A photograph I shot was on the cover of this month’s issue of Domus India (March, 2013).
I had shot this at 400 ISO with my Nikon D 7000, and what was published was a fairly tight crop of the original image (below). Another, less cropped version of the same photograph also appeared in the article on the Museum of Tribal Heritage in Bhopal designed by Kamath Design Studio in the same issue.
It must have taken some very skilled raw editing to get an acceptable cover image out of something shot with what is essentially an amateur camera at what is not a low ISO setting. This is definitely not something I’ve been able to achieve with the Nikon ViewNX2 software that comes bundled with the camera. Since a majority of the photographs featured in the article were shot by me with this camera, I think I might be better off investing in a good raw converter instead of a Nikon D600 which I have been eyeing ever since its release.
My camera geekiness aside, this article on the Museum in Domus has given me a lot to think about, both as an architect closely involved with the design of the building, and as the photographer who shot most of the images seen of the building. But before I go further, I must confess that I have not yet read anything by Susan Sontag, not read On Photography, nor read anything else of significance on the role of photography in architecture and the media. What I write here is a lay person’s opinion based on a single experience –
I had started working on the Museum of Tribal Heritage when I was still doing my bachelor’s degree in architecture. It was very exciting to be working on this project because it was the first time I was applying my newly acquired knowledge of architecture in a professional setting. Preparing a setting-out plan of the complex, interlinked circular and rectilinear shapes taught me the need for accuracy and discipline in drafting and dimensioning a drawing.
I was also responsible for preparing a 3D model of the building which was used in presentations and discussions with the various stakeholders in the project.
Despite being involved in the project from its outset, I was not able to travel from Delhi (where I was studying) to the site in Bhopal until after I finished college some two years later. But when I did visit the site, it was quite amazing to see the actual building. What made this experience especially surreal was the fact that the site engineer drove us in his car straight into what was the main visitor’s (pedestrian) circulation spine of the museum. The building was bigger than I had imagined. And yet, when I got out of the car and walked around, it seemed to have a very human scale – a scale of a village street, not the scale one usually associates with a museum building.
After walking around the building, I soon got my bearings and started observing deviations from the plan and defects in construction, like any architect would. The building eventually took over five years and many more site visits to build, and the museum is still to formally open as of March, 2013.
When we were contacted by Domus India about their wanting to feature the project in their magazine, we were very excited by the idea. Like most architectural publications around the world today, the team at Domus asked us, as the architects of the building, to provide them with images for the article. What we gave them was a photographic “walk-through” of the building with details of where in the building each photograph was shot from, and what the photograph showed. Other than basic project drawings, this was all the information on the project that the Mumbai-based team writing the article had. Even as someone so closely involved with the design, having prepared its setting out plan and 3D model; actually experiencing the building physically and spatially gave me a completely new perspective on its design. I was therefore fascinated by the article on the Museum that appeared in Domus titled “Debating Tactile Engagements” when no one from the magazine had seen the building other than through the photographic images we had supplied them. The article goes on to talk about the scale of the building, the delicacy of the steel structure supporting large spans, the way the building negotiates the terrain of the site and engages with the local climate. It is understandable that time and financial constraints make it impossible for every architectural critic to visit every building they write about. But as an architect who respects the opinions of serious critics of design, it makes me wonder if I should design for the user or design for the camera in an age where pixels are equal to perception, where bits can travel across the planet but bricks stubbornly stay rooted in walls, where ones geographic location is immaterial but “ecological footprint” is supposed to matter, where global weather data is available at a keystroke but the sound of subtly directed rain water is lost in the din of esoteric discussions on design philosophy.
