Architect to discuss work in digital fabrication

by Hallie Huffaker | 2/4/14 4:07pm

An eight-foot diameter sphere rests in the Redwood Grove at the University of California Botanical Garden, a mysterious concrete ball made up of a dozen pentagonal pieces and etched with crevices and protrusions. “The Seed,” hiding within the grove, embodies the wonder and fertility of the trees. Architect Andrew Kudless breaches every boundary in his path to create a new kind of architecture that draws from nature for inspiration. On Friday, he will share his insights as a speaker in the second annual Victor C. Mahler 1954 Visiting Architects lecture series, which brings distinguished and innovative architects to campus.

Kudless said that his style, sometimes noted for its liveliness, emerged from his appreciation of the natural world.

“I look at the way things grow or evolve and try to discover how to create architecture or design forms in a similar way,” Kudless said. “I look at things that warp design or complicate it.”

Studio art professor Jack Wilson said that he is fascinated by the organic nature of Kudless’s work.

“The structural kinds of elements that he’s developed have a really intriguing and very seductive look,” he said.

Kudless makes use of digital fabrication, such as 3-D printers and laser cutters, to create his work. While the traditional method of building follows a linear construction process, it has its disadvantages, he said.

“If you want to change that model, you essentially have to destroy it and start over again,” Kudless said. “Through the digital environment, there are ways where you can very flexibly say, ‘I want the structure to be twice as big as it was’ and have everything update within the model automatically, so you don’t have to rebuild.”

Mingyu Kim ’14, a studio art major concentrating in sculpture, said that Kudless’s work is a rare combination that mixes the organic with the geometric.

Kudless said he hopes to promote a transition to working primarily with computers and digital fabrication in the architectural world, while maintaining the craftsmanship of working by hand.

“I am interested in what are the ways we can produce things, which in the end are physical, even as they are conceived and maybe even developed within a digital environment,” he said. “But there is still that feedback loop to the physical world.”

Wilson said that current scholarly interest in biomimicry, the science of studying nature’s models and imitating them, alongside digital fabrication, makes Kudless’s lecture especially relevant.

“You see here at the engineering school a big crossover between the interest in design on the studio art side and the interest in design on the engineering side,” he said.

Kudless will speak on Friday in a lecture titled “Bodies in Formation.”The event was originally planned to take place this evening but was rescheduled after Kudless's flight was cancelled due to inclement weather.