Metalab

Finding new and better ways to build things

Riverboat
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Riverboat Riverboat Riverboat Riverboat Riverboat Riverboat Riverboat Riverboat Riverboat Riverboat Riverboat Riverboat Riverboat Ringo Ringo Ringo Ringo Ringo Ringo Linus Linus Linus Linus Linus Linus Linus Linus BEL REV BEL REV BEL REV BEL REV BEL REV BEL REV BEL REV HAL (#AL) HAL (#AL) HAL (#AL) HAL (#AL) HAL (#AL) HAL (#AL) HAL (#AL) Global Outpost Farm (GO Farm) Global Outpost Farm (GO Farm) Global Outpost Farm (GO Farm) Global Outpost Farm (GO Farm) Ekocenter Ekocenter Ekocenter JuiceBOX JuiceBOX JuiceBOX JuiceBOX JuiceBOX JuiceBOX JuiceBOX JuiceBOX JuiceBOX JuiceBOX
Mercado Picado Mercado Picado Mercado Picado Mercado Picado Mercado Picado Mercado Picado Mercado Picado Mercado Picado Mercado Picado PV-POD PV-POD PV-POD PV-POD PV-POD GroPOD GroPOD GroPOD GroPOD GroPOD GroPOD GroPOD GroPOD GroPOD Queso Queso Queso Queso Queso Queso Queso
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Product Design
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We design products that affect both the built environment and the environment at large as we focus our technological capacities on a broad range of assignments for clients ranging from start-ups to municipalities to Fortune 500 companies.

Our designs are often focused on large environmental products, such as outdoor lighting, bike infrastructure, and site furnishings. We've also ventured into very large scale products such as River Boats for the City of San Antonio and off-grid solar shipping containers for MobileGRID, as well as high-tech product design and development for SmileBooth, a digital photobooth company for whom we serve as the design agency of record.

Sustainable and renewable energy technologies are well understood by us, and we hold US patents—both design and utility—in the fields of Solar and LED lighting.

As designers who cross disciplines between architecture and art, we pursue product design differently. We work with our clients to establish budgets and timelines for product development, assist in creating functional prototypes and beta versions, and engage in ongoing optimization of a design through production and updates. This approach allows us to learn the industries in which we work and anticipate new trends and market opportunities.

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.

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The creation of a street lamp is a signficant design challenge. In addition to creating a robust fixture that can withstand the elements, there were strict criteria governing its performance. To tackle the challenge, METALAB partnered with Phillips.

Initially developed for Houston's East End Management District, METALAB drew inspiration from the surrounding community, the low-profile of Phillips LED technologies, and the promise of neighborhood renewal. The Ringo offers high performance energy efficient mid-level path lighting with simple elegant forms and a refined presence. Ringo also features cost effective and easily interchangable colored bands that help define the district’s identity. Phillips LED technologies provide state-of-the-art control, light quality, and energy efficiency.

Utilizing advanced LED technologies, this street lamp consumes far less energy than traditional luminaires that produce comparable light output, in part because LED’s project focused directional light. This results in less glare and light pollution, better visual recognition, and excellent color rendition. The efficiency is not only environmentally responsible, it provides great operational savings.

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For the Smilebooth product line, Metalab completely rethought the photobooth genre. We literally took the booth out of the photobooth, so there is no seat, no curtain, no privacy. We felt that the photobooth was predicated on the notions of modesty and privacy, which no longer exist in our digital culture. We stripped away the curtain and created digitally-fabricated, tall objects. Linus is a beautiful, stand-alone unit that’s technologically integrated with a touch screen interface, high quality digital SLR camera, and an LED flash box. And it all packs into two carry-on containers for traveling to far-flung events. 

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Bѐl Rѐv (or “Sweet Dreams” in English) is a collaborative project with NRG, Blue Marble Ice Cream, and Haiti 155 that develops an ice cream parlor in Haiti with the goal of training and empowering local young women entrepreneurs in order for them to gain the skills they need to succeed in the future.  The store is created using three re-purposed shipping containers tied together. The micro-grid application is a first for Mobile Grid’s JuiceBOX, and consists of 9kW worth of solar panels, 10kW of batters, inverters and a 10kW generator located on-site, making Bѐl Rѐv’s ice cream parlor able to still function in the absence of grid power.

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The #AL (a toungue and cheek name derived from HAL's soothing persona in Stanley Kubirck's 2001: A Space Oddysey), further re-imagines the digital photobooth genre by stripping away a critical piece of equipment - the camera.  Instead each users smartphone camera provides the input to #AL, which scrapes hashtagged images from Instagram in realtime, creating a high quality print within seconds of uploading an image.

This engaging user interface activates multiple users within cultural or commercial event venues, while creating an effective database as well as a physical print that can serve as a memento, coupon, reminder, or a coaster for cold beverages.

#AL can work as a stand alone unit, and can also be tethered to other Smilebooth products such as Linus (the pole mounted digital photobooth) and Wally (you guessed it, the wall mounted digital photobooth) which do not have printers.

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Employing proprietary design and material innovation, JuiceBOX 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 7 kW of solar power, a self contained battery end-cap with 5 days of battery backup, and a fully integrated renewable power management system.

Adding to this structure of the Juicebox, Metalab was commissioned by Helical to create a revolutionary hydroponic greenhouse that includes water filtration, solar power, and communication capabilities. This working classroom in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley is equipped to prepare veterans for the future of farming.

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Mobile Grid and Metalab were hired on by Coca-Cola with DEKA and NRG to design and fabricate EKOCENTER, a 20’ shipping container repurposed as a market kiosk, water purification center, and source of electricity aimed at enhancing communities and empowering women entrepreneurs in socioeconomically challenged countries around the world.

The prototype was unveiled in South Africa with Muhtar Kent (CEO) and Condoleezza Rice. Ekocenter is another application of SPACE, the flagship product of Mobile Grid.

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Employing proprietary design and material innovation, juiceBOX 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 14 kW of solar power, a self-contained battery end-cap, 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.mobilegrid.com

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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.

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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


 

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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

 

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Designed in collaboration with Smilebooth, 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.

