The presentations and activities at this year’s ACADIA (Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture) conference gave attendees a glimpse of potentially disruptive technologies and workflows for computational architectural production. The conference was held this year in Austin from October 24 through 26 and was organized by The University of Texas School of Architecture faculty members Kory Bieg, Danelle Briscoe, and Clay Odom. The organizers collected papers, workshops, and projects addressing the theme of “Ubiquity and Autonomy” in computation. Contributors reflected on the state of architectural production, in which digital tools and methodologies developed in the boutique, specialized settings at the fringes of the profession a generation ago have now become commonplace in architectural offices—while at the same time, new forms of specialist computational practices are emerging which may themselves soon become mainstream. While each participant grappled to position themselves in the cyclical and ever-advancing framework of technological inheritance and transference, the most encouraging efforts can be described in three categories: Expansions, subversions, and wholesale disruptions of the computational status quo. The expansionists claimed new technological territories, enlisting emerging and peripheral technologies to their purposes. The subvertors sampled the work and scrambled the workflows of their predecessors, configuring novel material applications in the process. Disruptors actively sought to break the techno-positivist cycle, questioning the assumptions, ethics, and values of previous generations to leverage computational design and digital processes to advance pressing and prescient political, economic, and ecological agendas. Expansionists appropriated bleeding-edge technologies, or those newly introduced to the discipline, to stake new terrain in design and construction. The conference was the first of its kind to host a dedicated session on the use of Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) in design. This machine-learning system pits two forms of artificial intelligence against each other—one AI acts as the creative “artist,” generating all the possible solutions to a given task, while the other acts as the “critic,” selectively editing and curating the most appropriate responses. After training the networks on archives of architectural imagery, panelists put the GANs to work on evaluative and generative design tasks, alternately generating passably authentic floor plans, building envelopes, and reconstructed streetscapes. The workshop sessions, hosted by a suite of computational research teams from several architectural offices, demonstrated possibilities for adopting emerging technologies with familiar platforms, adopting and adapting tools like Fologram and Hololens to more familiar software platforms and fabrication methods. The subvertors, familiar with the expected uses and applications of given tools, would offer intentionally contradictory alternatives, short-circuiting established workflows and celebrating the unintended consequences of digitally enhanced platforms. A project from MIT researchers Lavender Tessmer, Yijiang Huang, and Caitlin Mueller entitled “Additive Casting of Mass-Customizable Brick” is a good example of the subvertors’ approach to interrogating workflows, enlisting precision-equipment for low-fidelity effect. As the current state-of-the-art in custom concrete formwork employs costly and time-consuming workflows to task CNC routers or robotic arms with milling, the MIT project is a critical alternative. Instead of shaping the mold, the project mobilizes the mold, achieving a wide variety of sculptural concrete “bricks” using standard cylindrical forms wielded by a robotic arm, while leveraging the ability of liquid concrete to self-level. The molds are shifted to preset positions while the concrete sets, allowing the sequential states of self-leveled concrete to intersect in complex geometries. The process is surprisingly delightful to watch, as the robot controls seven molds simultaneously like a drummer with a drumkit. The unexpected combination of high- and low-tech recalibrates possibilities for the robotic craft. Other researchers swapped out expected materials to produce unexpected results. Vasily Sitnikov (KTH) and Peter Eigenraam (TU Delft) teamed with BuroHappold to produce IceFormwork, a project that uses milled blocks of ice as the unlikely forms for casting high-performance fiber-reinforced concrete. Ice, the team argued, is a preferred, environmentally neutral alternative to industry-standard EPS foam molds, which produce a vast amount of waste. Ice molds, the team demonstrated, are easy enough to make (with some help from a reliable water source and a repurposed refrigerated ISO container). Airborne particles suspended by the ice-milling process are harmless water vapor, unlike the dangerous foam dust requiring ventilation equipment and other protective measures. When it comes to de-molding, the ice can simply be left outside to melt. While these investigations showcased new ways to hack the assembly process of cast building elements, their choice of concrete as a material contradicted a growing consensus in the panels; that designers should actively seek