Author(s): Jonathan A. Scelsa
The discipline of architecture and its prevailing ornament construction aesthetics has become overly reliant on the subtractive digital fabrication process, wherein desired geometry is excavated from a procured material block. Notably, subtraction is not deletion, in procedures such as CNC milling – the ‘subtracted’ matter, is neither ‘destroyed’ nor ‘deleted;’ it is transferred from a contiguous piece to a particulate dust, as in the cases of foam or MDF, later to be deposed to a landfill. As our society, profession, and discipline pays closer attention to its impact on global supply chains, and the larger environment, we must find new aesthetics that optimize our material usage. This research borrows from the historical tools and processes of sculpting clay to inform an automated robotic process for the preparation and design of architectural panels wherein material is displaced or shifted rather than extracted. The resulting process requires the consideration of the displaced matter as a part of the finished aesthetic requiring both an active prototyping process to understand how the wet clay shifts by the automated forces as well as an engagement in design of the effectors that engage the material. As a byproduct, the research which was run within the confines of a design seminar, demonstrates pedagogical methods of introducing students to automated design processes.