Flexible Space: Architecture through Digital Fabrication

Hanin Rajeh

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Over the last few years, the global adoption of digital fabrication technology has extended the possibilities of applying the notion of prefabrication to the building industry. Modern fabrication has become one of the most important elements in the wide range of design practices in the 21st Century.

Technological advancements in manufacturing processes have allowed highly accurate, automated tools to manufacture ingenious structures. Engaging with the latest automated technologies (such as a CNC router - Computer Numerical Control) for prefabricated projects, allows for customisable configuration, easier construction methods, efficient construction time, and flexible space once the design has been created.

New Zealand based architectural design practices such as Makers of Architecture have manufactured flexible, prefabricated systems utilising digital fabrication technologies that can be easily assembled on site. This practice has become successful due to architectural solutions that are responsively and individually customised, affordable, efficient and sustainable, as well as being spatially engaging. Flexibility, functionality, modularity such as joint components and simple assembly methods that require less time and effort, and continual improvement are the keys to success with prefabrication.

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The keys to success with prefabrication

Critical Question: How can digital fabrication methods, along with a prefabricated construction system, effectively be used to create a bespoke flexible space? This thesis will investigate and explore design and construction methodologies along with an exploration of Niuean hiapo (tapa cloth) as a part of the design process. This allows a connection with Niuean culture, with the aim of creating efficient and easily assembled 1:1 scale, flexible interior fit-out systems that can be applied within existing architectural space.

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An exploration of Niuean hiapo. Translate the 2D hiapo pattern drawings into 3D via Grasshopper. Grasshopper is a graphical algorithm editor tightly integrated with Rhino’s three-dimensional modelling tools. It requires no knowledge of programming or scripting, but yet allows designers to build form generators from the basic to the extraordinary.
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Using CNC technology to replicate Niuean hiapo patterns and to incorporate them into the building interior. This is an innovation and represents that for minimal expense, decoration can be re-introduced onto surfaces.
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The wall components include a sleeping component, a living component and a working component altogether create a transformable space that changes in order to meet users' requirements.
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Modular construction (prefab)
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Function system and modular system
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Exploded axonometric view (left) and ceiling assembly method detail (right)
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A strong feature of the space’s changeable dimension and flow create a sense of connection through the space that appears to expand the small-scale floor area. By using the ceiling rails and floor rails to guide movement and rollers above and underneath to allow it, this movable mechanism can be installed within existing architectural space.
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Exterior perspective view