The advent of CAD/CAM reconfigures the relationship between representation and realisation. What new strategies relating the 'making of information' to the 'making of things' does this reconfiguration permit, and how might these strategies exploit the implicit potential of CAD/CAM for the making of variety and difference?
Intrigued by the geometric, spatial and sculptural potentials at high resolutions of additive manufacturing techniques, we set about designing a piece of instrumentation with which to interrogate aspects of a site over time. The body of the instrument was deposited over the course of a weekend by a Fused-Deposition Modeller within the Medical Physics department, University College London.
The main UCL Quadrangle contains two diminutive cylindrical structures sitting equidistantly offset from the dominant axis. Redundant to their original function, they have been appropriated to house a very personal meeting room for a local bank and the implements of a grounds man, respectively. They have domed hats.
One of these observatories was chosen as a site with a view to re-establishing the notion of observation by means of instrumentation. Rather than exploring remote bodies, we would be observing very local ambient conditions.
A light gathering conduit was suspended by a neoprene gasket securing it in plane but allowing the conduit base to fully pivot within the instrument body. As local wind conditions drove the conduit, data gathered from an array of light-dependant resistors embedded within the hemispherical interior of the instrument body would be analysed to infer wind direction, wind intensity, and ambient light level. A Basic Stamp II scenix embedded microprocessor analysed the data locally and in real-time, converting environmental data into geometric instructions formatted as a 'Rhino' command script. Running the script would construct a fully described 3D model of an object with generic features attaining a specificity reflecting the specific conditions of the temporal 'snap-shot'. If desired, the object could then be directly manufactured using similar additive techniques as used to construct the instrument body.
Whilst the system was successful in that 'real-world' data could be fed back into the digital to inform a 3D representation in an automated manner, the resultant objects possessed a mute inertia. Prior objects lacked any possibility of feedback to subsequent objects. Without feedback informing the iteration there was no indication of resultant objects exhibiting increasingly specific attributes over time, thereby reflecting the entire history of the data set.
Shorting the Automation Circuit has appeared in the following articles, books, papers and exhibitions.
'Constructing the Specific', Ayres, P., in 'GameSetandMatch II', Episode Publishers. [conference proceedings] 2006
'Finding Fluid Form', Brighton, UK. [seminar exhibition] 2005
'Digital Fabricators', Cambridge Galleries, Waterloo, Canada. [conference exhibition + exhibition catalogue] 2004
'Intimacy - Beyond Media', Stazione Leopolda,
'Computer-Aided Manufacture in Architecture', Callicott, N., Architectural Press. 2001
'sixteen*(makers)' in 'Young Blood', Architectural Design [vol.71 - no.1], Spiller, N. [ed.]. 2001
This project was supported by The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL