“Our planet is choking in plastic,” states the United Nations. While the man-made material has many valuable uses, our addiction to single-use plastic products has led to severe economic, health and environmental issues. Roughly one million plastic bottles are purchased every minute, and five trillion plastic bags are used every year worldwide –used just once, then thrown away. Plastics and microplastics have found their way into every corner of our natural environment, from the peaks of the highest mountains to the depths of the deepest oceans. So much so, that they have become part of the Earth’s fossil record and created an entirely new marine microbial habitat known as the “plastisphere.”
Can you imagine being able to prototype a piece of furniture at the touch of a button and testing it in just a few hours? This might become a common practice sooner than we may think. Fueled by material innovation, automation and cutting-edge technology, a new era in home decor is emerging; one where 3D printing opens up a world of creative possibilities that transcend the bounds of traditional design. Yes, furniture is still mass-produced using conventional methods –molding, cutting, bending–, but 3D printing continues to disrupt the industry. As the revolutionary technology evolves and becomes more accessible, it has unleashed an unparalleled level of creative expression and efficiency. The concept is simple: a digital design is created using 3D modeling software and then printed, layer by layer, in the form of a physical object, bringing complex geometries to life. It’s a whole new kind of digital craftsmanship.
Cautiously described by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman as "a preview of progress", any user can talk with OpenGPT about almost anything: the results are astonishing and it easily can embody an umpteenth so-called threat for creative-related jobs. However, OpenGPT does not have access to browse the internet. Instead, it interacts based on the gigantic database that it has been trained on. As expressed by Gannett's Eric Ulken, "even the best generative AI tools are only as good as their training", so what an "inappropriate request" is has previously been tuned (by humans) as well.
Digital spaces and fabrication technology have become as prominent as ever within the current state of our post-pandemic society, becoming increasingly more accessible and enabling quick and spontaneous acts of iteration and evolution. These technologies have resulted in the ability to mass-produce non-standard, highly differentiated building components within the same facility as their standardized counterpart, transforming how buildings and their respective components are conceived, designed, and represented, and how they are manufactured, assembled, and produced.
The beauty of digital fabrication is its ability to blend aspects of mass and artisanal production to the point where costs nearly disappear. Technology’s capacity to fabricate so simply and almost seamlessly raise the issues for its potential to significantly alter our current perception of architecture, thus producing the question: has the influence of mass production in architecture resulted in a loss of intentional design?
Efficiency in the construction site by reducing waste and lowering costs, improving safety through better planning, and introducing machines to assist in the construction and design process. These benefits can be achieved through automation in architecture, but for technology to reach this point of empowering and supporting creativity while also improving efficiency, we have come a long way. To understand how automation developed and the prospects it offers for architecture, here is a brief timeline.
HANNAH office, founded by Leslie Lok and Sasa Zivkovic, is a US-based architecture and research practice that has been experimenting with digital design and fabrication techniques across all types of projects ranging from furniture to urbanism. Both professors at Cornell University College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, Leslie and Sasa lead a studio with a focus on innovative design, where technology plays a crucial role in their work, combined with a sharp study of materials, new applications, and construction techniques, resulting in highly creative projects.
Automation is everywhere around us - our homes, furniture, offices, cars, and even our clothing; we have become so accustomed to being surrounded by automated systems that we have forgotten what life was like without them. And while automation has noticeably improved the quality of interior spaces with solutions like purified air and temperature control, nothing compares to the natural cool breeze of mother nature.
But just like everything else in architecture, there is no one size fits all; what works in Tanzania cannot work in Switzerland or Colombia. This is due to several reasons, such as the difference in wind direction, average temperature, spatial needs, and environmental restrictions (or lack thereof). In this article, we take a look at natural ventilation in all its forms, and how architects have employed this passive solution in different contexts.
By now, it is clear that technology has taken over almost every aspect of our lives. It has changed the way we communicate, how we connect, how we work and study, and has even modified our buying and eating habits. Architecture and construction were not the exceptions, and technology is also now present in the way it is being thought, designed, and built.
