New materials and fabrication methods have historically led to radical changes in architectural design. They have indeed been the primary drivers in its evolution. Today, additive manufacturing heralds a revolution in fabrication for design. Yet in architecture, this technology has up to now been used only for small scale models.
Digital Grotesque takes additive manufacturing technology to a true architectural scale. Not a small model is printed, but the actual room itself. Digital Grotesque presents a fully immersive, solid, human-scale enclosed structure with a perplexing level of detail. Its geometry consists of hundreds of millions of individual facets printed at a resolution of a tenth of a millimeter, constituting a 3.2-meter high, 16 square meter large room.
The potentials of additive manufacturing in architecture are enormous. Architectural details can reach the threshold of human perception. There is no longer a cost associated with complexity, as printing a highly detailed grotto costs the same as printing a primitive cube. Nor is there a cost for customization: fabricating highly individual elements costs no more than printing a standardized series. Ornament and formal expression are no longer a luxury – they are now legitimized.
With additive manufacturing, architectural design can be performed entirely in three dimensions without a need for plans, sections, and construction drawings. There are almost no fabrication constraints.
With this technology, the scale for the designer has shrunk from bricks to bits. Architecture can be defined at the scale of sandcorns, materiality can be synthesized. What shall be done with this newfound freedom? In a 1971 lecture to students, Louis Kahn stated:
You say to brick, “What do you want, brick?”
Brick says to you, “I like an arch.”
If you say to brick, “Arches are expensive, and I can use a concrete lintel over an opening. What do you think of that brick?”
Brick says, “I like an arch.”
The question today is: What would a grain of sand like to be?
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