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Trail of the Lakes
Trail of the Lakes Trail of the Lakes Trail of the Lakes Trail of the Lakes Trail of the Lakes 2322 Bissonnet 2322 Bissonnet 2322 Bissonnet 5601 Navigation 5601 Navigation 5601 Navigation 5601 Navigation Godbold Marfa Distillery Godbold Marfa Distillery Godbold Marfa Distillery Godbold Marfa Distillery Godbold Marfa Distillery Godbold Marfa Distillery Godbold Marfa Distillery 20 N Sampson 20 N Sampson 20 N Sampson 20 N Sampson 20 N Sampson Amaya Roasting Company Amaya Roasting Company Amaya Roasting Company Amaya Roasting Company Amaya Roasting Company Amaya Roasting Company Sojourn Heights Church Sojourn Heights Church Sojourn Heights Church Sojourn Heights Church Generation Park Performance Pavilion Generation Park Performance Pavilion Generation Park Performance Pavilion Generation Park Performance Pavilion Generation Park Performance Pavilion Generation Park Performance Pavilion Generation Park Performance Pavilion Generation Park Performance Pavilion Ecclesia Church Lindale Ecclesia Church Lindale Ecclesia Church Lindale Ecclesia Church Lindale Ecclesia Church Lindale Ecclesia Church Lindale Ecclesia Church Lindale Neighbors in Action Neighbors in Action Neighbors in Action Neighbors in Action Ecclesia Church Eado Ecclesia Church Eado Ecclesia Church Eado Ecclesia Church Eado Round Pen Round Pen Round Pen Round Pen Fire Station 2 Fire Station 2 Fire Station 2 Fire Station 2 Fire Station 2 Fire Station 2 Fire Station 2 Fire Station 2 Fire Station 2 Fire Station 2 Fire Station 2 Fire Station 2 Fire Station 2 Fire Station 2 2020 Hardy 2020 Hardy 2020 Hardy 2020 Hardy 2020 Hardy
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Architecture
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METALAB architecture pursues design-forward solutions to architectural commissions. Our work is focused on programmatic, cultural, and economic opportunities in the built environment, and our solutions are clever and unexpected. We believe that the uniqueness of our solutions translates directly into value and authenticity.

We often work on old buildings or in historic contexts, but we design and build in our own time, celebrating the common thread of quality and community as lasting achievements. We are well versed in advanced 3D modeling and digital fabrication, while recognizing that these are simply tools in an ever expanding toolbox. Our projects are elegant and sometimes whimsical, sensing their place in a long continuum.

We take great pride in understanding how buildings go together. If we don't know something, we want to learn. Listening and learning from those who make things is fundamental to our work. While our practice is focused on the following building types, we have always embraced the notion that the most creative work comes from an outliers perspective, one that we try to maintain even as we gather experience and momentum in these areas.

Our architecture work is focused on:
Pavilions & Park Buildings, Churches & Sacred Spaces, Renovation & Adaptive Re-use, Creative Commercial

This pavilion for a dog park located in the Trail of the Lakes Municipal Utility District in Atascocita, TX is the result  of a collaboration between Metalab and landscape architects Four and One. Part of Four and One's master plan for this land included two parks for large and small dogs. Metalab's intent was to design a pavilion that stretched across both parks, creating interactive moments between people and dogs large and small under one sweeping structure. The pavilion's roof is built as a sequence of linear elements, producing a ruled surface reaching out from the middle of the park's central walkway and into the large and small dog zones at either end. The dramatic formal gesture of the roof is in reference to the dynamic character of dogs at play, be it a wagging tail or a thrown stick. Board form concrete storage rooms act as shear walls and integrated signage for visitors. The pavilion's landings are strategically raised so people walking outside the parks are almost at eye level with the dogs, bringing humans and dogs closer together.

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In 2322 Bissonnet, Metalab redeveloped an existing light industrial / office building, converting it into commericial spaces for owner Current Standing. The design sought to preserve as many existing elements of the building as possible while also updating those areas that needed new finishes, including developing the exterior landscaping and identity of the building. Overall, the building was converted into seven individual offices, a conference room, bathrooms, coffee station, covered walkway, and exterior courtyard that could all be leased out to tenants. Metalab also coordinated the interior design of this project, from the color and material palettes to the furniture throughout the space.

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Known in the East End as the Knockout Factory, 5601 Navigation is a stunningly simple 20,000 SF warehouse. Metalab recently renovated a 5,000 SF portion of the building to serve as Houston Bike Share's HQ and workshop, and we have now begun the design phase for a non-profit to occupy the western 6,000 SF portion of the building. Throughout the building, the ceilings are celebrated for their inherent beauty: timber frame joists and wood decking span above the original riveted truss girders with 50 foot clear spans. Original street art on the back of the building will be kept in place as Metalab restores the train loading docks to enjoy views of the bayou.

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Sitting prominently in the sparse Marfa skyline, the Godbold Feed Mill is a complex manufacturing facility. The assemblage of buildings includes a 12,000 SF wood-framed warehouse, a 2,000 SF steel-framed multi-level mill, four large steel storage tanks, truck lifts and scales, and supplemental outbuildings that house the necessary elevators, conveyors, hoppers, and machinery.

With our help, the new owners aim to uphold the historical integrity of the structure and reuse as much of the existing equipment as possible. The manufacturing areas of the property will be used for producing a variety of spirits. The distillery will specialize in sotol, a native desert plant that yields a delicious herbal spirit akin to tequila. A large portion of the warehouse will be used for barrel storage, with the remainder converted into a tasting room, family style eatery, bar, and gallery. Materials and assemblies will stay true to the building's industrial agricultural history.

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Metalab's own headquarters, 20 North Sampson, is an adaptive reuse structure in Houston's East End District. The two story front of the building is a late Art Deco structure built in 1940, constructed of brick with limestone trim around the windows. The interior, home to our design studio, was a minimal intervention of light demolition and added color to celebrate the original rooms. The mid section of the building is a concrete structure from 1952, which has been partitioned with glass to create a furniture maker's workshop and a common conference for the building. The building's back section is a 1962 Bethlehem steel structure that was redesigned with minimal drywall partitions that are carefully revealed around the existing steel columns and original steel windows.

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Set in an old warehouse, the Amaya Roasting Company's headquarters is an adaptive reuse project in which the existing steel structure helped to inform how to divide and organize the spaces. Rather than fight the existing struural characteristics, we chose to infill within the bays with a polycarbonate and wood framing system, which met the health and safety regulations for testing and producing coffee in Houston. Throughout the project, strategically placed skylights bring natural light to interior spaces in need of extra visibility. By using conventional materials in unconventional ways, Metalab was able to design a high quality headquarters for a developing business while still meeting their price point.

