This semester Assistant Professor Jason Kelly Johnson taught a new advanced architecture studio at CCA San Francisco called “CREATIVE ARCHITECTURE MACHINES”. Students began by making 2D robotic drawing machines (see the results here) and then they designed and built their own custom 3D fabrication machines. The final few weeks of the semester were focused on creative output using Arduino and the Firefly plug-in for Grasshopper (Jason is the co-developer). The final public review was on Saturday, Dec 7 2013 in the CCA Nave. Jason co-taught the studio with the amazing Michael Shiloh who wears many hats including the community liason for Arduino.

Media, Videos and Sharing

Share: all projects are now on YouTube and published open-source on Instructables. Jeremy Blum from Google X also recorded most of the final review using Google Glass - it is a pretty amazing collection of images and videos!
Press: See recent press coverage: 3D Printing Industry blogHackadayArchitect Magazine by curator Aaron Betsky and more.
Exhibit: The Geoweaver robot and printed artifacts will be in the Possible Mediums show at University of Michigan TCAUP on 17 Jan 2014.
CCA Jury Prize Fall 2013: Congrats to Ugrads Taylor Fulton and Max Sanchez for winning the all-CCA Jury Prize for outstanding architecture studio projects. View their Stratum Networks video here and Instructable here.

Final Guest Reviewers

Jon Proto & Brandon Kruysman (Bot & Dolly / Google), Brian Harms (Samsung R&D), Jeremy Blum (Google X), Pablo Garcia (SAIC), Aaron Betsky (Director of the Cinncinati Art Museum), Bill Meyer (Director of New Media, Exploratorium), Mike Petrich and Karen Wilkenson (Founders of the Exploratorium’s Tinkering Studio), Gian Pablo Villamil and Karl Willis (Autodesk), Andrew Kudless (CCA & Matsys), Mark Cabrinha (Cal Poly), Josh Zabel (Kreysler & Assoc), Andrew Maxwell Parrish (CCA Hybrid Lab / Intel Technologist-in-Residence).


Course Description

CAM /// Creative Architecture Machines
Fall 2013 – CCA Advanced Architecture Studio: BArch 507-02 / MArch 607-02
Instructors: Jason Kelly Johnson ( with Michael Shiloh (
Google Community Page: #CreativeArchitectureMachines; CAM YouTube Channel

Since the late 1990’s architects have typically used commercial CAD software to feed CAM programs to feed CNC machines. These “computer-aided” processes and “numerically-controlled” machines are most often used to increase efficiency and make the design, prototyping and fabrication processes more routine, faster and cheaper. In architecture and design schools around the world students are increasingly being taught to use standard suites of software and industrial hardware technologies such as laser cutters, robotic mills and 3d printers as ways to precisely model the formal and geometric aspects of their designs. Yet these fabrication technologies are rarely interrogated or explored in a critical or creative fashion. Why is it that architects are taught to be mere users of technology rather than innovators? Why are the core creative tools of our profession designed by systems engineers? What creative potential exists at the heart of these machines, where bits intermix with atoms, where digital code meets material logic? 

This studio will embrace a more radical approach to the design and fabrication of architecture. The main ambition of the studio is to explore the efficacy of digital processes and their potential to contribute to a wider conversation about architecture, technology and culture. Through the production of experimental and speculative fabrication machines we will endeavor to contribute to a wider debate within architecture about the role architects might play in a coming world where the lines between the digital and the physical are rapidly being blurred beyond recognition.

Participants will explore these ideas through the iterative prototyping of actual living, breathing, working technologies. In Phase 01 of the semester students will create two-dimensional (X,Y) robotic “drawing machines” that respond to indeterminate inputs (sun, wind, sound, etc.) from their environment to create novel drawings, paintings, drippings, etchings, compositions in light and pixels. In Phase 02 students will create four-dimensional (X, Y, Z plus time) machines for the production of a radical new class of domestic dwelling unit. During this phase students will create desktop fabrication machines that approximate full-scale processes at an architectural scale. Students will work back and forth between processes of design, prototyping, playing, hacking, coding, learning and feedback.

The work of the studio will be situated at the intersection of architecture, robotics engineering and DIY hacker culture. We will also explore how allied design fields, such as those inventing new robotic devices, military systems, prosthetic engineering, high-tech clothing, furniture, lighting, automobiles, and more, are latent with new material, spatial and ecological possibilities. The studio will be extremely “hands-on” and will ask students to work iteratively and inventively through modes of digital and analog modeling, simulation, fabrication and performance testing. Structured technical workshops will cover the use of micro-controllers and a variety of sensors, actuators and other integrated electronic media, as well as modes of parametric modeling and digital fabrication.

Some Key Links

Custom CAM Arduino Kits put together for us by our friends at OddWires
Firefly plug-in for Grasshopper / Arduino by Johnson / Payne
The CCA Hybrid Lab and the CCA Rapid Prototyping Lab