Some months ago I found an article about an exhibition titled The Machine organized by the Design Hub Limburg that includes a fascinating tool for designers. This tool is the result of a project called Computer Augmented Craft, which, the head of the project, Christian Feiberg, says, “is an attempt to utilise advanced technologies without sacrificing the unique qualities of craftsmanship.” The tool combines a set of sensors with Arduino and an interface created in Processing to enable a designer to have a real-time digital model of an artefact that they are physically producing. The software interface also provides “suggestions” at each step of construction to enable the designer to conform to an initial set of parameters or choose not to do so. The following video shows the system in use –
Reading about this tool and the exhibition reminded me of a student project I had done in the Command & Control design studio with Simon Kim, Skylar Tibbits and Juhong Park in 2009 at MIT. My project in this studio (focusing on using scripting as a design tool) included a script that created mass-customised joints for a post-earthquake shelter constructed as an irregular space frame out of found rubble. In this project the script did not dictate the form of the structure but only created fabrication data for a mass-customised joint component after the human builder had decided what member to use (from the post-earthquake rubble at hand) and where in the structure to place it. The script overcame the unpredictability of the materials at hand by taking inputs (on the length of a found member that the builder wanted to attach at a particular location) incrementally. The resulting digital model grew in tandem with the physical model allowing the builder to take independent design decisions while the script recorded the builder’s design moves and output fabrication data for the joint components needed at each step. If the builder got stuck and was unable to triangulate the space frame at any point then the script would suggest a method to triangulate.
Re-visiting this old student project in the light of the “The Machine” exhibition resulted in a project for the Patterns and Performance 2nd year, B.Arch design studio I am teaching with Abhishek Bij at the University School of Architecture and Planning (USAP). For this exercise we collaborated with the studio taught by Malini Kochupillai and Kanishk Prasad to design a learning space for a group of 20 students. I wrote a new version of the script I had coded for my Command & Control project for use by the students. The new script did not focus on the joints and instead was designed for the specific design problem given to the students for this exercise – the design of a learning space housing 15 to 20 people using a space frame structure constructed from available members of irregular lengths. The students were given tutorials on space frames and introduced to the script written for them. They were introduced to different forms of education and their spatial implications – both interior and exterior.
After this, the students began their designs in groups of four, constructing 1:10 or 1:20 scale physical models of their structures and simultaneously using the script to “grow” a 3D computer model. This studio exercise exposed the students to the advantages and disadvantages of physical versus digital design processes, issues of error and tolerance in design and construction, the importance of improvisation and contingency and its incorporation into the design process.
While my initial script written for the Command & Control studio focused on creating digitally fabricated joints, the script written for the USAP students included a panelization tool. This tool allowed the students to choose where to place panels on the space frame and have the script add these panels to the 3D model and also provide fabrication data for the panels so that they could be printed as a 2D triangle, cut and be added to the physical model.
The next step in the design studio will be to use what one has learnt constructing models and build a full-scale bamboo space frame as a learning space on the college campus. Observing the students work on the models I have updated the script for the full-scale structure. The updated script calculates the centre of gravity of the structure at each iteration of the design and construction process and gives a warning if the structure is likely to topple over without support. The reason for the addition of this feature in the script is that while it is easy to support a table-top model by hand if it is toppling over, this is not a trivial task during full-scale construction. This feature will allow the script to inform the steps in the physical construction process, while design decisions in response to space and material are taken in the physical world and fed into the script. Such a design process will aid in bringing the digital and physical worlds closer together to create a digitally augmented, craft-based, design process.
