Metalab pursues product design commissions by first asking the core questions about a product and it's genre: why is it the way it is? And why has it been done this way now and throughout it's history? These questions encompass market research and comparative analysis, and often suggest an elegant solution. We then design from a holistic process-based approach that seeks to simultaneously understand the why and the how of our core response by seeking a manufacturing logic to the prototyping and production of our design. With an inherent expertise in digital fabrication, construction, and sustainable technologies, we have produced successful product designs for both startups and established companies.
Our approach to the river boat design challenge begin with a simple gesture circumscribed within the city of San Antonio's iconic "deep in the heart" logo. The simple rounded rectangle - or pill shape - creates an iconic form for the vessels that is both easy to fabricate and hydrodynamic. Endless possibilities for the riverboat experience are possible with the easy addition and removal of modular deck components: touring, dining, commuting, yoga, spin class, pop-up barber shops, and other variations yet to be offered. Our decorative railings - inspired by Papel Picado patterns and the city of San Antonio's secondary color palette - pitch slightly outward and rake forward at the bow and stern to create an iconic boat form. To save space and increase legroom, the outward slant of these railings is carefully aligned with the ergonomic angle of a chair back, allowing for passenger comfort and the shape of the boat to be one in the same.
The latest addition to the Smilebooth line of products. Prints from Twitter with custom hashtags or wireless from Linus or Queso.
The concept for the Greater East End’s Solar Pedestrian Pathway Lighting design, provides a robust stand-alone solar powered system. The cluster concept pairs a string of highly efficient LED light fixtures with a solar generator that also provides form and function as a shelter and seating area. Each generator consists of both solar panels and batteries held below a simple bench surface. The generator harvests power during the day to be stored and released to the string of pathway lights at night. The solar generators are designed to provoke curiosity, provide shade, and be effective in different locations within the Greater East End District. Ringo refers to the simple cylindrical form of the luminaire that takes advantage of the thinness of an LED light board. Ringo features a colored edge band, themed to the Greater East End District, and the light posts have an optional string of LED’s lights, a festive and whimsical gesture held between two delicate armatures, providing a unique identity to the Greater East End during both day and night. We are developing this project in partnership with Philips Hadco, Ameresco Solar and The Art Guys (Lead Artist).
Employing proprietary design and material innovation, SPACE (Solar Powered Adaptive Container for Everyone) is made up of four major components: an up-cycled 20 ft x 8 ft shipping container housing a climate controlled work/ storage space, a proprietary solar rack capable of producing up to 5 kW of solar power, a selfcontained battery end-cap with 5 days of battery backup, and a fully integrated renewable power management system. Together, the total package is a mobile solar generator and work/ storage space capable of accommodating job site activities, special events, and emergency response operations. Company website: www.adaptivecontainer.com
Metalab was retained by Greater East End to design a prototypical market kiosk for the Navigation Blvd Esplanade in the east side of Houston. These shade structures are installed along with our Ringo LED pedestrian lighting system with accompanying solar generators. The wispy design alludes to the the Vesica Piscis, the shape created by the union of two circles which historically in gothic architecture has symbolized community and union. A perforated sheet metal shell roof provides dappled light shading while retaining transparency to reduce wind loads. The perforated pattern references the tradition of "papel picado" in the Hispanic culture of the surrounding neighborhood.
We completely rethought the genre. We literally took the booth out of the photobooth, so there is no seat, no curtain, no privacy. We felt like the photobooth was predicated on the notions of modesty and privacy, which no longer exist in our digital culture. We literally stripped away the curtain and created this digitally-fabricated, tall object. It’s a beautiful, stand-alone unit that’s technologically integrated. It has a touch screen interface, high quality digital SLR camera, printer and an LED flash box as well. It’s packs into two carry-on containers for traveling to far-flung events. Product developers: www.smilebooth.com
The PV Pod is a High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) vessel that is filled with water as a ballast and used to mount single PV modules to flat roof tops. Most of the current systems for mounting solar panels involve aluminum “stick-built” racking, and concrete block ballast to counterweight the solar panels from high winds. Such systems are problematic due to the labor cost and complexity of assembly, the need for these “racks” to be contiguous in rows across the roof, and most importantly, the potential of the concrete ballast blocks to be dropped and damage the roof membrane. The PV Pod allows for quick and safe installation by simply loading the roof with plastic tanks, mounting the panels, arranging the array, filling each tank with the specified amount of water ballast, and finally wiring the array together and into the building’s electrical grid. Because there is one Pod for each panel, the layout is flexible. US Utility Patent Pending. Generously supported by the UH Green Building Components grant program
A revolutionary yet simple raised bed gardening system, the groPOD is now in production and ready for use in community gardens, commercial developments, and private home gardens – anywhere there is a flat surface! The groPOD can be purchased alone, or with simple and inexpensive accessories, including integral soak-hose watering and cedar trim boards. Best of all, the groPOD is inexpensive, movable, reusable, and high quality – perfect for do-it-yourself groups without being too much work to get down to the business of urban growing. Visit us at our website to contact us and place an order for groPODs at wholesale pricing directly through Metalab, for a limited time. groPOD… Grow Anywhere! Generously supported by the UH Green Building Components grant program
Queso is a digitally designed and fabricated Photobooth based on the integration of equipment including a digital SLR camera, Wi-Fi enabled and custom programmed CPU, strobe lighting, touchscreen LCD monitor and a dye-sub printer. The design, responding to the ubiquity of social networks and image sharing, eliminates the “booth” from the photobooth, leaving a sleek, minimal container as a human interface and locus of activity. ID Award 2011: Consumer Products, Honorable Mention. Product developers: www.smilebooth.com
The focus of the cloud has been on “designed assemblies” and the use of parametric software and digital fabrication. The project was to design a new type of suspended ceiling system. The students developed a Ceiling Cloud that is proposed to clip on to an modified suspended ceiling grid using lightweight folded aluminum panels that are designed to incrementally change dimension and drape into the space below. Constraints and variables within the parametric models allowed for the extraction of 150 unique panels that are also perforated with their own individual pattern. The goal of the variations in the overall ceiling system are to disburse and dissipate sound through refraction and absorption created by the corrugation in the panels and their perforation. The gradient of holes also are calibrated to allow more light to penetrate in the center of the space. Collaboration with the UHCoA Digital Fabrication seminar students and Scott Marble, Visiting Critic. First Place, AAFAB Award 2009, Interior Category