Construction Critical: Technology and Innovation in a New Era of Practice

By Michael Gibson.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Rationalizing and mechanizing the construction process has been a common but failed objective for many architects, researchers, and inventors during 20th century – Wachsmann and Gropius, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Buckminster Fuller to name a few. These individual cases demanded interfacing with the former paradigms of industry and its highly compromising economic and production model. As described in Kieren and Timberlake’s book Refabricating Architecture, today’s methods of production have shifted radically. New technologies, specifically Building Information Modeling (or BIM) and computer-based manufacturing, provide entirely a new territory of engagement for rethinking how buildings are designed and built, even at the most conventional level.
Two experiments in prefab produced by the author and involving collaborating industry partners will serve as cases demonstrating this concept. Each experimental construction followed a set of technical and environmental imperatives, yielded a hypothetical, but rigorous, building system, and was tested with a full-scale mock-up. Strategies and observations from the experiments support the primary argument expanded by the work: the projection of a mode of operating where designers and architects can engage in innovation that is more critical than mere ‘look and feel’ of a project.
Here, design and building as a fluid effort carefully considers the imperatives of construction in its conceptualization, serving as an important departure from the former era of engagement between designers and construction technology into a potentially new era of practice defined by innovation and technology: a construction critical practice.

Keywords: Prefabrication, Building Information Modeling, Digital Fabrication, Industry, Construction

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 4, Issue 5, pp.155-174. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 9.089MB).

Michael Gibson

Instructor, Department of Architecture, Ball State University, Muncie, IN, USA

Michael Gibson is an instructor in the Department of Architecture, College of Architecture and Planning at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, and has instructed in design studio, design communication, digital design, and digital fabrication. He has held research fellowships with the Institute for Digital Fabrication and the Center for Energy Research/ Education/ Service (CERES) of Ball State. Michael has been engaged in funded research in the areas of digital fabrication, materials research, ‘prefab’ construction technology, technology integration and specializes in projects involving inquiry through construction and fabrication. Michael received his M.Arch. degree from Harvard Graduate School of Design and his B.A.Arch. from Miami of Ohio and is certified as a LEED Accreditted Professional.

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