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Sojourn Heights’s new church campus utilizes the renovation of two historic church buildings, new construction, and landscaping to stitch together a vital nexus for the neighborhood.

Built in the 1960’s, the first building has been Sojourn’s home since 2010. Through Metalab’s intervention, this will be remodeled to house all children’s ministry functions.

The second recently-acquired building was previously North Main Baptist church. Built in 1940, it has sat abandoned since the early 1990’s. This two story, load-bearing masonry structure is capped by a beautifully preserved bowstring truss roof structure. Metalab’s design will shore up the masonry structure in this building and modernize the facility while retaining its character and housing a new sanctuary space with balcony seating. On the west side of this existing building, a new steel-frame, ground-up addition will house a fellowship hall and staff workspace.

To reconnect with the context, the two buildings will form a U-shape around a common courtyard and greenspace, which Sojourn plans to make accessible to the community as an amenity for all to share.

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Shade, in the Houston summer, is almost as great a necessity as water or air. Thus,  the open air pavilion is a common and welcome sight throughout the urban landscape.  For Generation Park (a new mixed use development located near Lake Houston)  McCord Development, imagined a pavilion that would be active throughout the day as a sophisticated and whimsical landmark where residents and office workers can gather for coffee or lunch. Then in the evening the pavilion becomes a destination for live performances and concerts before a grassy, sprawling lawn.

The canopy of undulating steel and supple wood perches atop a minimal cluster of slender columns, keeping the stage open for seating and bands alike. The form of the primary structure for the canopy was developed from a study of gravitational forces and their resulting structural diagram. We tailored these results to produce a trim, efficient  structural system that cantilevers effortlessly over a cobbled stone stage.

Stage lighting and speakers can be mounted, powered and controlled through a fully integrated theatrical system concealed above the wood soffit and down the columns. This seamless coordination of multiple complex systems was accomplished through our expertise in digital design and pre-fabrication. This pavilion exemplifies our belief that a deep understanding and fascination in the way our designs our crafted produces elegant and timeless solutions.

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Built for Lindale Baptist Church in 1953, this building is being renovated to fulfill the needs of a modern congregation. Minimal work was needed in the Art Deco sanctuary space, but a complete overhaul of the administrative and classroom wing was necessary to function for the new church. The floor plates were wiped clean to make space for a new program including a full time daycare facility, a fellowship hall, a worship hall for the congregation that previously owned the church building, and plenty of office space and weekend classroom space.

This was all accommodated with carefully orchestrated adjacencies and a series of movable walls, allowing the large community spaces in the building to be reconfigured routinely. The exterior character of the building was preserved with only a few minor repairs and improvements, while the interior has been re-imagined to accommodate the variety of activities this contemporary congregation engages in. A master plan for the campus includes a playground for the daycare and future garden spaces that will be given to the care of the city as a
community park.

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Our design for the new Neighbors in Action Community Center proposed for their location at Clinton and McCarty Ave in Houston. Connecting to a city park across the street the facility will house education and fellowship activities for adults and children from the neighborhood. Using a modular rigid metal frame system, we have organized indoor activities around a double height space and outdoor program under an open-air pavilion with a community garden.  

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For this adaptive reuse of a former fish warehouse and nightclub in the EADO district of Houston’s East End, we worked with the church leaders to develop spaces for worship, fellowship, child care and rental retail.  As an inviting move within the skeleton of the old structure, a monumental connection between the levels was designed with a “Stepatorium” that allowed for gathering near the coffee shop of the ground floor to the spaces above. To further connect back out to the city, “Infinity” windows on the north side frame views of downtown Houston across the freeway.

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The Round Pen is a standard size – 62′ diameter – open riding arena that is used to train yearling horses in a simple environment without distraction. This project was a re-invention of this rural building typology, using computer-numerically-controlled (CNC) laser cutting and digital modeling to create a kit of parts that was built on site by skilled craftsmen using only scaffolding, minimal equipment, and hand tools. Precise truss layouts were generated, along with parts and assemblies directly fabricated from the digital model. A unique convergence of design, manufacturing, and craftsmanship resulted from this highly collaborative and interdependent effort.  Designed with Joe Mashburn for Lyle Lovett at his ranch near Houston.  AIA HOUSTON ARCHITECTURE DESIGN AWARD 2008

 

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In a collaboration with Janusz Designs and Metalab, 317 Sampson Street is a renovation of the original Houston Fire Department building, known as Engine House No. 2, into a residence. This two story brick Firestation, built in 1910, was designed to house fire wagons, horses, pump stations, and other firefighting equipment. The building has a rusticated cast concrete base with load bearing brick masonry walls. A red #2 has been installed at the parapet of the front façade, replicated from images provide by the Houston Fire Museum. On the inside, the main Engine Hall features 14 foot ceilings clad in beadboard, and is supported by a central wood beam and wood columns. There are two original firepole locations, now outfitted with salvaged brass poles from an octagonal firehouse in Massachusetts.

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2020 Hardy is a multi-phase renovation project currently under construction in Houston’s Fifth Ward. Working with the clients, Metalab's goal for this project was to utilize as much of the existing structure as possible while also updating the building to fit its new use. The first phase of renovation restores the 1900 late Victorian structure to its original footprint and character, which converts the historic grocery into artist studios for rent. The ground floor of the project is programmed for flexible exhibitions with movable partitions designating artist work spaces.The brick patio and canopy columns made of railroad track integrate materials reclaimed in demolition and from surrounding industrial sites. Phase two of the project will include the addition of a warehouse structure for artist storage and exterior workspace.

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Dow Elementary Park is a collaboration between Metalab (Architecture) and Asakura Robinson (Landscape Architecture) to renovate an existing park in the Sixth Ward of Houston. Metalab has designed a new pavilion, The Long House, that combines various outdoor recreation programs in a continuous organizational band. Each of the five gable roofs covering areas of the Long House has a different pitch and different roofing materials, drawing on the Victorian-era residential fabric of the surrounding community. Programs in The Long House include a swing, custom tables for playing games, a BYO hammock area, and at the end of the band is a brick fireplace and grills. Additional elements add to the existing playground on the site. These gestures combine an historic sensitivity towards the context with a contemporary programmatic mixture for the park.

