Archinect recently took a field trip to Playa Vista, a quiet community minutes from the ocean in west Los Angeles, to check out UCLA’s new satellite architecture campus, IDEAS. Entirely housed within a 13,000sqft airplane hangar, the campus is used by architecture students in the university’s SUPRASTUDIO program, a one-year MArch II that pairs students with industry and non-profit leaders to focus on an advanced research project. Since its first run in 2008, SUPRASTUDIO has tripled in size and offerings, now composed of 41 students working in studios led by Gehry Partners/Gehry Technologies, Greg Lynn, and Thom Mayne/The Now Institute.
A far cry from the hilly green labyrinth of UCLA’s Westwood campus, the IDEAS hangar formerly belonged to famed aviation magnate Howard Hughes, and now plays neighbor to Los Angeles’ YouTube Space (and nearby Google in Venice). The Playa Vista community is still very new, first developed in the early aughts as part of President Bill Clinton’s initiative to create technologically advanced communities. And IDEAS fits neatly into that model -- having students work directly with leaders in experimental architecture and technology, both in and out of academia.
Aside from the sprawl of computers and worktables, the IDEAS hangar is also home to a few robots. Two gigantic robotic arms (6-axis Kuka KR 150s, with a payload of 150kg) on parallel tracks are fenced off at one end of the hangar, alongside a few other smaller appendages (Kuka Agilus, payload of 6kg), like a staging area for a miniature vehicle assembly plant. Using software designed by Bot & Dolly, a San Francisco-based design and engineering studio, the robots’ dextrous choreography can be programmed through an interface intuitive to even those who don’t happen to be robotics engineers. Bot & Dolly’s software has been used in feature films, Las Vegas shows and art installations, and now will be put to use in experimenting with moving architectural spaces.
Here’s a quick rundown of the research being conducted by SUPRASTUDIO:
Frank Gehry | Gehry Partners | Gehry Technologies
Can intelligent micro-technologies revolutionize distribution infrastructure, and allow us to create entire cities “off the grid”?
How can architects use robots to help create adaptable, “transformable structures”?
Thom Mayne | The Now Institute
The Now Institute investigates how architects can respond to the pressing demand for urban planning solutions in a rapidly developing world. This year’s Now Institute research will focus on Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
And coming up in 2014-2015, UCLA will add to the above line-up...
More info on UCLA's SUPRASTUDIO and the IDEAS campus is available through UCLA's website.