Make Architecture



Assignment 9: Formwork Machine Re-Do

I wanted to redo my formwork machine, which was a total failure. I took some of the things I learned into consideration, which led to an entirely new design to create essentially the same thing – forms for gravity shells. I designed a rigid box (not air-inflated!) with a top that bolts down. The plan is to smush plaster strips together, then put them on the top of the box, bolt it down, then flip it upside down until the plaster dries, taking the shape of the hanging fabric. I also added in screws to add strings to make ribbed shells.

I designed this entirely without computers and made it in my basement using hand tools, so most of the errors are from my total lack of carpentry skills. I had to put rubber bands on the top of some of the sides because the top and side didn’t meet exactly.

It works much better than the original – these plaster shells can be scanned and computer fabricated or used to cast in a more permanent material. The only problem is where the strips overlap didn’t stay together perfectly, which sometimes skewed the shape, but that is only a minor problem.


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Instructor: Nick Gelpi TA: Skylar Tibbits TA: Varvara Toulkeridou
Class Times, Monday, 1-4pm - room 5-216
4.184 is an intensive introduction to methods of making explored through a wide range of brief but focused 1-week exercises. We'll engage the real and leave behind representation in the focused context of this class gaining skills for utilizing a range of fabrication machines and technologies from lasercutting, waterjet, 3D printing, welding, formworking-molding, casting, gears, joints and composites.
In this workshop we'll constrain ourselves to the territory of the 1:1. Students will represent architectural constructions at full scale and develop a more intimate relationship with technology by engaging the tools and techniques that empower us. We will gain access to the most cutting edge machines and technologies in the MARS lab at the Center for Bits and Atoms.
The second layer of information for this course will be to look at a series of case studies in which construction methods and technologies have played a dominant role in the design process .
Over the past 20 years, architects have focused on the technology of representation to create new ideas of what architecture could be. Looking back today, much of that research failed to substantially change the way we design buildings by focusing on apriori formal configurations. This class makes the contention that this failure comes from a lack of considerations of the potentials within fabrication knowledge. We look to the future of what building might become, given the expanded palette of personalize-able technologies available to us as architects. Students will participate in curious technological and material investigations, to discover the potentials, known and unknown, for these various technologies.
The sub-disciplines of what's drawn and what's built have been compartmentalized and disassociated as the representational tools of architecture have distanced themselves from the techniques of making. At the same time the technologies for “making” in architecture have provided us with new possibilities for reinventing how we translate into reality, the immaterial representations of architecture.


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