critic: Marcelyn GOW
suckerPUNCH: Describe your project.
Nicholas BARGER & Brian HARMS: Buoyant Depositions focuses on the implications of technology in the design process by exploring questions of reproducibility, fluctuation and variability, as well as an aesthetic of the undesigned, or perhaps, the undesignable. The project specifically explores how robotic motion control may allow designers to generate and analyze inexact forms through unpredictable material interactions.
The ability to administer these inexact processes in an exact, repeatable fashion allows the designer to measure and index variability in order to understand the parameters of these otherwise incalculable operations.
At its core, the project utilizes articulated deposition of liquid wax into water, taking advantage of buoyancy, the rapid phase change of wax from liquid to solid, and the ability of wax to bond to itself and other materials. Buoyancy is a key factor in the generation of new form; columns are built with directionality but simultaneously expand from their interiors, occasionally contracting when the liquid interior rises to the surface. Datums, or floor plates, are produced when excessive amounts of wax are allowed to cool before the water level is adjusted. Alternatively, by changing water levels while these pools of hot wax float on the water’s surface, organic caves and coves rise and solidify within the structural network.
This process operates at the representational scale of architectural models, but it could someday be translated to a one-to-one architectural scale through the deployment of autonomous machines on site. Floating on water, these machines could organically shape buoyant, curable liquids via encoded instructions and collaborative real time adjustments. But what happens when architects, who rely heavily on their ability to reify an anticipated form, embrace inherently inexact processes of construction?
These advancing robotic and managerial technologies may afford us the ability to explore building scale quasi-indeterminate fabrication techniques. This of course places the architect in a potentially uncomfortable position; what is the role of drawing and representation when the form cannot be fully anticipated, and when in part, the process of fabrication is intertwined with that of the design itself? What new form would construction documents take? Or would they become antiquated drawings that cannot account for the kinds of variables that must be planned for in such a system?
sP: What or who influenced this project?
NB & BH: The project’s major driving force was the studio’s brief, which was concerned with the capturing of qualities that would appear to be incongruous to the processes and tools used to generate them. We were driven by investigations of the interactions between various materials including resins, silicones, dyes, water, wax, plaster, and so on.
sP: What were you reading/listening to/watching while developing this project?
NB & BH: Reading: Todd Gannon, “Of Raspberries, Rawhide, and Rhetoric”; Barry Lehrman, “Reconstructing the Void: Owens Lake”; and Greg Lynn, “Chemical Architecture.”
sP: Whose work is currently on your radar?
NB & BH: Robots in Architecture, Work at the AADRL, Future Cities Lab, Chris Bangle Associates, and Kruysman-Proto.