Metalab

Finding new and better ways to build things

Riverboat
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Riverboat Riverboat Riverboat Riverboat Riverboat Ringo Ringo Ringo Ringo Linus Linus Linus Linus Linus Linus BEL REV BEL REV BEL REV BEL REV BEL REV BEL REV #al #al #al #al #al #al #al Go Farm Go Farm Go Farm Go Farm Go Farm Ekocenter Ekocenter Ekocenter Ekocenter Mirabeau B Mirabeau B Mirabeau B Mirabeau B Mirabeau B JuiceBOX JuiceBOX JuiceBOX JuiceBOX JuiceBOX JuiceBOX
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 GroPOD Queso Queso Queso Queso Queso Queso Queso
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Product Design
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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.

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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).

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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

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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 latest addition to the Smilebooth line of products.  Prints from Twitter with custom hashtags or wireless from Linus or Queso. 

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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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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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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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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

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Falcon::Bobcat
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Falcon::Bobcat Falcon::Bobcat Falcon::Bobcat 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 2020 Hardy 2020 Hardy 2020 Hardy 2020 Hardy 2020 Hardy Dow Elementary Park Dow Elementary Park Dow Elementary Park Dow Elementary Park Dow Elementary Park Dow Elementary Park Dow Elementary Park Park for Humans and Dogs Park for Humans and Dogs Park for Humans and Dogs Park for Humans and Dogs Park for Humans and Dogs Park for Humans and Dogs Park for Humans and Dogs Park for Humans and Dogs Aurora Picture Show Aurora Picture Show Sharpstown Mall Sharpstown Mall Sharpstown Mall Sharpstown Mall Sharpstown Mall Christ the King Christ the King Christ the King Christ the King Christ the King BEL REV BEL REV BEL REV BEL REV BEL REV BEL REV Mirabeau B Mirabeau B Mirabeau B Mirabeau B Mirabeau B Silver Express Silver Express Silver Express
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Architecture
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METALAB is a licensed architectural practice with previous experience in architecture, metal fabrication, industrial design, and manufacturing. While we have experience in projects ranging from small residential renovations, to large civic projects, we believe that the best work in any genre can be done by outliers with fresh perspectives, and as such, we specialize in everything and nothing. We offer standard architectural services, as well as design consulting services for projects or specialized spaces within a larger context. Our extensive experience in metal fabrication and project management in large scale civic arts grounds our design sensibility in the how-to. Our patents and innovations in sustainable technology gives us a deep understanding of what it means to be green. And our common dialect with engineers and fabricators across a broad range of scales give us the ability to realize unique and compelling solutions for the built environment.

An eleven acre loblolly grove on FM 1960 between Falcon and Bobcat roads, and an ambitious commercial developer. In Houston this would typically result in eleven acres of fresh concrete and a mountain of woodchips. Kensinger and Donnelly, however saw a brighter future for this site, and challenged Metalab to imagine a way to preserve as much of the existing loblolly grove while providing a feasible development. The resulting proposal creates several bands of natural reserves in between development islands  – housing  54,000sf of office, work and retail space and 70,000sf of open work yard – threaded along a common internal roadway. These islands are nestled in the preserved strips of riparian landscape, where the tall native pines and thick understory will be allowed to flourish.

Forty five percent of the landscape and its six hundred trees will be preserved, providing the development with both a shady microclimate and a natural water retention system for the regular flood events common to Houston. This project presents a new, productive vision for suburban commercial development, offering a model for balanced growth along Houston’s expanding horizon.

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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 renovation project currently under construction in Houston’s Fifth Ward. The first phase restores the 1900 late Victorian structure to its original footprint and character, converting the historic grocery into artist studios for rent. The ground floor is programmed for flexible exhibition with movable partitions designating artist work spaces.The brick patio and railroad track canopy columns integrates materials reclaimed in demolition and from surrounding industrial sites.
Phase two 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 covered by a series of roof profiles and materials that are adapted from the Victorian-era residential fabric of the surrounding community. This gesture combines 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 addition to the Menil campus behind the gray bungalow, the Aurora Picture Show is a an indoor/outdoor screening space.  A large window box operates as a dual direction projection screen and a large door hinges to cover the window during indoor screening events.  It also has the option of opening up to the outside, activating the lawn space into a new outdoor theater area.

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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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Christ the King Church.  Joe Meppelink was designer and project manager on this project while employed at Ray and Hollington Architects.

