Virtual and Real Approaches into Material Exploration
The experimental substance in paper consists of a series of experiments carried out in sheet steel. The experiments are a part of a larger mass of experiments also including concrete and wood. The combined mass of experiments form the investigating basis of the PhD project Bespoke Fragments. In this paper only a selected type of the steel experiments will be described in detail. However the scope of the overall project will be presented to situate the work in a correct and understandable context. The project Bespoke Fragments seeks to explore and utilise the space emerging between the potentials of control through digital drawing and fabrication and the field of materials and their properties and capacities. Within this span the project is situated in a shuttling between the virtual and the actual, investigating levels of control and uncertainty originating from these (Fig. 1). Throughout the experiments – both the ones introduced in the paper and in the overall project – the term fragment plays a role in the genesis and the intended conception of both the digital and physical production. Firstly it handles the understanding of scale related to – especially – the physical artefacts. They are to be seen as 1:1 existences both in their form and their behaviour. They should be perceived directly and not be interpreted in relation to another scale. They, however, should neither be perceived as concluded objects. Rather they are to the seen as openings, preludes or fragments that potentially could be a part, a component or part of a component in a larger context or construction. Through tangible experiments the project discusses materiality and digitally controlled fabrications tools as direct expansions of the architect’s digital drawing and workflow. The project sees this expansion as an opportunity to connect the digital environment with the reality of materials – and use realisation and materialisation to generate architectural developments and findings through an iterative mode of thinking about the dialogue between drawing, materials and fabrication. Consequently the interest and mind-set behind the project and the experiments builds upon contemporary and earlier discussion about the relation between (digital) drawing and making in architecture. “Bringing with me the conviction that architecture and the visual art were closely allied, I was soon struck by what seemed at the time the peculiar disadvantage under which architects labour, never working directly with the object of their thought, always working at it through some intervening medium, almost always the drawing, while painters and sculptors, who might spend some time on preliminary sketches and maquettes, all ended up working on the thing itself which, naturally, absorbed most of their attention and effort” (Evans 1997). The above quotation is from Robin Evans essay Translation from drawing to building from 1986. While his realisation and concern is probably still valid in almost all architectural practises the current landscape of architectural tools is indeed changing. Digital drawing and design tools have either replaced or supplemented sketching and drawing by hand. Alone however these new tools still – with Evans’s words – put the architects at the disadvantage of newer working directly with the object of their thoughts. Interestingly a new set of tools seems to find the way into the architect’s toolbox. In today’s field of, especially, architectural academia and education – but also practise – the importance of making, fabrication and realising seems more and more pronounced. Many directions and opinions have already emanated. Digital fabrication tools extend beyond the computer and bring new perspectives to Evans’s reflection on the relationship between architect, drawing and building. Working closer to the materialisation of thoughts has the possibility to be common practice for future architects. This project positions itself in continuation of Evans thoughts and tries not to situate the architect as the builder, but to bring the materials, the matter, close to where the architect is working and shaping.
What’s the Matter?: Materiality and Materialism at the Age of Computation, 2014