The Next Generation

The Next Generation

One of the places in the architectural world where FRP is getting attention  is in academic settings.  We previously mentioned a carbon fiber project being funded on Kickstarter by students at the Illinois Institute of Technology. (BTW: that Kickstarter achieved full funding over the weekend and, as of this writing, is at 107% and has 17 hours to go.  Thanks to everyone who contributed.)  IIT is not the only institution where architecture students are working with FRP.

SUPRASTUDIO, part of the UCLA Architecture and Urban Design (A.UD) is an unusual program for advanced students (those who already have at least a Masters degree or a 5-year Bachelor’s degree in Architecture).  It is located several miles off the UCLA campus, in a large building where Howard Hughes once built the Spruce Goose.  The program is described on their website:

SUPRASTUDIO is a research platform in architecture education based out of UCLA Architecture and Urban Design (A.UD) that advances experimentation and cross-discipline collaboration among professors, students, and industry partners to expand the boundaries of architectural practice. Students work closely with a leading figure in architecture in a small class setting with 15 students on a dedicated research topic with seminars, critical studies, and related courses  developed to complement each studio’s research theme. Partners from adjacent fields in technology, automotive, aerospace, entertainment and non-profit are brought in as collaborators to identify new areas of research and development. Under the umbrella of UCLA, a premier global research institution, SUPRASTUDIO fills a current void in architecture education by providing a dedicated program for advanced applied research that links education to industry.

During the 2013/14 academic year, UCLA Architecture and Urban Design has studios led by Frank Gehry, Greg Lynn and Thom Mayne.

As part of Technology Lecture, Transform Fabrication II, Julia Körner organized a Composite Workshop at IDEAS CAMPUS. The Intro to Advanced Composites for Architects was organized for Suprastudio Students and invited guests who work professionally with composite materials. Speakers included Greg Lynn, UCLA; Julia Körner, UCLA; Neil Smith, Composites One; Rick Pauer, CCP Composites; Doug Smith, RTM North; and Bill Kreysler, Kreysler Associates. As you can see in the pictures, it was a hands-ons workshop, too.

Two days later, they went on a major field trip – from Los Angeles to Seattle and then the San Francisco Bay Area – to learn see where FRP is being fabricated and used.  They visited the large Boeing Factory in Everett, WA (the largest building in the world by volume) where the carbon fiber-bodied 787 Dreamliner is assembled.

In the Napa Valley, they toured the shop of Kreysler and Associates (sponsor of this blog) where the rippled cladding panels for the facade of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art expansion are being made.  They were able to observe the process: CNC milling of the big EPS molds, layup and casting.

They also visited the San Francisco offices of Bot and Dolly, a leading robotics firm that has worked extensively with the motion picture industry, including work on the Academy Award winning Gravity.  Bot and Dolly makes a plug-in for Autodesk Maya that UCLA uses to operate robot arms.  Students utilize this technology to explore both real-world fabrication and digital-world animation.

That’s a lot of cutting edge concepts in three days on the road.  The way this fits into the larger program is even more intriguing.  From the UCLA website:

The Technology Lecture (taught by Julia Körner, is closely related to the Lynn Suprastudio and builds up on Fall Term Technology Seminar. The Lecture integrates advanced surface modeling in Maya and Rhino, surface detailing in Maya and Grasshopper and digital fabrication techniques and robotic technology for motion control. Finally video editing/ compositing tools in order to explore different mediums of presentation. The Technology Lecture started with a two week research into geometry of surfaces. The research resulted in a detailed knowledge about surfaces and tessellations. Following the research there was a combined tutorial and lecture series into fabrication methods such as composite materials, thermo forming and 3d printing.

Students developed a design method of how to use one or multiple of those techniques and combine it with robotic technology for motion control. Techniques as of transformation and assembly will be investigated. These Transformations were conceptually related to the design and fabrication method and developed with BD Move in Maya.

The picture of the future that this suggests is one in which the virtual world and the physical world draw closer together.  A creation can be expressed digitally or physically, or both.  With digital fabrication and robotic construction, the act of building environments in the physical world – architecture – and in the virtual world – animation – become closely related activities.  And the physical world will, increasingly, be made of of environments and objects that were first created in the digital space.   As digital becomes more and more the precursor to physical, the virtual world will be built out, too, and become a description of a greater and greater percentage of the physical world.

Some of the people who are going to do this are studying it at UCLA right now.


images via of UCLA A.UD