The Spine – Experiments in Robotic Thatching
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The Spine explores the material qualities of artificial straw and the potential of the historic building techniques of thatching, a craft which has been passed on from generation to generation. The Spine puts into perspective the potentials of using history as a catalyst to develop architecture of a performative and engaging nature.
Introducing new ways of threading the synthetic straw material reveals a great potential from a computational design perspective. The main driving force in the digital fabrication process is the School’s six-axis robot, which plays an essential role and was implemented as the main production tool right from the beginning.
“Our focus is the translation of traditional thatching as the craft of building a roof of dry vegetation into a computer aided process and methods of digital fabrication.”
“Our goal is to develop methods and tools to transform the traditional craft of thatching into a computer based fabrication process. We aim to explore the potential of the historic building techniques of thatching, which has been existing in many different cultures and which primarily has been passed from generation to generation. It is our intention to transfer those techniques into a computer driven environment with the special focus on digitally fabricating a roof or wall structure. This new structure will be illustrating and discussing the potentials of using history as a catalyst to develop architecture of a performative and engaging character.”
The process of design our team implemented for “The Spine” installation worked the problem from multiple angles and with a wide array of tools. Using a modeling process that was rooted in physical explorations and material testing was balanced with deep investigations into the use of parametric design tools and coupling them with a fabrication tool. Rather than the physical and digital running separately, these two systems communicated with each other freely and influenced the final design.
As real-world investigations of material bending began to influence the physics engine inside Grasshopper, both became stronger. Similarly, material properties were evaluated for the joint group, which translated the analysis back into the digital model. The fast-paced timeline for the project required that rapid prototyping be used while the slower SLS machine finished final quality models.
The effect of real-world constraints on the digital design was also evident in the process that Digital Fabrication used. The synthetic reed ended up having more variation in size and structure than was anticipated, and required many real-world tests to calibrate the robotic production to proceed smoothly. This intersection between the physical and the digital processes became a continual theme throughout the design process.
The final design is the product of the coupling of real-world investigations with digital parametrics and fabrication, giving rise to a dynamic spatial structure that responds to its context, and reacts to its own materiality. By questioning the traditional process and material of thatching, we learned what can and cannot be done through automation, and what processes could be converted into new fabrication methods. This has enlightened the possibilities of new technology, and could create new ideas for the development of crafts into the digital environments – using history as a catalyst.
The Spine 2.0
The Spine 2.0