Ruga Interior Skin (RIS): Concept, Topology, Making, and Material


Presented by: Jiangmei Wu

In architectural design, skin is a familiar metaphor for building envelopes that provide flexible layers of protection and are often dependent upon rigid structure supports. In contrast, an interior skin can refer to all interior surfaces, from walls, ceilings, and floors to upholstery and curtains. The interior skin, possessing both visual and tactile qualities, is a statement of expression of how we live, shop, work, and pray. A wide range of materials can be appropriate for an interior skin, from rigid ones such as wood, glass, and metal, to flexible ones, such as wool, leather and paper. With the advance of material design and sustainable development, interior skins are forever changing, creating new topological forms, providing new visual and tactile experiences, and becoming the conceptual bridge between our body and our environment. Could a new interior skin have visual and tactile qualities of soft wool and yet be inherently rigid? How could a new approach to interior skins contribute to our ongoing search for sustainable materials and making techniques? 

“Ruga” is a Latin word for making winkles, creases, and folds, and the word has been recently used by material scientists to describe the various physical qualities of these various folded states. RIS is inspired by the use of folding to create complex topological forms from flat thin sheet material with simple and low cost tools. The RIS project seeks to create deployable three dimensional interior skin that comes from a single piece of two dimensional material and can be collapsed into, again, smaller compressed forms. Rigid and flexible, Ruga Skins can be applied in either horizontal or vertical applications in interiors, such as ceiling clouds, standalone partitions, paneling systems, etc. 

Focusing specifically on one of the most fundamental folding patterns, the Yoshimura pattern, the RIS project explores its potential for being an interior fabric for temporary use, or for an ephemeral interior structure. One of the most important features of the Yoshimura pattern is its ability to allow the form to reduce the dimensions in all directions when compressed or folded, facilitating easy transportation and storage. A regular deployment of the pattern produces an approximated arc form that has great structural stability. Instead of a regular deployment of the Yoshimura pattern, the RIS project focuses on the irregular deployment. The goal is to generate a variety of topologies to increase their versatility for working with a variety of interior functions.

Four methods are used in RIS project: parametric design, small scale physical models, computer simulations, and 1:1 scale physical models. Parametric design tools such as Grasshopper and Lunch Box are used to generate a variety of Yoshimura crease patterns. These crease patterns are then sent to a digital cutter for perforation and cutting so that small physical models can be generated quickly. These physical models shed insights into the structural stability of topologies and their global kinetic properties. Since folding is real physics, Kangaroo, a live physics engine for simulation, optimization and form finding is used to study the kinetic features as well as the final folded mesh topologies. These meshes are then unrolled and output for fabricating the 1:1 scale model. 

Corrugated cardboard has been chosen for the 1:1 scale model due to its economic, light weight, and environmental qualities. However, a variety of materials can be appropriate for RIS. One such material is polyester felt, made of recycled plastic bottles by using needle punch non-woven techniques. This felt has superior acoustic quality and currently has been used in interior carpets and wall panels. While it is non-rigid, folding adds rigidity to the material. Other potential materials include HDPE, paper, stiffen leather, etc. Further studies will need to be conducted in order to test the feasibility of these different sheet materials.

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