We’re in an age of unprecedented technological innovation. The architecture and construction industries are increasingly becoming more and more automated, as firms seek to take full advantage of new machinery and new ways of working to make the design process more efficient. With this increase in automation, however, comes lots of questions too. Will robots ever replace architects?Will the near future see a fully automated construction industry? A pertinent question, too, is the complicated case of automation and the individuality of design – does automation take away from the individuality of design?
The human scale spans both physical dimensions and sensory perception. Designers create spaces and objects like steps, doorways and chairs that are closely aligned to human measurement and how we see the world. But as we look beyond the human scale, new ideas and typologies emerge that help us rethink how we conceptualize architecture and build for the future.
The viability of 3D Printing in architecture – has, at the very least – seen a seismic shift over the past few years. Usually relegated to prototypes or conceptual models, 3D Printed building designs are increasingly being actualised as physical projects. In 2013, WinSun, a Chinese company – was able to print 10 houses in a 24-hour period, becoming one of the first companies to achieve this feat using 3D Printing technology. More recently, in 2018, a family in France became the first in the world to live in a 3D Printed house. The city of Dubai is also seeking to have a quarter of its buildings be 3D Printed by 2025. These examples display the upwards category of this technology, and how it is very likely, as the years go by, this automation of building fabrication is even more integrated into the construction process than it is right now.
Architecture and automation are two concepts that in the modern era of design and technological advancements go hand in hand- or do they? On one end, there’s a slight fear that “robots will replace designers”, making the profession more automated, and less creative. On the other, technology has made the practice of architecture more efficient in terms of process and cost. How far will technology take us, and will your job ever be lost to technology? The short answer is, probably not.
In theory, parking spaces serve only one function: park a car safely until it is used again, and in terms of design, car garages are flexible and straightforward, requiring minimal design interventions. However, parking spaces nowadays are no longer considered one-function buildings. The emptier the space, the more potential it has to integrate additional functions. Architects and urban planners have redefined traditional parking lots, adding recreational and commercial facilities to the structure. Instead of a typical structured grid plan with yellow and white markings on the floor, we are now seeing inviting structures that incorporate green facades and rooftop playgrounds, car washes, cafeterias, and work/study zones.
Robotic automation has been widely adopted by the manufacturing industry for decades. Most automotive vehicles, consumer electrical appliances, and even domestic robots were made and assembled by “armies” of robots with minimal human supervision. Robotic automation brings higher production efficiency, a safer working environment, lower costs and superior quality. After years of development and deployment, the process now requires minimal human involvement.
In 2013, Michael Osborne and Carl Benedikt Frey ranked 702 occupations according to their probability of computerisation in the near future, from least probable (“recreational therapist”) to most probable (“telemarketers”). "Architectural and Engineering Managers” was ranked seventy-third, and “architects” eighty-second, while “architectural and civil drafters” ranked three-hundred and fifth. Clearly, technological advancements in fields such as machine learning and robotics are rapidly confronting us with issues of changing professional demand and qualifications. In this essay, Maurizio Ferraris turns the table on us: what if what we should be concerned with is not maintaining the human element in labor as production, but rather recognising human labor as consumption? Expanding on the arguments of his 2012 book, “Lasciar tracce: documentalità e architettura,” the author sees in automation an extraordinary opportunity in defining a renewed centrality of the human element, as the production of value associated with digital exchange is read through the three concepts of invention, mobilization and consumption.
A couple of years ago, digital fabrication was making headlines regularly, promising to drastically change the architecture practice. The revolution in architecture might not have arrived yet, but research projects, experiments and the dedication of several architects and universities already opened a new realm of possibilities for architectural expression. Therefore, it seems appropriate to give an overview of the impact the technology had so far within the architecture practice. This article covers the different types of processes within the field and the projects that experiment with them, with the scope of reframing the architectural potential of digital fabrication.