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Elemental | Ornamental

Elemental | Ornamental

Ornament, as a fundamental facet of the architectural discipline, has been positioned by Modernism as a matter of adornment, or that which is added. History, however, demonstrates that ornament is something elemental, or inseparable, from the design of space and structure; it transcends mere embellishment and is intrinsic to the conception of space.

By the beginning of the 20th century, architects were regularly engaged in the design and integration of both standard and custom steel and cast iron building components. From the restrained use of cast iron in the work of Henri Labrouste, to the efflorescent detailing in the work of Louis Sullivan fifty years later, metal was a medium for artistic expression in architecture. While economies of scale and the forces of mass-production have generated an incredible range of metal components for architectural applications over the last century, the specification of original metal components has almost completely been replaced by the practice of selecting from standardized systems and structural members. Industrial production once afforded designers the ability to realize entirely novel structural and ornamental designs in cast metals, and we believe that this material process should again be accessible to architects. The necessity of molds for casting metal is perhaps the most significant barrier to the manufacture of non- standard metal building components.

This research explores the development of a robotic deposition technique to fabricate ceramic molds for casting aluminum components for architectural assemblies. While ceramic 3d printing is rapidly becoming a mainstream process, it is mostly relegated to small scale production. Our work seeks to expand this range, both materially and geometrically. One of the significant results from our work has been to develop a scalable system, with the potential to fabricate complex components at full architectural scales (still a work in progress). The exhibit showcases a range of explorations. Initially these were targeted at pushing the boundaries of material stiffness and part thinness (both of which require significantly more force than a typical clay extruder can produce). There are also a number of pieces which demonstrate proof of concept for aluminum casting in direct manufactured ceramic formwork.

Project Team:

Asa Peller
Wes McGee

Dan Tish, computational support
Rahul Attraya, research associate
Max Neiswander, research associate
Tyler Van Kirk, research associate
Rachael Henry, research associate
Matt Bierl, foundry lead
Mick Kennedy, foundry support

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