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Exploring Future Workflows

... with TEX-FAB article by Scott Marble photography by Nicole Mlakar and Kory Bieg

There is an upcoming generation of architects who love to make things. These young designers are engaging in sophisticated workflows between design and construction that are laying the foundation for a newly organized architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry. For those of us who have been practicing for some time, often in disbelief and astonishment at how buildings get built, this is really good news. As an industry, we are in the early stages of what promises to be a paradigm shift in how architects, fabricators, and construction teams work together. It is enabled by new digital tools and techniques, which are rapidly transforming how we work, from isolated practices into collective teams. The work of TEX-FAB is right in the middle of this change. Founded as an alliance among three universities

— The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA), University of Houston (UH), and The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) — TEX-FAB is a nonprofit organization that connects design professionals, academics, and manufacturers who are interested in using digital technology to explore new industry relationships. Co-founders Brad Bell of UTA, Kevin Patrick McClellan of UTSA, and Andrew Vrana of UH began TEX-FAB in 2009. This year, Kory Bieg joined the group to represent The University of Texas at Austin. TEX-FAB

has quickly become internationally recognized as having a unique mission that combines lectures and workshops by leading thinkers and practitioners with a yearly competition to design and build full-scale building prototypes. The focus of TEX-FAB is on digital fabrication as an extension of the design process. Through CNC (computer numerically controlled) technologies, architects are beginning to reposition design strategically within fabrication and construction processes, such that the design information they generate in the form of 3D computer models extends beyond the representational to include the precise sets of instructions used to drive manufacturing. The process is known as file-to-fabrication workflow. Moreover, these instructions have the capacity to embed the logic of building assemblies into the manufacturing processes, linking design to a new definition of detail that re-establishes the role of craft in the design process. This is evident in the prototypes from TEX-FAB competitions, in which materials ranging from sheet steel to cast concrete are processed and formed into intricate assemblies. Using industry standard software, details now consist of parametrically linked relationships of component parts with encoded information about design intent, material properties, methods of production, and assembly sequences. This is the technological context in which TEX-FAB operates.

9/10 2013

Texas Architect 95

Texas Architect September/October 2013: Design Awards