epic metals design competition CAMERA OBSCURA

3 day design sketch competition partner project with KelliLaurel Mijares

Competition Finalist

History: The camera obscura has had an interesting role in history, from informing our preliminary understandings of light and optics to illustrating the principles of perspective drawing to guiding the development of photographic devices. 

Brief : Design a camera obscura that can be used in lesson planning to support the project learning objectives of the east liberty charter school. The camera needs to be available to teachers and students during school hours, but also to the general public on a scheduled basis when the school is not in session. 


  • must create 6 different projected images (images can be sequential - they do not need to be simultaneous)
  • must allow 4 - 6 users to occupy the space and view/record the projected images
  • must fit within a 24 foot long by 24 foot wide by 16 foot tall envelope
  • must explore the intrinsic properties of metal deck
  • must support the concept of DfD (Design for Disassemby)
  • must be safe for public occupancy and ADA-accessible
  • may utilize additional, compatible materials
  • need not contain any mechanical, electrical or plumbing systems 

Taking a playful look at optics and perspective illusions, this camera obscura operates similarly to a Kaleidoscope in its manipulation of color and object orientation. It asks the user to examine the world around them through the greater context, the immediate surroundings, and the digitally imagined. This happens through a gradient from light, color and vibrancy to dark, subtle imagery while the user transitions from the active participant to contemplative viewer. 

It aims to ask children to look at the world differently, or for adults to look at it more like children. Situated on an open yet neglected alley, the responsive metal facade protects and reactivates the lot to respond to the connotation of the typical back alley. This learning classroom operates as an extension of the school’s active learning environment, exhibiting to the community the progressive learning objectives the charter school promotes.


Toris + Toris 4
Each exterior wall and roof panel is comprised of the 4” Toris 4 deck system. The metal decking is framed with stainless steel and relies on an underlying structural frame. The interior walls and sliding doors are the 2 1/2” Toris desk system.

SkyDeck  + Kaleidoscope
The EPIC Metals’ SkyDeck system is the inspiration for the Kaleidoscope form. A skylight can be placed vertically or horizonally in this model to respond to exterior lighting conditions which will project colors inward and allow for a viewer to see outward, a fragmeted and chromatic world. 
The Kinetic Kaleidoscope Facade uses these skylights as a guide and track to move a perforated facade out from the existing structure. Coupled with a specific perforated system, this facade allows for a gradient of indirect light to complete darkness for a camera obscura. 

Toris Hanging System
Much like EPIC Metals’ existing hanging system, these interior walls use the existing Toris hanging system as a sliding door. One hanging system is connected to its mirror and this allows for a door to slide along the decking track to create 3 gradient camera obscuras. 

[The above was developed during the 3 day competition. The following was a fabrication component based off of the design for the camera obsucra to understand the design to fabrication process.]

1. CNC Plasma Cut

Fabricator Site Visit

2. Breakform

3. Weld

Fabrication Documentation

Prototype Iteration 

Comissioned fabrication drawing set example

Through this process of design to drawing to fabrication, the importance of specifications at a high level of detail became apparent. The final product was satisfactory but there were moments of misalignment with intent of design due to fabricator convenience.