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Prototype Intangibles

Course Overview

The Prototype Intangibles course is designed to simultaneously research, diagram and fabricate concepts with the following principles:

- Proposals extract conceptual potentials from selected buildings projected within the last 10 years. - Proposals evolve diagrammatic analyses of these selected buildings and, through consecutive reconfigurations of the diagrams, aim to conceive new design operations. - Materiality orients all steps throughout the development process.

General Context

The course interrogates the question of the 'model' in architecture and the unconscious use of the term in architectural discourse and production. It focuses on the need, not only to materialize concepts, but particularly to understand the current drift of contemporary architecture towards the production and use of innovative materials as a means of declaring a design manifesto.

How and why do architects assume they can either 'model' space, or use models as ideas to think about space, or to materialize space? Materialization, understood as a constraint, will be the critical point at which students decide on ways to express intangible notions extracted from their analysis as they embody them into tangible forms. The outcome of the fabrication process will be to understand materiality in relation to the architectonic space and to engage students with the physical boundaries involved in the production of architecture. In this general context of fabricating a diagram, the notion of scale will be an important constraint to further determine the materialized outcome.

The course sets out to collect existing design operations and their potential in a process of formulating new architectural arguments. Both the creation of a ‘design-manual’ as a first step and the ‘misreading’ of that manual will drive the fabrication method. Each building analysis will follow the path of its conception from the end to the beginning, from top to bottom. During this critical process, specific elements of the case-study building will be isolated, ‘translated’ and diagrammed so as to lead to the actual fabrication of its ‘essence’.

The seminar involves a protocol of thoughts and actions based on three precise methodological steps:

- Building Analysis // Research - Argument // Diagram - Prototype // Fabrication

Methodology

The course is based on group desk-crits to further develop the arguments behind students’ proposals. In every session, each group will present a book (maximum 8.5 X 11 inches format) for the course proposal Prototype Intangibles I (see details below) and three digital panels (ARCH D size, portrait orientation) for the course proposal Prototype Intangibles II. The first chapter / panel will entail the building research and analysis, the second chapter / panel will contain the diagram evolution and the last one will visualize the material concept and the fabrication prototype. In every desk-crit, students will be required to conceptually link all the factors which contribute to clarify their general argument. In the final review students will present their book / panels along with the constructed model/s as the core of their argument and as a coherent creation of their ‘protocol’. The final prototype embodies a system, an argument, a fragment of an integrated architectural proposal, that is, an innovative piece to be added to an idea.

Throughout the semester there will be lectures on the course topic followed by several workshops and tutorials aimed at engaging students with new software techniques and material possibilities. Every week each group should upload the three updated boards and a smaller exercise related to software tutorials on the class blog.

All final proposals will be published on a web page as the outcome of the seminar. For the Prototype Intangibles II seminar each group will develop a book as a curated visual manifesto of the work from the entire semester. The book produced is a new item; a ‘luggage’ with new belongings, with thoughts that have been developed, completed or left aside. The book will be reviewed again and again, multiple times, so as to crystallize its content, if it ever does.

Techniques

The course will encourage and enable students to use digital software as a generative tool and the laser cutter, the CNC Mill and the 3D printer as a means to bring virtual systems into the physical realm. Emphasis will be placed on using digital fabrication machines to extract forms from conceptual diagram structures that can be transformed using cutting, bending and folded manipulations in order to create a topological network of elements.

Students will be operating across multiple platforms to devise a completely automated design and fabrication process. Rhino will be used as the main generative software platform. Instruction will then focus on using Grasshopper for Rhino to streamline the generation and parametric manipulation of networks. Also, Processing, a behavior-based platform and a powerful data visualization software, will support diagram research from a more dynamic perspective.

Amongst others, an introduction to techniques such as the SLS (Selective Laser Sintering), SLA (Stereolithography) and FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) will be included in the course.

​General Course Requirements & Learning Outcomes

Grading will be based on the attendance to lectures and the quality of the final project. Attendance at tutorials is mandatory since complex software modeling and output methods will be covered, as well as fabrication techniques.

Following this course students will be able to enhance their skills on the technology of design and fabrication of architectural elements by using Computer Aided Design (CAD) combined with Computer Aided Manufacturing and Engineering (CAM/CAE). A critical understanding and a rigorous position towards the meeting point of production and argument should engage students with tooling that best expresses and visualizes their concept. Nevertheless, ‘awareness’ is the main tool that students will finally possess by the end of the course.

"I live on Earth at present, and I don't know what I am. I know that I am not a category. I am not a thing - a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process — an integral function of the universe."

R. Buckminster Fuller

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