Wednesday, October 29, 2014

My Digitally Fabricated World

By Donald Olsen

Issue 5- Fabricating my Thesis

 So I think it’s pretty apparent at this point that when I needed to approach the topic of my thesis that it had to have some link to digital fabrication. So I spent a while trying to think of the best way to incorporate the subject and take it in a direction that I could really get behind in the course of a year. Though there were some issues nailing down a specific topic that read well and made sense. For the most part the topics I choose were too broad or two small, but after much deliberation I settled on working towards developing homes that are a kit of parts, entirely digitally fabricated of course, that use little to no hardware to go together and instead use friction connections to stay together. The idea really only came to me because of the project we are currently working on in our studio course. We are designing a master plan layout for the 2030 Rio Brazil Legacy Olympics project. As we were working through the project context I noticed the close proximity of a favela to the Northwest. Though not part of our current plan, and slightly ignored by the winning design, I felt there was an obvious need to design a better affordable solution to not only that favela, but provide a solution that could work in a number of favelas or slums worldwide. Construction in favelas is completely out of necessity, but also follows a very interesting format. Since the favelas are lived in mostly by the poor people of Brazil, for example, they are built out of whatever they can find; scrapes, construction garbage, and cheap materials. The format for construction is what I found so interesting. A family is represented as a building, to me, in the favelas. What I mean by this is that a family will start as a  the family grows and the next generations are ready for their own space or there is need for more room an addition to the single story unit is simply added on top of the previous. So eventually after a few decades you may at one time have three to four generations of a family living in a stack. The whole idea behind my thesis is to develop a kit home that requires little to no building knowledge, is very cheap, and can be acquired quickly to aid with urban sprawl in cities like Rio. The last goal for the project is to work in a solar oriented façade with a passive solar panel or Photovoltaic system to power the units. Solar oriented façades, in my eyes, are a series of directionally changing walls that prevent the harsh direct summer sunlight into the building, while offering great ambient light and winter sunlight. There are a few companies at this time that are building or designing elements of this idea, but none that are bringing all these elements together and none doing multiple stories. One of the companies doing a completely CNC based house is Facit. The Facit house uses hardware to go together but it is an example of a home that is 100% pre designed and digitally fabricated on site. They simple have a shipping container with a CNC and a pile of ¾” plywood dropped off at the site and they start cutting a house.

As an example of a solar oriented façade design I’ll use the Modular Solar House by the Institute of Advanced Architecture of Catalonia. Here their goal was to design a modular unit the was again digitally fabricated, uses  design for its current location and site orientation.  

Next time I will discuss a few projects that utilize friction connections and discuss the benefits of that type of construction. I’m excited to see what this thesis brings and face the challenges as well. Till next time, keep fabricating.
Modular Solar House Photo Credit:

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