Phil’s interests and skills as a designer cross a variety of inter-disciplinary bounds. His programming experience across many platforms ranging from server-side web development to parametric design solutions augment other interests in materiality, construction, and engineering. He has taught design skills, design studios, and structures while pursuing his own degree in architecture.
Phil’s work as a Master’s of Architecture at MIT from 2008-2012 focused on the treatment of energy as a social medium. While sustainability has traditionally been the responsibility of technicians pursuing cleaner energy production and more efficient energy use, Phil came to believe strongly in the importance of bringing energy use into personal, cultural, and social space. By treating electricity socially, a critical new avenue of sustainability opens. Click the energy tag below to highlight relevant projects.
Phil is fluent in a wide range of software packages and programming languages including the entire Adobe Suite, Rhino/Grasshopper, Java, Processing, Perl, and others. He is available for freelance web design & digital fabrication work. Before architecture, Phil worked for Annie Leibovitz, ran a successful photography business of his own, learned Italian, and built fine custom furniture.
BrightProofs combines the features of a photographer's dedicated Content Management System with a fully-integrated web-store / shopping cart system. It is a small piece of server-side software, written primarily in Perl, which allows digital photographers with no tech-savvy to set up online galleries for their customers while maintaining full control over branding, access, quality control of prints, and, most of all, profits.
BrightProofs integrates two white-label user interfaces: one for the photographer to set up and manage galleries, and a second for the photographer's clients to view and order photographs online.
Unlike other services which may charge monthly or take control of the photographer's work-flow by using their own photo lab to process print orders, BrightProofs gives full control to the photographer with a subscription-free service that enables photos to appear at the photographer's own domain. The project began as a way to solve one of Phil's own problems as a wedding photographer, but quickly attracted the interest of many other photographers who still use the software today.
Solely responsible for ideation, execution, and sales, 2007.
, led by Marilyne Anderson, LightSolve is a research project and teaching tool designed to bring daylighting analysis into a much earlier stage of a building project's development. Under most current workflows, daylighting consultants are brought into a project too late to offer substantive suggestions having to do with floor & window heights, building orientation, and shading devices.
LightSolve is a plugin for Sketchup which generates a large volume of visual analysis data for the architect; Phil's responsibility was to take these volumes of information, and to create a compatible user interface which would enable the data to be organized meaningfully. The fully-functional desktop software was written from the ground up in ActionScript for Adobe AIR, and allows users to flip through information in numerous ways.
Phil was a hired gun for ongoing academic research project; Summer 2009.
The agenda of the studio deconstructs the modern wall assembly in an effort to rethink the notion of facade while integrating low-cost, low-performance flexible solar cells known as OPVs, or Organic Photo-Voltaics. At a larger urban scale, the projects seek high-impact uses for the relatively small amounts of power, finding architectural ways to put the vibrant life of the urban market below in direct contact with the new, charged facade.
The SOFT Louver, a tension-based textile louver system, provides opportunities the residential occupants of the tower building in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to optimize their electricity generation and sun-shading simultaneously. At a larger, urban scale, public areas of the building's SOFT facade can be controlled centrally, creating iconic imagery that identifies the building's unique energy-gathering potentials.
The "Mixing Market", located at the ground level under a tower covered in the SOFT Louver system, employs the small amounts of power in a sun-following manner: the building's facades are linked to speakers located throughout the market, creating a situation where the sound-focus of the shaded space is linked to the path of the sun in the sky throughout the day and year. The various populations who use the market -- from produce farmers to late-night party-goers -- are all provided with electricity from the facade to power speakers which demand attention from the busy Marketplace's patrons.
Sheila Kennedy's architecture studio, Unpacking the Wall, with Juliet Hsu, Spring 2010.
The Master's of Architecture thesis project explores our attitudes towards the thermal control of the interior environment. Modern buildings with their mechanically-controlled interiors, act as vivaria of a kind: enabling the theater of human activity indoors to proceed as though weather, climate, geography, and nighttime did not exist. The project is a rhetorical one which proposes sometimes-funny energy solutions that attempt to run the edge between the possible and the probable: solutions which may not seem completely pragmatic now, but which widen the horizon of the future's energy solutions.
