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.
Digital Fabrication: The Latest Architecture and News
New technology in digital building, particularly Computer Numerical Control (CNC) systems, are changing the way that we design and build wooden structures. Their high level of precision allows us to design perfect assembles--without screws or visible metalwork--resulting in structures that are durable, easy-to-build, and extremely well-organized. We spoke with the experts at Timber to better understand the process of building a wooden structure and to compile a list of key tips in designing one.
How do designers think? How do they visually communicate complex ideas? What strategies do they employ to make a positive impact on the built environment? How does design change the way people see and experience the world?
In 2016, Ecole des Ponts ParisTech has established an advanced masters program with a focus on digital fabrication and robotics. Currently recruiting for its fourth installment, the Design by Data Advanced Masters Program appeals to architects, engineers, and tech-oriented designers. Since its launch in 2016, the program’s director Francesco Cingolani has sought to shape the relationship between architecture and technology by creating a cross-disciplinary culture between the two.
As previously mentioned on Archdaily, students study the main components of the program - computational design, digital culture and design, and additive manufacturing and robotic fabrication - throughout the 12-month program to fulfill Design by Data’s main objectives while working with peers in a dynamic learning environment. While providing each participant with both technical skills and an aesthetic eye, the program ensures students will also gain critical knowledge of current innovative trends and ongoing research. By exposing them to technology through hands-on use of tools of digital fabrication, the program will teach students to approach design through a process-oriented lens.
This article was originally published by Autodesk's Redshift publication as "SHoP's Chris Sharples on Urban Architecture, Digital Fabrication, and the Public Realm."
Twin brothers Chris and Bill Sharples are two of the founding partners of SHoP Architects, a New York-based firm established 20 years ago to bring together diverse expertise in designing buildings and environments that improve the quality of public life.
The firm’s style is difficult to define, but a connective thread throughout SHoP’s portfolio is a design philosophy rooted in constraints. From digital models to next-generation fabrication and delivery techniques, technology is at the center of the firm’s movement toward an iterative approach that, as Chris Sharples says, “is beginning to blur the line between architecture and manufacturing.”
The advent of robotics in the creative and construction industries has led to an amazing revolution, changing not just how things are designed and made, but also transforming knowledge cultures, politics and economics that surround them. As such, the ROB|ARCH 2018 conference – hosted by the NCCR Digital Fabrication and ETH Zurich – will continue this path, developing and revealing novel insights, applications and impacts of this transformation within the scientific, creative, and entrepreneurial domains, including, for example, architecture, structural design, civil and process engineering, art and design, and robotics. A particular focus lies upon cross-disciplinary approaches and applications, providing state-of-the-art knowledge, techniques and methods of robotics not just in individual areas of exploration, but also beyond. These ideals aspire to complement the transformation processes of emerging robotic research and applications, and to redefine cross-disciplinary work in an era of global digitalisation and knowledge transfer. Key topics and issues of ROB|ARCH 2018 include autonomous control systems, advanced construction, collaborative design tools, computerised materials and structures, adaptive sensing and actuation, on-site and cooperative robotics, machine-learning, human-machine interaction, large-scale robotic fabrication and networked workflows.
Anoma, headed by EDIDA-winning Indian artist Ruchika Grover, is a product design studio that explores the potential of natural stone. Its surfaces, sculptures, and installations, are created through a unique process, which combines digital manufacturing and traditional hand craftsmanship.
This summer, July 11-13, the annual Fab City Summit will take place in Paris at the Paris City Hall and Parc de La Villette. The yearly event will gather the core team behind the Fab City Global Initiative together with city officials, innovation ecosystems from civic society and industry. Get your tickets with 30% discount using code FABDAILY30.
The rapid urbanization of the 20th century was possible thanks to the Industrial Revolution and the assembly line, which allowed the rapid reproduction and replication of infrastructure, products and repetitive urban patterns in cities around the world. Urban morphology and dynamics produce standard patterns and forms of living. At the same time, and following the linear economy, cities consume most of the world’s resources and generate most of world’s waste (according to the United Nations). However, the exponential growth of digital technologies (computation, communication, fabrication) of the last decades offer the opportunity to enable a transition towards a spiral economy (an open circular economy approach), in which data (and knowledge) flow globally, and materials flow locally: from networks of logistics that move atoms, to networks of information that move bits.
This summer, July 11–13, the annual Fab City Summit will take place in Paris at the Paris City Hall and Parc de La Villette. The yearly event will gather the core team behind the Fab City Global Initiative together with city officials, innovation ecosystems from civic society and industry.
Neri Oxman and MIT have developed programmable water-based biocomposites for digital design and fabrication. Named Aguahoja, the project has exhibited both a pavilion and a series of artifacts constructed from molecular components found in tree branches, insect exoskeletons, and our own bones. It uses natural ecosystems as inspiration for a material production process that produces no waste. “Derived from organic matter, printed by a robot, and shaped by water, this work points toward a future where the grown and the made unite.”
