Introduction: Frank Lloyd Wright Concrete "Textile" Block

Usonian Ornament: A Computer Numerically Controlled reconsideration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s textile block system

The project intends to investigate how the change from standardized industrial processes to digitally-based fabrication methods promotes new ornament in architecture, one that integrates structure, program and beauty. Formal design investigations of Frank Lloyd Wright's textile block system are to be examined in terms of the possibilities of surface modulation and structure through digital manufacturing, a process that exploits the reciprocal effects between digital information and material production. Research, fabrication and assembly procedures will center on full scale Computer Numerically Controlled production processes and multiple, subsequent material pour and drape forming CNC production techniques.

Project investigations in geometry from Frank Lloyd Wright’s historical, textile block specific building systems are intended to renew a discussion of both ornament and production processes. These project investigations highlight experiments done as studies of known geometrical systems of Frank Lloyd Wright’s textile block patterning systems reworked through digital machinic processes in new materials, including the Derby, Ennis-Brown, Freeman, Hollyhock, La Miniatura, Little Dipper, Storer, and Susan Lawrence Dana houses, as well as the Arizona Biltmore, Imperial Hotel, Midway Gardens, Price Tower and San Marcos In the Desert projects.

Project investigations include digital, 3-dimensional single surface & solid-object models, multiple toolpath variations and 1:1 male and female, or positive and negative [figure-ground reversal] molds, as well as interlocking [mirrored / sandwich type] molds, including Corain, foam & medium density fibre-board, and multiple, subsequent material pours, including concrete [with steel reinforcement], latex, plaster, resin & rubber compounds.

Additionally, Mesa and North American geometric influences, including Aztec, Mayan & Native North American [typically southwest] Indian cultures, are to be profiled & traced to the FLW textile block geometry sets, along with biological motifs.

Ornament in Architecture

The FLW textile block projects are a series of indulgent highlights in an architectural history of surface ornament and articulation. How digital techniques may facilitate an extension to this lineage becomes the question. What is important in this discussion is not the historical background, but the sensibilities and formal geometry systems active in their production. The geometries form a sort of energy or architectural phenomena, ripe for reinterpretation.

Sources

Sweeney, Robert L. Wright in Hollywood-Visions of a New Architecture. Cambridge:

The MIT Press. 1994.

Moor, Abby. Californian Textile Block. London: PRC Publishing Ltd. 2002

Comments

author
BruceWebb404 made it! (author)2017-05-07

I have a bit more than a passing interest in Wright's design philosophy, buildings, furniture and "decorations." I was looking for a project that would satisfy my desire to fashion something myself in 3D, not something bought from the gift shop, that was a connection to that architectural world.

Thanks ACT for the inspiration to experiment with these techniques.

As can be seen in the photos, I used my DIY router (Chinese lead-screws with NEMA 23 motors and Mach3 software) to cut a 200mm x 200mm model (a not quite faithful Ennis Brown textile block) from rigid foam. I made a polyurethane mold (yellow with green PVA sealant in the photos) from the model and cast a sample concrete block.

My indulgent wife has promised to allow me to include some similar elements in our kitchen remodel and has "commissioned" stepping stones of an original design that will be made by the same technique.

IMG_2007.JPGIMG_2008.JPGIMG_2012.JPGIMG_2029.JPGIMG_2030.JPG
author
BruceWebb404 (author)2017-01-29

A-C-T,

I am interested in performing some textile block studies including some decorative miniatures and possibly a small scale project incorporating the technique with modern materials. I have a DYI CNC mill that I am using to make face molds out of wood and various plastics.

It isn't clear to me what you have done here - and I can't open the .ff files, but I am guessing that I will find the investigations you have done interesting.

Can you provide some more information about what you have done/are doing?

Thanks,

author
a-c-t (author)BruceWebb4042017-01-30

hi bruce--

yes, prior to my reworking of the freeman house textile block by FLW, some earlier textile block studies can be found here: http://www.andrewthurlow.info/dm/archives/category/block-houses . essentially, each block was digitally created in 3d (from 2d & photographic information) and then CNC milled:

http://www.andrewthurlow.info/dm/archives/2416

http://www.andrewthurlow.info/dm/archives/2698
http://www.andrewthurlow.info/dm/archives/2617
http://www.andrewthurlow.info/dm/archives/2616
http://www.andrewthurlow.info/dm/archives/2618
http://www.andrewthurlow.info/dm/archives/2576

http://www.andrewthurlow.info/dm/archives/1559
http://www.andrewthurlow.info/dm/archives/1561
http://www.andrewthurlow.info/dm/archives/1560
http://www.andrewthurlow.info/dm/archives/1550
http://www.andrewthurlow.info/dm/archives/1552
http://www.andrewthurlow.info/dm/archives/1551

http://www.andrewthurlow.info/dm/archives/1408
http://www.andrewthurlow.info/dm/archives/1381
http://www.andrewthurlow.info/dm/archives/1378
http://www.andrewthurlow.info/dm/archives/1377

hope this helps to clarify the project.

best,
andrew

author
BruceWebb404 (author)a-c-t2017-01-30

Andrew,

OK - your work is fantastic!

No offense, but the Instructable hardly hints at either the faithful resurrection of the FLW sensibility arrived at by the process or the art you have created by extending it. Please consider reworking the Instructable to show some of the milled MDF and foam projects, and perhaps the reproduction blocks that you cast from them.

Once I looked at the other links, I got a sense of the moment when the thing imagined became real. That is, in my opinion, the satisfying moment that "makers" live for - and what is best communicated in an Instructable.

Er, uh. Back to the thing... Would it be rude of me to ask if you would be willing to share the G-code files for some these? Also, can you give me any insight into the parameters for cutting rigid foam? My router runs at 5000 to 15000 RPM and I have a 1/8" and 1/4" collet. Can I get there from here?

FYI - Here is my CNC set-up. I run Mach 3.

IMG_1933.JPG
author
a-c-t (author)BruceWebb4042017-02-10

hi bruce--thanks for your note, to which, i agree--my actual instruction on here / this site is terrible! it was a requirement for overlapping at pier 9. as this small project has become, er..., a bit more of a back burner project, i haven't circled back around to make this a usable instructional post. re: sharing the g-code, i would if i had the original NC files, but those were on a PC at ADSK's P9 (both the shopbot PC & a loaner laptop w/ Inventor HSM Pro). re: cutting foam on a CNC, it's very easy, and you can run slow speeds w/out chipping. in other words, you can get there! i used a 1/4" end mill router bit w/ a roughing pass or two, and then a 1/4 & 1/8" ball end router bit for the finish passes. can also try a 1/16" for finer corner detailing for intensive geometry like on the freeman textile block. best of luck.

author
a-c-t (author)BruceWebb4042017-01-30

as well, the IFF files will open with Adobe Photoshop / the like.

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