MATSYS

SEAcraft Eggs

Context: Advanced Architecture Studio at the California College of the Arts
Instructor: Associate Professor Andrew Kudless
Location: San Francisco, California
Date: 2013
Materials: Wood, Plastic, Composites, Paper, etc.
Tools: Rhino, Grasshopper, Kangaroo, various traditional fabrication methods
Dimensions: 12″ x 12″ x 16.5″

In Malcolm McCullough’s 1996 book, Abstracting Craft, it is posited that craftsmanship can (and should) be extended to digital media. In this argument, craft is not tied to traditional tools or techniques but rather to an approach to the artisan’s chosen medium that rests in an alchemical mixture of expertise and improvisation. The craftsperson, drawing on a deep well of skill-based knowledge, works and reworks their medium in a feedback loop that integrates a multitude of simultaneous and often conflicting performance criteria that range from the technical to the poetic. This understanding of craft as a deep relationship between maker and medium allows the term to be extended to any process of creation, even those whose “materials” are the notionally immaterial pixels, vectors, and 3D geometry that populate the digital realm.

This advanced architectural design studio at the California College of the Arts focused on the relationship between craft and design. The studio was divided into three roughly equal-length phases, each exploring a different aspect of craftsmanship. In the first phase, students focused on developing a range of digital and physical modeling skills that allowed them to become experts in a particular material system. Rather than focus on site or program, the two traditional generators of architectural form, the students were asked to develop several eggs that simply researched the relationship between form, fabrication, and materiality. The goal of this phase was to produce a studio culture that focused on the value of making as a design generator.

In the second phase, students applied their skills to a specific design problem: a new ferry terminal for the Seattle waterfront. Beyond the necessary docks, waiting areas, and ticketing booths of the terminal, the project integrateed a number of other programs to support the maker and craft cultures of the Seattle region such as fabrication, retail, and exhibition spaces. During a visit to Seattle in early March, students researched both the urban environment of Seattle and its emerging maker community. Students met with the founders of Makerhaus as well as the design software company McNeel & Associates (the maker of Rhino).

During phase three, students continued to develop their design proposals through a limited number of highly crafted representations including physical models, drawings, and renderings.

The studio supported students who are interested in the value of making in contemporary culture. It celebrated the re-emergence of craft-based personal production embodied by entities such as Maker Faire, TechShop, and Etsy as a viable alternative to the anonymity and blandness of industrial mass-production. The studio did not presuppose any level of skill in digital or physical modeling, but required students to be rigorous, motivated, and open to experimentation as they developed their craft.

Students:
Ji Ahn, Maria Araujo, Nathan Booth, Vanessa Carvalho, Logan Kelly, Shawn Komlos, Alessandra Marsh, Rena Montero, Mehdi Nikseresht, Anthony Quivers, Gry Taraldhagen, Hugh Vanho, Jason Vereschak, Brendan Williams, Alex Woodhouse

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