Learning and Teaching Investment Fund 2011

Summary of projects

Poster of Project - Development and the delivery of a cross-disciplinary course, integrating applied architecture, textile design and Mechatronics; The design and digital fabrication of working prototypes

Project title

Development and the delivery of a cross-disciplinary course, integrating applied architecture, textile design and Mechatronics; The design and digital fabrication of working prototypes

Project leaders

Dr. Flora Salim, Spatial Information Architecture Laboratory, School of Architecture and Design

Project team

  • A/Prof Jane Burry, Spatial Information Architecture Laboratory, School of Architecture and Design
  • Dr. Juliette Peers, Spatial Information Architecture Laboratory, School of Architecture and Design
  • Dr. Jenny Underwood, School of Fashion and Textiles
  • Dr. Milan Simic, School of Aerospace, Mechanical & Manufacturing Engineering
  • Prof. Mark Burry, Spatial Information Architecture Laboratory, School of Architecture and Design; Design Research Institute
  • Prof. John Mo, School of Aerospace, Mechanical & Manufacturing Engineering

Project summary

The project, delivered in an 8-week intensive studio – namely ‘Augmented Spatiality’, addressed the interaction between people sharing public space, the interaction of those people with the wider community and the expression of and possible interaction with concealed activities such as ambient and artificial flows and events within the city. It posed the question of how recent technological advances in computing, communication, sensing and actuation could be retrofitted to the visionary city of the immediate past to foster concurrent interaction in physical and virtual public space.

The studio targeted the design and development of prototypes which are innovative, functional, interactive, and responsive, in order to address a specific urban problem, analyse environmental data, and interact with the city. The pilot run of this studio involved the participation of 35 students from six different design disciplines - architecture, landscape architecture, interior design, industrial design, textile design, and public arts - and a team of teaching staff and tutors with backgrounds in architecture, computer science, arts, textile design, and mechatronics. Students learned to design and construct architectural models using digitally fabricated models and woven, knitted, or printed textiles, embedded with smart materials. Integrated with sensors and actuators connected to embedded microelectronics, these architectural models were to respond to or interact with the changing environment or users.

Students learned to communicate better across cultural and technical barriers and improve their analytical and critical skills for effective participation in cross-disciplinary teams in the workplace. Students also learned to solve real world urban problems using design-led approaches and techniques previously isolated in other disciplines. The impact was global in reach as such integrated teaching of technical and design skills with access to high performance digital fabrication, textile machines, and robotic platforms was potentially a world-first. The outcomes include eight different life scale responsive and interactive models that were installed at various sites on Swanston St for a few days in September for public viewing and interaction and were exhibited in a major art gallery in November 2011.

Outcomes

Full scale prototype manufacturing and one-to-one scale designing gave a very concrete demonstration of what was achievable (as well as what was too ambitious) on student skill-bases and with a very diverse set of people, which suggests that advanced concepts can be communicated to a range of students, not only to the obvious elite of high achievers. The two days of installations on Swanston Street brought the presence of RMIT as an internationally innovative university of design and technology directly into everyday Melbourne street life. There were very positive interactions from the general public - as well as meeting our internal goal of transforming a very boring piece of streetscape. One of the installations was invited to be exhibited in the prominent Melbourne Fringe Festival. All of the installations were exhibited again in the Yarra Sculpture Gallery.

Scholarly Output:

  • A journal paper, submitted for publication in an A-ranked outlet (ERA journal ranking, 2010):

Salim, F. D., Burry, J., Peers, J., Underwood, J., (2012), “Augmented Spatiality”, accepted for publication in International Journal of Architectural Computing (IJAC): Special Issue on Augmented Culture, Vol 10.

  • Creative Output:
  • Augmented Spatiality exhibition in Yarra Sculpture Gallery, 2nd -20th November 2011. http://www.yarrasculpturegallery.com.au/past-shows.html

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