DIGITAL CRAFTSMANSHIP, THE AA_AARHUS VISITING SCHOOL (originally published in AArchitecture 27) Review
By AA 5th year Eléonore Audi (Diploma Unit 6) and AA 2nd year Moad Musbahi (Intermediate Unit 1)
28 January 2016
Aarhus School of Architecture, Denmark
The impact of the Universal Cutting Tool (UCT) against the paper held fast by the efficient vacuum machine is guided by a spring-loaded glide shoe, inscribing the carefully placed standardised sheet of card, with a geometry that is highly coordinated with x,y values.
As the machine deciphers the script, lines sharply appear on the white plane dictated by the red laser beam. No burn mark, just a precise cut. The Zünd G3 Digital Cutter’s drag knives and modular system of implements operates at a swift speed and employs a tolerance that approaches the digital space.
The red laser flashing out heralds the end of the sequential translations. From the fingers tapping on the keyboard, setting a series of parameters which will define and be defined by data sets, to the activation of pixels and sub-pixels. From the screen visualising these ideas taking shape and subsequently unravelling the intangible numbered patterns, organising and flattening out the entire geometry. Until the blade, having accomplished its choreographed task, returns to 0,0,0 and finally rests. The 2015 AA_Aarhus Visiting School came to rely heavily and be informed by the mechanics of this machine.
The Visiting School was taught in the second most populous Danish city, Aarhus. A city with the largest university in the country and an intensely active culinary and coffee scene (La Cabra coffee roasters is internationally recognised for its perfectly brewed cup), during what UNESCO had dubbed The Year of the Light.
Light was taken as one set of environmental information. Embedding geometry with information was the main challenge set by the course. An ethos that was intended to allow for a thinking through process rather than a prescriptive process to think.
Though the emphasis was on manipulating and understanding light, the discussion of parameters that weren’t necessarily environmental or quantifiable coloured much of the thinking that occurred. Prototyping complex and playful geometries set the ground for understanding the potentials and future uses of this particular method.
Of particular note was the visit by Daniel Piker, currently a Design Systems Analyst at Foster + Partners. Having written and developed Kangaroo, he introduced the earliest implementations of the plug-in and humbly revealed his drive for implementing a physics engine to the existing parametric modelling system that architects use. Arisen from a passion for understanding origami and complex foldings, DP developed a tool which now helps bridge digital simulations and the physical world. This plug-in found its use, from paper origami to physical structures, in work such as the roof of the British Museum or the new Madrid International Airport.
This level of intervention, in relation to the work of Daniel Piker, questions the possible themes that are behind the construction of work in an architectural environment.
A particular computer programme dictates the possibilities one is able to achieve while using it. We assume, explicitly or otherwise, that one prescribes within a theme of use when we use any sort of software or digital environment. This assumption is then turned on its head when it comes to coding, as one is then able to insert or alter the interface and the mechanism, albeit depending on how far down one wishes to intervene.
This begins to break the paradigm of what these things are able to achieve or how they control the means in which to use them.
An example of this was best exemplified in the use of the Grab tool in Kangaroo, allowing manual manipulation through the parameters of the mouse movement in the virtual modelling space of Rhino, something previously impossible between the two.
The final show exhibited the works of all groups arraying a wide range of 3D interests and light experiments. Fabricating a 1:1 prototype allowed the entire process of digital fabrication to be explored, and reinforced the feeling that even though these techniques exist in the realm of numbers and data sets, they only come into being with the use of the carefully guided hand and a careful arrangement in space, an activity that still remains an integral part of digital fabrication, but is being creatively reimagined.
For more information:
Aarhus Visiting School
Aarhus Visiting School Programme Brief
Eléonore Audi Projects Review 2013
Moad Musbahi Projects Review 2015