This studio was situated at intersection of cybernetics and architecture, questioning the possibilities that cybernetics brings to architecture – what it might mean to have the capability of a responsive and moveable environment. The innovative and performative aspects of architectural design together with basics of robotics and mechatronics were examined first as part of design research phase, with the review of the relevant precedents and design problems following. The ambition of both design problems set (PS) is in attempt to understand and integrate application of robotics, kinetics and mechatronics to architectural design.
Critical nature of the studio
The impact of IT revolution on design practice and its education is now massive due to exponential growth of networks. It is also due to proliferation of computer aided design in problem modeling and simulation, numerically controlled design fabrication, algorithmic design and now emergence of the responsive, performative architecture informed by mechatronics and robotics. ROBOstudio reflects the importance of those trends in contemporary design.
Today design can be seen as verb, or action by a system that causes change to its environment, or that can modify itself via information feedback. Clearly architecture need not be static, as it can adapt to the new conditions and the performative feedback loop relationship is its essential aspect.
The problem based interdisciplinary learning environment of the virtual design studio is dedicated to the development of ROBOstudio content, publishing precedents, research, preliminary designs. ROBO studio is project-based course offered in consultation with an engineering course dealing with Mechatronics and Kinetic Structures. The initial goal was to bring together students of architecture and engineering to explore the possible application of robotics, mechatronics and kinetic structures to architectural projects.
The students researched case studies of applications and advanced technologies in the initial part of the course, followed by the developing and conducting design experiments. The key question asked is: How can architecture benefit from using movable elements controlled by sensors? The project work ranged from problem-solving to highly speculative in nature, and emphasize a combination of digital as well as physical aspects.
This studio targeted applications of mechatronics in extended health facilities. There are many applications for responsive environments in extended care facilities for clients who have difficulty with mobility and completing daily tasks themselves. Mechatronic applications to these facilities can give these clients a degree of autonomy that might not otherwise be possible, and improve the quality of life of both the clients and the caregivers to be able to perform tasks themselves without relying on staff members to assist them for many of their regular tasks in their homes. The studio started with a research component – researching relevant precedents and case studies in the fields of architecture and mechatronics. The next phase was an introductory project which speculates on design applications to a specific aspect of the facility. The third phase was a more detailed project which demonstrates innovative architectural applications and how the control system/mechatronic system might work. Work was done in teams with architects and engineers working together.
ROBOstudio websites: http://vds.arch.ubc.ca/vds_ROBOT/