The latest version of the script written for the studio is given below (please note that there are still some bugs in calculating the centre of gravity) –
‘Script written by <Ayodh Kamath>
‘Script version 18 November 2012 12:02:10
Dim strStart, arrExist
Dim arrDots, arrLines, strExit
arrDots = Rhino.GetObjects(“Please drag a selection box around the existing text dot points and ‘Click+Cntrl’ to de-select any unwanted geometry.”,8192)
arrLines = Rhino.GetObjects(“Please drag a selection box around the existing lines and ‘Click+Cntrl’ to de-select any unwanted geometry.”,4)
arrDots = Sort(arrDots)
strExit = “A”
arrDots = Tetrahedron(arrDots, arrLines)
strExit = Rhino.GetString(“Make another tetrahedron [A], or exit [X]?”,”A”, Array(“A”,”X”))
Loop While strExit <> “X”
ElseIf strStart = “T” Then
ElseIf strStart = “P” Then
Loop While strStart <> “X”
Function Triangle(ByRef arrLines)
Dim dblLt1, dblLt2, dblLt3
Dim strLn0, strLn1, strLn2
Dim strDotP0, strDotP1, strDotP2a, strDotP2b, strDotP2
Dim strTempCirc1, strTempCirc2
Dim arrInt, arrIntPt0, arrIntPt1, strPt0, strPt1, strPt2
Dim strChoice, blnLoop
Call Rhino.MessageBox(“The member lengths can not be triangulated. Please try a different set of members.”)
Dim strMin, blnSwap
Dim i, j, k
blnSwap = False
For i = 1 To UBound(arrTxtDot)
If Rhino.TextDotText(arrTxtDot(i-1)) > Rhino.TextDotText(arrTxtDot(i)) Then
Dim arrIntSrf, strJoinCrv, arrIntCrvSrf
Dim strChoice, arrIntPt
Dim i, j
Dim blnGoal, arrGoalPt
blnLoop = 0
Do While blnLoop = 0
blnGoal = Rhino.GetString(“Select a goal point?”,,Array(“Y”,”N”))
blnLoop = 0
Call Rhino.MessageBox(“The member lengths can not be triangulated. Please try a different set of members.”)
strChoice = Rhino.GetString(“Point IntA[A] or point IntB[B]?”,”A”, Array(“A”,”B”))
If strChoice = “A” Then
arrIntPt = arrIntCrvSrf(0,1)
ElseIf strChoice = “B” Then
arrIntPt = arrIntCrvSrf(1,1)
blnLoop = 0
Call Rhino.MessageBox(“The member lengths can not be triangulated. Please try a different set of members.”)
Function RhinoUnrollSurface(strSurface, arrCurves, blnExplode, blnLabels)
‘ Default return value
RhinoUnrollSurface = Null
‘ For speed, turn of screen redrawing
‘ Save any selected objects
Dim arrSaved : arrSaved = Rhino.SelectedObjects
‘ Unselect all objects
‘ Select the surface to unroll
‘ Format curve string
Dim i : i = 0
Dim strCurves : strCurves = ” _Enter”
If IsArray(arrCurves) Then
strCurves = “”
For i = 0 To UBound(arrCurves)
strCurves = strCurves & ” _SelId ” & arrCurves(i)
strCurves = strCurves & ” _Enter”
‘ Format explode string
Dim strExplode : strExplode = ” _Explode=_Yes”
If (blnExplode = False) Then strExplode = ” _Explode=_No”
‘ Format labels string
Dim strLabels : strLabels = ” _Labels=_No”
If (blnLabels = True) Then strLabels = ” _Labels=_Yes”
‘ Script the command
Dim strCommand : strCommand = “_-UnrollSrf” & strExplode & strLabels & strCurves
Call Rhino.Command(strCommand, 0)
‘ Return the results
RhinoUnrollSurface = Rhino.LastCreatedObjects
‘ Unselect all objects
‘ If any objects were selected before calling
‘ this function, re-select them
If IsArray(arrSaved) Then Rhino.SelectObjects(arrSaved)
‘ Don’t forget to turn redrawing back on
Function CG(arrDots, ByRef arrLines)
Dim dblSumLength, arrMidPt
Dim dblX, dblY, dblZ, dblLength
Dim strTempCGPt, strTempCGLine, intCount
intCount = 0
Dim arrSortBasePts, strBaseCrv, intInside, arrCGBasePt
Dim dblMemDens, dblJtWt
dblMemDens = 1 ‘average bamboo density assumed to be 1kg/running meter = 1g/running mm
dblJtWt = 2000 ‘average weight per joint assumed to be 2kg = 2000g
Dim intPolyCount, intPtCount, intInOut
Dim i, j
Dim arrTempPoly, strTempPoly
Dim dblDist, dblMinDist, intMinPt, bolMin
Dim dblParam, arrClsPt
intPtCount = 0
intPolyCount = 2
bolMin = 0
An article I co-authored with members of Kamath Design Studio on the planning, design and construction of an Interpretation Centre for a black buck sanctuary in Churu District, in Rajasthan was published in Int|AR – the RISD Department of Interior Architecture’s journal on adaptive re-use. My personal involvement in the project had been in the site documentation and context analysis stages way back in 2007 so seeing the final design and constructed buildings and working on the paper was a very satisfying experience. Though this project has nothing to do with digital design and fabrication, it showcases the contemporary use of indigenous craft skills and building systems that I seek to integrate with digital design work-flows. Here is a link to the article.
