Overview of SCI-Arc Experience 2016-2018
Master of Science in Technology:
The SCI-Arc Robot house has five six-axis Staubli robots. We learned how to control the movements of the robots both manually and through scripting. We worked on two fabrication projects in the Robot house. The first involved developing a curved façade assembling system. We used Rhino and Grasshopper to create a three-dimensional contour map shaped like a peanut. Then we built a wooden jig with a mounted acrylic sheet and secured it to the floor. To the arm of the robot we mounted a deforming rod. When we ran the script, the robot was instructed to apply pressure to the sheet in the shape of the contour lines at varying depths. This created a three dimensional negative mold of the contoured peanut shaped panel. We then built a wooden casting assembly incorporating the mold. We mixed and poured concrete to create the individual panels which were then assembled in a curving interlocking pattern. There were four different contoured panels assembled in various contiguous arrangements. The intention of the project was to explore patterned iteration assemblies that could incorporate multiple elements in a façade assembly. The iterations were based on our study of M.C. Escher drawings and developing digital models before constructing physical ones.
The second project involved building a 24”x36”x3” deep wooden box in which we filled hot wax in layers held together by a floating wire mesh. We then securely attached the assembly to a table. We used grasshopper software to construct a digital gestural sweeping motion pattern. We then attached a heating element to a robotic arm. Our script instructed the robot to move in the predetermined pattern while we manually made modifications as we went along. The result was a three dimensional wax relief. The aim of this experimental project was to develop a language of effects and unanticipated aesthetics through engaging human and robot trained commands infusing both intentional and unintentional gestures.
This project was a purely speculative formal investigation using scripted robotic photogrammetry, point-cloud modeling, digital modeling, 3-D printing, lighting effects, and smoke effects. We began by digitally modeling in detail Ledoux’s Barriere de l-etoile building. The intention was to take Ledoux’s concept of the parts and the whole in a different direction. We did this by disassembling the building parts (columns, gables, drums, etc) and then reconfiguring them both digitally and in 3-D powder printed form. We used the several robots to hold the various parts in different relationships to each other and then mounted lights and a camera to the other robotic arms. Through scripting we captured a multitude of images in a circular hemispherical pattern. We then used these images with a point-cloud software called Agisoft to reconstruct a new whole which we translated into a digital mesh. We repeated this digital to analog work flow creating multiple iterations. We then built a plexiglass box and installed our new wholes into the box which we mounted to a robotic arm. Through apertures we fed smoke and light into the box and then created new photographic images. We used these images to construct new two-dimensional forms in Photoshop which we then translated back again into three-dimensional new wholes.
This project was a formal investigation into complex structures that can be assembled from a single part that allows for complex form making based on the variety of angles and rotations made at the joint between parts. We first experimented with metal electrical pull-elbows which we found at a local hardware store. We modified the pieces by inserting wooden dowels as connector pieces and modeled a variety of configurations both physically and digitally. We then simplified and modified the piece and made prototypes using plastic forming techniques. The final plastic pieces were injection molded in China. Once we had the final 1000 pieces we experimented with a variety of assemblies and made a stop-action video of the assembly process using a hemispherical capture path we scripted for one of the robots.
Blockchain Decentralized Landlord Housing Proposal:
This project proposed a solution for a derelict jail in Los Angeles. Since we viewed the jail itself as being an “inhuman” space we decided to explore the idea of using the jail as a bitcoin mining facility. The jail itself would house the computers and mining infrastructure. A decentralized Artificial Intelligence software would act as a managing landlord. This decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) would manage the property according to an agreed set of rules for growth and participation. Tenants would invest in the mining equipment either through capital or physical contributions. Over time the investments would result in revenues which would then be used to construct housing for the tenants in the air space above the jail.
In an effort to make the project sustainable several issues had to be confronted. The computers require an enormous amount of energy and they also give off an enormous amount of heat. The project uses a solar array to augment the energy needs of the project. The heat output of the computers are transferred to exterior energy sinks which then store and dissipate excess energy and transfer it back to the apartment grid above. The heat itself is also moved vertically through holes bored in the floor utilizing exterior fans on the lower floors to create a heat-stack effect and provide heat to the apartments during the cooler months naturally. I believe this type of DAO could be an interesting platform with real-world applications involving creative adaptive re-use of existing infrastructures that can be developed using blockchain and smart contract platforms. I intend to continue this research in the future when I can secure the funding to create a development and consulting team.
