This presentation will be given by Ole Egholm, PhD candidate, Aarhus School of Architecture, Denmark who is currently a visiting scholar in the Faculty of DAB, UTS.

Wed 8 June 2011

11.00 am

CB06.06.38 (i.e. DAB Building 6, Level 6, room 6.38 – enter near the School of Design entrance)

Concrete is the most widely used material in contemporary building practice. Its readily available natural resources, constructive strength and durability make it a cheap and reliable building material. At the same time, concrete poses environmental, formal and technological problems. Starting in the 1970´s, several architectural theorists, (Drexler 1973; Frampton 1983) criticised the 20th century building practice of repeating standardised concrete elements.

Now, computers can control complex geometry, and robotics allows for production that breaks away from the industrial paradigm of standardisation, but these possibilities are yet to find their way into the production of building components.

My hypothesis is that by investigating material properties and fabrication technologies, a strategy can be suggested that points towards fully mass-customised concrete elements. In this presentation, first I will give an overview of the theoretical and methodological background for my investigations. Second, I will share the work I have done during my time as a Visiting Research Scholar at UTS over the last five months. I performed an experiment in both a physical and digital realm, using laser cutting of folded plastic sheets. Exploring the material qualities and formal potential within the laser cutting technology forms the basis for developing a parametric script. The result is a method for casting customised, full-scale columns and beams in concrete. This outcome, however, is not itself the focus of my presentation, but a vessel for reflection – and, I hope discussion – on how the relationship between digital models and physical mock-ups may be used to qualify the development of tectonic concrete elements. My interim conclusions point in two directions:

a)      Digital fabrication should be carried out considering the production technology and the mould material. Using this premise as the basis for scripting is essential to escape the danger of generating abstract, digital representations, which potentially translate into complicated and expensive manufacturing techniques.
b)     Because the parametric model can generate templates for manufacturing, it is easy to miss its potential to function as an explorative tool; development becomes focused on elements rather than systems, members rather than a construction. This can be overcome by dividing the digital model into several components or objects, making it easier to identify which part of the parametric model is describing the members, and which part can be used as an exploratory tool rather than a descriptive one.