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Park for Humans and Dogs, a new project in the Old Sixth Ward, doubles as both a green space for the surrounding community as well as a play area for their dogs. The park recognizes the needs of the neighborhood with the inclusion of unique landscaped moments and open green spaces. Water features include misters to cool off in the heat, as well as dog fountains and showers. Most importantly, the park showcases a sensitivity to historic preservation with the inclusion of a 100 year old restored cupola from a neighborhood Victorian house that has been re-purposed into a gazebo.

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An invited competition, Innovation Territories (IT) 093 - 066, was curated by AIA Houston and New York artist Mary Ellen Carroll to explore the potential of the slowly decaying Sharpstown Mall area.  The proposition digs a deep hole into the southeast corner of the lot, scraping the existing shopping mall structure in and encapsulating the debris. The dirt removed from the hole is used to create a structured mound over Interstate 59, thereby extending the useable land. The site is then converted to a green space with some combination of park space, productive landscape, comminty garden, and pasture-land.   A 400,000 SF footprint mixed-use building sits at the center of the site with retail on the bottom floor, and offices, hotel, condo, and event space above. A depression in the site above the debris field becomes a lake and its surrounding marshland become a reservoir and habitat for native plants and animals, while providing ample storm water retention for this site, and others around it, with excess storm water capacity being reserved and sold as credits to future area development in order to promote density.  

Competition Winner with Faro Studio

Head of Jury:  Charles Renfro, Partner, Diller Scofidio + Renfro

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Bѐl Rѐv (or “Sweet Dreams” in English) is a collaborative project with NRG, Blue Marble Ice Cream, and Haiti 155 that develops an ice cream parlor in Haiti with the goal of training and empowering local young women entrepreneurs in order for them to gain the skills they need to succeed in the future.  The store is created using three re-purposed shipping containers tied together. The micro-grid application is a first for Mobile Grid’s JuiceBOX, and consists of 9kW worth of solar panels, 10kW of batters, inverters and a 10kW generator located on-site, making Bѐl Rѐv’s ice cream parlor able to still function in the absence of grid power.

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For MIRABEAU B SALES CENTER, Metalab worked with ttweak reneawables, a strategic communications and design company, and Harvest Moon Development to design a sales center that would serve as visual promotion of the project, a material sample display, and a paragon of sustainable architecture. The containers are powered by 10 photo voltaic panels mounted on a proprietary, scalable custom rack system, which also provides shading. When its job at the Mirabeau B site is complete, the Center will be upcycled, and the role of these portable containers as prefab offices with integrated solar panels and minimal site impact will be carried forward beyond their initial purpose.

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Raining Reeds
Raining Reeds Raining Reeds Raining Reeds Raining Reeds Raining Reeds Raining Reeds Luminous Stratum Luminous Stratum Luminous Stratum Luminous Stratum Vessels Vessels Vessels Vessels Cypress Landing Cypress Landing Cypress Landing Cypress Landing Cypress Landing Cypress Landing Cypress Landing Synthesis Synthesis Synthesis Synthesis Synthesis I ought to I ought to I ought to I ought to I ought to Woven Shield + Sewing Peace Woven Shield + Sewing Peace Woven Shield + Sewing Peace Woven Shield + Sewing Peace Woven Shield + Sewing Peace Never Forget Never Forget Never Forget Crystal Clouds Crystal Clouds Crystal Clouds Crystal Clouds Crystal Clouds Infinitesimals Infinitesimals Infinitesimals River Spire River Spire River Spire River Spire Chromatic Harvest Chromatic Harvest Chromatic Harvest Chromatic Harvest Chromatic Harvest Chromatic Harvest Stacked Cubes Stacked Cubes Stacked Cubes Stacked Cubes Stacked Cubes Stacked Cubes Stacked Cubes Time in Motion Time in Motion Time in Motion Time in Motion Time in Motion
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Public Art
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We help artists to make their visions into reality, relying on an acute control and awareness of cost, schedule, and an engineering acument that starts by proposing solutions to the myriad what-if's that come with artistic creation. For public art projects we provide two different service packages, and most often work directly for an artist, though occasionally we work for a museum or commissioning agency. 

On the front end, we offer Design Optimization services, which include complete architectural and engineering documentation, development of critical path timeline and cost control documents, and identification / sourcing of any specialized components, fabricators, manufacturers, etc. 

On the back end, we provide Project Management services with a high level of control over all subcontractors and suppliers under the artist, from beginning of construction through completion. We also act as an artist's liaison to all other professional parties, such as architects, engineers, contractor, building owners, building code officials, etc. This allows our clients to stay focused on the artwork, and their next project. We take pride in protecting the artist's conceptual clarity and intention of the work, as well as their fee—which is set aside in the cost control document at the beginning and never touched. 

 

 

 

Raining Reeds—the result of a collaboration between Metalab and Shane Allbritton and Norman Lee of RE:site—is an installation for the Jacksonville Mayo Clinic. Inspired by the reed-filled wetlands of Florida's eastern coast, as well as the afternoon rainstorms that often happen in the area. The duality of the work is shown through multiple viewpoints: when seen from below, the randomly spaced flamed-copper sleeves appear to be raindrops, while viewers on the second floor are instead looking through an array of reeds in a verdant wetland.

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Developed by artists Shane Allbritton and Norman Lee of RE:site, Luminous Stratum is a sculptural installation celebrating flight at the Dallas Love Field Airport. Inspired by contrails in the vibrant sky, the installation is comprised of a series of parametrically generated acrylic fins that subtly change as they move along the length of the installation. These translucent fins are lit by streaks of color that slowly change, blend, and dissipate.

Metalab provided architecture and project management services for this project.

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Vessels is a new public art installation in San Marcos at Texas State University Campus in front of the Moore Street Residential Complex. RE:site is the Artist team led by Norman Lee and Shane Allbritton and Metalab is providing architecture and project management services.  Vessels features water jet cut stainless steel forms that poetically evoke both leaves and canoes. The water jet cut patterns are organic leaf designs that have been parametrically generated to create a visual effect that allows sunlight to pass through to produce a gradient field of dappled light. The forms are supported by long sculptural oars that reinforce the vessels metaphor and position the water jet cut forms above viewers, creating dynamic shadow patterns that change throughout the day.