The Chinese Pavilion at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale, themed "Building a Future Countryside", is endeavored to explore new technology and ideas to make better of China's rural areas. A digitally-fabricated outdoor pavilion "Cloud Village" has been set up in addition to the national exhibition at the Venetian Arsenale. The Cloud Village has a twisting form which creates a sequence of open and semi-enclosed spaces under its roof. It seeks to convey an abstraction of the everyday life in Chinese countryside where boundaries of private and public realms are not always defined.
The Cloud Village is structurally made possible by the robotic printing technology developed by Philip F. Yuan and his team. Read below for a detailed account of the project from the architects.
Uniting the material intelligence of vernacular crafts with the precision and flexibility provided by the new digital design and manufacturing technologies, the Robotic Fabrication LAB of The Faculty of Architecture of HKU has developed the CeramicINformation Pavilion, with the objective of finding suitable levels of automation to be used for emerging and transitioning economies.
Part of an evolving series, each of its 1,000 components is unique and relates specifically to its neighboring units. The elements are constructed through 3D printing and are made of terracotta brick, a material commonly used in modern Chinese construction.
This issue of dearq seeks to shed light on a spectrum of spatial, material, and research practices intertwining architecture, design, and computation. We welcome contributions that address these from critical, de-colonial, and local perspectives, with a non-exclusive focus on Latin America and the rest of the “Global South”.
Recent debates on the role of computation in architectural practice and education tend to be framed within theoretical armatures that originate in the global centers of knowledge and economy. Likewise, dominant discourses on computation in architecture and design often normalize technologies
as autonomous forces that trigger inextricable historical ‘turns.’ It is thus tempting, but
FAB FEST is a week-long celebration of design and making, hosted by the Fabrication Lab at the University of Westminster. For the third year running, it invites creative designers from around the world to envision and build their ideas about architecture and the city. It will feature over 80 pavilions and installations designed internationally, manufactured in the Fabrication Lab, and assembled and installed in Central London.
The recent availability of automated design and production techniques is changing the development of building details. With parametric and algorithmic design methods and the use of digital fabrication, new abilities are required from architects for the design of details, at the same time as new players are beginning to take part in their development.
Although not always given the necessary attention, architectural details are of extreme importance for many aspects of a building. They can define its theoretical expression and technical character, and impact its production process, its assembly method and even its ecological footprint. Contemporary architecture shows a new interest in detailing, which should not be confused with a return to the appreciation of artisanal work. This new interest is related to the recent re-involvement of the architect with the physical making of buildings, as a result of the use of digital technologies. The new “digital master builder”  counts on file-to-factory processes, in which the morphology of construction details is directly related to the knowledge of the available production processes.
The IAAC (Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia) has developed a series of advanced materials and systems for air conditioning and passive ventilation, allowing homes to reduce interior temperatures up to 5 degrees lower while saving the electricity consumption caused by the traditional air-conditioning. The systems are made from long-lifespan materials, which lower the costs of maintenance in the long-term and can be used as low-cost alternative building technologies.
The projects highlighted are the Breathing Skin, Hydroceramics, Hydromembrane, Morphluid and Soft Robotics - all developed by students of the IAAC's Digital Matter Intelligent Constructions (conducted by Areti Markopoulou). The passive air-conditioning of spaces is investigated using a combination of new materials that mimic organic processes, adaptive structures and Robotics that help regulate temperature and create sustainable micro climates.
Picking up on the debate surrounding digitization in fabrication and its impact on traditional crafts, Copenhagen-based SPACE10, the future-living laboratory created by IKEA, recently invited three architects—Yuan Chieh Yang, Benas Burdulis, and Emil Froege—to explore the potentials of CNC milling for traditional craft techniques. The architects came up with three divergent yet equally innovative solutions to address the fundamental issue that plagues digital production: an apparent lack of a "human touch." In a Post-Fordist world increasingly dominated by customization, this investigation holds obvious importance for a company which deals primarily in mass-produced ready-to-assemble products; however, with its advocation for the infusion of dying classical craft techniques into the digital manufacturing process, the experiment could be meaningful for many other reasons.
The capabilities of personal 3D printing and fabrication are only beginning to be tested, but a new system is pushing the boundaries for feasible, structurally-sound large scale structures. Unlike other structures created by 3D printing systems, Trussfab doesn’t require access to specialized equipment, nor specific engineering knowledge, to print and build large-scale structures capable of supporting human weight. Phd researcher Robert Kovacs with his team from the Human Computer Interaction Lab at the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam, Germany created Trussfab as an end-to-end system allowing users to fabricate sturdy, large-scale structures using plastic bottles and 3D-printed connections, making them easy and relatively quick to construct.