Coffee, Cake, CAD/CAM: Re-inventing the Urban Diner

Diner:\”A small, usually inexpensive restaurant with a long counter and booths and housed in a building designed to resemble a dining car.\” The American Heritage. Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth EditionIntroduction: Digital Design and Manufacturing Techniques have greatly impacted the way many things are designed and made – from everyday consumer products to cars, ships and airplanes. Sophisticated digital design environments, virtual and rapid prototyping methods and computational simulation and analysis tools have greatly enabled our ability to produce custom work in individual or mass manufacturing environments. Combined with concepts such as lean manufacturing and just-in-time delivery these design tools shorten design development cycles and reduce the time-to market for an increasingly complex range of products.Computer-Aided Design and Manufacturing (CAD/CAM) technologies in architecture have altered the ways components are made but little impact has been felt in design and design practice. Computer-Aided Design in conventional architectural practice – technology which could easily enable a variety of new activities within the studio – is still largely disconnected from the Computer-Aided-Manufacturing processes used to define, fabricate and deliver many of the components and larger building elements used to construct our designs. This studio explores connecting the two worlds of design and manufacturing more closely by proposing new design methods and design solutions for a hybrid building type – the pre-manufactured urban diner.Background:The origin of the diner is the horse-drawn lunch wagon of the 1890\’s, open all night, serving simple food and beverages to those working at odd hours. Such wagons were found in the city, and only with the emergence of mass-motorization did lunch wagons – or diners as they started to be called in the 1920\’s – become a roadside feature outside urban centers. Due in large part to construction and delivery methods as well as to planning and zoning regulations the design of the \”classic\” diner retained clear references to its mobile wagon origins while also alluding somewhat romantically to railway dining cars. The compelling economics of diner manufacture were due to the cost- and time-saving advantage of building in factory environments over on-site construction. The diner unit became a good example of a mass-customized commercial product, able to be endlessly customized within certain controlled dimensions fixed by the need to transport the diners via roads to their sites.Design Project:Students are asked to develop a series of new and innovative urban diner/cafi units with seamlessly integrated video conferencing facilities and Internet access. The new program elements \’Cafi\’ and \’Information Technology\’ transform the nature of the historic type \’diner\’. This new type is a node of global and local communication (virtual/real) as well as an urban place for the consumption of food and beverages. All units belong to one and the same client – an aspect to be communicated through the design. The basic type needs to adapt to a variety of given site contexts, ranging from the urban plaza and the narrow empty lot to the urban park and the indoor shopping center.Studio Objectives:The studio focuses on the idea of customization and variation of types using an integrated approach to digitally supported design and pre-manufacturing techniques. The design variations for an urban diner/cafi are derived from the programmatic requirements of various contexts. Students are encouraged to extend their design methodology by exploring digital design techniques such as parametric design or ruled-based design as relating to custom manufacturing. Representational and analytical design environments can be closely connected and open up new design opportunities.