Like a lot of people of my generation, I was introduced to computers around middle and senior school. This was before Windows, Macintosh, Linux or Android. If we wanted to interact with the computer we had to programme it to do exactly what we wanted it to do. In today’s terms, we had to write our own software and create our own apps. Computers have come a long way since then.
We have seen the rise of the graphical user interface (GUI) increasing the opacity of the inner workings of computers. You don’t need to know how to write code any more. Using computers is no longer about creating but consuming. We now use what software we get off the shelf rather than create our own.
As the enforcement of anti-software piracy laws has increased in India, architects have become increasingly invested in specific proprietary software packages (ask any architect about the police raids that checked for pirated CAD software in their studios). Being tied to an expensive piece of software means that a designer is forced to use that software for as many tasks as possible to achieve a return on investment. Architects do not have the flexibility to select a piece of software that is ideally suited to a design task. As an analogy, if each app for your smart phone cost a lot of money, you’d probably just use a general purpose browser to search for the cricket score rather than buy an app made specifically to give you score updates.
The nature of a small architectural firm is that it provides customised design solutions to a limited clientele. If small firms are to use digital design tools to their full potential, and fully integrate them into their work flow, then a standardised software package cannot be the solution. For a small firm to fully embrace what digital design has to offer, it needs the ability to customise design software to provide customised design solutions.
The trajectory taken by architectural software has been in the opposite direction to the needs of the small firm. Simple Computer Aided Design (CAD) software which functions like a digital drawing board has now given way to Building Information Modelling (BIM) software that is able to handle all aspects of construction from site surveying to construction supervision. The ability of BIM software to process all kinds of data related to design and construction vastly increases the efficiency and productivity of an architect.
The more data an architect processes using standardised software, the more the architect is restricted to what the software is pre-programmed to do. For a large architectural firm doing commercial projects this is not a significant trade-off, in fact, standardisation across projects is an asset in terms of speed and efficiency. But these very advantages of the software are not only an anathema to small practices but also significantly increase the competitive edge that large firms have over them in an already shrinking professional space.
Unlike CAD, BIM software is not only a design tool but also guides project management and construction. The global standardisation of BIM software results in an overt and/or covert standardisation of building materials and technologies. The kind of software an architect uses influences the form and aesthetic of the buildings they design, the kinds materials used in the buildings, and the kinds of construction techniques required to build the buildings. The implications of this discussion therefore go far beyond the confines of architectural firms and their software to ultimately affect the economics of construction, the environmental impact of buildings, and social issues linked to the value of indigenous local skills and knowledge.
The way a small architectural firm negotiates the use software in their practice will only become more pressing in the future. One way to deal with this can be to use only CAD software for digital drawings and not use BIM in the project work flow at all. This is the way most small practices currently function but it may not be feasible to indefinitely compete with the ever increasing efficiency of large firms using BIM.