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Cypress Landing is a 10,000 sq.ft. children’s play area designed for the Miami Zoo. The area consists of a series of cypress knees constructed from CNC laser cut and formed stainless steel that surround a 32’ tall multi colored misting tree. Some of the cypress knees feature push buttons that are manually activated by visitors that operate arc streaming water nozzles located on the tree and within some of the cypress knees. Other components included within the playground are concrete seating, playground equipment and a concession stand.

Metalab carried the project from the design development stage through construction, providing design optimization, construction management, fabrication coordination, and assembly.

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Developed by the artists Shane Allbritton and Norman Lee of RE:site, SYNTHESIS is a suspended sculpture that evokes the harmony between the natural and the technological underlying the fields of chemical, biological and environmental engineering. Located in the two-story lobby of Johnson Hall, the piece features dodecahedral forms composed of thin frameworks of aluminum integrated with facets of dichroic acrylic. Central to the geometry, the corner node of each module was designed and constructed with 3D printed aluminum.  The composition of the modules is characterized by a clustered configuration, along with a singular and smaller group suspended in proximity. The form suggests the process of synthesis on a molecular or cellular scale.

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With the help of Metalab's architecture and project management services, artist Matthew Geller was able to realize "I ought to," which is sited on a public sidewalk in New York, NY. The installation is comprised of three circular stools arranged underneath a canopy of corten steel and colored glass. This concave canopy has a 24 inch oculus that allows water to drain on rainy days, becoming a passive water feature. Between the discs of colored glass, small steel medallions and linear braids decorate the canopy. This makes clear the installation's resemblance to a manhole cover, though in this case a manhole cover that has been enlarged to create a space for respite, providing shade from the sun or shelter from the rain.

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This public art installation by Shane Allbritton and Norman Lee of RE:site for the Durham Police Department is comprised of two pieces, one sited in front of the building and the other in the lobby, so both are visible when a visitor is outside the building. The exterior piece, Woven Shield, is an abstraction of the Durham Police shield formed from three intersecting elements. Colorful rods weave between these three elements, evoking the convergence of fibers being pulled through a loom. This weaving is meant to serve as a metaphor for the community; as the rods weave together, producing unexpected colors in a woven shield, so too does the community grow and change as everyone comes together.

The interior piece, Sewing Peace, takes an excerpt from the Oath of Office for the Police and transforms it into a colorful wall installation. Again making use of weaving techniques, each letter in the excerpt becomes a weaving heddle that separates strands of fiber before they converge to a point. These heddles are oriented perpendicular to the wall so the excerpt is legible from below, but from afar the strands evoke a colorful patchwork quilt.

Metalab provided construction management services for this project, translating the concept into fabrication documents, coordinating fabrication, and overseeing installation onsite.

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Never Forget is a monument to the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001, developed by Shane Allbritton and Norman Lee of RE:site in collaboration with Metalab. On the site of the Cornelius-Lemley Fire Station in Cornelius, NC, the monument was developed in response to the donation of a piece of a steel beam from the World Trade Center that was donated to the city of Cornelius by Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. As the centerpiece of the monument, the piece of steel is suspended between two monolithic limestone forms inscribed with the words "Never Forget" in several different languages. To further reinforce the memory of the World Trade Center, the monument is oriented to New York City, and this line of orientation is articulated in the paving of the plaza around the monument.

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Metalab provided project management and design optimization services for this installation developed by Shane Allbritton and Norman Lee of RE:site. Crystal Clouds is a suspended sculpture for Charles Schwab Austin,  composed of tetrahedral clouds. This crystalline form was inspired by the state gemstone of Texas, topaz, which can be found in the Hill Country. The framework for the clouds is created from aluminum and 3D printed nodes produced by Texas Metal Printing. Equilateral triangles of dichroic acrylic are added into the aluminum framework to complete the clouds. Viewing the installation from multiple viewpoints allows visitors to see the effects of light and color on the clouds.

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Infinitesimals is an installation for the Zachry Engineering Education Complex at Texas A&M University, developed by Dallas-based artist Rusty Scruby. Drawing on concepts in math and engineering, the idea behind Infinistesimals is that an original image is broken down into smaller sections, similar to how a curve gets broken down in order to be analyzed in calculus. The original image in this case is a wave, an image Scruby felt everyone could relate to on some level, and the wave is broken down into a series of four and eight point stars and diamonds made of bent aluminum, on which the image has been printed. From far away, viewers can get a sense of the entire wave, while at close range the wave can be studied at the level of a single star detail. From Scruby's initial concept model, Metalab was able to provide design optimization and project management services to bring the 3D wall installation to life.

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With Metalab providing design optimization services and the concept developed by Shane Allbritton and Norman Lee of RE:site, River Spire celebrates those men and women who have served our country, in this case those veterans who have found a community at the Minnesota Veterans Home in Minneapolis. Building off a number of inspirations, including the natural beauty of the site's nearby river and symbols of the armed forces, River Spire features a sculptural spire of Corten steel plates twisting into the air with an infill of local river stones between plates.

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Developed by the artists Shane Allbritton and Norman Lee of RE:site, “Woven Waves” features ‘folded’ ceramic steel panels which create a lenticular effect that changes with the viewer’s movement. Spanning a total over 180 feet at the new Arvada Ridge Rail station outside Denver, Chromatic Harvest is inspired by geometric crop rows, reinterpreted in a contemporary way. A vibrant, kaleidoscopic effect connects Arvada’s agricultural past with its dynamic present.

The formal precision, durability, and print quality was made possible through collaboration with Polyvision and their Ceremic Steel printed products. Metalab provided architectural design, digital fabrication and construction management services on the work.

Photo Credit: Polyvision

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Stacked Cubes is composed of two 42-inch cubes constructed out of roto molded polyethylene, produced by Deep South Plastics. Each cube is assembled from modular parts, six planes, each a series of four protruding finger like bars. The bars have obscured bolted connections that allow assembly of a cube. The cubes balance on point, conjoined one atop the other with hidden custom fabricated SS hardware and anchored to a base plate. Stacked cubes have been exhibited as a 6 pair series, Constituent Components, at the Bloomberg Gallery in London.

