Morpheus is a newly built, contemporary style hotel in the City of Dreams in Cotai, Macau, that was commissioned to be built by world-renown architectural firm Zaha Hadid Architects in 2012. With exquisitely designed futuristic living spaces offering remarkable views, salons, rooftop pool, gaming room, restaurants, lobby atrium, civic and meeting spaces, the Morpheus experience combines ultra-luxury with innovation to promise a singular vision of the future.
The hotel is the world’s first free-form high-rise exoskeleton with a highly-tessellated patterning inspired by fluid forms intrinsic within the rich Chinese traditional culture of jade carving. Conceived as a simple extrusion out of an abandoned foundation, a series of voids are carved through its center to create an urban window. The building’s exoskeleton optimizes the interior with spaces that are uninterrupted by supporting walls or columns. A pair of towers connects at the ground and roof levels, with a central atrium in-between running the height of the hotel, traversed by the external voids connecting the North and South facades. A series of bridges interconnects the hotel’s restaurants, bars and guest lounges.
Computational Challenges of Unusual Constraints for an Unusual Design
Zaha Hadid’s design atelier, founded in 1979, was an early pioneer and adopter of key necessities of innovation: theoretical guidance, systemic knowledge generation and collaborative design. The Computation and Design research group (co|de) of the company was an effort initiated in 2007, in line with the preceding pioneering efforts of the company. The co|de team endeavors to develop early-design methods that enable a directed search for physically, economically and ergonomically feasible solutions within a vast universe of architectural possibilities enabled by digital design and construction methods.
Well into the construction of the project, the co|de team became engaged in the creation of an internal pavilion, now a patisserie underneath the lobby. The team had to find a way to creatively add additional triangles for the structure, without them being overshadowed by the existing expression of triangles in the highly tessellated building. Challenged with the task of further triangulating the two-tier structure to mesh the interior tessellation nodes, the team worked on developing design logic using Altair HyperWorks™ to be in tune with the rest of the lobby space. While there were simple choices such as a divide or split face to achieve the desired triangulated structure, it was imperative to layer in structural logic to make it lighter and thinner with the ability to be bent on a roller.
The team began with their signature style of beginning with a computationally lightweight design with very few faces and vertices, leveraging the meshing process to result in a much higher resolution mesh. Using HyperWorks to drive a number of guide meshes, the team was able to explore and evaluate appearance, structural integrity, symmetry, openings, slits etc. using consistent constraints. Several constraints such as electrical, design and client-driven were resolved with the development of a custom surface which became the basis for the structure’s design.
The pavilion is made out of 8mm aluminum strips rolled into the hollow-cross section through a series of cassettes. Each vertex has about 8 different supports coming out it. The nodes had to be developed such that they could accommodate each of these supports – without the appearance of a joint that has 8 members meeting into it. Effectively, the center needed to become the end point. Using a skeletal fabrication approach, they cut the strips flat and then bent in place to assemble into cassettes. Modeling simulation provided the development of a mesh that permitted the strips to be unrolled within, laser cut, then bent together in segments around the nodes, with the mid-point of the struts supporting the fastening. This approach resulted in less material being used. Simulations enabled them to unroll every cassette and then join up together with no gaps, without the need for custom milling, molding or casting, allowing for a lighter, more economical, high-metal finish of the structure.
Obtaining Structural Integrity Using Nothing but Diamond-shaped Triangles
The pavilion’s vaulted canopy with two bearing points as arched rails creates a space underneath for people with two layers that break-away, stemming from a single layer at the top. This concept paved the way for the team to address related constraints such as the need for the structure to be hollow to enable electrical cabling for lighting – which in turn guided the meshing process.
With each of the triangles being hollow and diamond-faced, a very subtle aspect of the unique design is their two-faced appearance. With the two layers that break-apart from the single layer at the top, the structure becomes three-dimensional, almost like a lattice tube when it meets the ground at the feet. The inner face and the outer face make up the diamond cross-section, the logic for which is entirely fabrication-based.
“In determining the structural layout, the Altair software helped us in the identification of the main structural members,” says Henry Louth, Senior Designer, Zaha Hadid Architects. “Detailed processing guided the final shape as an ideal accommodation between optimization and fabrication.”
Altair’s software provided ZHA designers with the structural feedback needed to meet their challenging engineering criteria, but also exceptional creative freedom within those constraints. The ultimate result is a bold statement piece that still coheres to the building’s intricate modern motif.