(Re)fabricating Tectonic Prototypes

Leire Asensio-Villoria, instructor, with Hanif Kara, structural consultant

The course is framed by a general ambition to develop explorations in digital design, fabrication and parametric tools that is equally informed and enriched by historical precedent while still maintaining a speculative and novel outlook. The primary focus of the course will be in the development of skills, techniques and both conceptual as well as technical understandings of the application of digital processes and tools to the development of tectonic and construction systems in architecture. We will dedicate the semester to develop a project that takes advantage of a number of emerging and established digital techniques and processes in order to develop new prototypes for construction systems that will take inspiration from and expand on the analysis of a number of exemplary construction/tectonic systems.

Existing precedents of construction and tectonic systems will be studied and reconsidered during the course in order to inform and inspire the development of each project. These projects are encouraged to rethink these existing systems in order to produce and incorporate novel expression as well as performance. A period of analysis and documentation of existing systems and their associative geometric and material relationships will initiate the development of both: a rigorous analytical understanding of specific construction and tectonic systems as well as a proficiency in applying this knowledge in constructing associative/parametric digital models that will constitute the tools to generate alternative variations of these systems. This will inform a subsequent phase of prototyping which will utilize the fabrication laboratory’s tools. This prototype fabrication exercise will allow students to gain knowledge in and explore the new potentials and capabilities afforded by the emerging field of digital fabrication in architecture that together with digital design and parametric tools allow for the reconsideration and expansion of the potential applications of exemplary construction and tectonic systems today. This year, we will also be working consistently with Hanif Kara, director of AKT2 structural engineering. We will also have the input from various fabricators from art and industry who will offer a series of views on contemporary material techniques and practices that will expand the potential reconsideration of a number of exemplary tectonic precedents.

Students will be guided to follow a process from initial digital analysis right through to physical fabrication of prototypes. The course will cover and develop digital design skills in parametric tools, digital fabrication as well as new emerging material technologies. The course will be open to all students and while an intermediate level knowledge of 3d modeling software is encouraged and welcome, it is not strictly necessary to take the course.