The utilization of digital technology in architecture has long been established as an integral part of the profession, but its implementation has been primarily applied to forms of visual representation and to facilitate increases in productivity. This focus has fundamentally altered the design process insomuch as the resulting product has, in many cases, lost touch with the tactile and experiential nature that is integral to the craft of architectural design. As such, my research addresses the interstitial relationship between technology and material in an attempt to explore this schism by taking cues from the material itself and then employing technology in the process of design. As a ‘maker’ I seek a balance between design, articulation, complexity and fabrication in the search, through the lens of the computer, for a uniquely ‘digital craft.’ By searching to reinterpret the role of the computer in design through material the limitations of and relationship between material and technology are more fully understood and ultimately exploited.
I believe that the schism that currently lies between the formal conceptualization of design, fabrication and materiality frames the crux of design at this time. The power of the computer has allowed the designer to parameterize an unlimited set of design characteristics or criteria, but this type of design approach leads to an architecture that often lacks rigor or restraint and often both. The availability of unfettered freedom in design coupled with the glossy representational imagery generated by the computer is a dangerous combination and the designer can struggle to gauge the aesthetic, methodological and architectural logic of the design. Through the phenomena of making, at all scales and with a variety of media, digital technologies can assist in opening up design possibilities through the integration of Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) machinery. While this technology physically separates the craftsman from the work surface, the influence that the craftsman has on the final product comes continuously through the design and fabrication processes, the articulation, tooling and behavior of the machine. One goal of this research is to investigate the ways and methods by which someone can become so skilled and familiar with CNC equipment that the disconnected relationship of workman and tool falls away and the machine functions as an extension of the user. It is not expressly the definition of craft or craftsman that I am challenging, but instead the method of exploring craft and its interface, how it has changed and what the subsequent opportunities and outcomes may be.
The investigations into this research can most clearly be seen in the projects: Digitactility and Guerilla Tactics of Parametric Design, each further outlined in my portfolio. These projects are separately attempting to investigate the relationship between digital techniques and materiality using disparate methods. Digitactility takes a material first approach where a material is studied and investigated intensely through the utilization of CNC machinery. The Guerilla Tactics project, in turn takes a software first approach, utilizing the computer to synthesize the material characteristics of linear metal strips as employed through a series of complex folding operations. This series of investigations, as well a those pursued in my coursework, bracket a material first approach for which architectural design can become clearly and intelligently integrated into digital design methodologies. I believe that through this research a clarified method of articulation and design methodology can become adroitly delineated and can lead to a process that begins to formulate an architecture in which material tactility and experience become integral to the process, the product and ultimately the spaces that we inhabit.