Its premise is that sustainability requires us not only to be more efficient, but to think differently towards resource and envelope, and to make lifestyle changes. We must broaden our attitude towards resources to include not only the utility connections, but also any other possible sources of thermal conditioning, such as the body heat of pedestrians in high-traffic areas, or the high-velocity cool air available at higher elevations. The expectation that the inside environment always be sixty-eight degrees and 500 lumens is challenged: the building's interior spaces are choreographed to include hotter and colder regions, and occupation habits are imagined to shift seasonally. The building envelope is largely eliminated, replaced with an occupant-assembled insulation layer of off-season clothes storage, cardboard packing material from retail stores, and the like.
The thesis investigates a culture of thermal activity with which we, as occupants of glass boxes, may be unfamiliar. The resulting picture of an urban midrise at the corner of Battery & Broadway in Manhattan portrays a life much more concerned with temperature, and by extension energy consumption, than the life we know today.
M.Arch thesis advised by Sheila Kennedy, Mark Jarzombek, and Joel Lamere at MIT, Fall 2011.
The studio project proposes a series of testing grounds for hydrological energy generating devices located at the edge of the Boston Harbor's 'innovation district,' the slated location for a host of new high-tech business incubators.
It seeks to combine energy generation with a pleasure-seeker's sense of wonder. Its dam-like forms are employed to store and accrue energy from the daily tide in a series of large pools, each of which uses the gravity potential of the water contained to test the efficiency of new energy generating devices. The pools are also comparable to closed, flooded quarries: they are sites where members of the public can hike, swim, and boat.
The manipulation of the site's ground is used to create varying states of "energized water", but is at the same time organized for public, pleasure-seeking access, and for private, high-tech use. Waves can be produced and directed for the harvesting of surface energy; high- and low-current underwater turbines of varying size can be tested under controlled conditions; wet bio-fuels can grow in either dark or sunlit conditions; spaces can be made to flood or evacuate on command. In the same spaces, members of the public can go to the gym, participate in various watersports, swim, hike, and explore the social side of energy generation.
Rising Water Architecture Studio with Marc Tsurumaki, Fall 2010.
Alvar Aalto's famous "bent knee" -- a method of making apparently solid wood bend unusually tight corners by cutting slots in it to accept interwoven veneer sheets -- is reverse engineered in an effort to mine the 50-year-old method for contemporary, digital form-family members
The team came to see the interwoven sheets as an opportunity to transform
stick to sheet
, to produce
surface from solid
. A notching system is employed to ensure that the veneer sheets can be aligned properly, resulting in a system of self-jigging. The fan-like shapes that become possible are explored digitally using grasshopper as a tool to determine a family of forms related through their bent-knee cousin.
The final design of a bus-shelter sized pavilion, which could be shipped as a one-dimensional stick-like form and raised on site, reflects the bent-knee's original beauty and logic. Prototypes of typical details are fabricated at 1:1.
Academic work with Nadya Volicer & Juliet Hsu, Spring 2011.
Collective Power leverages the power of small-group peer pressure to encourage more sustainable residential energy consumption. It harnesses extant infrastructure - streetlights - and augments their functionality with a public display of aggregated usage statistics for the adjacent neighbors.
A meter-like vertical light display shows pedestrians how well a group of residents is doing as compared with their neighbors down the street; more detailed unit-level and live pricing information is available through the attendant smart phone app. By making usage statistics public and comparable, Collective Power encourages residents to make energy usage part of their social discussion.
Project with the Tangible Interfaces group at MIT's Media Lab. With Andy Payne, Melissa Chow, and Arlene Ducao, Fall 2011.
Initial research into the performative functions of feathers revealed microscopic hooks ("barbules") which are responsible for the organizing behavior of the individual strands ("barbs") within a feather. Depending on the scale and number of these hooks, the barbs would either self-organize into stiff "flight" feathers or retain more disorder as in insulative and buoyant "down" feathers. A difference of degree (the length and number of barbules) translates into a difference of type (between flight feathers, insulation feathers, feathers meant to aid in sensory perception, etc).
Barrel-making, or coopering, is to this day an entirely analog process by which many dissimilar staves are wrangled into nearly identical but highly complex two-degree curved barrel shapes through the use of metal hoops. If the staves could be customized digitally and the hoops made to form open shapes, a wide range of complexly curved solid surfaces could be manufactured from solid or composite wood without molds and with minimal waste. The result would be a new flat-to-form process available for mass customized designs.
(Re)Coopering involves the production of "staves" with digitally-specified but hand-cut variable bevels and profiles. These highly-specific staves are assembled using high-tension wires threaded through their cores such that they are similarly able to give each other their shape. The result is a system for fabricating free-form complexly curved solid wood pieces without molds of any kind, and with minimal assembly time.
A previous version of this website engaged the user though a series of programmatically responsive line segments. Through the arrangement or dis-arrangement of these line segments, the interface was able to produce organized frameworks or playful "sandbox" like transitions.
A fully functional (though un-maintained) version of the portfolio is available here
. (Flash required)
To view static screenshots, click the button to the right. If you're interested, please play with the real thing!
Daylight delivery systems, which direct natural sunlight through a system of ducts to interior spaces within a building, are typically designed to look and function like their electric counterparts. Yet when the sun goes behind a cloud, the light's dimming becomes an inconvenience -- a perceived downside to a system which delivers light that is psychologically beneficial.
The team at KVA | matx, led by Sheila Kennedy, looked to nature for inspiration of its daylight luminaire. By thinking of the ways that sunlight is mediated outdoors -- through clouds, for example, or through plants, flowers, and other natural forms, we arrived at a flat-to-form "cloud baffle" prototype which mediates the sunlight similarly, giving the sun-like characteristics of the light a magical feel, rather than an inconvenient one.
Recharge yourself and your electronics while relaxing in the shaded comfort of a SOFT Rocker. The SOFT Rocker imagines a future where power generation becomes part of the public sphere. Rather than piping electricity from large centralized power plants which separate the consumption of fuel from the use of its energy, the SOFT Rockers allow small amounts of power to be produced and employed locally in a power paradigm that imagines power generation to be distributed, clean, and fun.
By positioning your body inside the unique leaf-shaped rocker, parametrically customized to accommodate the sun angles of a particular latitude, you control the vertical axis, making sure to face the sun's altitude. Get out and grab the handle to face its azimuth throughout the day. At night, the Rockers' TRON-like glow allows them to serve as community gathering points while powering iPods, speakers, and other small devices.
The Rockers' unique shape is crafted by cutting a customized set of "teeth" into two opposing flat sheets of MDF. Once the two sides are "zipped" together with glue in between, the sheets take shape automatically in a vacuum bag without the need for any secondary formwork. The technique, pioneered under the name ZipShape by SchindlerSalmeron in Germany, is extended into a multi-sheet system, allowing us to make a continuous, custom-formed 29' curve.
Project Under Sheila Kennedy, Professor of Arch at MIT. Team: Phil Seaton, Shevy Rockcastle, Jungmin Nam, Kate Bogunschutz, James Bayless, Radlab, Inc.
A single L-shaped wooden piece, with carefully placed holes which allow it to be secured to adjacent units in multiple configurations, creates the opportunity for multiple types and scales of furniture to be made simply from a single unit.
Plywood is typically seen as an isotropic material -- one which is equally strong in all directions -- and because of its non-directional strength we tend to think of it in the flat, as a sheet good. Yet bent plywood maintains the isotropy of plywood while adopting non-flat shapes, opening the door for designers to use it structurally in ways that no other material could handle.
The form of the nightstands is conceived to leverage the isotropy and form-flexibility bent plywood simultaneously. The minimum-thickness nightstands mount directly to the wall, and allow their users to store items in both a more private "interior" space as well as on the more publicly accessible top surface.
The Scissor Chair explores the limitations of a 2-1/2 axis CNC routing process, which is capable only of orthogonal cuts, in the design of a chair around non-orthogonal glue-free joints.
A handful of joint prototypes suggest a "typical" detail, but the imposition of the chair's profile and testing of physical limitations using 1:4 scale models lead quickly to complex fully 3-dimensional joint geometries that go far beyond simple 2-D intersections. By designing each joint according to the glue-free non-orthogonal principles set out at the beginning, a fully stable and beautiful design emerges from the material and geometric logics of the system.