Michael McKay, Assistant Professor at University of Kentucky College of Design (UK/CoD) shared with us his impressions from the PERFORMA workshop he recently taught at Lund University, School of Architecture, Department of Theoretical and Applied Aesthetics in Sweden. The two-week workshop was part of a semester long studio, directed by Abelardo Gonzalez, composed of visiting guest professors.
Here's Michael's report:
The PERFORMA workshop at the LTH School of Architecture is an intensive two-week workshop based on research involving material systems and design strategies. This work seeks to create multi-performative material systems utilizing optimization, aggregation and efficiency. Simple units and semi-finished materials are physically tested in order to extract potential performative characteristics and limits. These limits are then negotiated through rigorous digital and physical techniques in order to produce strategies of fabrication. The formal systems have inherent structural capacities and an ability to adapt to changing conditions. Because of the system pliability, variation can occur within a seemingly homogenous system.
The first part of the workshop involves an intensive investigation of innovative surface and structural systems through experimentation with unit aggregate systems. By experimenting with the characteristics of the unit behavior a multi-performative material system will emerge. This is done by physically testing the limits of aggregate systems, cataloging those limits, and then introducing digital tools to experiment with possible strategies. These experiments will evolve into a full scale installation based on the system strategies and scaled prototypes.
The second component of the workshop will be to research and test materials in order to fabricate a full-scale installation. The material research falls into two categories - Semi-finished and Component Materials. Semi-finished is defined as a material between its raw state and finished product. These are materials in a dimensional configuration waiting to be transformed. Components materials are materials that have already been determined / measured for final use. Participants are free to investigate any and all material possibilities - wood, steel, fabric, plastic, etc. What are the inherent properties of the material? What are its limitations? What are the behavioral characteristics? These investigations will lead to a series of scaled prototypes using various materials and methods.
The challenge of the PERFORMA research is to engage a methodology that allows the designer to create dynamic formal systems using simple materials and methods without the need to rely on ‘rapid prototyping’ techniques. Mass customized materials take a tremendous amount of time and energy to produce and usually are simply a product of software techniques or machining limits. By ‘removing’ reliances on software and output machines, the students are forced to engage a whole host of limits that otherwise would be ignored by simply ‘outputting’. It is then the responsibility of the designer not only to invent the individual unit and subsequent system but also find the means of fabrication that make it possible.
Bujar Abazaj, René Andersson, Oskar Edström, Jonas Ersson, Per Hallström, Sara Hellgren, Sofia Kanerud, Svante Karlsson, Mattias Lindskog, Fredrik Petersson, Hillevi Olsson, Andreea Marcu, Marta Nestorow, Tomas Ramstrand, Erik Revellé, Lucy Roth, Lina Salomonsson, Matilda Schuman.
*Special thanks to Gareth Lewis, Peter Lövendahl and TetraPAK