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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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A development in 3 phases, the site planning situated the 32,000 sq. ft. corporate headquarters building toward an adjacent office park, as well as a 35,000 sq. ft. retail strip center and 5,000 sq. ft. pad site facing each other toward a busy intersection. The Silver Express Office Building has a simple yet refined pallet of materials includes blue glass tile, iron-spot brick masonry, white 3-coat stucco, and horizontal aluminum paneling. A unifying horizontal white plaster band contains all signage and turns up at the far north end of the site providing identification and visibility for the development at a much higher level than free-standing signage would allow.  Joe Meppelink was designer and project manager on this project while employed at Ray and Hollington Architects.

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Synthesis
Synthesis Synthesis Synthesis Synthesis Synthesis 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 Section Aurea Section Aurea Section Aurea Section Aurea Section Aurea Woven Waves Woven Waves Woven Waves Woven Waves Radiance Radiance Radiance Radiance Radiance Radiance Radiance Nautical Swing Nautical Swing Nautical Swing Nautical Swing Nautical Swing
Greenway Blueway Byway Skyway Greenway Blueway Byway Skyway Greenway Blueway Byway Skyway Greenway Blueway Byway Skyway Wind Farm Lookout Wind Farm Lookout Wind Farm Lookout Wind Farm Lookout Mirror Mirror Mirror Mirror Tolerance Tolerance Tolerance Tolerance Tolerance Legends Plaza Legends Plaza Legends Plaza Legends Plaza Open Channel Flow Open Channel Flow Open Channel Flow Cougar Pride Cougar Pride Cougar Pride Cougar Pride Cougar Pride Cougar Pride
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Civic Art
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We provide a unique array of services including Design optimization, Engineering Coordination, and Project Management for  our clients in large scale civic art with project budgets ranging from $30,000 to $2M and up, in locations worldwide. We typically work for the artist directly, but at times provide services directly to a commissioning agency, gallery, or private client. As experts in digital fabrication and component based design, we can often suggest solutions using these techniques that enhance the concept while saving money. We are sensitive to conceptual and curatorial issues, and are well versed in materials, engineering and code compliance, and technologies that are often central to the commission. We enjoy the challenges and uniqueness of each civic art project, acting as a translator and broker between the broad array of professions involved; creating value through attention to detail, diligence, and clear communication.

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 modeules 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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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 Ceremic 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 Franscisco 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 glided 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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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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Frederick Kiesler’s GROTTO for Meditation was originally commissioned by Jane Blaffer-Owen to be built in New Harmony, Indiana in 1963. The project, which was never realized, has been revitalized by students and faculty at the University of Houston Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture.  This iteration of the Grotto was reimagined as a digitally fabricated open air structure and was designed in the new facilities at the Burdette Keeland Design Exploration Center.  The University commissioned the Grotto for a new garden adjacent to the Architecture building. The New Harmony Garden and Grotto aspires to be a campus landmark, serving as a tribute to the patronage of Mrs. Owen and the spirit of New Harmony.

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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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Our first collaboration with Jim Isermann installed in a courtyard at Ohio State University.  We worked with Deep South Plastics, the same roto-mold fabricator we worked with on PV-POD.  Jim's work is a fascinating combination of repeating geometric patterns, intense use of color and inventive architectural products.

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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 is a licensed architectural practice with previous experience in architecture, metal fabrication, industrial design, and manufacturing. While we have experience in projects ranging from small residential renovations, to large civic projects, we believe that the best work in any genre can be done by outliers with fresh perspectives, and as such, we specialize in everything and nothing. We offer standard architectural services, as well as design consulting services for projects or specialized spaces within a larger context. Our extensive experience in metal fabrication and project management in large scale civic arts grounds our design sensibility in the how-to. Our patents and innovations in sustainable technology gives us a deep understanding of what it means to be green. And our common dialect with engineers and fabricators across a broad range of scales give us the ability to realize unique and compelling solutions for the built environment.

civic art and

We provide a unique array of services including Design optimization, Engineering Coordination, and Project Management for  our clients in large scale civic art with project budgets ranging from $30,000 to $2M and up, in locations worldwide. We typically work for the artist directly, but at times provide services directly to a commissioning agency, gallery, or private client. As experts in digital fabrication and component based design, we can often suggest solutions using these techniques that enhance the concept while saving money. We are sensitive to conceptual and curatorial issues, and are well versed in materials, engineering and code compliance, and technologies that are often central to the commission. We enjoy the challenges and uniqueness of each civic art project, acting as a translator and broker between the broad array of professions involved; creating value through attention to detail, diligence, and clear communication.

product design.

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.

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