Another way a small firm may deal with this can be to introduce BIM into the work flow only after major design decisions have already been taken and use it merely as a tool to coordinate information robustly and efficiently. This would be akin to a writer writing with pencil and paper and only using a word processor like an electronic type writer to create a final draft for printing thus not allowing the software’s spelling and grammar checking (and other automated features) to affect the way in which the writing is conceived. In architectural terms this will make construction management and general coordination more efficient, but it will not allow the small architect to make full use of the possibilities that digital design opens up.
The third way for the small firm is to create a digitally aware practice that approaches software the way we were taught at school – to be creators rather than consumers of software. This does not mean re-inventing the wheel and making one’s own version of general purpose commercial BIM software. Rather, the digitally aware small firm must be able to quickly and efficiently create unique pieces of simple code that are tailored to perform the unique tasks that are required to create unique designs. These pieces of code cannot be sophisticated software but rough and ready tools for one-off deployment. The use of software here adds value to the creative process and is much more than an office automation tool or information database. Such code will not do away with the need for a CAD or BIM package but will augment it and overcome its limitations, acting as a bridge between the architect’s creative design process and standardised software tools. In real terms it may even function as a script that runs within a software package and makes the most of its pre-programmed functions. Such a small firm will be a savvy consumer and tinkerer of software with the goal of being a creator of unique and customised architecture.
Measuring the length of a straight line in the physical world is to test the geometric congruency of two one-dimensional objects – an object of standardized length against an object of unknown length. All one-dimensional objects share the property of similarity and can therefore be “placed against each other” as physical objects (strictly speaking there are no “real” one-dimensional objects but this statement will still apply to the one-dimensional edges of higher-dimensional objects). To make two one-dimensional objects congruent requires breaking/cutting the longer of the two at a single point or stretching the shorter of the two along a single direction.
While all this may seem painfully obvious, the uniqueness of the situation is highlighted when you think about how hard it is to make two non-similar objects of higher dimensions congruent or similar. For example, here is a device for replicating three-dimensional sculptures with the ability to change the size of the reproduction. (For more information about this device you can read this article). Now compare this device to using a ruler and pair of scissors to make two pieces of string the same length.
George Stiny shows how a boundary function is able to map algebras of different dimensions to each other (Shape: Talking About Seeing and Doing, p. 98). In terms of construction, a boundary function can provide ‘templates’ or ‘jigs’ or ‘frameworks’ or ‘guides’ (depending on your method of construction) for objects of a higher dimension using objects of lower dimensions. To cite an example of a project I was personally involved in, the form-work of the Santa Monica Cradle project is an example of two-dimensional plywood ribs being used as a framework for creating a complex, curved, three-dimensional surface from strips of flexible ‘luaun’ ply. In fact, most approaches to constructing an architectural surface involves some kind of underlying linear framework.
If a complex three-dimensional shape can be built using a ‘framework’ of linear shapes, then it can be constructed through simple measurements of length. The most basic way to go from a one-dimensional boundary to a two-dimensional shape through linear measurement alone is through triangles. This method has been used since the time of ancient Egypt where it was used to measure the (two-dimensional) area of land holdings using (one-dimensional) rope as a measuring device.
The ‘Suspension’ series of installations by Ball-Nogues Studio (some of which I was fortunate to be a part of) consist of a series of threads cut to specific lengths, coloured at specific intervals and hung from specific points to form a series of catenaries. When seen together, the strings form complex, multi-coloured, three-dimensional “clouds” suspended in mid air.
“Suspensions: Feathered Edge by Ball-Nogues Studio”. MoCA PDC, Los Angeles, 2007.
A sturdier and more ancient way of combining linear elements into objects of higher dimensions is weaving. The weaving of cloth goes from one-dimensional thread to a two-dimensional cloth, and the weaving of baskets goes from one-dimension strips (of cane, bamboo, rattan or other materials) to a three-dimensional surface. Kenneth Snelson shows how a tensegrity structure can be thought of as a three-dimensional polyhedron woven out of linear elements.
