Plugin practice: recasting modularity for architects by Nicholas Williams

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Abstract

Contemporary digital design practice is reframing a creative dialogue between design and making. Empowered by an increasingly seamless interface between data and material, the domain of the architect is expanding to engage diverse processes across design and fabrication. New practices of prototyping are emerging in which architects creatively extend opportunities for custom production, exploring relationships of form, material, fabrication, and aspects of performance.

This research is driven by project work spanning such a broad domain across design and fabrication, through which I have developed a series of prototypes. In these projects I have created, used and appropriated numerous tools and techniques. In this dissertation, I focus on the ways in which I engage with such a diverse toolset, addressing the workflows of projects in order to frame a modularity of process.

This modularity operates across multiple scales, from simple functions to more complex systems, and to varying degrees, from discrete elements to fuzzier arrangements. It is not derived from formulas for design but is instead grounded in expertise and experience. It emerges in response to specific demands for resilience and flexibility and frames a practice in which we plug together diverse processes to enable design and prototyping for architecture. The first contribution of this doctorate is to demonstrate a modularity of process and highlighting its role at multiple scales through a set of diagrams.

Furthermore, I frame a series of implications of this modularity of process for architecture practice. Modularity is here more than just a means of organisation across design and fabrication. Nor is it employed to improve efficiency, as it is in some areas. Rather this modularity of process is important to enabling the generation and control differentiation, collaboration across fields of knowledge, and exploration of interdependent design criteria. These underpin a plugin practice in which designers can interrogate the ways we calibrate process and outcome, and create and reuse diverse forms of knowledge

2017

Examiners:  Prof Sambit Datta, Prof Branko Kolarevic   Supervisors:  Prof Jane Burry, A/Prof Gretchen Wilkins

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