I once called Jeffrey Stephenson the Frank Lloyd Wright of PC case design. He has an amazing talent for creating hand-crafted PCs.
Back in 2013, I showcased many of his incredible designs in a gallery. It's definitely worth another look. In 2014, I showed another case design, this time inspired by the old-time Addison radio, popular in the 1940s.
We've waited more than a year for another Stephenson masterpiece. When Jeffrey told me he had another work of art, I knew you all would want to take a look.
If you want to follow along with all of Jeffrey's build steps, click on over to Stephenson's site. He's been kind enough to allow us to show you his finished design, along with some of the work that it took to put it all together.
I spoke to Stephenson about what went into the design and building process. We'll show you that in a few slides. But first, let's get to know SkyVue.
Leveraging off of Stephenson's talent for Art Deco, it looks like a retro-modern skyscraper.
Here's another look. You can start to see some of the details.
Stephenson told me, "SkyVue is comprised of two separate units. The interior chassis and the external enclosure."
He says, "The enclosure slides down over the chassis and is not connected in any other way. The chassis can operate autonomously."
Stephenson tells ZDNet, "The idea for the chassis was formed when Corsair released their new H5 SF low profile water cooling system. It is a very unique CPU water cooler in that it uses a small radiator combined with a blower instead of the usual axial fan. It is very compact and allows for a low system profile. I imagined a design that would mind better displays that dimension."
Stephenson says, "To keep the system narrow I chose an old Silverstone LC-02 aluminum HTPC case that included graphics card risers and extensions to allow for a "laid down" card position or in my design, a straight-up position."
Stephenson told us, "I cut up the case leaving only the minimum needed to mount the equipment. I termed this a bikini chassis. Only what is barely necessary. I reinforced the remaining structure with aluminum angle to regain rigidity."
Stephenson describes, "There weren't any measurements as I built the enclosure directly against chassis using pieces of paper as a spacer."
According to Stephenson, "The original case came with Flex-ATX power supply that I would upgrade to a larger (size-wise) SFX PSU form factor. This I mounted at the bottom of the chassis where the original was formally located."
Another view of the power supply.
Here's another view of the power supply.
He continued, "After I mounted all the equipment I noticed a near perfect symmetry split down the center with ever narrowing stepped structures going upward."
Talking about his design approach, Stephenson told ZDNet, "Three years earlier I had designed a lamp that looked like an Art Deco skyscraper and I realized that this design would easily adapt to SkyVue's chassis. It was a near perfect match requiring little modification to the design."
He continues, "The external enclosure was constructed around the chassis with each stepped section representing a separate component. Power supply, motherboard/cooler combo and finally graphics card."
According to Stephenson, "I found some sapale veneer for a bargain price. It is in the mahogany family and I love working with mahogany. Surprisingly, the sapale has a cedar-like odor when being worked. SkyVue has 94 pieces of sapale veneer covering an aircraft grade birch plywood frame. The graphics card vent system alone has 40 pieces of veneer."
Describing a design challenge, Stephenson told us, "Cooling for the air-cooled graphics card was a design challenge."
He continued, "I decided to build a vent system at the top of the enclosure that the graphic card's cooling fan faced."
Technical requirements can often drive design, as Stephenson described, "To tie in the vent design to the overall design I made it look like stylized windows."
Stephenson described another vent, "I also included a smallish vent on the other side to provide for a fan in case that was needed."
Stephenson told us about how he trimmed out the SkyVue: "The aluminum trim is T6511 bar stock cut up, sanded and polished to a matte finish."
Here's another view of the aluminum trim.
I asked Jeffrey if he had anything specific he wanted ZDNet readers to know about this project. He replied:
The project took around 240 hours to design and build over an eight week period.
Companies like Gigabyte, Corsair, Silverstone and Kingston eagerly participated with equipment donations. The only company that wasn't thoughtful enough to participate was the one located in Santa Clara which is why you will see no mention of a CPU in this build. Their assumption that I would pay to help promote their product was misguided. Other than that struggle this project was a tremendous amount of fun and I hope that shows in its presentation.