pigram studio | university of michigan

instructors: David Pigram + Wes Mcgee

Proposing an alternative to the singular building as Icon [Sydney’s Opera House or Bilbao’s Guggenhaim as prime examples] this studio asks for the design of a population of smaller public insertions that would define and collectively contribute to Detroit’s public identity. The precedents for this kind of swarm branding might be the yellow cabs in New York, London’s double-decker buses, Paris’ iconic subway entrances or even the activist initiated distribution of red tends for the homeless by Medecins sans Frontiers, also in Paris. This plural approach is both more flexible and more inclusive, allowing for the adaptive addition of elements as they are needed in order to tie all of these ‘micro-icons’ together it is necessary to devise a common design vocabulary with a high capacity for variation in response to diverse contexts and programmatic or infrastructural demands. We will employ and develop computation design and robotic fabrication methodologies to face and celebrate these challenges.

In addition, digital fabrication techniques have changed the interaction between design, material, and process. This course serves to provide a “hands-on” environment for learning existing digital fabrication methods as well as innovating new ones. In order for the digital fabrication process to embed itself into design methodology, knowledge of the tools and fabrication techniques must become an essential skill, in some ways it has become a new craft altogether. Advances in the integration of software tools and fabrication methods have place architects at the crossroads of various disciplines. The sharing and integration of knowledge across various disciplines opens up new paths to innovation in the digital process. The line between designer and fabricator is continuing to blur. The feedback loop that the digital/physical process affords is an invaluable tool for design research and innovation, reaching far beyond purely formal investigations. This course functions as an evolving research lab for advanced fabrication techniques. A wide range of computer controlled manufacturing tools are available in the digital fabrication lab. The newest machine, a 6 axis industrial robot, serves as a multi functional platform for both investigating process and producing full scale components and assemblies. The robot has a working volume roughly 30’x10’x6′, and can change between various functional tools, including a milling spindle, an abrasive water jet, and a gripper for assembly tasks. All of these tasks can be performed with high accuracy in 3d space, at speeds much higher than normal CNC equipment.

Cutting Fabric from Taubman College on Vimeo.

The seven-axis robot is the largest machine in the lab, with a 30’x10’x8′ work volume, which is the equivalent of the size of two small trucks); the robot is one of the largest in the world at an architectural institution. The robot can load either a milling head for cutting wood and foam, or a water jet head for full 3-D cutting of any material. The robotic abrasive water jet has the ability to follow compound-curved surfaces, and cuts with minimal lateral forces, simplifying material setups. The robot also utilizes various grippers for material forming or assembly processes.

University of Michigan Digital Fab Lab

Categories: Academia


studying: architecture design


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