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Installed in the new international terminal at Hobby Airport, RE:site’s art piece TIME IN MOTION utilizes new technology and materials to both inform and calm visitors at the baggage claim. This sweeping light sculpture evokes a motion blur effect, changing color in a moving gradient. As viewers approach, the work reveals an interpretive timeline exhibit that tells the story of air travel in the Houston region.

This project combines digital fabrication, LED light programming, and new acrylic material products to create the artist’s desired atmospere and presence. A surface film on the front glass requires the viewer to travel down the length to read the information, with both past and future blurred, much like our experience of time.

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Developed by the artists Shane Allbritton and Norman Lee of RE:site, SECTIO AUREA features ‘folded’ ceramic steel panels to create a lenticular effect that changes with the viewer’s movement. Integrated with the soffit-wall architecture, the work would create an experience of discovery and surprise for viewers as they see the work from both outside and inside the library building.


Consisting of 331 art panels total, along 165 feet of elevated wall, the piece closely follows the architectural lines to acheive a tight relationship with the library space. Due to the angled ceiling, 175 panels have unique profiles that would not have been possible without the precision of digital modeling and fabrication. This formal precision, durability, and print quality was made possible through collaboration with Polyvision and their Ceramic Steel printed products.

Photo credit: Polyvision

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Developed by the artists Shane Allbritton and Norman Lee of RE:site, Woven Waves features ‘folded’ ceramic steel panels which create a lenticular effect that changes with the viewer’s movement. Integrated under the Laurel Street Bridge in downtown Tampa, the work creates an experience of discovery and surprise for viewers as they move by on foot, bicycle, and river, via kayaks and canoes.

Metalab provided architectural design, digital fabrication and construction management on the work.

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RADIANCE, developed by artists Shane Allbritton and Norman Lee of RE:site, is an artwork designed for the El Paso Airport. The elaborate hanging piece makes use of the iconography of a mix of cultures in El Paso, translating them into a three-dimensional Mandala. Layered acrylic pieces with a dichroic film in the middle form the physical manifestation of the Mandala, which is mirrored in the supporting structure. Suspended from a steel canopy, the colorful and shifting material of the installation plays in the light, evoking the stunning vibrancy of a southwestern sunset.

Metalab provided architectural design, digital fabrication and construction management on the work.

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Matthew Geller, Artist was commissioned by San Francisco Redevelopment Authority for a project at the Hunter Point Shipyard development.  Inspired by the WWII-era ship building structures in the bay, he created an assembly of components that consisted of a roof, three columns and a massive community swing suspended from three beams.  Metalab provided design optimization and construction management for this whimsical structure with structural engineering provided by Strandberg Engineers in California.  The structure was fabricated in Houston by Blumenthal Sheet Metal, hot dip galvanized and shipped to SF as a series of large assemblies to be erected in a few days on site.  The waffle-grid roof is parametrically designed to minimize weight and material.  The swing glides on four rods with universal joints, with an sweeping view of the bay bridge in the distance.

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GREENWAY BLUEWAY BYWAY SKYWAY is a cantilevered bridge-like structure designed by New York artist  Matthew Geller.   Engineered like a diving board suspended over the Yadkin River in North Carolina, the galvanized steel pathway culminates in a circular viewing and seating platform allowing visitors to engage with one another or simply appreciate the vibrant scenery at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Metalab provided digital design, installation services and project management for the artwork whose primary components were fabricated and assembled by Iron Access in Houston.

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The Horizon Wind Energy commissioned Metalab along with ttweak renewables, a strategic communications and design firm, to create a public landscape to be installed at its wind farms across the country.   The WIND FARM LOOKOUT serves as an information center and vantage point enabling Horizon to explain wind energy to visitors.  With accuracy and efficiency, we set about inscribing the outline of a 70 meter wind tower in the ground at full scale, digitally modeling and fabricating the custom components in Houston and transporting them as kit-of-parts via modified shipping container.  The wind tower’s scale and form are realized as a concrete surface, edged with stainless steel, whose construction requires minimal site work and labor and whose lifespan will match that of the wind farm.

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​Spanish artist Jaume Plensa’s MIRROR is a pair of two painted steel human figures kneeling opposite each other in the central quad of Rice University.  While both figures are taken from the same model, each is composed of a distinct set of characters derived from a mix of ancient languages including Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Greek, Latin, Hindi, and Cyrillic.  Within their bases are niche for visitors to enter and look back at the twin figure. At night the figures glow from within, creating a beacon on the campus, amoung the oak trees.  

Metalab, provided construction management and installation services and fabricated a custom foundation system that allowed for rapid placement of the sculptures on site.

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Spanish artist Jaume Plensa’s TOLERANCE is a set of seven stainless steel human figures kneeling atop individual boulders placed along the banks of Buffalo Bayou.  While all of the figures are taken from the same model, each is composed of a distinct set of characters derived from a mix of ancient languages including Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Greek, Latin, Hindi, and Cyrillic.  At night the figures glow from within, creating a “constellation of beacons” that complements Houston’s downtown skyline. 

Metalab, working on behalf of the Houston Arts Alliance, provided construction management and installation services and fabricated a custom foundation system that allowed for rapid placement of the sculptures on site.

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Metalab worked with UH Campus Art and Athletics on the Bill Yeoman LEGENDS PLAZA at University of Houston’s TDECU Stadium.  The plaza is dedicated to outstanding athletes and the history of the UH football program.

Our system of walls with removable text panels that can provide additional space for names in the future were digitally fabricated from our files with Crow Corporation providing CNC laser and fabrication assembly.

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OPEN CHANNEL FLOW, a sculpture by New York based artist Matthew Geller, was commissioned by the Houston Arts Alliance as a permanent piece for the city of Houston Art Collection. Turnkey architecture, custom component fabrication, and construction management helped to realize this commission as a kit-of-parts that was assembled on site efficiently with the quality and finish of a manufactured product. Located next to Buffalo Bayou, the structure emerges from the landscape of a Houston Water Production Station to a height of 60’. Inspired by the strange protrusions of plumbing infrastructure, the colossal pipe work features a public outdoor shower activated by a hand pump. A nearby skate park ensures that a steady flow of skaters and passersby will indulge in a refreshing spritz on Houston’s infamously humid afternoons.

