Composites: Renewed Optimism in the Age of Digital Fabrication

This course focuses on the integration of the composites industry with the construction industry and contemporary architectural practice, pursuing the advancement of knowledge, research, and capabilities within the discipline. Through collaboration with material scientists, engineers, and fabricators in the composites industry, students create prototypes and design proposals to generate new information and compile existing information in the field to produce a cross-disciplinary design research document.

Offered as a limited-enrollment research seminar/workshop, the course explores the critical inter-relationships of geometry creation, fiber placement, resin flow, tool development, and fabrication methods as related to architectural systems. Sustainably sourced composite materials and assembly methods are explored, demonstrated, and integrated into student work.

By beginning with introductory fiber placement, resin infusion, and tooling fabrication exercises, then building to applied methods of complex composite part formation through resin infusion, technologies are introduced through a combination of cumulative weekly lectures, case study presentations, and hands-on workshops at both the GSD Fabrication Lab and the IYRS Composites Technology campus facility in Bristol, Rhode Island. These field trips, coupled with fabrication workshops, provide real-world immersion in the implementation of composite design, engineering, and fabrication in practice. Student group assignments include digital and physical prototypes that contribute to the creation of a thesis or design/implementation proposal. Direct access to an extended network of facilities and individuals working in the field broadens students’ fabrication capabilities, resulting in  deeper awareness and enhanced ability in this evolving industry.

John Nastasi and Rachel Vroman, Curators