New York Times columnist William Safire, “in due time, the blob architects will discover a new form of beauty and elegance in the voluptuous, rhythmic, and undulating forms of the differential calculus.” Today, we seem to be on the cusp of realizing Lynn’s prediction, as rapidly evolving software tools make complex, organic shapes far easier to achieve. One popular program is the relative newcomer, Rhino. First released in 1998, Rhino enables users not only to create the shapes they want, but also to upload their designs straight to computerized numerical control (CNC) routers and saws for manufacturing. This ease points to a new spin on a question that has, in one form or another, concerned architectural practice since automation became commonplace during the Industrial Revolution: In less than 20 years, three-dimensional, computerized modeling has spread widely through architectural culture, morphing from a novelty to a matter of fact. From an attention-getting museum designed by an internationally famous architect and backed by a phalanx of technicians, to small-scale but complex designs conceived and executed by talented emerging practitioners, digital design and manufacturing seem to have come a long way very quickly. Are computers fundamentally displacing handcraft? Are they doing away with the need for traditional architectural expertise?
Opening Spread “Deskscape”
defines the public area in the main office of the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture at the University of Houston. It features a mixture of high and low surfaces for different working conditions. Opposite Above A diagram of “Deskscape” shows the different surface heights. Opposite Below A detail of CNC routing on Corian panels; finishing on the precisely carved joints required hours of hand labor. Above “Seed, Trees, People,” designed by artist Randy Twaddle, includes three CNC-milled limestone benches.
Texas Architect 57
Published on Jul 1, 2015
The work of architects is the work of making — although often at several steps removed from the physical act of building. The July/August 20...