Category Archives: Architecture

Taking Stock of 3D Printing

By Hannah Bennett

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Make anything you want just by pressing print.     – YouTube Video

I think we all know the following about 3D printing: it’s a technology from the 1980s; it’s also known as additive manufacturing; its initial primary use was prototyping, especially in the engineering and aerospace industries. Here’s what we know it does: it turns 3D model designs (CAD files usually) into solid objects on demand. The material (traditionally plastic) is layered in an additive process through an extruder which is mounted on a carriage (not unlike a regular printer carriage) that moves on all three axes, building the form vertically. We also know that 3D printing has the promise of vastly improving production and manufacturing, creating more sustainable practices, and enabling incredibly precise customization. Perhaps most critically, 3D printing, or bioprinting, will play an integral role in regenerative medicine, generating artificial organs such as kidneys, hearts, or even skin. It’s difficult to imagine an industry that has no feasible use for 3D printing. Hod Lipson notes, “Food printing will be to 3D printing what gaming now is to computers.” Behold: digital cuisine. Or, thanks to Dovetail’s efforts, we can print fresh fruit with their 3D printer which operates by utilizing a specific technique of molecular-gastronomy called “spherification.” Here’s how it works.

With the decrease in 3D printer prices, this sort of personal manufacturing will have wide appeal and availability which is very exciting but also brings to mind ethical or safety concerns about what will be mass-producible. For example, check out Defense Distributed; there you can read about the “wiki weapon” project, an embattled effort on the part of the programmers to provide people with the files necessary to print a gun, beginning with durable rifle receivers for the popular AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. Less polarizing but equally intriguing are projects such as Fab@Home, whose goal is to “democratize innovation” and bring personal fabrication to one’s home through 3D printing technology and open-source personal fabrication technology (see Fab@Home overview).  If you cannot come up with your own designs in programs like Google Sketch-Up, Rhino, Maya, or Blender, consult MakerBot’s Thingiverse, which offers all sorts of .stl files for the home fabricator to download and print, e.g., T-Rex showerhead, a cable organizer or a lamp. In addition, there are plenty of online communities and Meet-Up groups focused around 3D printing and design.

In terms of architecture, it is impossible to underscore the role 3D printing has had and the direction it is taking design, its functionality, and its representational language. The possibilities of digital production techniques can offer, for example, affordable housing solutions worldwide, in slums or in disaster areas, as well as looking at how digital designs can be shared and modified via the internet and new online networks.  In 2012, Softkill Design in partnership with Materialise and the Architectural Association School of Architecture’s Design Research Lab, developed the first “high-resolution” prototype of a 3D printed house, the ProtoHouse.

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In the Netherlands, DUS Architects are leading an interdisciplinary project which 3D printed a canal house in full size with the KamerMaker, a large moveable 3D-printer that was developed specially for the project. The 3D Print Canal House is printed with newly developed materials derived from biobased raw materials. It is also possible to print with recycled plastics. In April of this year, Winsun New Materials, a construction firm based in Suzhou, China, has successfully built ten small-scale houses using a massive 3-D printer. According to the Wall Street Journal, Winsun says it estimates the cost of printing these homes is about half that of building them the traditional way. On a more esoteric level, 3D printing has the potential to bring the “real world” into these hypermodern biomorphic designs (and protypes) developed from any number of architectural offices. Consider MOS Architect’s Ballroom Marfa Drive-In plans or Doris Sung’s Tracheolis system which explores how rapid prototyping or three-dimensional printing can mass produce a flexible kind of concrete block system which takes the heating and cooling systems of a building directly into the blocks (rather than a forced air system). The breathability of the block is achieved by incorporating a complex cavity system that is similar to the trachea system of grasshoppers, who breathe through spiracle holes in their sides. These are but a very few in the countless number of experiments, art projects, sculptures, and installations involving 3d printing. More recently, Arup developed a 3D printing technique for structural steel.

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According to Salomé Galjaard, the team leader at Arup, “by using additive manufacturing we can create lots of complex individually designed pieces far more efficiently. This has tremendous implications for reducing costs and cutting waste. But most importantly, this approach potentially enables a very sophisticated design, without the need to simplify the design in a later stage to lower costs.”

D-Shape is an extremely new robotic building system using new materials to create superior stone-like structures. This new machinery enables “full-size sandstone buildings to be made without human intervention, using a stereolithography 3D printing process that requires only sand and D-Shapes’s special inorganic binder to operate….By simply pressing the ‘enter’ key on the keypad we intend to give the architect the possibility to make buildings directly, without intermediaries who can add interpretation and realization mistakes.” The 3D technology company Inition has developed an augmented-reality iPad app that allows architects to look inside static architectural models, visualize how their building will look at night and track how wind flows around their design proposals. As a result, architects can call up a variety of information overlays that combine with the physical model.

Even taking stock of 3D printing today is a challenge. The important point to take away is that it is changing so many different fields, including architecture, incredibly quickly. We’ve also seen how 3D printing is changing how architects relate to spaces and the materials to construct them. By partnering other fields with design, such as cognitive science or biology, there is no limit to what 3D printing technology can bring to architecture.

What’s up in… Michigan?!

By Rebecca Price
Architecture, Urban Planning & Visual Resources Librarian
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
rpw@umich.edu

Maybe it was the turn of the millennium, maybe it’s seeing landmarks of the 20th century fade and decay, or maybe it’s the communal nostalgia of thousands of baby-boomers; but whatever the cause, the last decade has brought with it a deliberate look back at the early years of  modern design in Michigan.  Although perhaps best known for automobiles and breakfast cereal, Michigan was a breeding ground of furniture, product, and architectural design throughout the mid-century modern period.

