This June, Pandush Gaqi and I led a workshop at POLIS University in Tirana, Albania. The task was challenging: Travel to Albania and in one week lead a group of graduate students in the design, prototyping and fabrication of a penalized wall system. Admittedly, I had my doubts about the feasibility of the final requirements given the short duration of the workshop. To our delight, we met and worked with a great group of graduate students that produced an impressive collection of projects that were thoughtfully conceived and tested important ideas about design, fabrication & globalization.
The Design Challenge: The Collective Wall
The students were asked to design and prototype a parametric penalized wall system. The prototype was done manually in studio for critique and the final design was digitally tooled and conveyed to the makeLab in the US for fabrication (see the end of this post for more information on global fabrication). Five student groups produced a design response to this challenge. Each project is described below.
Project: Responsive Louvers | Students: ENDRIT MARKU, JULIAN VELESHNJA & LEDIAN BREGASI
The project explored the idea of how a wall louver system can respond to a single focal point. Each wood tessellation was produced using Rhino and Grasshopper.
The wall provided a division from an exposed seating area in the forecourt of the university. Each block is parametrically defined and shows how digital fabrication can be used to quickly create molds for casting.
Project: Fence Space | Students: ARSIM GERXHALIU, BLETA BERISHA, ARTA SELIMI, ENIS PAKASHTICA, NJOMEZA KRASNIQI & LULZIM NUZA
Using the construction of traditional fences in Kosovo the team created a shaded seating area in the forecourt of the University. The tube like space is proportioned with the golden section and was created by dividing the form in Rhino Grasshopper using a VB script in two axises.
Project: Corner[Less] | Students: DORINA PAPA, ETLEVA DOBJANI, GJERGJI POÇI & NEDI PETRI
The wall is conceived as a divider along the center axis of the main hall of the University and provides a link from the inside to a former loading dock, now used as a public space. Using Mies’ deconstructed box as a starting point, the team shaped the wall to have openings at the apex of the curves. The openings allow for circulation to each side of the wall while moving inside the corridor. The structure was produced using a waffle Grasshopper script in Rhino that generated the structural divisions and the cut pattern layout for fabrication.
Project: Wayfinding Wall | Students: ARDIAN MUHADRI, BESA ZHILIVODA, FIDAN BELEGU, FLORIAN KURTESHI, FITORE BEQIRI & MERKUR PAJAZITI
Intended to be a display center for the Universities information, the Wayfinding wall is composed of triangulated interlocking panels. Each panel depresses in apposing directions providing opportunities for light or storage. The final panels where created using the subtractive fabrication process and cast in concrete in the makeLab. An alternative concept was also developed using a composite system of wood and plaster.
Embedded within the workshop at POLIS was a significant experiment for the makeLab. We have theorized in the past about how technology can, and will, enable small firms to work globally creating new economic models for practice. The POLIS workshop proved the opportunity to test some of these ideas. Several of the projects completed and displayed in this post were sent to the makeLab in Michigan where they were fabricated. More significant than just sending the files “off” we maintained a live video and audio connection with the makeLab that created engagement between designer and designer/fabrication and the fabrication equipment. This engaged in students into the fabrication process – live. Using this model, architects have the ability to begin to work with fabrication labs and other designers/fabricators/architects to not only design but build their designs on a global scale. The engagement between designer and the fabrication process and equipment is the fundamental component of the process. Without this link the old model of practice will persist.