Master of Science in Design Theory and Pedagogy:
This program is intended to teach design pedagogy to aspiring educators that already have a background in professional practice. It is broken into three semesters.
The first semester I did a research project on the studio pedagogy developed at Penn in the early 60’s by Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi that led to the thinking behind the famous Learning from Las Vegas Studio at Yale. I identified with Denise’s lament that architecture students often don’t write well and often have too strong a “physical bias”, often ignoring the body of knowledge developed by planners and allied disciplines. I wrote a lengthy paper in support of the research-based studio model that increases real research and knowledge acquisition while reducing the number of labor-hours employed by students in form-making alone. I also support the notion of collaboration between instructors and students that acknowledges that students bring skills and ideas with them and that the principle role of the instructor is to nurture passions and guide critical inquiry rather than creating rubber stamps or providing recipes for success.
In the second semester I wrote a Studio proposal. I suggest that building construction continues to increase at an enormous scale. However, traditional architects are not being employed in these projects that are often the result of logistical thinking and processes that largely ignore our historical and cultural narratives. I wonder what kind of new agency and new types of practices can emerge and acquire new relevance in this arena. The proposal engages the problem of energy production inherent in the AI-automation project. I formed a relationship with a start-up called Solaren Corporation in Los Angeles that is working on building space solar satellites that turn solar energy into radio frequency and beam the energy back to earth.
In the third semester, the intention was to actually execute the studio proposal but I decided that my time would be better spent doing a research project. I have a particular interest in alternative pedagogical models. I am working on a road map for universities trying to engage entrepreneurial models with industry in order to engage innovation within the curriculum. I uncovered a lot of cynical motivations for the innovation narrative which often simply results in more expensive tuition and living costs that push out lower income students in favor of those from higher income families. Outcomes of these projects are very hard to measure and returns on investments in research have been proven to be incredibly low. Ultimately the funding produces expensive new infrastructure that ironically may contribute to social inequality and greater income inequality in general. I am currently laying out a common-sense approach as a road map to a more ethical approach to innovation and entrepreneurship within the university curriculum.
Teaching Assistant experience at SCI-Arc:
I was a teaching assistant with Maxi Spina in the undergraduate third year core program. Students began by doing building type, zoning, building code, and sustainable strategy research for a proposed multi-use tower in Los Angeles. This was an integrated studio where students ultimately produced typical floor plates, typical wall assemblies, and structural building sections, while engaging and responding to the urban fabric.
I was a teaching assistant to David Ruy in his vertical design studio. We used an artificial neural network and deep learning technology to create new images from curated form and style content. The intention of the studio was to use these images to leverage students’ imaginations in unexpected ways to develop interior spaces within a hotel. The students were encouraged to think of the whole from the inside out rather than from the outside in. We avoided the notion of documenting the project as a completed whole but rather explored the investigation as a series of interior spaces and an exterior rendering or visualization in a context of the student’s choosing. In order to build out these spaces from the two-dimensional images created by the AI, students employed and developed their own work flows and learned new technologies in the process. A variety of skills were acquired in Virtual Reality, Unreal Engine, and a number of other softwares.
I assisted David Ruy with his Ruy-Klein exhibition at SCI-Arc last year that involved Artificial intelligence software to create new and unimagined landscapes. Models were CNC printed and the colors were added by innovative new printing technology that uses individually colored print heads programmed to move up and down over the contours of the model. I was responsible for designing the exhibit and for overseeing the construction of the new walls, the pedestals, the models, the framing, and the hanging of the show.
I was a group discussion leader in Marrikka Trotter’s graduate History and Theory class that covered the period from the Renaissance to the early twentieth century. The curriculum focused on the notion of colonization and the “other” in architecture. We also engaged notions of social injustice and disparities within this context. My role was to read and correct 15 student papers a week and then lead an hour and half discussion group with the students after lecture.
I was teaching assistant in David Ruy’s Advanced History and Theory class in the Post-Graduate program. I helped students form clear research projects and assisted with their writing.
I was also invited to participate on numerous juries including undergraduate and graduate work over the last two years.