The process of weaving is therefore an ideal candidate for a manual construction process involving only linear measurement that can be used to construct a digitally designed, complex curved surface. I had woven a quick model based on this premise some months ago using linear fabrication data obtained by running this script on a test surface. After the successful construction of the first bamboo Parametric Pavilion I am now attempting the design and construction of a more complex woven bamboo roof structure for a 150 square meter guest house building. This project will be a test case for implementing the idea of using digitally derived linear construction data for the manual weaving of a complex curved surface.
In most academic and scholarly settings the phrase ‘Digital Design and Fabrication’ is used almost like a single word. In fact I was associated with the Digital Design and Fabrication Group at MIT’s Department of Architecture for a large part of my SMArchS programme. However, I wonder if Digital Design must go together with Digital Fabrication, and what happens if they do not? Are we, as designers living in an age where we have access to both digital and non-digital methods of design and fabrication, missing out on opportunities by bundling Digital Design with Digital Fabrication? A vast majority of building construction in both industrialised and non-industrialised contexts still primarily uses manual, non-digital methods of construction. Does this mean that methods of ‘Digital Design’ can not be used in such contexts? (Digital Design being “a self contained way of designing exclusively within a computational environment” (Sass, Lawrence, and Oxman, Rivka. (2006). Materializing design: theimplications of rapid prototyping in digital design. Design Studies, 27, (3), p. 333)).
The main argument against being able to use Digital Design without Digital Fabrication is that the formal complexity of the resulting designs is impossible to achieve without the accuracy and versatility of Digital Fabrication technology. Once adopted, Digital Design and Fabrication also offers many conveniences such as the seamless transition from CAD model to fabrication data for CNC machines and the ability to make use of rapid prototyping in the design process. (Sass, Lawrence, and Oxman, Rivka. (2006). Materializing design: the implications of rapid prototyping in digital design. Design Studies, 27, (3), 325-55.) Digital Fabrication also offers advantages such as very high levels of accuracy in building components that increase pre-fabrication and reduce on-site assembly (Kieran, Stephen, and Timberlake, James. (2004). Refabricating architecture: how manufacturing methodologies are poised to transform building construction. New York: McGraw Hill.)
The use of digital fabrication using data from a CAD model means that under ideal conditions designers and fabricators do not have to deal with measurements and calculations while building. Since parts are CNC manufactured, they are highly accurate and their dimensions do not need to be verified before assembly – until and unless there is a mistake and something doesn’t fit. In a manual construction, however, measurement is an integral part of construction. The data from the design is read off dimensioned drawings and used by a construction worker to build a part of the building. The actual dimensions and orientation of the part then need to be checked against those in the drawing. This process of the construction worker having to follow dimensions given in a drawing issued by the designer has its origin in the Renaissance in the West.
Prior to that (and outside the West) the boundary between the designer and the maker was not as well defined and exact dimensions for a building were not completely specified prior to construction. Instead, construction would proceed by a process of Cutting and Fitting whereby a part would first be made and its dimensions would be measured subsequently in order to determine the dimensions of new parts that were dependent on the dimensions of the original part. (McGee, David. (1999). From Craftsmanship to draftsmanship: naval architecture and the three traditions of early modern design. Technology and Culture, Vol. 40, No. 2 (Apr., 1999), pp. 209-236).
Given the extremes of Digital Fabrication and Cutting and Fitting, and all methods of manufacture in between, can we devise efficient means of executing Digital Designs without the use of Digital Fabrication?
My thesis examined if methods of manual craft production can be utilised to overcome the indeterminacies of physical materials and processes that hinder Digital Design and Fabrication. The Cradle sculpture consists of a number of stainless steel spheres that are tangent to a complex curved surface as well as to each other.
I developed a script which is able to place spheres one at a time on a surface in such a manner. However, if one attempts to physically replicate the the results of the script (say, by placing balls in a bowl) one will quickly encounter a number of discrepancies between the digital and the physical.
One of these discrepancies is the effect of gravity on the tangent spheres which will alter the positions of all the spheres every time a new tangent sphere is added. However, this can be overcome if each ball that is added is glued in place before the next one is added.
