Random Rules

This workshop will research the tensions and contradictions between advancing manufacturing techniques in the field of architecture and the deplorable standards of the construction industry in America. More specifically, over the course of the semester, students will be asked to deal with a narrow design problem: how to produce variation within a repetitive system of construction.Historically the practice of architecture has been charged with negotiating the relationship between construction technique (tectonics) and the particular image of the building (aesthetics). Since renaissance the production of drawings has been at the center of this process, and this activity has generally fallen under the jurisdiction of the architect. Drawings have been the means by which architects have provided the information necessary to construct the building, and it is in the drawing where aesthetics and tectonics coincide. In the second half of the twentieth century, we saw an increase in this division between the generation of information to describe buildings and the production of information to construct them. Today, architects are in charge of the \”design\” of the building, while the contractor is accountable for the \”means\” of construction. This differentiation has been based in legal parameters intended to give specific control to the builder over the process of construction, while protecting the architect from the builder\’s errors. But often there has been a very tenuous line between this delineation of responsibilities. Architects produce drawings with notes that suggest the means of construction, while the contractor generates shop drawings based on the architect\’s designs, and ultimately the architect \”redlines\” the shop drawings to insure that the original \”intent\” is still carried out. This division, thus, has been an artificial one hiding the fact that architects have always designed with specific \”means\” in mind. Moreover, this separation has led to the misunderstanding of our profession as one that coordinates systems and subsystems guided exclusively by style or aesthetics, in theory, relinquishing tectonic assembly to the construction industry. The advent of digital manufacturing has introduced an emerging possibility, and a twist in the legal distinction between \”design intent\” and \”means of construction\” by the elimination of the traditional shop drawing process. The designer, not the builder, may now be responsible for the creation of digital drawings that directly guide the manufacture of components for the assembly of buildings. While these processes have been part of the reality of industrial design for quite some time, their use in the production of buildings is relatively new and underutilized. However atypical, the use of digitally guided manufacturing is already giving us a sense of how buildings may change in the future. For example, digital manufacturing technology is a definite shift away from craft-based traditional construction methods, and as such the imagery of a building will no longer be limited to the traditional forms of construction available in a particular locale. Along the same lines, digital manufacturing represents a substantial change from conventional methods of mass production where repetition was the basis of economy. With Computer Aided Manufacturing variation and customization no longer require substantial increases in costs due to specialized labor, exceptional manufacturing techniques, or extra set-up charges. These key distinctions between digital manufacturing and other methods of production have not yet had a wide-spread effect in the way that the profession re-conceptualizes buildings, both in their design and in their construction. To that end, the workshop will look at a variety of digital manufacturing techniques as a means of researching new possibilities for the design of buildings and their component assemblies.Course Objective