Thursday, January 7, 2010


Instructor: Eric Goldemberg

Office 387B - Hours: Tuesday-Thursday from 11am to 1pm

DIGITAL FABRICATION - Strategies for Spatial Aggregation

Catalog description

This course considers digital design and fabrication methodologies and techniques in architecture with an emphasis upon the use of laser cutting, CNC milling and 3d printing.


The course will explore the use of CNC mill, 3d printer and laser cutter as the prime tools to explore spatial aggregation at multiple scales.

The pedagogy will focus on the configuration of three-dimensional armatures based on fabrication strategies such that the process of design observes principles of direct physical implementation via digital fabrication at multiple scales.

Students will work on teams of 2 to integrate modeling techniques and strategies of making in pursuit of a clear understanding of the limitations and potentials of the fabrication equipment, allowing for a critical phasing and optimization of design skills.

Students will be able to assess the effects of different materials, grain, texture and detail applied towards specific spatial and tectonic effects.

The goal of the seminar is to test the potential of digital fabrication and to understand the scope of contemporary use of fabrication techniques oriented towards the implementation in studio, rehearsing scenarios of tectonic complexity and design refinement of architectural membranes.

The course will look at fabrication both as a means of representation and as a way to speculate on the generative capacity of physical systems.

3D – Digital Modeling Techniques

It is impossible to think design and mathematics as separate terms after the advent of digital design into architecture; calculus is embedded in the operations that gave rise to a new way of performing in design. The digital field allows its calculating power to engender an extensive array of formal manipulations, at the same time the digital environment transforms the understanding of the object by collapsing the vertical and horizontal. Via simultaneously rendering plan, section, elevation and perspective, the three-dimensional devise enables analysis and object to become congruent. The tool does not represent, it engenders, it is a technical apparatus that inserts a generative mechanism, it is a technique. This approach to design through technique has transcended the problem of representation and proven to be effective design tools.

Techniques are behaviors and procedures that are systematic, repeatable, and communicable. Over time and as contexts change, existing techniques may become inadequate, stimulating users to develop new methods through experimentation; over time, users develop new techniques for exploiting the technology, and the technology itself is adapted and transformed.

Techniques are the specific means by which architects can harness and direct the powerful potential of new technologies toward the shaping of architectural design, research, and manufacturing. Techniques are process-driven; they often grow out of trial and error, evolving and undergoing continual adjustment.

Contemporary technological practices employ scaleless techniques that can be applied equally well to the design of products and cities, whereby details are retained from the largest to the smallest scale; digital design strategies operate across different scales and contexts –from the molecular scale of materials to the scale of the body, from the dimensions of a building to those of the city-.

Iterative processes: Transformation logics

As dynamical systems, transformational techniques allow technological practices to access the virtual. Transformational methods entail the manipulation of continuous surfaces or objects through procedures such as cutting, folding, and stretching. The objects are structured as sets of interconnected points in such a way that operating on one area of the object induces changes to all other areas. The precise manner in which an individual change will be redistributed over the whole cannot be predicted.

Each transformational procedure applies a pressure on the surface that generates other transformations across the surface. The interactions between these transformations comprise the ‘versioning’ power of the technique.

Procedure: 1. Performance ground - 2. Pair - 3. Back ground - 4. Field membrane

1. Performance ground is a spatial module generated from the analysis and manipulation of a primitive, either a polygon or nurbs geometry.

The module is embodied with the performance of a ritual, and a scale of a large piece of lounge furniture is assumed to start and manage the geometries and resultant module in relation to the human scale.

2. Two consecutive modules produce a ‘pair’ related by a spatial joint, a hinge that may encompass space in itself, as it creates a spatial and material contact/continuity between the 2 modules.

3. The joining and regeneration of modules generate a ‘background’ or chain of modules.

4. The field membrane is a structural matrix of topological variation, generated by aggregation of multiple components, adding chains to extend in more than one direction, thus producing an intensively ornate membrane.

“Indexical time: multiple static frames of an object in time are captured and superimposed in the same space simultaneously, generating a temporal palimpsest. In contrast, animate design is defined by the co-presence of motion and force at the moment of conception.”

Greg Lynn

The semester will be devoted to the development of an incremental system that goes from one module to a pair, and then on to form chains and extended membranes with spatial intricacy.

It will be supplemented by digital lectures/tutorials in which we will discuss how tooling and prototyping can be explored in architecture. Students will work on the design of shapes and techniques for their fabrication, organized in groups of 2 individuals with specific expectancy of expertise development. In addition to intensive work with the computer, students will be expected to produce physical models to test both the precision and feasibility of their proposals. These digitally developed models may be produced through a computer-numerically assisted fabrication process. Using 3D software and rapid-prototyping technologies, we will analyze and catalog a multitude of techniques for the management and fabrication of complex shapes.

Prototyping on Site
The class will use a given site as a testing ground for the assembly of modules. The conditions of this site will serve as guidelines for the deployment of spatial arrays based on modularity, serving a basic program of shading, seating, shelter and landscape.

