Arch 461

An architect must be a craftsman. Of course any tools will do; these days, the tools might include a computer, an experimental model, and mathematics. However, it is still craftsmanship—the work of someone who does not separate the work of the mind from the work of the hand. It involves a circular process that takes you from the idea to a drawing, from a drawing to a construction, and from a construction back to idea.

–Renzo Piano

The emergence of digital design and manufacturing tools has widespread implications on how the built environment is imagined and realized. As architectural practices have begun to utilize digital tools, not all of those implications have been positive: “digital architecture” has at times been described as formally arbitrary, unnecessarily complicated, structurally lacking, and tectonically deficient. However, the convergence of these tools into a digital design/build workflow (digital fabrication) has the potential to bridge the work of the mind and the work of the hand, resulting in a craft-driven process. Parameters such as materiality, assembly, economy, and performance begin to drive the design process; tools become critical links between mind, hand, and material. How can we as designers integrate existing and emerging modes of production to define craft in a way that is timely, useful, and beautiful?

This course supports investigations of design, fabrication, and assembly methods. The course will be driven by an ethos of thinking through making: while the CNC router will be central to much of our work, we will engage any other tools, materials, and processes that suit our needs. All work will be conducted at 1:1 scale, approaching fabrications as mock-ups rather than representational models. The course will be conducted as a research lab, where students will be expected to establish their own research agendas, and pursue those agendas with a critical focus.

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