Institute of Architectural Algorithms & Applications 建筑运算与应用研究所 School of Architecture, Southeast University, Nanjing

High Resolution Fabrication

Southeast University

Team: Li Ce(李策), Yao Sheng(姚升), Wu Mingxuan(伍铭萱), Qiao Jiongchen(乔炯辰) ,Zhang Xinyi(张幸怡),Wang Junemay(王君美),Li Pingyuan(李平原)

Tutor: Michael Hansmeyer

Coordinator: Li Biao(李飚), Hua Hao(华好)

Assistant:Wu Longjie (吴龙杰),Wang Jusen(王居森), Ji Yunzhu(季云竹)

Time: Nov 2014-Jan 2015



The 8-week design studio explored the conception and design of architectural objects based on generative computational processes. It examined how simple algorithms can produce series of highly articulated artefacts with complex geometries and elaborate systems of ornament. The course was based on three core premises:

No Cost Complexity and Mass Customization

First, in the near future there may be little difference in terms of cost and time to produce a highly complex, differentiated and articulated artefact from a simple, straightforward one. Already today, with additive manufacturing techniques such sand-printing, the most elaborate conceivable form costs no more to print that a simple solid box. Second, economies of scale will be less applicable in the future; it will cost no more to produce a hundred customized variants than to produce one hundred standardized ones. This mass customization (already so widely discernable in the digital) of physical objects is contrary to any of our fabrication techniques since the industrial revolution. The speed and scale at which these two technological shifts will occur is up for debate, but the trajectory unmistakably in place.

Algorithmic Design and Digital Fabrication

A third premise of the course is that computational, generative design methodologies are in good position to take advantage of these shifts, and to explore and exploit the potentials of these changes. For one thing, computers can easily deal with complex forms at multiple scales, and they can directly translate this information into fabrication instructions. In addition, they are perfectly inclined to create permutations, as a process can be run time and time again with varying parameters.

In this class we’ve thus taken a radical position: how do we design – and what do we design – if there are indeed no cost constraints to guide us, if there are no fabrication constraints to hold us back, and if we assume that we can incorporate all functional aspects a posteriori. This is of course a controversial position, yet it brings to the forefront the question of how we evaluate design absent of cost and functional criteria. How do we design? How do we judge and select? These questions will surely become ever more pertinent as digital technologies continue to evolve and become established in the design professions.

Seven students (4th year) have worked in three groups for eight weeks. They first learned Processing, the Java-based programming language, mainly from scratch. They then designed and programmed a mesh refinement application under the guidance of tutor Michael Hansmeyer. The groups then used this application to design and develop their products independently by concentrating on a specific design aspects. A full-scale layered model of a fireplace was also built together in the final week.


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