What's happening now at Because We Can

Corporate Art Walls

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We are in the middle of designing a series of Art Walls for the new Dolby corporate headquarters in San Francisco.
The two that went up last week were fun visual interest walls that add relevant interest to the space.
An 18 floor sky rise in downtown San Francisco, we are just one of a number of artists working on this project.

This ear wall is on a floor where many Dolby engineers sit. Referencing their work in a playful, colorful design of poised ears, listening to the magic of sound.

We worked with another artist who cast the many ears in different colors. Then we needed to place them in perfect rows on the sheets.

After drawing the design up on the computer and cutting the sheets here in our CNC run shop, we created jigs and straight lines to assure each ear was perfectly oriented.

The combination of digital fabrication and smart people on the floor makes for a fun, stunning piece of art, exactly conveying its desired intention.

This next piece was comprised of two 'movie poster' walls that went up on a different floor, showcasing just a few of the movies Dolby has worked on over the years.
These were created with a wheat paste technique, giving the final aesthetic a textured, overlaid look as you would see on the street.

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They are both located in high traffic areas, adding relevant interest and starting fun conversations.

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The process of creating these was messy but fun. We created these on individual large panels,
allowing us to bring them to the site completed and transform the space overnight.

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BecauseWeDynamo, a set of Fabrication Nodes for Project Dynamo and Revit

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We here at Because We Can love leveraging technology and creating our own unique way of working to make great things. While we’ve developed a decent amount of in-house software to help our work over the years, I’m very excited and proud to begin sharing some of that work with you, with the initial release of “BecauseWeDynamo”.

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It’s a set of custom-made Nodes for Project Dynamo focused on fabrication. You can find it in the Package Manager in Dynamo under BecauseWeDynamo and the open-source code is hosted here on GitHub.

A wonderful example of what this is all about is shown with the complex triangle walls of our recently completed Shipping Container Lounge project. The organic, flowing interior walls are made up of hundreds of unique triangles joined together to make a fluid, undulating, expressive (yet affordable!) surface.

Making something like this without some automation is almost impossible; the complexity can be hard to manage both in the design and in the building. So we used what’s called in our industry “Generative Design” where the combination of parametric 3D models and intelligent functional programming are used together to have the computer generate the design for you. You set up the rules and the smarts, and let the computer figure out the rest.

Autodesk Revit is wonderful at producing parametric models. We used it to made a special triangle object or ‘Family’ as they are called in Revit that you can flex using math into whatever size and configuration you need. You set the location of it’s three corner points, and the Family produces a flat triangle with radius tips, an offset ‘gap’ between it and the triangle next to it, and even proper placement for the joining hardware and more. This let us ‘hang’ these Adaptive Families off of 3D splined curves, making it easy to control the complex surface of the wall. Rather than model every triangle, we simply can push and pull control points on the splines, and have all the triangles model themselves.

However, just having a nice model of something is only the first 1/3rd of actually getting it built. Managing the production and assembly of hundreds of unique parts can be very daunting! This is where automation via functional programming is a huge help. We needed some way to export every triangle in a format that works with our CNC Router, and we need to label every triangle for ease of assembly. Doing it manually would take forever and is error-prone. Much better to produce a ‘script’ and let the computer automate that task for us!

Project Dynamo is a ‘functional visual scripting language’ for creating, manipulating, and automating all sorts of design data by non-programmers. Rather than write code from scratch, or call on existing libraries, and produce a stand-alone application like a software developer might, tools like Dynamo let us easily create one-off workflow solutions to automate small repetitive tasks and model impressively complex objects. It works fanatically well with Autodesk Revit, and thus was an obvious choice. Plus we really dig it, and dig the people working on it, so it was a joy to use.

Rather than write code, where the ‘flow’ of the program is abstract and non-visual, tools like Dynamo let you ‘draw’ your program. Perfect for visual designers like us! By connecting various Nodes together, you ‘wire’ together a solution for your project-specific problems, iteratively working your way through it as the code runs live and you see the immediate results.

Now, Dynamo is rather new, and it didn’t have all the Nodes we needed for this project. So we decided to create our own custom Nodes to scratch our own itches, and shared them openly for other designer-fabricators to make use of. For as we have for years now we release most of what we do under a creative-commons license.

So one thing our custom Nodes help do is parse the Revit model, label every triangle, lay them all out flat, and then export them to our CNC router for production. Every triangle is not only labeled, each edge of the triangle is labeled so you can easily figure out what edges go together. It made short work of this problem, and helped us make this wonderful and complex design efficiently and effectively.

Within BecauseWeDynamo you’ll find Nodes for part labeling, DXF exporting (with proper true curves!), mesh topology walking, edge labeling, and even our own custom old-school line-based pen-plotter style font suitable for CNC production. We’ve also got some auto-sectioning tools ala 123D Make, and are currently working on Nodes to help automate shop drawing production and development of complex surfaces. You’ll find on the GitHub site some great working examples, and we’ll be developing more samples, how-tos, and actual physical case study objects as well.

Our ongoing goal with this project is to make the fabrication of elements in Project Dynamo and Revit easier and more efficient; thus empowering all designers to be able to make great things like we do.

Lounge Shipping Containers

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Long over due, here are some photos of our Lounge Shipping Container project we finished earlier this year.

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The triangle panel, made with a parametric design, was assembled quickly with a numbering system and minimal drawings.

