Tangential Fabrications

or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer



Jan '12 - Aug '13

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    SummerBuild: (Another) Design Build Workshop

    Aaron Willette
    Jul 29, '13 5:20 PM EST

    Ever since I participated in Ghost Lab back in '08, my business partner Rob Trumbour and I have wanted to do something similar in Massachusetts. At the time the current workshop trend was just starting to emerge so the format was novel, and he and I both felt there was value in taking participants through a quick yet intense project experience. Every year there was the inevitable conversation of if this was the year we finally did it, and every year we would attempt to get all the components in place to make it happen. After a successful year of writing we decided we needed to do something more physical - soon thereafter SummerBuild was born.

    To make a long story short, SummerBuild will be a two-week computation/design/build workshop in scenic Rockport, MA. Interest in the work shop was minimal, and while admittedly disappointing its probably ideal for our inaugural effort. The small number of students has allowed us to be nimble on the planning side of things, letting us to make the necessary changes that would ensure that the workshop we've been talking about for 5 years finally happened. Unfortunately I won't be able to help for the entire workshop (preparations for the fall semester are in full swing back in Michigan) but I'll be handling the first third of the workshop, giving students a crash-course in Grasshopper while leading discussions on digital tools, craft,  and the role of making in the design process.

    While I've been busy finishing school and starting my new position at the University of Michigan, Rob and the rest of the Artforming team have been handling a lot of the behind the scenes work. A site has been agreed upon with the city, work space has been donated by a local contractor, and meal schedules have been organized. Up until this weekend all I've really had to do was review calendars and send email, so to keep up my end of things I spent 15 hours in my car this past Friday making the journey from Ann Arbor to Rockport. The drive was amazing, and I think I can sum it up by saying that while Ann Arbor is now my home there's something about New England that I've really missed.

    Being able to work in the same room as Rob is a rare event, so we've been cranking away on things since I stepped out of my car. All of the little details are coming together and we're about as ready as we could be for our maiden voyage into new waters. The workshop starts tomorrow (Monday) with our inaugural group arriving at 9am to jump right into things. 

    One of the highlights of the prep time has been being able to visit the site in person. The final product of the workshop will be a temporary installation at Lumber (lum-bah) Wharf in downtown Rockport. The history of the town is driven by the various industries that were introduced to the area through changes in technology. Originally an area utilized for its timber resources and fishing waters, during the Industrial Revolution Rockport became a hot-spot for granite production. The area is littered with old quarries and stone work, amazing remnants of the town's part. There is a small but strong number of lobster fishermen in town, and with the demise of the stone industry tourism is now the town's primary industry. 

    Lumber Wharf is located along the town's original harbor, and while not the heart of the tourism area it still gets a fair amount of foot traffic from both tourists and locals. Its a location that Rob has had his eyes on for as long as I've known him, and we're extremely grateful that the town has agreed to let us use it. Quite serendipitously it also happens that the day after the installation goes up the town will be having its first-ever fireworks display over the harbor, so the timing of everything couldn't be better.

    Even when I'm not in Rockport I'll be lending a hand with as much as I can via Hangout, so I'll be posting regularly on the progress of the workshop as we're really excited about how its going to come together. In addition to the typical workshop sessions, we also have some guests coming up from Boston for dinner lectures and a day set aside for visiting offices in Boston. Head-first is the only way we've ever done things, so its going to be an interesting experience for everyone.

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