The influence of digital technology on the field of architecture has long since been established as an integral part of the profession, but its primary function has been forms of representation and increasing productivity. Since the introduction of the computer the design process has been fundamentally altered insomuch as the resulting designs have lost touch with the tactile and experiential nature inherent to the craft. While the integration of this technology into the design process has granted the profession an unprecedented ability to visualize design, I would argue, it has lead to an architecture that is lacking experience and gravitas. As such, my research addresses the interstitial relationship between technology and material in an attempt to address this disconnect by taking cues from material and then utilizing technology to explore design. As a ‘maker’ I am pursuing a balance between design, articulation and complexity, by searching for a ‘digital craft’ through the lens of the computer. Though a myriad of design approaches utilize the computer as a means to articulate design, I am searching to reinterpret the role of the computer in design by integrating an understanding of the physical properties of material(s) and investigating the limitations of and relationship between the material and technology.
With a firm understanding of the relationship between digital techniques, architecture and the articulation of architectural form, I believe that the schism that currently lies between the formal conceptualization of design, material and fabrication frames the crux of design at this time. The power of the computer allows the designer to parameterize an unlimited set of design characteristics or criteria, but this type of design approach leads to an architecture without restraint. The availability of an unfettered freedom in design coupled with the representational feedback of the computer is a dangerous combination as the designer/student may 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 open up design possibilities through the integration of Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) machines. While this technology physically separates the craftsman from the work surface, the influence that the craftsman has on the final product comes on the front end of the fabrication process and in articulating the 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 researching 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, that are 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, which has been published and presented at several conferences, in turn takes a software first approach, utilizing the computer to synthesize the material characteristics of standing seam metal roofing 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 more clearly delineated and can lead to a design process that begins to formulate an architecture in which material tactility and experience become integral to the process.