EXHIBITION: Drawing Codes

Emerging technologies of design and production have opened up new ways to engage with traditional practices of architectural drawing. The twenty-two experimental drawings commissioned for this exhibition explore the impact of such technologies on the relationship between code and drawing: how rules and constraints inform the ways architects document, analyze, represent, and design the built environment. 

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ADVANCED STUDIO: Autonomous Architectures

Core Faculty: Associate Professor Andrew Kudless

Date: Spring 2016

Technology is increasingly moving toward more autonomous modes of operation. Every day we hear of more tasks or entire professions that have become automated by either virtual or actual robots. From self-driving cars to delivery drones, the way that humans work, play, and move is rapidly changing.

Many sectors of the economy have already undergone rapid shifts towards automation. Automotive manufacturing, agriculture, and banking are three of countless sectors that have radically transformed due to the rise of robots and artificial intelligence. There have been modest innovations in the architecture, engineering, and construction industries, but much of the way we work remains unchanged from previous decades. With recent increases in computing power, new design softwares that not only automate repetitive tasks but actually find solutions to complex design problems, and robotic fabrication equipment, the AEC industry is at a tipping point and is set to experience profound changes.   

This studio will investigate the future of autonomous design and fabrication through the production of large-scale physical prototypes using a combination of CNC prefabrication and robotic assembly. Through the design of these prototypes, we will rigorously examine the agency and efficacy of computational processes to autonomously generate potential design solutions. Specifically, we will investigate and propose new roles for architects, engineers, and construction workers as many of their current tasks are superseded by autonomous machines.

The role of craft is essential to this exploration. Thus far, the automation of design, engineering, and construction has generally led to an erosion of quality for the sake of speed and quantity. From the homogenization of architectural detailing and drawings resulting from the increased use of BIM to the banal aesthetics of many prefabricated constructions, automation and craft are often mutually exclusive. The studio will explore the development of a digital craft that finds new and innovative methods to embed material logic, integrative performance, and experimental representation into the algorithms, processes, and machines used to design and fabricate the future.

To be clear, this is not a utopian endeavor and the studio will critically engage the role of technology in design, construction and urban life. Historically, the San Francisco Bay Area has been the site of both technological optimism (the often frivolous cyberculture of Silicon Valley) as well as technological pessimism (the retrograde counterculture of Berkeley). However, the studio will explore a third path that uses technological innovations to produce cities and buildings that meaningfully address the role of technology in the profession as well in the larger social, cultural, and economic context of the Bay Area.

This investigation will be informed by the disciplinary arguments of autonomy within architecture. That is, although we will often use the word “autonomous” to describe processes of design and fabrication that are performed with little or no human control, the word “autonomy” also recalls long-standing tensions within the discipline between the formal independence of the object and its status as a product of cultural and material production. As the studio explores the nature of forms that are autonomously designed and fabricated, the issue of Autonomy is central. Who or what is informing these forms if it is not architects as we now understand them? What is Architecture without architects? Does it become completely responsive and optimized to local programmatic, climatic, and material contingencies or does the nature of the code behind these operations offer opportunities for Architecture to offer critical resistance to techno-determinism.

The locus of this investigation will be the design and fabrication of a prototypical district of a new city on the abandoned Alameda Point Naval Air Station. Despite the site being the largest patch of undeveloped land within the epicenter the Bay Area, it has remained vacant for nearly 20 years. Working in teams, the studio will develop a framework for several high-rise buildings within this new city that will be autonomously designed and fabricated. These teams will shift and overlap throughout the term to allow students to both try new roles as well as build emerging personal and technical strengths.
The studio will make heavy use of the Kuka robot to build prototypes and will develop parametric workflows that fluidly move between digital and analog space. The primary output of the studio will be physical prototypes robotically assembled from prefabricated modules. Students will work together to design frameworks for how the modules are digitally generated, physically made, and robotically assembled. These frameworks will be simulated, tested, and refined throughout the term and result in large final prototypes that perform as both scaled architectural speculations of high-rise buildings as well as detailed analogs exploring robotic construction.

