The interplay between handcraft and robots

About research collaborations and a more holistic (and technological) approach to architecture

Interview with Guest Researcher Corneel Cannaerts and Robotics Lab Coordinator Ryan Hughes

“Digital fabrication technologies allow architects and researchers to design architectural elements with a previously unseen precision, materiality and detailing,” says Architect, Researcher and Computational Designer Corneel Cannaerts, who is currently doing a research stay at Aarhus School of Architecture. And he continues: “For architectural research, digital fabrication is particularly interesting because it allows for iterative prototyping and experimentation with materials at full scale.”

Cannaerts is specialised in computational design, digital fabrication and creative coding. The collaboration with Aarhus School of Architecture is a research exchange where Cannaerts develops his current research in the school’s practice-based research environment using the digital fabrication facilities. This allows the school to benefit from his knowledge and skills when he is working with students and staff.

Recently Cannaerts hosted a workshop called Allographic Drawing for the students, introducing the workflow from design input, processing and optimising drawing data, to programming a robotic arm. All within the architectural drawing practice.

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The workshop “Allographic Drawing” with guest researcher Corneel Cannaerts.

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Corneel Cannaerts at the workshop “Allographic Drawing”.

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The workshop “Allographic Drawing” with guest researcher Corneel Cannaerts.

Cannaerts’ current research and teaching are exploring the implications of increasing digitalisation for the culture and practice of architecture. Architecture is increasingly designed, materialised and disseminated through both digital technologies and habitual ways of designing. And building is disrupted by technological innovations in simulation, fabrication, and communication.

“As part of my research, I have conducted a number of design experiments, making artefacts by programming my own design tools and hacking digital fabrication machinery. At the University of Leuven, I have co-founded a small research and fabrication lab that hosts a number of smaller laser cutters, 3D printers and CNC routers. During my stay at Aarhus School of Architecture, I am looking forward to working with six-axis robots and five-axis CNC routers: to generally work with fabrication facilities that stand out in the field of robot technology,” Cannaerts explains.

According to Robotics Lab Coordinator Ryan Hughes, the school is in a very interesting position within the field of digital fabrication and computational design due to its history as a place of design-through-making and full-scale material exploration.

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The workshop “Allographic Drawing” with guest researcher Corneel Cannaerts.

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The workshop “Allographic Drawing” with guest researcher Corneel Cannaerts.

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The workshop “Allographic Drawing” with guest researcher Corneel Cannaerts.

Hughes explains: “The school’s knowledge base has developed over the last 50 years to encompass strong Nordic crafts ideals. And in recent years, the school has integrated digital technologies and design processes into the traditional workflows.”

“The result is an interesting interplay between the handcraft that takes place in our wood, ceramic and casting workshops and the experimental processes that take place in our robotics and prototyping facilities,” Hughes continues. “And we cooperate with local industry and the design practice to see the new techniques realised in the latest architecture in Denmark and abroad.”

The collaboration has been realised in the wake of the ADAPT-r network that promotes practice-based research in architecture.

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Student drawings from the workshop “Allographic Drawing”.

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Student drawings from the workshop “Allographic Drawing”.

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Student drawings from the workshop “Allographic Drawing”.