Prototyping of composite structural envelopes through CNC and robotic fabrication
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The paper explores the results of a series of practice-based research investigations of full-scale building envelope prototypes generated from parametric design strategies. The work strives to achieve integration of structure and cladding using digital fabrication (CNC and multi-axis robot) techniques. The projects employ a range of sheet materials: principally plywood, plastics, and aluminium composite panels; and integrated architectural lighting and daylighting. Two key projects are discussed in detail: habitable pavilions which allow for investigation of fabrication, assembly, structural capacity, durability, and transport. Each project sets the goal of achieving doublecurvature, load-bearing surfaces. This is explored through either panelisation or tessellation of the project geometry, or, through bending of the flat sheet materials. In each case, questions of joining, tolerance, load path and distribution, and craftsmanship are addressed and can be discussed comparatively to illuminate the consequences of design decisions. The objective of the research is to develop a repertoire of techniques and strategies for achieving formal complexity and structural integrity through an efficient means of production. The intent of the pavilion-scale work is to test out possibilities that can be extrapolated to a larger scale, demonstrated through speculative application in multi-story public building proposals.
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