Launch Slideshow

Drape Wall / Cloak Wall

HouMinn Practice develops two systems from the same basic modular concept as alternatives to traditional stick-frame construction.

Drape Wall / Cloak Wall

HouMinn Practice develops two systems from the same basic modular concept as alternatives to traditional stick-frame construction.

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    Preliminary sketches document the initial attempts to turn the Drape Wall concept into a comprehensive design for a single-family house.

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    In the Drape Wall system, vacuum-formed plastic bricks snap together on an aluminum frame, creating the rainscreen exterior of this housing prototype.

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    In the final Drape Wall system, some bricks are perforated, serving as windows. These perforated bricks allow controlled airflow into the space and views from the interior.

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    A felt "drape" layer lines the interior surface of the wall system. It is backed with a blue layer of waterproofing to weatherproof the house (the exterior bricks serve only as a rainscreen). Insulating felt forms storage pockets and can be pulled aside to allow access to the "windows"-perforations in some exterior bricks.

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    MANUFACTURING Drape Wall bricks are vacuum-molded over milled forms that correspond to every brick configuration available.

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    PROTOTYPES The Drape Wall system is being continuously refined, and new brick prototypes are being manufactured for testing. One option is engineered for greater flexibility in overall house design, using circular forms to allow bricks to interlock at 10, 45, and 90 degrees.

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    PROTOTYPES The Drape Wall system is being continuously refined, and new brick prototypes are being manufactured for testing. One prototype, based on research by mechanical engineering students, provides for flexible spacing of the bricks, permitting more or less ventilation as climate conditions in different areas dictate. This latter system is the driver for the design of a full-scale installation called the Drape House.

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    INTERIOR FELT "DRAPE" Preliminary sketches for the felt drape system will be manufactured into large-scale mockups.

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    INTERIOR FELT "DRAPE" Preliminary sketches for the felt drape system have been manufactured into large-scale mockups. There are voids in the felt to give access to the blue vapor barrier, and zippered pockets so that residents can actively use the surface for storage.

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    INTERIOR FELT "DRAPE" Preliminary sketches for the felt drape system have been manufactured into large-scale mockups. There are voids in the felt to give access to the blue vapor barrier, and zippered pockets so that residents can actively use the surface for storage.

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    Created as part of the Goldstein Museum of Design's Here by Design III exhibition, the Cloak Wall system includes several advancements over Drape Wall, including discrete window openings. The bricks are held together by compression as opposed to being locked to a separate aluminum frame.

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    The insulating felt quilt lining the interior surface of Cloak Wall has a separate ETFE plastic waterproofing barrier that is hung behind the felt.

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    The insulating felt quilt lining the interior surface of Cloak Wall has a separate ETFE plastic waterproofing barrier that is hung behind the felt.

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    In addition to storage pockets, the felt quilt in Cloak Wall incorporates systems such as LED lights and wires for radiant heating and cooling, making it a much more active part of the interior environment than previous iterations were.

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    EXPLODED DIAGRAM Three main layers-performative bricks, ETFE waterproofing, and felt quilt-form the wall structure, but each can be tweaked to customize a home for a specific environment. For example, air pockets in the ETFE layer can be filled to increase or decrease insulation as ambient temperatures dictate.

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    ELEVATION COLOR STUDY Cloak Wall uses a high-performance automotive paint on the exterior, which gives the appearance of changing colors as light angles shift season to season. When the sun's light is at a low angle or dim, the paint appears darker, soaking up and trapping more heat. During summer months when the sun is higher, the paint appears lighter, reflecting heat to keep the house cool.

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    ELEVATION COLOR STUDY Cloak Wall uses a high-performance automotive paint on the exterior, which gives the appearance of changing colors as light angles shift season to season. When the sun's light is at a low angle or dim, the paint appears darker, soaking up and trapping more heat. During summer months when the sun is higher, the paint appears lighter, reflecting heat to keep the house cool.

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    ELEVATION COLOR STUDY Cloak Wall uses a high-performance automotive paint on the exterior, which gives the appearance of changing colors as light angles shift season to season. When the sun's light is at a low angle or dim, the paint appears darker, soaking up and trapping more heat. During summer months when the sun is higher, the paint appears lighter, reflecting heat to keep the house cool.

Two discrete wall systems based on the same concept of modularity, Drape Wall and Cloak Wall both provide alternatives to stick construction for single-family homes.

Drape Wall features a system of vacuum-formed plastic bricks that snap together on an aluminum frame to form a building's exterior shell. Some bricks are opaque and others are perforated to serve as windows and to allow ventilation. On the interior, the exposed aluminum frame is covered with a quilt or drape that serves as insulation. The quilt incorporates a layer of waterproofing and a layer of insulation that also manages acoustics. Flaps can be opened and closed to expose the perforated bricks, allowing natural light and air to enter the space.

A newer exterior wall system, Cloak Wall, expands on the principles of Drape Wall. Instead of using framing for support, the bricks of Cloak Wall are held in place by compression forces from a system of tightened wires. When a structure is built using Cloak Wall, bricks can be set in place to permit larger or smaller window openings depending on the climate. Once the position is set, bricks are clamped to the foundation by a system of tension cables. The exterior is painted with automotive paint that shifts hue depending on the angle of the sun, regulating heat absorption and therefore interior temperature. In Cloak Wall, the waterproofing barrier is a separate layer of ETFE plastic that is installed between the bricks and the quilt. The quilt itself is expanded to integrate lighting fixtures and storage pockets.

The jury appreciated the comprehensiveness of the research, and the original approach of designers Marc Swackhamer and Blair Satterfield of HouMinn Practice. “I found it very fascinating,” Andres Lepik said. “I like this idea of redefining a wall system—not just make it better, but rethink it completely.” Blaine Brownell praised the integration of interior systems into the quilt. “It would be interesting to see in future iterations how it plays out with further integration of these layers,” he said. “It seems fairly resource-intensive still, but I like the tactility.”

  • Marc Swackhamer, Blair Satterfield
    Marc Swackhamer, Blair Satterfield

PROJECT Drape Wall/Cloak Wall

ARCHITECT HouMinn Practice, Houston and Minneapolis—Marc Swackhamer, Blair Satterfield

PAINT RESEARCH University of Minnesota—Gary Meyer (associate professor, computer science and engineering); Seth Berrier (research assistant)

DESIGN CRITICISM Marcus Martinez; Patrick McGlothlin; Aidlin Darling Design—Adam Rouse; University of Cincinnati—Karl Wallick

PROTOTYPE PRODUCTION University of Minnesota—Dave Hultman; Mathew Haller (research assistant); Terrazign—Susanna Hohmann; Industrial Art and Design —Rob Tickle; Boston Scientific CRM—David Wulfman (principal engineer); Cranbrook Academy—Antonio Rodriguez; Loom Studio—Don Vu

SPONSORSHIP Dayton Hudson Faculty Fellowship; Metropolitan Design Center, University of Minnesota; Weisman Art Museum; Digital Design Consortium, University of Minnesota; Goldstein Museum of Design; Dupont Performance Coatings

2008 R+D Awards

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