General Motors Technical Center; Eero Saarinen;
Warren, Michigan; 1949-1953. Photo by Edward Olencki, 1962.

Post-war manufacturing and the coincident economic boom brought designers and architects to the state. The Cranbrook Academy of Art, founded in 1926, was by the late 1930s attracting many notable international designers to teach including Eliel Saarinen, Florence Knoll, Carl Milles, and Charles Eames. Other architects came to teach at the University of Michigan College of Architecture or had offices in the Detroit area and still others took on corporate and residential commissions across the state resulting in works by Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright, Marcel Breuer, Erich Mendolsohn, and Minoru Yamasaki. Furniture and design companies such as Herman Miller and Steelcase, based in western Michigan, drew many designers to their ranks, including architect George Nelson, and produced such notable works as the marshmallow sofa, the Noguchi table, and the Eames Lounge Chair (and perhaps less desirably, the cubicle or Action Office, offering flexibility and an improvement on earlier office environments).


Lafayette Towers with Pavilion Apartments; Mies van der Rohe; Detroit, 1962.
Photo by Edward Olencki, 1963.

Interest in this period was substantiated by a Preserve America grant awarded in 2008 by the National Park Service to the State Historic Preservation Office.  The award spawned Michigan Modern, whose aim is “to document and promote Michigan’s architectural and design heritage from 1940-1970″ (though they soon learned that those dates were too limiting and the focus has broadened to include earlier contributions).

Michigan Consolidated Gas Company; Minoru Yamasaki;
Detroit; 1963. Photo by Edward Olencki, 1963.

Michigan Modern has an informative website rich with information about architects and designers who practiced or produced work in Michigan in the years just before WWII and up to the 1970s.  Visitors to the site can browse or search for designers and their work and will see photographs, as well as archival and bibliographic citations to guide them further in their research.  One can also download or print beautifully produced walking, biking, or driving tour guides of mid-century modern architecture in various cities in Michigan.

Michigan Modern generates an annual exhibition and symposium called Michigan Modern: Design that Shaped America.  This year the symposium will be held at the Kendall College of Art & Design in Grand Rapids from June 19-21.

This statewide initiative is echoed by local groups, which focus their attention on mid-century modernism in their communities.  An example of this is A2modern based in Ann Arbor. The group of homeowners, architects, and enthusiasts advocates for the awareness and appreciation of modern architecture in our midst. Their website is becoming a place to document and showcase modernist architecture in the area and their outreach efforts include hosting tours and lectures for the community.

palmerhousewrightPalmer House; Frank Lloyd Wright; 1951; Ann Arbor.

baconhousebrighamBacon House; George Brigham; 1952; Ann Arbor.

refchurchbirkertsUniversity Reformed Church; Gunnar Birkerts; 1963; Ann Arbor.

Images are from the University of Michigan Art, Architecture & Engineering Library Digital Image Collection. Contact imageworks@umich.edu for more information.

Beyond the School: Library Alumni Relations at NSAD

By Lucy Campbell

At the NewSchool of Architecture and Design, library alumni relations are being more tightly integrated into our outreach activities.  We began by partnering with the NSAD Alumni Association to find out how we could better serve them. Many recent alumni are young professionals seeking to pass the Architectural Registration Examinations (AREs), and one need they identified was for study resources. ARE study guides can be expensive, but the association agreed to acquire guides and gift them to the library for alumni use so that the guides could be used by more people. Over $2,000 of the study materials are now available and have proved very popular. In fact, an Alumni Study Group has formed which meets one evening each week in the library.

The ARE study guides are a great resource for our alumni.  Not only are they a savings for us emerging professionals, but the library offers a variety of formats – from flashcards to manuals and practice vignettes – both Kaplan and Ballast!  They helped me pass my first exam within a year of graduating.

-Lauren Pasion, class of 2013

Alumni Study Group
Alumni Study Group

We then looked to our Director of Alumni Relations for fresh ideas and together organized an Alumni Book Drive. Held in honor of our Librarian who was retiring after 9 years, the Book Drive was hugely successful, culminating in a beautiful reception. Over $2,500 worth of books was received, representing a significant addition to the library and giving alumni a sense of ownership in our collection. Each book includes a book plate with the donor’s name, class year and an inscription that offers an institutional memory.

The library in an architecture and design school is a special place for students, a place to escape the hubbub of studio and the criticism of juries.  As an alum many of my happiest memories are of poring over large-format books in the library, absorbing art and architecture away from my desk and computer.  As the school has grown, so has the library facility, and many alumni have been thrilled to see the growth of their favorite book nook into a fantastic and well-stocked resource.  From book drives to support a retiring librarian to ARE study events at the library, alumni have enjoyed giving back to their school and to a place from which they’ve received so much. 

-Peter Soutowood, President of the NSAD Alumni Association

These initiatives are not only mutually beneficial for libraries and graduates, but also serve to strengthen ties between the institution and the professionals. We are excited to continue the relationship and maintain the momentum to develop new partnerships.

The library’s support of NewSchool of Architecture + Design’s Alumni  is invaluable and allows for continued learning and knowledge acquisition, providing access to information, services and resources which is a pivotal part of the Alumni’s continued education.

-Megan Francis, NSAD Alumni Services

Alumni Book Drive reception at NSAD
Alumni Book Drive reception at NSAD

The library hopes to make the alumni book drive an annual event, and is dedicated to ensuring we serve every student, whether past or current.

Lucy Campbell is the Library Director at the NewSchool of Architecture and Design in San Diego, California. Originally from the UK, she received her MLIS from University College London (UCL) in 2010.