alternatives to the glut of concrete in the building industry, given the high ecological cost and high carbon footprint of concrete manufacturing in the context of an accelerating global sand shortage. Daniela Mitterberger and Tiziano Derme (MAEID/University of Innsbruck) offered one of the more radical alternatives with their project “Soil 3D Printing.” The team is using hydrogels—non-toxic, biodegradable adhesives—as binding agents injected into loose soil, to form alien landscapes of networked, earthen structures that portend a near-future where biocompatible, organic additive manufacturing processes restructure geotechnical landscapes and planetary geology. The provocations of the disruptors—who radically repurpose computational tools beyond perceived disciplinary constraints—raised profound questions about the potential for design technologies to enable and enact larger societal transformations by lining up global supply chains, material economies, and non-human constituencies squarely in their sights. Jose Sanchez (Plethora Project/Bloom Games/USC), in the presentation he gave while accepting the Innovative Research Award, presented his work leveraging computation and game design to critically examine and transform economic and ecologic realities. Sanchez has developed a series of game environments which force players to navigate wicked problems in contemporary cities, to confront the complexities, contradictions, and paradoxes of urbanization, logistics, and manufacturing. Sanchez described the continued focus in his work on efforts to "optimize for the many"—as opposed to the few—in a period of increased economic inequality, re-assessing the predominant use of digital technologies over the past few decades to enable complex mass-customized assemblies. Sanchez, in his own work, and in projects like Bloom with Alisa Andrasek (Biothing/Bloom Games/RMIT), has been exploring the potential of digital technologies to disrupt mass-production models through high-volume production of serialized and standardized “discrete” architectural components. In a similar vein, Gilles Retsin (UCL/Bartlett) argued for a reconsideration of the labor practices and digital economies enmeshed in, and implicitly supported by, a building industry that has not yet come to terms with automation. By focusing on the ability of digital tools to combat material waste, Retsin argued, a generation of digitally savvy architects have ignored the potential of automation to address wasted labor. Through speculative research and small projects, Retsin is hoping to disrupt the building industry, increasing the capacity of architects to design and implement new platforms for project delivery which can combat exploitative practices. As expansionists pointed out where to look for the next big advancement, subvertors demonstrated how existing tools could be used differently. Disruptors were some of the few to ask—and answer—why. Stephen Mueller is a founding partner of AGENCY and a Research Assistant Professor at Texas Tech University College of Architecture in El Paso.
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"Design is inherently interdisciplinary," J. Meejin Yoon, Gale and Ira Drukier Dean of Cornell Architecture Art Planning (AAP) school, told the department’s blog last month. In that spirit, Cornell AAP and Cornell Tech have announced a collaborative, cross-disciplinary program for digital design solutions. The partnership includes the new M.S. Matter Design Computation (MDC) program for graduate students and undergraduate architecture students at AAP NYC, along with Cornell Tech students in computer science, business, engineering, law, and health technology. The school has already hosted classes such as Design Topic Research Studio: Matter Design Computation; Special Topics in Visual Representation: Coding for Design; and Product Studio. Faculty across various disciplines lead the classes and students are encouraged to create new digital design product solutions in response to prompts from both their teachers and companies. "Our undergraduate and graduate students bring an ability to synthesize a set of complex relationships, form a plan, and follow through in a meaningful way," said Jenny Sabin, Cornell’s Arthur L. and Isabel B. Wiesenberger Professor in Architecture and associate dean for design initiatives. "It's not only about problem-solving but problem generating." And those problems are increasingly complex—Yoon added: "At a moment when the challenges facing the built environment and society are multiscalar, complex, and dynamic, the collaborative initiatives between AAP and Cornell Tech will give our students opportunities to engage in pressing questions across technology, human-centered design, and the built environment with an expanded perspective on the design challenges facing society today." Andrea Simitch, the Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow and architecture department chair describes the program as a natural extension for architectural learning. "Architecture pedagogy is by default a collaborative practice based on interactive dialogues," she told Cornell AAP’s blog. The hope is that students will learn to collaborate, think beyond siloed disciplines, and get an education in delivering functional, well-executed projects.
The Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture (ACADIA), an organization that connects architects and design professionals working with digital technology, has announced the awardees and recipients for its 2019 conference, which will be held this October at the University of Texas at Austin. Titled “Ubiquity and Autonomy,” ACADIA says this year’s conference will investigate “the blurred divide between analog and digital processes,” a division (or non-division) of increasing importance to both architecture and daily life. Through various presentations of papers and projects, participants will question how emerging technology might change both how architecture is done, and what architecture is. Keynotes will be given by Morphosis's founding principal Thom Mayne, Jakob + MacFarlane founding partner Dominique Jakob, and UNStudio senior associate Harlen Miller. Mayne will also be receiving the ACADIA 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award. Awards will also be given to Dana Cupkova, Roland Snooks, Jose Sanchez, and Chris Yessios, and the Master of Science in Digital and Material Technologies at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning will be recognized as well. Leading up to the conference, which takes place from October 24 to 26, there will be three days of workshops with titles such as: Digital Tailoring: Form-Fitting Bizarre and Provocative Typologies, an investigation of the meeting of architecture, fashion, and the body, and Freeform Fabrication: Hand-bending timber structures with intelligent holographic guides, which will look at mixed-reality solutions for timber construction.
The University of Michigan's Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning presents Michigan Meeting Winter Symposium: Living In Digital Environments
In 2012 the first 4K resolution screen became available on the commercial market at the common 30” desktop size, making it possible for a user with 20/20 vision seated 24” away from a computer screen to be confronted with the same amount of visual information as could be experienced in the surrounding environment. This development brought verisimilitude to another realm that has gradually emerged for decades, the constitution of the digital sphere as a kind of environment itself. Today, we live inside the digital. Increasingly, our public and private lives are conducted online and in digital space where our relationships are forged, nurtured, or deleted, where our bills are paid and finances tracked, and where our ideologies are fed and our politics balkanized by our respective media bubbles. And while the digital now constitutes more and more of our daily routines, it can also offer a distorting abstraction of “external life.” Swiping left is easier than breaking up, and even the most civil among us can become an entitled consumer on Yelp. At once, our digital environments offer new grounds for engagement and interaction, and immersive venues for escape from the exigencies of the outside world. This session will discuss this dialectic. Drawing contributors from across art, architecture, design, and media studies, we will examine the digital as both a totalizing environment unto itself – a bubble apart from the external lifeworld – and a new venue for social organization and engagement.
The most cogent critique of Freespace, the current Venice Architecture Biennale, is that it fails to recognize the degree to which contemporary urban space is a result of digital technology and computation. The curators, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of Grafton Architects, are practicing architects who wanted their Biennale to return to the basic principles of spatial design and what they consider “the generosity of spirit and a sense of humanity at the core of architecture's agenda.” There is nothing wrong with this sentiment, but it meant they chose to focus on individual projects and not their means of production. The pair focused on craft; social, political, and technological “demand”; and featured figures and groups like Amateur Architecture Studio (Wang Shu and Lu Wenyu), Cino Zucchi, the Dutch architecture historian collective Crimson, Dorte Mandrup, Sigurd Lewerentz, and the British group Assemble. The results add up to a thoughtful and unique perspective on today’s architecture, but there is little doubt that it bypasses the “digital.” This direction infuriated those who believe that only a focus on digital production is an authentic summary of today’s architecture. For these critics, the results are old-fashioned and no longer offer a relevant analysis or typology, but a “purely phenomenological formal, material, or tectonic understanding of architecture,” in the words of Alessandro Bava. This digital versus demand formulation of architecture is not just a generational divide but represents a profound difference between an architecture grounded in an expression of the digital and one that primarily seeks to respond to site, program, function, and reception. In The Second