Another discrepancy which is much harder to overcome arises from the ‘imperfections’ of physical materials. The geometric nature of the system of tangencies between the surface and the spheres and between the spheres themselves means that the displacement of any one sphere or any modification of the surface will cause a displacement of all the spheres in the system. This means that the slightest discrepancy in form between the digital model of the surface and its physical counterpart, or any deviation of the balls from perfect sphereicality, will cause a mismatch between the digital model created by the script and a physical model.
One way to overcome this issue would be to build in a tolerance between all the components of the system (the surface and the spheres). However, this would have two drawbacks – firstly, it would mean that no two spheres in the physical model will actually be touching due to the tolerance between them, and it could be argued that this would unacceptably compromise the visual perception of the sculpture. Secondly, it would require a sophisticated joint at each point of tangency to absorb the tolerance built into the system which would increase the cost of the project significantly considering that there are approximately three hundred and fifty balls in the sculpture.
Instead, in this project, we chose to allow a deviation between the digital model and the physical artefact. The script was thus used only as a guide in the project to visualise the project through renderings, to estimate material costs and quantities, and to perform structural analysis. This enabled the surface of the form-work to be constructed cheaply and rapidly without the pressure of having to conform to the digital model to a high level of accuracy and to have a very simple welded joint between spheres. The final configuration of balls in the project was guided by the digital model developed using the sphere packing script and also a result of the incomputable, indeterminable characteristics of the physical materials and processes of fabrication and subjective human design responses to these unique conditions. Proof of this idea lies in the impossibility of duplicating the exact placement of balls if one were to repeat this project once again.
Florence is world renowned for its heritage. Its buildings and works of art mark key milestones in the development of Western civilization. However, this heritage is viewed as belonging to the past and having nothing to do with the present.
Historically, craft as an activity has tied the residents of neighbourhood of Oltrarno to their built environment – from window shutters and door knobs to street lights and bicycle stands. The practise of craft in the present maintains a connection with the past. Just as the crafts of Oltrarno are an invaluable resource to the neighbourhood they are equally relevant in the context of the city of Florence and the whole world.
In order to halt the decline of crafts in Oltrarno, people need to be made aware of the significance of craft as a living connection between the past and the present. The practise of craft needs to be kept financially and logistically viable in the face of the changes taking place in the neighbourhood. Avenues for the development and evolution of crafts to ensure their sustainability in the future and prevent them from being mere relics from the past. Ways must be found to make craft more productive so that it can cater to the many needs of the common citizen and remain relevant to their lives.
The following is the abstract of my masters thesis for the SMArchS(Design Computation) degree at MIT. A downloadable PDF of my thesis can be found here.
Thesis Title: Integrating Digital Design and Fabrication with Craft Production
This thesis examines if methods of manual craft production can be utilised to overcome the indeterminacies of physical materials and processes that hinder Digital Design and Fabrication (DDF). Indeterminacies in physical materials and processes are considered to be errors that prevent DDF from achieving its stated goal of a seamless transition from digital model to physical artefact. One of the definitions of craft, by contrast, is “(potentially) error through and through… [where error is]… an incomputable deviation from the norm” (Dutta, p. 211, 2007).
This concept of error as being “incomputable” is analysed using theories from computation, systems theory and sociology to formulate a definition of material craft production for this thesis. Material craft production is then compared to the concept of digital craft and it is argued that digital craft is limited in its capacity to negotiate physical materials and processes.
Tools from systems theory are then used to propose a model describing material craft production. This model is called the Sensing-Evaluating-Shaping (SES) model. The validity of the SES model is tested through case studies of material craft production.
The SES model is analysed using systems analysis tools and a role for DDF is proposed within the SES model, giving rise to digital SES production. The ability of digital SES production to negotiate indeterminacies in physical materials and processes is tested through the fabrication of a series of increasingly complex physical artefacts.