Significant Others, Spring 2017

Design Machines 1

Kyle Steinfeld

In this first project, students produce a series of "design machines" in the spirit of the form-finding precedents of Gaudi, Otto, and others. In contrast with these precedents, however, we assert our agency as designers both through the experimental setup of these machines (as is traditional in the form-finding process) and through the creative interpretation of the forms that result. Each design machine progresses through two stages.

In the first stage, the development of each design machine follows a similar arc of each of our precedents. It is noteworthy that we adhere to the traditional form-finding model of authorship during this process, wherein we allow ourselves to assert our authorship not directly, through modifications of the resulting forms, but only indirectly, through interventions upon the process that produced them.

Following the development and documentation of each design machine, we shift our mode of operation significantly in the second phase. Operating now from a compositional model of authorship, we project possible architectural futures onto the objects produced by our machines. To avoid an overly deterministic link between the logic of the form-finding device and the freedom of its interpretation as an architectural proposal, we do not have foreknowledge of the details of the architectural future of the forms we find. Instead one of a a range of possible translations in terms of the structural, typological, and scalar constraints are confronted. In any case, the architectural possibilities of these design machines is explored in this second stage through the development of a single two-view orthographic drawing at scale, printed on a single drawing board.

The development process for a "design machine" is as such:

  • A physical or digital form-finding device is conceived.
    • The device operates within the limits of its chosen media.
    • The device orchestrates an explicit set of physical forces or natural processes.
    • These processes are configurable via a determined set of productive interactive parameters. These parameters should be clearly visible on the machine itself, and marked graphically or through the design of interactive elements.
    • The device produces a physical object that exhibits a formal or geometric property that is suggestive of a useful architectural application.
    • Whenever possible, these devices will operate within a field of a fixed size. While not necessarily expressed as a physical object, this field of operation of a fixed dimension will lend consistency and comparability to our work.
  • Through iterative development, the design of this device is refined.
    • The testing of a design machine requires the production of a series of physical objects that demonstrate the variation of a single parameter. We refer to this series as a "parametric run". Expect to produce multiple of such runs in the development of your devices.
  • The device and its results are documented.
    • The physical machine itself is drawn in plan, elevation, and axon.
    • The operation of the machine is noted through diagram and documented photographically.
    • The physical objects produced by these devices is documented through descriptive drawing (orthographic elevations and sections) and through analytical sectioning of the objects themselves.

There's more!

Some other projects from this same class have been posted, as well as some interesting student work from this same year.