A part of this semester’s 3rd year design studio at Sushant School of Art & Architecture consisted of an introductory workshop on the use of digital design tools that we called Spanz. The workshop was taught by Abhishek Bij and me (both visiting design faculty at the 3rd year design studio) and supported by the rest of the 3rd year design faculty consisting of Shikha Doogar, Gaurav Shorey, Swati Singh, Thomas Oomen and Neeraj Khosla. The workshop started with a crash course on a variety of digital design tools including 3D modelling software, form finding tools, parametric modelling software and form rationalization tools – tools that are applicable to different stages of the digital design workflow, from conceptualization to fabrication. The tools developed tackled a range of structural systems (tensile membranes, funicular shells and folded plates) and fabrication methods (weaving, pipe bending, sheet metal forming, concrete casting etc.).
The students were encouraged to mix and matched these tools to suit their design goals and design styles and no specific methodology was imposed on them. The tools were applied to various real life campus development projects as a part of their annual college festival (Atharva 2012, 30th-31st March) and ranged from canopies to installations to lighting design. The nuances of the digital tools were mastered by them while using them for their developing their designs.
A student installation of specific interest here is “The Interlace” designed by Akshita, Anushree, Gauri, Parush, Sumit and Suvrita because it is the first time the weaving script I had developed and posted earlier has been applied to a large scale project. The weaving script simply takes a given fibre spacing and fibre thickness and uses the U- and V- curves of a surface to derive fabrication data for the weaving process. My interest in weaving comes from the way it allows complex 3D curved surfaces to be fabricated using only linear measurements (which I have discussed in detail in this earlier post). In “The Interlace” the students started out by using a form finding algorithm based on David Rutten’s classic mesh relaxation algorithm. The basic mesh relaxation algorithm was modified specifically for the workshop to allow the students to model the effects of gravity and thereby generate funicular forms in addition to tensile membranes (I will be explaining the modifications made to the algorithm in another blog post shortly). The relaxed mesh was converted to a NURBS surface and the weaving script was applied to it. The script outputted the lengths of individual fibres and the points of intersection with other fibres along their length. The fabrication data was used to first build a 1:10 scale construction model where the students could test the fabrication process and the steps involved.
Once the construction process was developed and understood in the studio, the students proceeded to build the final installation. Since the college festival is student-run and student-managed, the direct role of the design faculty ended at the construction model stage. Comparing the construction model to the final installation, it is interesting to note that the percentage error in the linear measurements was more in the construction model and less in the final installation, meaning that the final installation was a closer match to the computer model than the construction model. The properties of the pipe used to make the final installation were different from the construction model in terms of their ability to resist compression, resulting in a small amount of creasing of the surface of the final installation. Overall, however, this installation appears to verify the feasibility of using weaving to manually fabricate computer generated 3D curved surfaces at a 1:1 scale.