Break It Till You Make It

Type: Design-Built Studio

Date: Winter 2017

Link: construction video


We will design and build a full-scale wood structure at the Alte Technik campus by means of a combination of robotic and manual craft. The approach is based on the integration of fabrication strategies in the design thinking process and relies on hands-on experimentation and the holistic understanding of aesthetics, structure and tectonics. Students will explore the potential of inventing new construction processes with a range of digital and analog tools as well as exploiting the qualities, behaviors and properties resulting from the playful articulation of different materials. To this end, they will receive comprehensive training in the programming and operation of computer-controlled machinery as well as essential skills in computational design. Ultimately, the student-designed prototype will serve as a basis for the development of a family of infostands rebranding the region of Murau.


The building of a prototype in 1:1 constituted the final iteration of the process of cyclic making in the design studio. This was undertaken to advance the formulation of an architectural question pertaining to one of the paths of inquiry and to this end the whole class joined efforts. Indeed, the test of constructing in full scale raised many challenges and required the students to work on a number of new tasks. These included the detail design of the project, the optimization of its structural solution using Karamba, the preparation of an interface between Rhino and the machine program Cambium that was to generate the digital fabrication procedures, the operation of the 6-axis Hundegger robot, the manual use of analogue tools and finally the construction of the prototype itself on the grounds of the TU Graz campus. The prototype followed on the path of enquiry named “Twist it” and was able to reveal the capacity for the modulation of a free-form space through the arraying of vertical lamellas. These lamellas were spaced apart to confer its interior with a degree of visual permeability while still grouped in bundles were configured into walls and left most of the floor area open and unconstrained to a deterministic circulation strategy. Furthermore, these lamellas responded to a synchronized variation of shifts and twists, which when viewed all together, read as a play of movement and continuous transformation. This was made possible by the asymmetric position and orientation of the slots carved out from the top and base slabs in between which the lamellas were fitted. Besides the aesthetic effect, it was this twist of the lamellas that created the necessary stiffness and load bearing capacity for the structure. Ultimately, the prototype demonstrated a static behavior and architectural intelligence which raised new research questions that would commend for a continued investigation if there were to be consequent iterations in this path of inquiry.

Teachers: Urs Hirschberg, Florian Fend, José Paixão

Guest Teachers: Matthew Tam (Bollinger+Grohmann)

Student Assistants: Theresa Rosina Fink, Julian Jauk

Students: Aaron Leonard Haase,  Armin Baumgartner, Armin Karner, Clemens Sebastian Wolte, Daniel Huber, Doris Rainer, Eleni Chatzatoglou, Emina  Lozo,  Gabriel  Severin Sieghartsleitner, Kathrin Bräuer, Michela Freri, Matthias Steinscherer, Parimala Venkatesh, Raphael Martinz, Renata Proença Tarran Gomes, Youjung Song

Photos: Simon Oberhofer, Florian Fend