by Amelia Gan (MDes ’23) — Recipient of the Digital Design Prize.
The dominance of digital design and computer aided design (CAD) tools in contemporary architectural practice has resulted in a predominantly form-first design approach, creating a disconnect between the idealized form and material realities. This method of selecting materials as an afterthought prioritizes materials that are homogeneous and stable, such as concrete and steel, as they are easily casted to fit a form. Consequently, local material availability and material lifecycles are not taken into account. and instead, sand, gravel and various metals are over-extracted. This necessitates a search for alternative sources of building materials that are cyclical such as bio-based materials. However, a transition to bio-based materials cannot simply replicate our current industrialized logic, as this would result in similar material depletion issues. Designing with bio-based materials entail consideration for the materials’ embedded temporality, dimension of localization, variation of mechanical properties, and impending decay.
This project seeks to bridge the gap between the two paradigms where form-dictates-matter and matter-dictates-form by proposing a 3D modeling tool that is location-based and time sensitive. The development of the tool is informed by material experimentations on commonly found agricultural waste in Southeast Asia, specifically eggshells, rice husk and crustacean shells. Based on the project geography, a location-specific material palette is generated. This is then used for digitally modeling the idealized form, where the environmental data (temperature, humidity, precipitation, and wind) is used to parameterize the decay of the form over time. By simulating future decay of specific materials in a design tool, Place-Time seeks to calibrate our understanding of time perception with environmental time.