Digital Fabrication and Craftsmanship

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A large part of the current appeal for full-scale projects in academia is concurrent with the development and accessibility of digital fabrication tools. In fact, the relative low cost of digital fabrication equipment has allowed many architecture schools access to high-quality production processes. In a not so distant past, any design build project required a certain level of physical knowhow and craftsmanship in order to lead to a successful outcome. Today, conditions of success are different. We have moved away from the time consuming acquisition of technical and physical skills toward an understanding of a software/machine interface. The physical body of the maker/designer no longer “drives” the overall fabrication process, but rather supports it with a series of adjustments, experimentations, and tweaks. This article proposes to investigate the relationship between digital fabrication and craftsmanship and determine how the two can be complementary and enrich a design build process. We will discuss a recent project in which students designed and built a hand-made modular structure to display the work produced within a digital fabrication course where they fabricated laser cut cardboard furniture and 2-D screen panels. We postulate that the rich process of making things by hand and the qualities of the products of digital fabrication can be part of a complementary methodology.