Digital Turn: Design Beyond Intelligence, Mario Carpo describes the importance of the first digital turn of “mass customization” as one of the most important architecture inventions of all time because it “changed—or at least subverted, upended, and disrupted—almost every aspect of the world.” He sees an unintended benefit of mass customization, the possibility to change the notion of detail and form that has remained constant since Leon Battista Alberti toward the possibility of an “infinite number of variations” for the designing architect. He believes that modern classicism “continues to stifle technological innovation in building,” (even the golden age of modernism was a “retardataire phenomenon”) and this new technology offers a way forward to a new relationship, or, as Christopher Alexander would say, a new “pattern” of parts to the whole. In the 1990s, as Carpo wrote, the “first turn” saw “the best architects adopting and embracing digital change sooner than any other trade” and established the basis for the second wave, in which the avant-garde uses “Big Data and computation to engage somehow the messy discreteness of nature.” But this first wave, as we know, created a new architectural style of “smooth and curving spliny lines and surfaces” that, despite the potential possibility of first-wave, open-source collaboration and a return to medieval-style authorship, led to something else totally predictable. A new style, parametricism, took over and continues to this day, “with ever-increasing degrees of technical mastery and prowess. Ideas and forms that twenty years ago were championed by a handful of digital forms engender architectural masterpieces at a gigantic, almost planetary scale.” This planetary architecture, perhaps because of the high cost of design and construction of the complex forms it can produce, has become, counterintuitively to the claims of many theorists, a truly corporate style of design for the 1 percent and corporations. It should then come as no surprise that many of today’s younger architects are looking for a different kind of architecture and that many of the brightest are returning to the postmodernism of the 1980s. In this way, the current generation are like the designers of the first Venice Architecture Biennale’s Strada Novissima, who nearly 40 years ago looked for an alternate model to the modernism that they believed was destroying the historic layered fabric of our urban settlements. Though this style is still fraught with the problems (primary authorship, individuality, and history as a precedent) that brought it to an end in the 1990s, its reemergence is an authentic and important shot across the bow to technologists like Carpo, who are apoplectic at its return. It is an important attempt to find a way out for the profession, which all too often focuses on neoliberal, avant-garde experiments to the exclusion of real-world problems that daily become more urgent for everyone.
When Professor Michael Garrison, the Cass Gilbert Centennial Teaching Fellow in Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin, thinks about how students are pushing the cutting edge in design, three developments come to mind. First, said Garrison, who will participate in the “Form Follows Performance” panel at the upcoming Facades+Dallas conference, is a heightened attention to materiality. “Our students are keen on new materials, the embodied energy of materials, smart materials,” he explained. This new awareness is largely the result of students’ exposure to the school’s University Co-op Materials Lab, a multidisciplinary space for hands-on exposure to more than 27,000 materials samples. Second is the question of craft. “We find it very interesting that naval architects and NASA call their works craft, but we in architecture don’t know such things,” said Garrison, recalling Buckminster Fuller’s question, “How much does your house weigh?” Thanks to developments in digital design and fabrication, he said, “the old idea of tool and die mass production characteristic of modern thinking in the twentieth century has really changed. Students are able to make something of a more unusual shape.” Parametric design is the new normal in the design-school classroom. Finally, Garrison points to a “new and profound” evolution away from “the hermetically sealed box of the Seagram Building era” to a focus on “thick skins.” These multi-layered facades typically involve a sunshade or other external component, which “creates an interstitial space between the traditional envelope and the new envelope,” said Garrison. Increasingly, students are focused on incorporating adaptive technology into building envelopes, often patterning facades along biomimetic lines. “Whereas the first two decades of the twenty-first century were about unusual shapes, [with] parametric design, we are now moving toward intelligent shapes that are more responsive,” he concluded. Catch up with Garrison and other top AEC industry professionals at Facades+Dallas. Seating is limited; register today.
