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Technological advancements have long played pivotal roles in the practice of architecture and related academic discourse. Advances in materials, systems, and manufacturing have reshaped our built landscape and reconfigured processes of design and construction. Contemporary design and construction processes have been heavily influenced by the systems of mass production developed at the end of the 19th century. While most buildings are singular, specific constructions, many facets of their composition are assembled with universal components. As a result, an architects ability to deviate from these norms has often been precluded due to issues of time and cost.

Today, this is changing rapidly, as digital media are transforming the practice of architecture and its allied disciplines. While computing as a design tool has been in use for more than forty years and has been applied in production processes in the aerospace and automotive industries, only now has its presence permeated further into the practice of architecture.

Boundaries between architect, consultant, and fabricator are shifting, and new approaches to building are emerging with the digital building model as the instrument of communication throughout the process, from file to factory. Ironically, the pervasiveness of the digital has ushered in a level of control over the physical structure absent for much of the past century. This new control is changing the way architects think about their tasks: as we enter an era in which computing power and manufacturing sophistication allow us to design and construct nearly anything conceivable, architects and schools of architecture must increasingly ask why? and to what end?

The Carnegie Mellon School of Architectures Fabrication Lab provides a venue through which students and faculty can gain experience with this new reality of the profession. It will be a vehicle for the use of advanced digitally driven design, prototyping and manufacturing equipment, fostering a context through which students and faculty are better equipped to probe the potential of pervasive digital design and manufacturing processes.

Fundamental to this is the understanding that architecture exists in the physical world and the belief that the physical realm of design investigation is a necessary complement to virtual simulation. As such, the Fabrication Lab is a bridge between the digital and the physical and is intended to be utilized throughout the design process at multiple scales. Furthermore, the Fabrication Lab will equip young professionals with the skills to thrive in an increasingly fluid and technologically sophisticated model of practice. This facility is a natural fit in a school of architecture with a strong legacy of innovation in design education and at a university renowned for the advancement and application of technology.

– Jeremy Ficca, dFAB Director / Associate Professor