Abstractions + Constructions

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The subject of this foundational, skill-building course – an assignment entitled: “Flat Fabrication” – represented a shift from the immaterial digital realm of three-dimensional modeling software into the world of flat-sheet materials. It involved an investigation of non-planar, complex (“fat”) geometric assemblies and their translation into the “flat” sheet material constructs to be produced using two-dimensional fabrication (laser cutting).

Through iterative stages over four weeks, the students developed (and redeveloped) a tectonic, geometric, manufacturing and assembly logic for producing a final material construct for the end of the semester. The students began by devising an appropriate geometric description of the abstraction using developable, planar elements (polygons, triangles, ruled surfaces, circular/spherical approximations) and/or the object’s three-dimensional isoparametric representation, contouring, or some other rationalization. This was followed by developing a strategy of tectonic translation (“structure” and “skin”), i.e. development of a careful definition of which components would have the “structural” role in the assembly, if “structure” and “skin” were to be separate. Once the planar geometry of the components was determined, the geometry was unfolded, laid out in “nesting” drawings, and cut using the laser cutter. Finally, each construction was assembled, some using egg-crate assembly rigs, coding or marking of components, and special sequencing.

The final goal was to produce a construct embedded with a physical intelligence that was informed by an iterative, digital-to-material feedback loop. In this way, students developed an understanding of digital design and fabrication technologies as tools for managing a complex negotiation of material, geometric, manufacturing, and assembly constraints and the resulting effects.

Faculty: Jason Johnson, Branko Kolarevic, Joshua Vermillion
Teaching Assistants: Leanne Mason, Jonathon Noble, Brian Pace


 

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