Design Education, Rapid Prototyping, I&D, and Ceramics
This paper describes a studio experiment developed with the aim of exploring the design and fabrication of complex architectural forms using ceramic elements. History has examples of double-sided curved forms built in ceramics. Such examples would not fulfill contemporary functional and aesthetic principles, neither would they be feasible or cost-effective considering current construction standards. There are recent examples of such forms built in other materials. These examples are difficult to emulate when ceramics is concerned, as they imply the fabrication of unique parts and sophisticated assembly techniques. Creating a double-curved surface in ceramics thus seems a difficult task. There are, however, advantages to such a formulation of design problems. They prompt the questioning of traditional wisdom, the rejection of accepted types, and the raising of interesting questions. What are the design strategies that should be followed when creating ceramic free-forms? What is the design media required to design them? And what are the techniques needed to fabricate and construct them? These are the questions investigated in the design project pursued jointly by students at an American and a Portuguese school, in collaboration with a professional research center and a ceramics factory. The students tested various possibilities, and in the process learned about state-of-art design and production techniques. The final projects are very expressive of their investigations and include a twisted glass tunnel, large-scale ceramic ‘bubbles,’ a rotated-tile wall, and a load-bearing wall.