[Re]Viewing the Tectonic

Shane presented a paper titled “Of Digital Processes and Spatial Relations” at the recent 2000 ACSA: East Central Regional Conference at the University of Michigan.

Abstract: Geometry primers are almost unanimous in presenting the fundamental ideas of space as resting upon Euclidean concepts such as straight lines, angles, squares, circles, measurements, and the like. This view would appear to derive support from studies in perception of visual and tactile ‘gestalten’. On the other hand, abstract geometrical analysis tends to show that fundamental spatial concepts are not Euclidean, but that they are topological, based entirely on qualitative or ‘bi-continuous’ correspondences involving concepts like proximity and separation, order and enclosure. In accordance with Piagetian theory, a child’s space, which is essentially of an active and operational character, invariably begins with this simple topological type of relationship long before it becomes projective or Euclidean. First, I would like to present design research that investigates the role of topology in terms of spatial relations and the generation of form. Through the utilization of topological modelers and computer numerically controlled (CNC) processes this research explores the intermodal relations of vision and touch. Among other topics, I will addresses physically based modeling of nonrigid materials and the promise of a haptic paradigm within a digital design environment.

Second, I would like to present two furniture pieces that reexamine and reassess the relationship of surface to construction. Traditional distinctions between functional and symbolic elements – tops, fronts, hardware, structure, surface — are eliminated in these two pieces of cabinetry in lieu of a smooth and singular strategy; all aspects of the design are accounted for through the act of routing into the depth of the wood. Both pieces are designed to accommodate repetition as well as variation, an option easily afforded through digital modeling. So too, each piece capitalizes on three-axis milling techniques to produce artificial and invented graining as a result of the striations latent within laminated plywood constructions. Challenging modern orthodoxy’s treatment of surface as skindeep, detached, and supplemental, these cabinets designed in collaboration with Office dA seek to integrate surface and solid. As a result of the calculated removal of material through milling, the cabinets acquire a perverse reading in which the draped qualities of fabric conflict with the monolithic qualities of wood block to contradict any preconception that surface is merely veneer.