + Katsushiro Yamazaki, Sinisha Brdar

The project is a constant play of transitions, between the seen and unseen, darkness and illumination, transparency and opacity, private and public. It identifies comfort as a general sense of well-being, a comfortable space, here, being one for introspection, reflection and self-healing. There is comfort in the feeling of calmness and serenity that exists in the glow of the first moments of wakefulness.

Spatially, comfort subsists in the private enclosure and the ability to perceive, through the materiality, the indistinct presence of others beyond; to be alone without being alone. Thus, the project creates a personal sense of place that fosters self-contentment as well as an intimate connection to others. This is achieved through a language of hierarchies, wherein the same unit that generates the plan also divides the spaces.

This language links the spatial model in a continuous ensuite assembly separated by clustered units whose faceted geometry allows the play of materiality to achieve a variation of effects that enhances the overall feeling of the space.


Group project by a team of 6 in 2 months
Instructors | Maria Mingallon

The Challenge
The project consists on the design and fabrication of a sunscreen aimed to prevent the entrance of excessive sunlight through the windows of the first year studios. Situated on the first floor of the Macdonald-Harrington building, this studio room is oriented southwest and thus, suffers from excessive sun radiance from early afternoon until sunset. 

During the winter months while the sun is at a lower incidence angle, glare and excessive light is the main concern. However, from April onwards, students suffer as well from excessive heat from the sunrays entering the room through the clear glass.

Design Concept
The concept arose in the digital fabrication of a sunscreen that provides users with local control and freedom over their exposure to sun, glares, heat, and shade at any given time. 

Glare and its causal effects (mainly heat) are the main issues in the studio at the Macdonald-Harrington building as it disrupts vision, comfort, and an overall learning environment. The design opted to reduce glare instead of blocking out the sun altogether. The sunscreen was envisioned as multiple local light fixtures based on a single design concept.

We opted to use a fabric with enough translucency to diffuse the light in the space. The user, through a simple act of pushing and pulling, stretches the fabric to various degrees in order to allow for a different concentration of light and shade. When opened, the fabric stretches in a radial direction and protrudes toward the user, as if the light fixture was blossoming. 
The structural grid produces a parallax effect and the depth creates varying conditions in light and heat. The device becomes an object that resembles a jellyfish, stretching over a curved surface to diffuse light in multiple directions.

Our sunscreen can easily be expanded to various site conditions. Each fixture is fabricated separately, and each individual fixture adheres to the same design concept. The design can be modulated by extending the rails to add more fixtures, allowing the sunscreen to cover virtually any surface size. 

This means of fabrication allowed us to explore the future of digital parametric design to further push the limits of the material and uncover the potential for advanced fabrication. For these reasons, our sunscreen seeks to blur the boundaries between a functional shading device and an art installation.

Forces The tensile strength of steel can withstand approximately 17,000 PSI. The strength of acrylic is 10,000 PSI in tension and 11,000 PSI in compression. The tensile strength for wood ranges from 175 PSI up to 1,400 PSI and anywhere between 3,900 PSI to 1,0500 PSI in compression.
The rails are an undulating pattern of peaks and valleys we have compression and tension acting on different points along the structure. The forces acting on the valleys are the reverse of the forces acting on the peaks. (fig.1)
The arms provide the structure for the membrane (fabric). By adding a ‘stabilizer’ to the arms of the jelly, the force exerted by the user to push the rod forces the arms inward, while pulling the rod forces the arms outward. Simultaneously, the rails guide the arms of the jelly upwards. (fig.2)

Structure Material
Steel was chosen for its compressive and tensile strength, its high strength to weight ratio, and its ability to reduce friction when opening and closing the jelly. We tested plexiglass in our prototype but quickly realized that the smaller connections would break and the rails would deflect with ease.

We opted for steel instead of pursuing a hard wood or a different type of plastic because by using the plasma cutter, the machine allowed us to fabricate our sunscreen without changing too much of the design details.

For the rods, we opted for a 1/4” thick acrylic rod that wouldn’t need to sustain much deflection since they weren’t supporting much and the movement was primarily in one axial direction. The fabric was chosen based on its aesthetic and functional qualities since it was not a structural element.

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