Down for a spoke?

Status Update: As the studio dives deeper into understanding the assembly of bikes, our methods of analysis may not be considered cutting edge, but in order to push the boundary of our understanding of how to re-use old bikes, we have resorted to a different sort of cutting edge. This one looks a lot like an angle grinder. Spearheaded by several dedicated members of our studio, our fabrication shop, which usually is a dedicated space for making took a turn more towards the process of deconstruction, now littered about with hacked off parts of bikes in a way that may look more like an illicit cycling chop shop than a collegiate architectural fabrication work space.

The point of the investigation: Bikes don’t necessarily need to be used in full. For better or worse, the structure of our bridge is pretty much solved by using continuous structural steel members to span the entire ditch. The challenge is integrating a sculptural railing system into our structure tastefully. We could stumble upon some satisfying forms and useful shapes by starting to physically manipulate the object in space, which will give us a better perspective on how to use it than by working off of drawings alone.

The findings: Becoming up close and personal with a variety of old bike frames has taught us about many of the dissimilarities in these older artifacts. Many of these frames differ in overall size, geometry shape and proportion, tube diameters, headset/bottom bracket diameters, and even materially. Few of the frames we have been able to find are pure steel–many are a steel-aluminum alloy, which poses difficulties while welding we have also learned, after melting some of the frame-tube walls. With a limited design and construction timeline (which we are learning might grow even shorter due to COVID-19 restrictions imposed by Clemson) customizing a design to somehow smooth out the differences between each of the frames becomes a deeply challenging task.

The Conclusions: After almost a week long dive into bike frame investigation as a physical artifact, our open-ended research has led down a road which is provoking more questions than answers at this point. Our latest studio discussion now entertains the idea of using recycling bike frames on the site, perhaps as a bike-rack component on site, and perhaps integrated into a bench. As for the bridge itself, we are becoming more dedicated to the idea that we can provide a design and build that is satisfactorily sculptural and also bike themed without necessarily incorporating a recycled bike frame. Inspired by our research in bike assembly, we are striving to develop details that are inspired directly by the assembly of a bicycle. Material choices, dimension, and proportion can all be influenced by the specifications of the bike itself. Conceptually it is a challenge of “how do you express a bridge with the language of a bike?” And while we do not know the answer now, some leading design ideas are already rolling into view. The wheel assembly, which has three main components–a hub, a rim, and spokes–provides some possibilities. Spokes are laced in a radial pattern to attach the hub and the rim. This ensemble in particular draws a lot of similarities to that of a railing, offering a lattice-like barrier which is very much needed for the safety of our bridge. Further development will continue in this area, as we continue to devise a sculptural way to use bike influences in a practical application as the railing for our bridge.


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