Hybrid Materiality: Combining Digital and Analogue Fabrication in the Design of a Freeform Gridshell Structure

Hybrid Materiality: Combining Digital and Analogue Fabrication in the Design of a Freeform Gridshell Structure

Mauricio Morales-Beltran (Yasar University, Turkey), Esra Karatepe (Yasar University, Turkey), Kaan Çetin (Yasar University, Turkey) and Berk Selamoğlu (Yasar University, Turkey)
DOI: 10.4018/IJDIBE.2021070104
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One of the most recognisable aspects of the digitalization of the design process is the increasing use of 3D printers and robots in the construction phases. When combining with analogue techniques, hybrid materiality in construction and architecture opens up significant application opportunities, but also challenges to the design process and production. In this study, the design and hybrid fabrication of a freeform gridshell structure, placed as a temporary installation in a public park, is presented. The structure was materialized in a hybrid combination of 129 wooden battens and 68 PLA 3D printed nodes, spanning 5 meters and reaching 2.5 m height. The examination of the challenges posed by the hybrid fabrication of the structure suggests that pre-conceived perceptions on production and installation stages should be reconsidered, and it highlights the importance of integrating material constraints and time limitations in the earliest phases of the design process.
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By virtue of technological developments in computer-aided design, the way architects conceive, design, and realize building structures is undergoing significant changes. One of the most recognisable aspects of such digitalization of the design process is the increasing use of 3D printers and robots during the construction phases. Digital fabrication has become a common production tool that, nonetheless, poses significant challenges to building techniques using conventional materials. In addition to 3D printing and robotic arm technologies, the potential of hybrid materiality in construction and architecture becomes significant when considering the opportunities for application. Hybridity encompasses the integration of hybrid material systems, evaluation cycle between digital production and design progress, and computational design techniques by considering materialization and presentation (Mostafavi, Kemper, & Du, 2019). In this regard, hybridity is a challenging area, open to be discovered and developed within the scope, for example, of the combined used of different materials. Among others, this can include combination of rigid cork boards and blocks of high-density Expanded Polystyrene (EPS), concrete and EPS, and hard polystyrene and soft silicone. In addition, the combination of hybrid materiality and digital production, might help to sustain human life by protecting the environment for future generations. This is because the potential of digital production is critical to design adaptive structures helping to meet the needs of an overpopulated future world.

The strength of computational design and the potential of using hybrid materialization techniques will enhance design methodologies by binding it with the architectural practice within a collaborative environment (Wagner, Alvarez, Groenewolt, & Menges, 2020). This is because the role of today’s designers, architects and engineers aiming to explore and experience digital design and fabrication, is creating a reliable base upon which new technologies can be explored and developed. Moreover, the professional practice of architecture demands graduate students with knowledge on computational design (Soliman, Taha, & El Sayad, 2019). However, while the use of digital production methods is to-day a commonplace among architects, designers, and students, there are still issues that challenge the understanding of the impact of digital tools in architectural curriculum and raising digital awareness among the students (Doyle & Senske, 2016; Varinlioglu, Basarir, Genca, & Vaizoglu, 2017). One of these issues is that within their education, architecture students rarely experience the whole design cycle, which begins with conceptual elaborations and ends up with a real scale physical object. According to (Tepavčević, 2017), such required learning by making within a computational design context, not only enhances design thinking by representation or making, but by fostering new notions of space and geometry. When facing the impact of digital technologies in education, design thinking may lead to innovations in pedagogy and contribute to new modes of knowledge production (Burdick & Willis, 2011). However, these active learning experiences to raise awareness on the effects of digital production methods in architectural design, can be enhanced if combined with traditional or analogue methods of fabrication. Thus, the hybrid combination of digital and analogue fabrication not only provides insights of their advantages and disadvantages as production methods but also, as an active learning exercise, it enhances students’ understanding of the links between space, geometry, and material performance (Soto-Rubio, 2017). Introducing hands-on teaching strategies raises awareness of the students’ own learning process because it requires students to accomplish exercises where every step must be meticulously considered (Soto-Rubio, 2017).

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