Sometimes a fresh set of eyes can turn an architectural challenge into an opportunity. Such was the case for Dallas-based GFF, which hired a crop of new design school graduates earlier this decade—just in time to deliver an innovative solution to a seemingly prosaic problem. The problem involved enclosing a bridging element between two parts of a Burnet Marketplace, a mixed-use project in north Austin. The solution, courtesy of one of the new hires, was to streamline design and fabrication using Rhino’s parametric modeling capabilities. Upon seeing the young designer’s presentation on some of the digital design skills he had learned in school, recalled Design Director Brian Kuper, GFF’s more experienced staff thought “this is an opportunity to use parametric design, and Rhino specifically, to not only design a sun control and space-capturing system that we could model in-house for the client, but to go straight to fabrication with our documents rather than take a more traditional approach.” Kuper plans to tell the story of the Burnet Marketplace project in a panel on “Getting it Built: Overcoming Design, Time, and Budget Concerns” at next month’s Facades+ Dallas conference. GFF completed the design work and sent the documentation directly to the fabricator in Austin. The fabricator then water jet cut the aluminum components. Relatively speaking, the entire cycle was complete in a snap. “Something that could have taken a lot of time and effort was really seamless,” said Kuper. “It also gave the message that younger folks have the ability to participate in and impact the design process.” Hear more from Kuper and other facades pros at Facades+ Dallas. See the conference website to register for the symposium and a lab or dialog workshop of your choice.
The proliferation of digital modeling platforms can sometimes seem like too much of a good thing, particularly when transferring data from one environment to another requires complicated back-end manipulations. For those of us without a background in coding, FLUX Factory's Charles Portelli and Karl Garske are offering hands-on instruction in "Seamless Exchange of Geometry & Data: Analysis & Modeling via Flux" in a lab workshop at this month's Facades+ NYC conference. The workshop "deals with interoperability between multiple modeling applications," explained Portelli. Flux facilitates data exchange among applications including Grasshopper and Excel using native plug-ins, putting users "in an environment they're familiar with, so they can just start transferring data and geometry," he said. In addition to helping participants manipulate geometry and data across platforms, Portelli and Garske will also introduce cloud processing features. Cloud compatibility means that users "don't have to use desktops to run time-consuming tasks" including view analysis (sky exposure, solar radiation, shadow study) said Portelli. Workshop attendees will model a building from scratch using Grasshopper, Excel, Flux, and Revit. Portelli, who has attended previous Facades+ conferences but is serving as a workshop instructor for the first time, is hoping "to have people be enthusiastic" about the seamless data transfer enabled by Flux. More generally, he also looks forward to hearing "people's feedback and comments with regard to the AEC industry, including what it's lacking." "Seamless Exchange of Geometry & Data" is just one of several lab workshops on offer at Facades+NYC. Others include:Workshops are limited in size—sign up today to reserve your spot.
