The “Green Screen” project was commissioned to create a vertical garden, or “living wall” system to beautify an existing concrete parking garage in Downtown Pawtucket, Rhode Island. The project was intended to be an artful statement that investigates both ornament and function in relation to contemporary design and production strategies.
The design goal was to create a singular form which could be reproduced infinitely and attached together to create a seamless surface that can be as large or as small as needed. The design would host a hearty plant accustomed to growing vertically and able to withstand the harsh New England climate. Factors such as soil requirements and watering were taken into consideration for plant species selection.
Research began by studying repetition and continuity in form, and how these can be applied to function. The works of Erwin Haeur proved to be quite relevant to the topic and were investigated in depth. Hauer had been studying the use of form repetition and seamless surfaces in architectural screens and walls. His studies (pictured below) created interesting intersections and voids, allowing only soft glowing light to penetrate.
The integration of the plant material affected every aspect of the form’s evolution. The plants required soil and a surface to grow on, both of which were details integrated into the design. The soil basin was integrated by mirroring the bottom portion of the surface, reversing it and attaching it back to the surface. Curves formed paths for rainwater to follow and collect in the soil basins.
English ivy was chosen as the greenery, because it is a hardy evergreen climbing plant that holds its lush green hue year round. Once established it uses aerial rootlets to support itself. This vine requires little to no maintenance, and thrives in the northeastern climate.
The 3D design process creates a disconnect between digital and analog, and it is crucial that a relationship between the design and its physical scale and presence be established early on. The 3D model of the earliest unit design was sent to a 3-axis CNC router to make a mold. Plaster was poured into the foam mold and left to cure, resulting in a rigid protoype that could withstand the heat of drapeforming. Drapeforming is the process of heating plastic enough for it become malleable and, when placed over a mold, takes on its form and creates a rough duplicate. This tactic was utilized often in the early phases of design, as it allows for faithful 1:1 scale reproduction and all of the tools required were available in-house. Creating these full scale mockups and installing them on-site provided much needed information about overall scale of the composition and individual scale of each unit.
After the initial design phase was complete, the basic shape and size of the individual unit had been decided. This led to the exploration of materials and a production process that would allow the maximum amount of units to be produced while keeping the form true to the design. The process of vacuum forming had been presented early on in the project, and was explored as a realistic option for production.
Vacuum forming is the process of heating plastic sheets and using a vacuum chamber to form the plastic over a mold (diagrammed above). This process was ideal because it allowed for unlimited reproduction and a faithful representation of the UVs and surface curves in the 3D model.
Pawtucket-based company Vac Forming Unlimited aided in the production of the final product. The allocated project budget allowed for a final mold to be produced and 25 full scale reproductions of the product to be made in plastic.