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Artist Jim Isermann's Cougar Walk is an outdoor public art work installed at the University of Houston's new Cougar Stadium. Consisting of a series of eight foot square pre-cast panels, each of the nineteen panels features patterns of interlocking U's and H's. These were erected as walls and groundwork at the southwest corner of the new stadium, and greet visitors as they  exit from the new rail line extension that runs through the campus. The design utilizes recycled glass and black onyx, giving the letters a sparkling appearance in the light.
Metalab oversaw design optimization, fabrication documentation, and project management of the work, with panels manufactured by Gate Precast. The site also features Metalab's signature solar powered lighting product, Ringo.

Many thanks to photographer Pete Molick, who brought out his drone to capture the project for us.

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Metalab was thrilled to once again collaborate with Houston artist Randy Twaddle to create this trio of benches for the top of the Centennial Mount at Houston’s Hermann Park. The three figures are based on a Fibonacci sequence, extracted and developed spatially as sinuous objects. Fabricated from solid pieces of Leuders limestone quarried in central Texas, they were cut using a five-axis computer numerically controlled (CNC) robot by our friends at AX5 Resources.

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Conceived by Brooklyn-based artist Matthew Geller, Chroma Booster is a 55' tall "cloud generator" designed for a public plaza in El Paso, Texas. The structure consists of a series of interconnected pillars constructed from industrial piping, and houses a dozen stainless steel collars. These collars feature high pressure misting nodules and LED lighting, activated by visitors at a control panel. In addition to these collars, a series of downspouts showers onto the plaza below. Chroma Booster is located directly between the El Paso Convention Center and the newly-constructed Southwest University Park (home to the AAA El Paso Chihuahas), making it a visually fascinating feature in a highly-trafficked area.

Metalab carried the project from the design development stage through construction, providing design optimization, construction management, fabrication coordination, and assembly.

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The three sculptural signs from Paul Kittelson have been installed at the Magnolia station on the East End MetroRail line on Harrisburg at Wayside.  The three assemblies of extreme way-finding where developed with an algorithm that sorted name lengths, directions and distances and packed the signs into a close arrangement while avoiding self-intersection.  When the trains pass by the signs will become urban scaled wind chimes.  Merge Studios fabricated and installed the signs with shop fabrication drawings and full-scale alignment templates provided by Metalab.  The columns are festooned with unique weathervanes designed by the artist and fabricated out of stainless steel with iconography representing Houston, Texas and the World.  We worked for Houston Rapid Transit who are building all the lightrail extensions in Houston with great support from Sara Kellner as the public art administrator.

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Jaume Plensa’s “IRMA AND NURIA” is a permananent addition to a private collection in Seattle, Washington, consisiting of two stainless steel wire mesh figures facing each other when viewed in profile.

The installation can be experienced dynamically as the viewer walks around it. Integrated ground lighting and a minimal stainless steel foundation system allow for intricate interactions between figures, lights, and space.

Metalab provided logistics and installation project management services for the sculptures that were fabricated by the Artist in Spain.

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Tumbling House is a privately commissioned architectural folly by The Art Guys that doubles as a dynamic playscape for children big and small.  An assemblage of completely customized components forms a house that is seemingly frozen in a series of Muybridge-like stop-motion instances as it wildly tumbles through space.  The implied trail of the tumbling house is solidified into a pathway that also doubles as its support structure in the form of a primary 50' arch and secondary rolled pipe forms.  The suggested trajectory of the bounce is translated into "ghost houses" that float in the air and embed in the ground with integral playground features - a slide, swings, and a climbing ladder.  The uppermost house serves as a fully finished and enclosed "tree house" filled with whimsically surreal interior accoutrements provided by the artists.  Metalab provided design development and optimization, 3D modeling, architectural documentation and project management for the artists from conception through completion. A digitally fabricated "kit of parts" were made into subassemblies that bolted together and minimized work on site.

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The Huddle is a sculpture by New York based artist Matthew Geller for the front entrance to the New Mexico School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.  This work of art features a public swing with handicap accessible seating suspended from a stainless steel canopy supported by three tactile columns. The surfaces of this piece are as engaging to the touch as they are to the eye.  Metalab provided architectural design, digital fabrication and construction management on the project. The installation phase was completed in an hour.

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Designed by New York based installation artist Chris Doyle, is a Percent for Art project located at the City of Austin at the new Public Safety Training Facility.  This permanent installation was designed as a modest, open-air shelter and includes a roof mural that was made through CNC cut perforations to the corrugated stainless steel canopy.   The pavilion and canopy were fabricated and pre-assembled in Houston and shipped to Austin as a kit-of-parts that require minimal site work.

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This collaboration between artist Jim Isermann and Metalab was installed in a courtyard at Ohio State University. The carefully designed modules, which mimic the five-sided shape of the courtyard, have cup holders that double as feet when turned upside as well as drainage systems so that water does not pool in the seat. They are made of rotomolded polyethelyn, the same fade-resistant, durable material used for playground equipment. These seating elements come in four colors and can be arranged for class, small-group meetings, or independent work.

Most importantly, when viewed from the offices and classrooms above, the modules create a fascinating combination of repeating geometric patterns and intense colors.

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Memory Cloud is the winning commission awarded to RE:site (Norman Lee and Shane Allbritton) and METALAB by Texas A&M University for the new Memorial Student Center 12th Man Hall. Through a competition, the team demonstrated the ability to harness the potential of programmable LEDs, remote sensing, parametric design and digital fabrication to create an open ended narrative of the story of the University through animated silhouette imagery of past and real-time present student life on the campus. Texas A&M, a place of deep traditions that are played out on the football field at every game and in the everyday lives of students will create the imagery that will be played within the layers of the LED matrix at different speeds and durations. Parametric design created a unique cloud form that creates a landscape within the student center where monumental and ephemeral figures will pass through the space, blurring the distinction between past and present.

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Two pioneers in human space flight, Yuri A. Gagarin and John Glenn are memorialized in contrasting media, a perforated stainless steel halftone image of John Glenn rendered as a contrast to a bronze of Yuri Gagarin donated by the Russian consulate.  Metalab, working with Architect Ron Witte and Artist Randy Twaddle developed a custom algorithm to render John Glenn’s iconic image aboard the Mercury Capsule by perforating the shape of the capsule in a staggered pattern with varying sizes to render light and dark tones. The image panels are delicately suspended on thin standoff rods connected to a powder coated steel frame.  Each figure stands on a shallow plinth edged in cor-ten steel, in an historic dialogue on the site of NASA’s first manned space flight headquarters, now occupied as the Houston Parks and Recreation headquarters.