- "Parametric Modeling and Adaptive Automation: from Design to Fabrication" with Kyle Watson (Zahner) and Jonathan Asher (Dassault Systems)
- "Advanced Facade Analysis, Rationalization, and Production," with Daniel Segraves of Thornton Tomasetti CORE Studio
It is hard to imagine a better introduction to new digital design and fabrication software than the "Advanced Parametric Modeling: Design to Fabrication" lab workshop at next month's Facades+NYC conference. Dassault's Jonathan Asher and Zahner's Kyle Watson will co-lead a tutorial in the application of Dassault's 3DEXPERIENCE to building envelopes, combining the perspectives of software developer (Asher) and early adopter (Watson). "First we'll be giving a walkthrough of how to use the software," explained Watson. "Then we'll demonstrate some new features available in the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, as well as how it's different" from other automation programs. Rather than passive observers, workshop attendees will be active participants, working through a full facade Asher and Watson will create especially for Facades+NYC. "Our intention is to develop this workshop facade system so it includes everything a typical engineer would be creating for a real facade: fully unfoldable panels, documentation created automatically," said Watson. By the end of the session, attendees will better understand how to leverage automation to generate complex systems. "Since it's our speciality, the focus will be on automation—creating complicated forms and then automating the creation and visualization of multiple panels going into this form." In addition, Asher and Watson will highlight the collaborative potential of Dassault's new platform. "Given that 3DEXPERIENCE is a relatively new software, and we [at Zahner] are among the early adopters, we're getting a lot of chances to experience the collaborative side of the software," said Watson, pointing out that his cooperation with Asher (Asher works from France; Watson, Missouri) exemplifies the easy back-and-forth facilitated by 3DEXPERIENCE. Other lab workshops on offer at Facades+NYC include "Curtain Wall Systems: From Sketch to Completion," taught by Bart Harrington and Richard Braunstein, both of YKK-AP America; "Advanced Facade Analysis, Rationalization, and Production (Grasshopper + Dynamo)," with Thornton Tomasetti CORE Studio's Daniel Segraves; and "Seamless Exchange of Geometry and Data (Grasshopper, Revit, Excel)." For more information and to reserve your space in a lab or dialog workshop, visit the Facades+NYC website.
When Kreysler & Associates's Bill Kreysler signed on to participate in the "Emerging Craftsmanship in Digital Fabrication" panel at April's Facades+ NYC conference, he immediately zeroed in on the second word in the title. "I don't think of craftsmanship the way most people do," he said. "When I say 'craftsmanship,' I think that applies as much to someone sitting in front of a computer with a 3D Rhino model as it does to a guy in a wood shop in Renaissance Italy." But just as a room full of woodworking tools does not, in and of itself, guarantee the quality of a carpenter's output, explained Kreysler, "just because you have a 3D computer program doesn't mean that somehow everything you do is going to be perfect—in fact, it's frequently not the case." Other fabrication specialists participating in the not-to-be missed discussion include moderator Hauke Jungjohann (Thornton Tomasetti) and co-panelists L. William Zahner (A. Zahner Company), James Carpenter (James Carpenter Design Associates), and Mic Patterson (Enclos). The gap between the potential offered by digital tools and the reality of building a high performance facade is exactly where things get interesting, said Kreysler. "Designers are becoming much more entangled in the manufacturing process," he observed. Once upon a time, a designer's involvement in every stage of a project's development, from concept through construction, was par for the course. But mass production techniques and concerns over liability eventually encouraged AEC industry professionals to retreat to separate camps. With the introduction of digital design tools, the pendulum began its swing back. "All of a sudden architects are designing buildings that nobody knows how to build," said Kreysler. Armed with 3D design documents, computer cutting tools, and other technology, designers are once again equipped to help brainstorm solutions to construction quandaries. As much as digital design software has enhanced the architect's skill set, specialized fabrication knowledge and experience remains relevant. Recent technological developments "are good for architects who are skilled, but that's where craftsmanship comes into it," said Kreysler. "If you don't know your tools, you can design something that turns out not to be possible to build." A practiced fabricator, meanwhile, spends his or her working days discerning the line between the buildable and folly. "The architect is discovering that in certain circumstances their best friend is the fabricator, the guy who says you can [manipulate a given material] this much—that's the kind of embedded knowledge that general contractors don't have, that architects don't have," said Kreysler. "It's a hive of bees rather than a lone operator. That's antithetical to the traditional mode in the construction industry. We're in a state of transition; the industry is changing, which is good." Hear more from Kreysler and co-panelists at Facades+ NYC. Register today to secure a space at the symposium on Day 1 and your preferred lab or dialog workshop on Day 2.