ADVANCED STUDIO: Creative Architecture Machines

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. Core Faculty: Jason Kelly Johnson with Michael Shiloh

*** Visit the Creative Architecture Machines website

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ADVANCED STUDIO: Buoyant Ecologies

Core Faculty: Adam Marcus, Margaret Ikeda, Evan Jones

Date: Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016

This studio continues the work of the Buoyant Ecologies research project, which explores the design of ecologically-optimized envelopes for waterfront structures that promote habitats for diverse marine species. The research initiative began as a collaboration with Autodesk Workshop at Pier 9Benthic Lab at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, and Kreysler & Associates. A primary focus of the project is to develop customized fiber-reinforced polymer substrates that vary to provide marine habitats for a range of species, thereby enhancing the surrounding ecology. For more information on the broader research project, see this link

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As cities across the globe attempt to adapt to the uncertain and uneasy implications of climate change, there is little doubt that rising ocean levels will have a tremendous impact on the configuration of coastal cities worldwide. The Buoyant Ecologies research project begins with the premise that cities must accept the eventuality of rising water levels and actively develop new alternatives to conventional waterfront development. The research operates at the nexus of marine ecology and advanced digital fabrication techniques to seek new material approaches to man-made waterfront infrastructure. The focus of the project is developing compelling material strategies for contouring the underside of sessile (or stationary) vessels, such that the upside-down surface topography is optimized to enhance the biodiversity of the surrounding ecology. 

The project began with a fall 2014 Integrated Studio taught by Adam Marcus, Margaret Ikeda, and Evan Jones at CCA's Architecture Division. Students designed floating expansions of Autodesk's state-of-the-art Pier 9 Workshop, and through their work explored ways for the underside of the vessel to engage with the Bay ecology in a beneficial and productive way. The studio's work was exhibited at the Autodesk Gallery in spring 2015. Follow-up studios in 2015 and 2016 extended this research to Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, located within the Port of Oakland, where students developed proposals for an ecological research and educational center. 

The studio's work has included series of full-scale prototypes (fabricated by project partner Kreysler & Associates) of fiber-reinforced polymer substrates that are designed to provide a range of scalar habitats for marine life. These prototypes are currently submersed in Monterey Bay and the Oakland/Alameda Estuary, and they are being monitored by project partner Benthic Lab to further understand the impact of surface variation on upside-down aquatic ecosystems. Marcus, Ikeda, and Jones are currently in the design phase for a larger-scale floating prototype to deployed in the Port of Oakland. 

The Buoyant Ecologies research initiative has taken a highly collaborative approach. Primary research partners include the Architecture Division at California College of the Arts, CCA’s Digital Craft Lab, Autodesk’s Creative Programs Team and Workshop at Pier 9Benthic Lab at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, and Kreysler & Associates




This course focuses on the use of procedural techniques in the physical and digital generation of art, design, and architecture. Students will explore the development of scripted actions in the works of several minimalist, conceptual, and computational artists since the 1950s. Central to this investigation will be the inexact relationship between code and its implementation as a site for creative opportunity. Students will learn to write parametric definitions describing a set of actions and then perform these actions using robotic motion control and a variety of custom tools for drawing, painting, and fabrication. The class will be using Grasshopper and the Kuka robotic arm. Core Faculty: Andrew Kudless



RESEARCH SEMINAR: Interactive Surfaces

This seminar course will research, design, prototype and test interactive surfaces. These surfaces will be live, dynamic, sensing, kinetic and programmable. Using electronics, sensors, actuators and material investigations, seminar participants will invent new ways to create interactive floors, walls, ceilings, screens, tabletop and more. We will also explore and write software to visualize, code and control these surfaces.In Part One of the seminar, students will explore interactive strategies and surface typologies from various sources including the design and technical disciplines. In Part Two participants will learn cutting-edge hardware and software tools like Arduino, Firefly, Processing and more. In Part Three, students will develop full scale working prototypes of their designs. Core Faculty: Jason Kelly Johnson