Formation of patterns on the site and distribution of surface aggregation will be the primary goal of the exercise, allowing for strategies of digital assembly on a given site/program scenario.

Additional requirements for Graduate students

Graduate students will be required to produce supplementary detail models –at various scales- to demonstrate the assembly process and the adjustment of part to whole relationships of their final prototype. These will be executed using the laser cutter once the final CNC milled models of the project are submitted. Additionally graduate students will be required to develop a graphic presentation of the phases of fabrication and assembly associated with the execution of the project.

Co- and Prerequisite

Students entering Computer Practices in Design II must have taken and passed Computer Practices in Design I with a grade of C or better. Students failing to meet these prerequisite will be issued an administrative drop from Practices in Design II.


Tuesday - Thursday from 9.30am to 10.45am

Course Evaluation

Students will be evaluated upon performance in the assignments. While a satisfactory grade in the course may be attained by the completion of all work required to the satisfaction of the professor, individual initiative and investigation of design and research issues that extend beyond the basic requirements are strongly encouraged.


94-100= A 87-89= B+ 80-83= B- 74-76= C 67-69= D+ 60-63= D-

90-93= A- 84-86= B 77-79= C+ 70-73= C- 64-66= D 0-59= F

Attendance Guidelines:

Attendance and class participation are required at all class meetings. (see Course Schedule) Every absence is 20% off the attendance and participation grade. Four (4) unexcused absences automatically result in a failing grade for the course. Every day you are late, you will receive half (1/2) an absence. An acceptable excused absence is defined by the student having missed class due to extraordinary circumstances beyond his or her control and must be accompanied with written proof. In the event that you have missed a class, you are responsible for all the material covered. If you have any questions you contact your professor at the above phone number or you may leave a message at the School of Architecture Main Office (tel. 305-348-3181) located at VH 212. A sign in sheet is made for each class. It is the student’s responsibility to write their initials next to their name. Failure to do so will be marked as an absence.

Student Work

The School of Architecture reserves the right to retain any and all student work for the purpose of record, exhibition and instruction. All students are encouraged to photograph and/or copy all work for personal records prior to submittal to instructor.

Students Rights and Responsibilities:

It is the student's responsibility to obtain, become familiar with and abide by all Departmental, College and University requirements and regulations. These include but are not limited to:

-The Florida International University Catalog Division of Student Affairs Handbook of Rights and Responsibilities of Students.

-Department Curriculum and Program Sheets

-Department Policies and Regulations

Student with Special Needs:

Students who may need auxiliary aids or services to ensure access to academic program should register with the Office Disability Services for Students.

Civility Clause:

Students are expected to treat one another with a high degree of civility and respect. Students can and should expect the same from the instructor. If a student fails to act responsibly or disrupts the

class or impedes instruction he or she may be asked to leave the class and will be held responsible for all the information missed through this absence.


Calendar dates are subject to change. Please contact appropriate offices for verification and updates. This calendar includes Official University holidays. Faculty is encouraged to make accommodations for students who wish to observe religious holidays. Students should make their request know at the beginning of the semester in writing. The instructor reserves the right to implement changes to this schedule as required.




Tutorial: Maya interface, nurbs modeling and construction history


Tutorial: Nurbs modeling – Basic spline geometry and editing


Tutorial: Polygons/Subdivision modeling – editing and parametric control


Tutorial: Calibration of joinery for component affiliation


Tutorial: Deformers, editing, rendering


Tutorial: Component aggregation/chain deployment


Desk critique

MIDTERM: Group presentations – Digital fabrication


Tutorial: Rhino – active profile taxonomies and adjustment of sections


Component detail/ornament: structure + skin – part to whole relationship


Tutorial: Blend shape and animated snapshot


Final adjustment of group projects and set-up of models for 3D output


FINAL REVIEW – Digital fabrication

Links and Resources:

* Autodesk Maya:

* Autodesk Learning Tools:

* The Gnomon Workshop:

* Learning Maya:


* The Gnomon Workshop:

* Maya Tutorial Database:

* Highend3d:

* CGSociety:

* Generative Components:

* Digital Fabrication:

Bibliography – Digital Practices

AD – Folding in Architecture (J.Kipnis – G.Lynn)

AD – Contemporary Techniques in Architecture (A.Rahim)

AD – Contemporary Processes in Architecture (A.Rahim)

AD – Versioning: Evolutionary Techniques in Architecture (SHOP)

Digital Tectonics (Leach, Turnbull, Williams)

PRAXIS – New Technologies:// New Architectures

Animate Form (G.Lynn)

NOX machining Architectures (Lars Spuybroek)

Phylogenesis Foreign Office Architects

Catalytic Formations: Digital Design in Architecture (A.Rahim)

Architecture in the Digital Age – Design and Manufacturing (Branko Kolarevic)

COLANI The Art of Shaping the Future (A.Bangert)

Diagram Diaries (P.Eisenman)

CODEX (P.Eisenman)


Websites – Digital Practices and Fabrication

















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