11506 Architectural Design: Fabrication Technologies
Tutors:  Kirsten Orr, Daniel Schagemann, Gabriele Ulacco

The application of cutting-edge fabrication technologies is one of the most exciting aspects of current and future architectural practice – providing greater design freedom and revolutionising what can be built.  This studio explored the capabilities of 5-axis Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) milling and its architectural applications.  A collaboration was established with a fabricator, Make Good Pty Ltd, and a client, Ku-ring-gai Council, to provide students with the opportunity to experience first-hand the opportunities and constraints of working with real materials and 5-axis CNC milling processes at full-scale.

The research investigation introduced students to the subtractive 3-dimensional numeric fabrication process of CNC milling through the design and fabrication of a series of 600 x 400 x 50mm plywood panel ‘test pieces’.  Students developed a 3-dimensional surface and pattern of articulating curves for their panels with a combination of generative and modeling tools in Rhinoceros and Grasshopper software.  They learnt techniques for simulating the motion of the 5-axis CNC mill and for visualising the implications of different tool choices and toolpath strategies on the panel.

Following the research investigation, students worked individually and in structured teams to develop a picnic shelter for construction at Turramurra Memorial Park by Ku-ring-gai Municipal Council in 2010.  Three groups took three different approaches to construction:  One system comprises a folded Alucobond structure; a second system is a series of interlocking and stackable cast components; the third system uses vacuum-forming technology. The process included consultation with the Council, the structural engineer (Partridge Partners) and the fabricator (Make Good Pty Ltd).  Emphasis was placed on an iterative process of model making and prototyping at a variety of scales.  Students were required to actively engage with the models they built:  to take them apart, reassemble them in different ways and refine the connections between parts.  The prototyping activities undertaken in the studio enabled students to oscillate between the abstract and the concrete, and to address the interconnected factors of material properties, structural behaviour, processing and assembly time, components, the connections between them, and tolerances.

Students maintained individual blogs documenting the design process – http://fabtec.ning.com/