Eric Owen Moss, principal and lead designer of Eric Owen Moss Architects, has spent decades in the metaphorical trenches of architectural practice. But when he speaks about truly innovative design, he harkens back to the literal trenches of World War I, where German architect Erich Mendelsohn sketched his Einstein Tower, later built in Potsdam. "Mendelsohn was drawing something that no one else was drawing," explains Moss, who will deliver the afternoon keynote address at the upcoming Facades+ LA conference. "It was unique to him and his time and place." Moss contrasted Mendelsohn's work with the "swoopy Maya stuff" so many architects produce today. "There's a danger that the advent of Maya and Rhino and CATIA and all of this [technology] produces generic kinds of buildings," he said. "The power of the tools is dictating the design content." Instead, said Moss, the architect's tools, whether the Bauhaus-era parallel rule or today's digital modeling systems, should be a means to rather than the end of design. "I want to argue that architecture is still personal—it still has the aspect of Mendelsohn in the trenches—and that it's important that architecture not simply be a manifestation of the tools that are being used," he said. "It's not the plane that's flying the people, but the people are flying the plane." Meanwhile, the advent of digital design has introduced another set of problems—or, as Moss pointed out, opportunities. Today's AEC industry professionals use software "that is, by reputation, extremely precise, and extremely exact," he said. "There's a supposition that with sophisticated technological tools, it's all simple—and it isn't necessarily simple." Why not? The complicating factor is the human one. "I'm interested in talking about pieces that don't turn out the way you expect them too," explained Moss. Whatever the software designers promise, bringing a complex building envelope from concept to completion "is not necessarily easy. It's also contingent on the people." Returning to the distinction between innovative and run-of-the-mill architectural products, Moss recalled a recent public conversation with Frank Gehry. "We were talking about what would constitute a radical architecture," said Moss. In the end, he identified three necessary conditions. First, the work has to be inventive on a conceptual level. "It has to move architecture somewhere," said Moss. Second, the implementation of the project must also be innovative. Finally, he concluded, "the political side of the project has to be imaginative—meaning you have to get the city, the developer, the contractor to participate, to buy into it." Learn more from Moss and other facades experts, including morning keynote presenter and TEN Arquitectos founder Enrique Norten, at Facades+ LA, January 28-29. Register today at the conference website.
Kreysler & Associates' Joshua Zabel knows more than a thing or two about collaborating with architects to produce complex facades. "On the design side, increasingly complex projects call for earlier and earlier involvement from us for material and fabrication input," said Zabel. "With increasing frequency we're being called on by architects to contribute during SD and DD phases." Zabel will share the fabricator's perspective on teamwork in high performance envelope design and construction later this week at Facades+AM Seattle. His co-presenters on "Digital Collaborations: Applications, Realities and Opportunities in the Delivery of Complex Facades" include Jeffrey Vaglio (Enclos), David Sandinsky (NBBJ) and Marne Zahner (Magnusson Klemencic Associates). Digital design tools play a critical role in enabling an ongoing dialogue between designers and fabricators, said Zabel. "There's obviously a lot to be said for the ability to pass a 3D model back and forth or share drawings on a screen in real time with someone thousands of miles away," he explained. "It seems easy to forget it wasn't anywhere near as fluid, say, 15 years ago." More specifically, said Zabel, "It's interesting to me when we're able to communicate with architects at the level of programming the toolpath strategy for making molds with our CNC machine. Everything about that notion is enhanced by the collaborative use of technology." Zabel compares contemporary developments in design and fabrication technology to the introduction of another collaborative tool: the telephone. "CAD and digital fabrication processes are such useful tools for construction and collaboration, I imagine one day, like the telephone, we won't marvel at how useful it is, we'll just take it for granted," he said. At the same time, there remains room for improvement. Construction documentation standards, for instance, often necessitate creating traditional 2D models that are "simply impractical" in particularly complex cases such as SFMOMA rainscreen or Bing Concert Hall, said Zabel. The ease of communication "can also lead to overload and an environment where it can be difficult to find a foothold or pinpoint the important thing to focus on where everybody has access to all of the information all the time." Join Zabel and other movers and shakers in the facades world December 4 at Facades+AM Seattle. Register today on the symposium website.