Surfacing Stone: Digital Explorations in Masonry Curtain Wall Design

Surfacing Stone: Digital Explorations in Masonry Curtain Wall Design Instructors: Martin Bechthold, Wes McGee and Monica Ponce de LeonCourse Description:This course will research the potential of emerging manufacturing techniques in the field of architecture to impact the use of a well established material such as masonry. Funded by the International Masonry Institute, students will collaborate with the instructors in the design, fabrication and assembly of a fragment of a curtain wall system that explores the use of stone for the skin of a building as impacted by the availability of digitally guided fabrication tools.Background:Historically the practice of architecture has been charged with negotiating the relationship between construction technique (tectonics) and the particular image of the building (aesthetics). Since the renaissance the production of drawings has been at the center of this process, and this activity has generally fallen under the jurisdiction of the architect. Drawings have been the means by which architects have provided the information necessary to construct the building, and it is in the drawing where aesthetics and tectonics coincide. In the second half of the twentieth century, however, we saw an increase in the division between the generation of information to describe buildings and the production of information to construct them. Today architects are in charge of the \'design\' of the building, while the contractor is accountable for the \'means\' of construction. This differentiation has been based in legal parameters intended to give specific control to the builder over the process of construction, while protecting the architect from the builder\'s errors. But often there has been a very tenuous line between this delineation of responsibilities. Architects produce drawings with notes that suggest the means of construction, while the contractor generates shop drawings based on the architect\'s designs, and ultimately the architect \'redlines\' the shop drawings to insure that the original \'intent\' is still carried out. This division, thus, has been an artificial one hiding the fact that architects have always designed with specific \'means\' in mind. Moreover, this separation has led to the misunderstanding of our profession as one that coordinates systems and subsystems guided exclusively by style or aesthetics, in theory, relinquishing tectonic assembly to the construction industry. The advent of digital manufacturing has introduced a twist in the legal distinction between \'design intent\' and \'means of construction\' by the elimination of the shop drawing process. With these methods, the designer, not the builder, becomes responsible for the creation of drawings (now digital) that guide the manufacture of components for the assembly of buildings. While these processes have been part of the reality of industrial design for quite some time, their use in the production of buildings is relatively new and underutilized. However atypical, the use of digitally guided manufacturing is already giving us a sense of how buildings may change in the future. For example, digital manufacturing technology is a definite shift away from knowledge-based traditional construction methods, and as such the imagery of a building will no longer be limited to the traditional forms of construction available in a particular locale. Along the same lines, digital manufacturing represents a substantial change from conventional methods of mass production were repetition was the basis of economy. With Computer Aided Manufacturing variation and customization no longer require an increase in costs due to specialized labor, exceptional manufacturing techniques or extra set-up charges. These key distinctions between digital manufacturing and other methods of production have not yet had a wide spread effect in the waythat the profession and