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Woozy Blossom (Platanus nebulosus) with Matthew Geller, Artist commissioned for Katonah Museum of Art.  This sixteen-foot-high perforated steel tree produces a continuous fog, inviting visitors to be engulfed in its mist and revel in its cool, moist air. The fog is in a constant state of flux, sensitive to the slightest changes in wind, temperature, and humidity. Simultaneously eerie, unexpected, and playful, Woozy Blossom transforms the Katonah Museum of Art Sculpture Garden into an ever-changing, otherworldly environment.  Metalab contributed digital parametric design and fabrication.  The project was built as a kit of parts that can be disassembled, packaged and shipped to its location.  Installation took one day.

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Radiant Fountains, a set of three sculptures by artist Desnnis Oppenheim, was commissioned by the Houston Arts Alliance for the Houston Airport System. The work serves as an icon visible to motorists upon leaving Bush Intercontinental Airport and entering the City of Houston. Each 60' tower is wrapped in animated LEDs that begin as droplets plunging downward and then radiate out in a seemingly endless upward flow of light and spectacle.

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our work scales from

architecture to

METALAB architecture pursues design-forward solutions to architectural commissions. Our work is focused on programmatic, cultural, and economic opportunities in the built environment, and our solutions are clever and unexpected. We believe that the uniqueness of our solutions translates directly into value and authenticity.

We often work on old buildings or in historic contexts, but we design and build in our own time, celebrating the common thread of quality and community as lasting achievements. We are well versed in advanced 3D modeling and digital fabrication, while recognizing that these are simply tools in an ever expanding toolbox. Our projects are elegant and sometimes whimsical, sensing their place in a long continuum.

We take great pride in understanding how buildings go together. If we don't know something, we want to learn. Listening and learning from those who make things is fundamental to our work. While our practice is focused on the following building types, we have always embraced the notion that the most creative work comes from an outliers perspective, one that we try to maintain even as we gather experience and momentum in these areas.

Our architecture work is focused on:
Pavilions & Park Buildings, Churches & Sacred Spaces, Renovation & Adaptive Re-use, Creative Commercial

civic art and

We help artists to make their visions into reality, relying on an acute control and awareness of cost, schedule, and an engineering acument that starts by proposing solutions to the myriad what-if's that come with artistic creation. For public art projects we provide two different service packages, and most often work directly for an artist, though occasionally we work for a museum or commissioning agency. 

On the front end, we offer Design Optimization services, which include complete architectural and engineering documentation, development of critical path timeline and cost control documents, and identification / sourcing of any specialized components, fabricators, manufacturers, etc. 

On the back end, we provide Project Management services with a high level of control over all subcontractors and suppliers under the artist, from beginning of construction through completion. We also act as an artist's liaison to all other professional parties, such as architects, engineers, contractor, building owners, building code officials, etc. This allows our clients to stay focused on the artwork, and their next project. We take pride in protecting the artist's conceptual clarity and intention of the work, as well as their fee—which is set aside in the cost control document at the beginning and never touched. 

 

 

 

product design.

We design products that affect both the built environment and the environment at large as we focus our technological capacities on a broad range of assignments for clients ranging from start-ups to municipalities to Fortune 500 companies.

Our designs are often focused on large environmental products, such as outdoor lighting, bike infrastructure, and site furnishings. We've also ventured into very large scale products such as River Boats for the City of San Antonio and off-grid solar shipping containers for MobileGRID, as well as high-tech product design and development for SmileBooth, a digital photobooth company for whom we serve as the design agency of record.

Sustainable and renewable energy technologies are well understood by us, and we hold US patents—both design and utility—in the fields of Solar and LED lighting.

As designers who cross disciplines between architecture and art, we pursue product design differently. We work with our clients to establish budgets and timelines for product development, assist in creating functional prototypes and beta versions, and engage in ongoing optimization of a design through production and updates. This approach allows us to learn the industries in which we work and anticipate new trends and market opportunities.

JOE MEPPELINK

Bio »

Metalab principal Joe Meppelink previously co-owned and operated Metalab as an architectural metal fabricating shop. This shop fabricated dozens projects in the Houston area, ranging from furniture to multi-story stair structures, and began steadily employing digital fabrication technologies in 1998. After selling the shop, Joe returned to teaching and practice in Houston. He taught design and fabrication courses at Rice University for 2 years, and then began Framework Design Studio (now Janusz Design) – a residential practice still active in Houston – in 2004 with partner Marisa Janusz. Currently, Joe is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of Houston, co-teaching courses in digital fabrication with Metalab partner Andrew Vrana. Joe also serves as Director of Applied Research at the College of Architecture, where professional and academic efforts coincide in his leadership of the University of Houston Green Building Components initiative (UHGBC). Joe’s desire is to design via constructive interplay between the often disparate camps of architecture-design-technology and construction-fabrication-manufacturing or more simply put, the head and the hands.

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ANDREW VRANA

Bio »

Andrew Vrana is an Architect who has structured his practice around design informed by advanced computation and digital fabrication as well as a working knowledge of materials and building culture. This expertise was cultivated locally and internationally while at Texas A&M, Columbia University and though employment at the Renzo Piano Building Workshop in Genova, Italy.

A Houston native, he returned to Texas in 2002 to pursue practice in a city dealing with the challenges and opportunities of expansive growth and cultural change.  Since 2007 he has worked with Joe Meppelink and a capable staff at Metalab, a practice that endeavors to integrate the delivery of good design and unique building components with architecture, public art project management, and product design projects.  This is enabled by connecting with a network of fabricators in Houston who are able to build anything.  He maintains a connection to academia as a Visiting Assistant Professor at the College of Architecture at the University of Houston, where he has taught digital fabrication seminars and studios since 2005. Andrew seeks to merge the formal and material possibilities of contemporary design with a localized sensibility toward craft and quality of execution.

In 2009 he co-founded the non-profit organization TEX-FAB *Digital Fabrication Alliance to expand his interests in pursuing design research through the application of digital technology within the Texas region and beyond by organizing workshops, lectures and design competitions.
 

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mailing address
2003 Kane Street
Houston, TX 77007

office address
20 North Sampson
Houston, TX 77003

P: 713.426.3640

joe@metalabstudio.com
andrew@metalabstudio.com