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Each lounge was created within a 10' x 10' shipping container. We made sure that the containers were officially approved for lounging.

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The Stripped Container Lounge is a material stripped pattern, alternating between a padded fabric, cork, metal and carved wood. The pattern is echoed into the carpeting on the floor.

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The Triangle Container Lounge is a parametric design of wooden triangles stained in two colors with the bottom layer in a padded felt.

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Oakland Home Renovation - nearing the finish line

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The renovations to this house are just about complete. The the new windows and doors are in, and the exterior walls are completed and painted.
The addition to this house almost doubles the square feet of habitable space, and accentuates it's amazing views of the bay!

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Now the cantilevering decks are going up. These are going to look great, and give outside access to those incredible bay views.

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This view of the interior shows the finishes are almost done. The wall painting is complete and the new floors are in, ready to be blended into the existing flooring.

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These sun tubes in ceiling of the laundry and bed rooms give lots of natural light. They look just light a light is on in the room, but with no energy cost.
And they are much more affordable than putting in a window or skylight. These sure work well! Especially for these dark spaces with little or no windows.
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Soon all the interior finishes will be complete, and that exposed framing skylight will be cleaned up and beautiful.

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Because_We_Cannery on Instagram

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Hey- Did you know we have an Instagram page? Well, it's true!
We are "Because_We_Cannery" on Instagram, and we've been posting a bunch of stuff there recently on a big project we're working on for Dolby.
Like these here:

Colored ears for the ear wall:
Lend an ear? #DolbyArt

Carving the panels for the knob wall:
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Knob wall assembly!
Knobs knobs knobs! #DolbyArt

Follow us on Instagram to get a glimpse into our latest projects, and see what's happening every week in the shop & design studio!

Women Who Make Meetup & Cocktails- TONIGHT

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We are proud to be a part of Women Who Make Meetup & Cocktails" happening tonight at 7:30 at non other than The Interval! Hosted by Sabrina Merlo (Maker Faire) and Jess Hobbs (FLUX Foundation), this is sure to be an informative, fun and great networking event for all of us women in the business of Making.

I will be there tonight to give a tour and talk about all the design and physical production that went into creating the space. No slides necessary! We'll get to see and touch it all in the flesh. I'm really looking forward to speaking one on one with a like minded Maker group, and answering any questions you might have.

To come to this event tonight, or get on the list for future events, email womenwhomake@gmail.com for invites.


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Cool nesting tables and white boards

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We just finished these cool nesting tables and white boards for The Tech Museum in San Jose.
These were part of a larger design project we worked on for them.

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Half the tables are finished with a white board top, and half are in a walnut hardwood.
They all have this cool hardware on the underside that allows them to flip up from there base 90 degrees.

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Here's a fun video, showing the making and the function of the tables.

Forgotten Fridays - Shop floor layouts

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Sometimes we are hired to create designs that, for one reason or another, never come to life.
These designs tend to get filed away. Occasionally they are brought out again, but mostly they just logged and stored in their client folder.
Here, in these "Forgotten Fridays" blog posts, we showcase and celebrate the most interesting ones that may someday again breath life!

The following concept designs were for an incubator factory space. A factory filled with digital fabrication and traditional tools that you could rent time on. The idea was to have a large open floor with the large machines spaced out as needed. Around those machine work areas, the client wanted some kind of screens, so people could have privacy to their potentially proprietary work that they were creating on the machines.

We decided to start out with three objects; a whiteboard / privacy / sound screen, a standing computer workstation, and a configurable tools / parts cart.
Everything would be on wheels, be both usable and playful, and would match an overall theme.
We then decided to start with three themes, each with it's own totally different look, so we can find the right look & feel for the shop floor.

This first scheme is a slick modern look. Taking aesthetic cues from retro-futuristic robots and sci-fi, all surfaces are white, gloss, clean and curvy.

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The second scheme is Dazzle Camouflage. The surfaces are flat and angular, and everything is covered in a dramatic patterning of the Dazzel Camo. As these screens are to hide and distract potential onlookers from the work goings on behind the scene.

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The final scheme is a bit more traditional in concept, celebrating the functionality of the machines on the floor in the design of the pieces. CNC hewn panels, CNC woven mesh, and exposed flat pack joinery call to the digital fabrication abilities of the machines on the floor.

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This factory space never came into being, but the designs are still potentially useful for another project down the road.

Maker Faire- Ten years ago

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Happy 10th Anniversary Maker Faire!
We still think you're awesome!

In preparing for the upcoming Maker Faire next month, MAKE who publishes MAKE Magazine & puts on Maker Faire, just did a little piece about the first Maker Faire back in 2006. We have a few quotes and photos in the article, as we were there! In the thick of it! Bright eyed and looking to the future of running a design and fabrication Architecture company someday. Look how far we have come since then!

It's a nice little article, that you can read here, remembering the fist Maker Faire 10 years ago (can you believe it)!

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Programable LED ceiling squares

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Check out these cool ceiling fixtures we created for the Julia Morgan School for Girls in Oakland.

The lights are connected to an arduino, which is hidden in a laptop work station along the wall.
The idea is to have the students learn to program the LEDs to do different light patterns in their programming class.
They can then show off their skills for all to see, as these are in the front hallway of the school where parent and donor events happen.

As with all the pieces we've made for this school,
the fixtures and laptop workstation match the aesthetic style of the 1920's Julia Morgan building.

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