Created: October 8th, 2018

RSMA Project 2 - solsetur
Paggy Zhu -

Daytime rendering


Our response to the RFP from Pittsburgh International Airport is a site-specific intervention which latches on to and reimagines the structural system in a creative way—activating the space through natural and artificial light. We found the most interesting architectural element to be the slits in the roof corresponding to the iconic trusses that span the Great Hall and support the arched roof. These skylights are really a fascinating formal piece, but due to their orientation they produce an enormous amount of glare (pictured below), the recent renovation included a high-gloss floor that made the problem worse. In order to create a relaxing space, our installation aims to activates the space at night,  and solve this environmental issue during the day as well.

Current glare problems
Night time rendering

The installation itself consists of a secondary formwork that attaches to the existing structural truss and reimagines its outward formal appearance. The external structure is covered in translucent fabric, which diffuses the light of the LED's attached on the interior into a pleasant, calming display of gradient color.

The generative animation is a figural representative of a sunset, travelling across the slit from east to west. The installation recreates the consistently stunning Pittsburgh sunsets and extends their life throughout the night, so that all travelers can experience the calming and meditative effect of watching the sun set. The colors of the animation were carefully chosen through testing of the manifestation of the RGB values on our difficult programmable LEDs. 

Instead of using the lighting to catch people's attention with rapidly shifting colors, we opted for a more subtle approach. The unorthodox formwork will unobtrusively cause people to look up, and appreciate the slow meditative effect of the light on the piece. 

Design iterations
Screen shot 2018 10 08 at 10.11.28 am.thumb

The formwork is generated parametrically through a grasshopper script. The cross-section is a hexagon that is continually rotated, scaled, and oriented around the truss. It is just alien enough to draw attention, but not outlandish to the point of unfamiliarity. 

It posed challenges for us in the model, as our material of choice for the translucent membrane was a plastic coated paper and did not lend itself well to recreating the doubly curved surface. In practice, we recreated the effect by filling the formwork with a light chiffon, and setting the lights above the slit to illuminated the ethereal form below.

Grasshopper script
Model composite
Model composite.thumb

Materials list:

- Bent Conduit for frame

- High thread count, bi-directional projection fabric

- Addressable LEDs

- Computer controller 

- Fasteners, clips, rivets



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48-734 Reactive Spaces and Media Architecture

· 25 members

How can embedded computation change the way we experience our surroundings? This class will focus on the design and prototyping of reactive spaces. Over the course of several small projects and one...more