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World Book Day: Learning about making


World Book Day: Learning about making

At dRMM we seek to achieve innovative design solutions through a process we call radical making. We feel there are many reasons to experiment with materials through making.

To celebrate World Book Day, two dRMMers share books, rooted in making practices, which have had a significant impact on how they regard the process of making architecture.

Farid Karim is an Architectural Assistant at dRMM. He graduated from the University of Greenwich and the Royal College of Art, where his master’s studies were focused on architecture as craft through participation in ADS6, a design studio which takes place between the RCA and Grymsdyke Farm, an architectural fabrication facility in rural Buckinghamshire.

Farid shares Gustavino Vaulting: The art of the structural tile’  (2010, Princeton Architectural Press) by John Ochsendorf, a structural engineer and expert on the behaviour of masonry structures.

Why this book?

The book was recommended as a precedent for the university design project I was working on – I needed to span long distances without using deep roof trusses. The book is about cross laminated tile construction which allows you to span long distances with thin profiles. I was designing a waste processing plant – the book inspired me to look at the potential of using a circular approach; using waste rubble to infill the arch I was designing.

 

What did you enjoy about the book?

The diagrams in the book are an invaluable resource – a how-to-guide for anyone hoping to experiment with the process.

I love the book because it unpacks the craftmanship behind the method. The process requires labour and love. There are some beautiful construction images in the book showing how the detailed formwork was made. In one sense, the structures are very simple as they are just three tiles thick, but it is unbelievable how strong they are. Other photographs in the book show the process of manual load testing. It is amazing to see how the structures hold up to the test and it is also interesting to see how you can test structures in a really manual way – one of my favourite spreads shows the testing of a tensile and compressive staircase structure with nothing but sandbags.

How has the book informed your practice or shifted your thinking?

I was really inspired by the forms you can achieve with the process, it prompted me to study a similar process which is in use in Kerala, India – this process is achieved without using formwork which made me reflect on approaches to constructing modular architecture.

In terms of adjusting my thinking, the book has encouraged me to stop thinking of concrete as the default building material. At dRMM you come to think of timber, especially CLT, as the default – again this book has made me question whether that should also be the case. With CLT you draw on the computer and cut on a machine, but with processes like this you build with your hands, it is a direct contrast and the results can be very sculptural.

 

Why would you recommend the book to others, both within and outside the field of architecture?

I would recommend the book to architects interested in alternative methods of building, specifically those looking to explore construction with ceramic or stone. I would recommend it to those outside the field of architecture who might have an interest in process, craftmanship and how things are made.

 

 

I would recommend the book to architects interested in alternative methods of building, specifically those looking to explore construction with ceramic or stone.

Farid Karim
Farid Karim
Arch Assistant
Endless Stair

Insight: Farid Karim

Finbar Charleson is also an Architectural Assistant at dRMM. He graduated from Manchester School of Architecture and The Bartlett and currently splits his time between dRMM and Hooke Park, the Architectural Association’s Dorset-based woodland campus for fabrication and forestry focused learning. Finbar’s relationship with Hooke Park stems from a research fellowship that started in April 2020. Finbar shares Lo-TEK. Design by Radical Indigenism’ (2021, TASCHEN) by Julia Watson, an architect and lecturer at Columbia University’s School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.

Why this book?

As part of my Architectural Association research fellowship I have been working collaboratively with Jack Cardo and Zachary Mollica on material for a book about innovative timber buildings at Hooke Park. Our literature review within the AA Wood Lab has taken us from craft practice to emerging computational theory.

TEK is a new word, an acronym for Traditional Ecological Knowledge. The book emphasises that we need to recognise the innovation present in building techniques that have been developed by indigenous cultures. At a time when sustainability is paramount, the showcased projects document smart use of resource and working with what is available to you in the local context. The book is my generation’s ‘Architecture Without Architects’.

What did you enjoy about the book?

The best thing about this book is that the editors are giving opportunity to voices based in the places they are studying. There are direct translations from local researchers who have grass-roots experience in each context. It is hugely important to receive this information first-hand, to not have someone speak on behalf of the people involved in making these works of architecture.

The introduction by Wade Davies validates the book as an architectural tool. It makes the case that the change we need to see is not just about picking different materials in our specifications, it is more about adopting a different world view.

My favourite spread in the book shows a bridge that is being grown from living roots by The Khasis community in Meghalaya, India. It is a radical departure from our methods of construction, but it shows us that some foresight within a community can deliver truly regenerative infrastructure.

How has the book informed your practice or shifted your thinking?

The book takes a macro view of presenting the landscape and local connections to each of the projects. It is really interesting to get this rigorous depiction of the context. I do feel that more detail could be given on the construction of each project – this is something which will inform how we advance our writing at the AA Wood Lab.

 

Why would you recommend the book to others, both within and outside the field of architecture?

The book is a fresh perspective on ancient building techniques. I would recommend it to anyone who feels that they need to change the way they build and work, particularly with a view to sustainable futures. The book is fundamental for anyone who wants to enjoy examples of positive, meaningful and resilient development.

The book is a fresh perspective on ancient building techniques. I would recommend it to anyone who feels that they need to change the way they build and work, particularly with a view to sustainable futures.

Finbar Charleson
Finbar Charleson
Arch Assistant
Endless Stair

Insight: Finbar Charleson

World Book Day: Learning about making

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World Book Day: Learning about making

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