Written by Associate Professor Kimo Griggs
Five years ago we installed three new laser cutters, a large format CNC router and plasma cutter, a 3D Printer and a variety of other small tools and new computer software around the College to support increased teaching and research in the area of digital design and fabrication. We have since added more. These technologies supplemented our remarkable existing infrastructure of “conventional” tools.
The combination of interest, access and teaching has fostered the development of a healthy, widespread digital-design-and-fabrication culture within our program, and has provided additional benefits to students in our Digital-Design-and-Fabrication Certificate program offered through the Professional and Extension School.
Digital Fabrication is just one downstream application of the digital design process, but it can be a powerful one when design and making come together using digitally-enabled tools to produce prototypes and finished components of buildings that are visually rich and practically sensible. A number of our former students are now doing award-winning work within local offices using their digital-design-and-fabrication knowledge and skills.
Last week I attended the annual ACADIA (Association of Computer-Aided-Design in Architecture) conference, held at University of Waterloo in Cambridge, Ontario. Started in 1981 by a forward-looking group for the purpose of facilitating communication and information exchange regarding the use of computers in architecture, planning and building science, the apparent interest of the group turned heavily to Digital Fabrication about a decade ago. This year’s theme was “Adaptive Architecture”, (which felt two years out of date) , but the bulk of the talks and the evidence both visual and physical was about fabricated elements, prototypes and systems.
A common, and legitimate criticism of much of the work seen each year at the ACADIA conference is that little of it seems much concerned with realistic building methods. The production of intriguing, beautiful, exotic constructions is appealing on a number of levels, but keeping the rain and cold out is part of what we do. We practice our poetry, but we like our pages to stay dry.
The long-standing traditions of making in our program, and interest in craft has allowed us, within a short timeframe, to grow a culture that challenges and encourages students to do work that is beguiling and practical at the same time, in the service of larger design and performance goals.