Looking at the CASA playhouse designed and built by OU architecture students and faculty you might think it is a Moon Buggy, Mars Rover, or some kind of extraterrestrial exploration vehicle constructed by aliens.
But the CASA playhouse design actually resulted from the constraints of a course assignment. OU Assistant Professor Bob Pavlik challenged students in his Digital Making seminar to “design a structure which enclosed space with the most minimal and efficient use of materials, while maintaining exceptional overall strength.”
This sounds simple. But the students quickly learned that balancing material efficiency, strength, and spatial needs required an advanced design process that utilized parametric modeling skills and software. Pavlik describes how the students arrived at the SuperEgg form:
Research into structural surface geometries eventually led students to a parametric equation that generates a 2D shape called a superellipse, and its 3D version, which is known as a superegg. This was generated as a digital 3D model by using a graphical programming environment called Grasshopper3D. The students chose this geometry as a starting point as its curved surfaces lend it structural strength, while being more volumetrically efficient than a perfect sphere or ellipsoid.
Designing the form was just the beginning of the challenge, however. Students also had to figure out a way to build the complex geometries they envisioned. And construction presented a new set of technical challenges, as Pavlik details:
From this superegg, the students developed a novel process of approximating its form with triangular panels, which can be cut from flat sheets of material. They also developed a novel edge-joining technique, which was made possible by computer-controlled fabrication equipment (a CNC router and laser cutter), which they had learned to program. Each of the 32 unique panels was then cut with this digital equipment and hand finished prior to assembly.
The result is a playhouse sure to inspire any child’s greatest cosmic fantasies. Yellow plexi-glass windows give the interior an eerie glow. And a specially designed wheel mechanism opens and closes the triangular entry hatch.
The entire project is part of OU Architecture’s longstanding support of Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children, or CASA, an organization that assists abused and neglected children. Each year CASA raffles off playhouses designed and constructed by local architects, builders, and architecture schools.
This year’s OU architecture playhouse is currently on display at the Northpark Center in Dallas, Texas through July 31st. Stop by and buy a $5 raffle ticket. Tickets can also be purchased online at https://www.dallascasa.org/dallas-casa-events/parade-of-playhouses/
CASA asks that if you cannot accept a playhouse, not to purchase raffle tickets. You can instead support the organization by voting for a favorite playhouse. You can text dallascasa to 41444, and that will take you to a link to pick your favorite playhouse. Each vote costs $5, and the favorite playhouse will be announced on their Facebook page and website.
Bob Pavlik, Hunter Roth, and OU students Dan Rice, Evan Sack, Mitch Cobb, and Daniel Kleypas led this effort. Thanks also to Canyon Prusso, Maryam Jahanbazi, Jianhao Li and especially Nick Harm.