Digital Material Systems: Ceramics

Digital design and fabrication technologies have become integral to the discourse surrounding contemporary design and architectural practice. The translation from design to realization is mediated by a range of tools and processes whose development is informed over time by material properties, skill, technology, and culture. As a whole, these systems are the vehicle by which design teams, manufacturers, installers, and ultimately users engage the materiality of architecture. Parallel technological developments relating to the way in which things are designed (digital modeling, simulation, generative design, etc.) and the way things are made (automation, computer-controlled equipment including robotics, advanced materials, etc.) have afforded new opportunities and challenges related to the realization of new forms in architecture, part customization, user-centered design, and enhanced building performance.
Within this context, this year’s course positions ceramic material systems as a vehicle for exploring applied research methodologies and investigation into the opportunities (and challenges) afforded by digital fabrication techniques. Building on a long-term collaboration with the Harvard Ceramics Studio in Allston, this course will advance strategies for robotics, additive manufacturing, and other computational fabrication technologies.

Ceramics are the first material created by humankind and are produced across scales and applications from the craft-studio to high-volume, automated manufacturing environments. Pleasing to the touch and easily manipulated by hand, it can also be subject to digital technologies and robotic approaches. While ceramic-specific aspects of material design and manipulation will be taught, the emphasis is on understanding ceramics as a microcosm of material research that offers insights which transfer to work with almost any material used in architecture.