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Annual Design Research Conference

Dr Glenda Caldwell recently presented a paper at the University of Sydney’s Annual Design Research Conference. The paper was co written by Dr Muge Belek Fialho Teixeira, Dr Jared Donovan, Dr Glenda Caldwell and Kirsty Volz. Below is an excerpt from the paper that was presented.

Transgressions between making, craft, and technology for Architects and Artists

Art fabricators, sometimes called artist technicians, have had an increasingly substantial role in the production of artworks, pavilions, and bespoke street furniture. The uptake of commissioning art fabricators is due to a few, identifiable factors. One is a remarkably prosperous art market, especially in the last decade. The other is the post-skill era,” which has meant the employment of a fabricator has become the acceptable norm and commonplace in the production of art.Additionally, the changing scale of public art due to neo-liberal planning policies that have shifted the commissioning of public art to the private sector; where it appears, bigger is better.
The scale of these projects is only made possible by fabricators such as UAP. As such, their impact on the art, design and architecture world has been to fabricate what was previously unachievable. This expansion of scope in public art sculptures is changing the nature of creative production, from one solely possessed by single artists. It is, therefore, a reflexive position between artist and fabricator, where big art cannot exist without the other; the scale of contemporary public art sculptures is reliant on the supported, collaborated existence of both.
The current discussion about the role of art fabricators is concerned with whether artists should credit them, but this all depends on how you define art. Is it the idea or the physical outcome? This topic is not the basis for this paper. Instead, it focuses on how the craft, making, and fabrication processes are a form of research and can contribute to research on innovations in construction and fabrication approaches. Other than Patsy Craig’s documentation of Mike Smith’s art fabrication studio in London, published in the book Making Art Work (2003), little has been written about these studios that produce large scale public art, building facades, and pavilions. Craig describes Smith’s making as a process of ‘endeavour and enquiry.’ This paper aims to further Craig’s research through the work of UAP Company. Additionally, a study of these processes outlines how these fabricators are helping achieve bigger, more complex sculptures and structures, and how these innovations in fabrication might influence the construction of the built environment, more broadly.
UAP provides a case study from which to investigate the physical, social, cultural and economic impacts of innovations in fabrication processes. Their experimentations in fabricating processes are achieved in an environment where meeting deadlines, achieving commercial imperatives are also integral to their work. In this paper, we examine UAP’s work in the context of broader social, cultural and economic influences. This survey highlights that advances in architectural fabrication do not occur in isolation, but are informed by government investment, significant cultural events, and cultural policy.
We found in this research that UAP often borrows know-how, technologies and tools from different disciplines and manufacturing processes as well as informing new fabrication processes. Having all these motivations in hand, this paper focuses on UAP and its milestone projects. Example projects from UAP are used to describe the development of their approach to fabrication, in its current state and their position on future processes. The discussion of UAP’s work in this paper demonstrates the role of design-led manufacturing and that the creative industries are capable of driving change in advanced manufacturing and digital fabrication.

These projects represent specific milestones for UAP, beginning with their partnership with Lena Yarinkura on the Seven Dogs Project in Brisbane (2003 and 2010), then the King Abdullah University of Technology’s (KAUST) Art Project in Saudi Arabia (2009), and lastly the Gehry staircase at the University of Technology Sydney (2015). Investigation of these projects reveals transgressions between making, craft and technology as key instigators of UAP’s evolution and innovation. Moving from the mass produced to a mass customised, from a local to a global world, companies like UAP must continually find ways to cope with change and look toward the future to be competitive.

Lena Yarinkura. Seven Dogs Project


Lena Yarinkura is a is a Kune-Rembarrnga woman. She is an artist working from the Maningrida Community in Arnhem Land in Northern Australia. Yarinkura initially collaborated with UAP, through an introduction from the Waanyi artist, Judy Watson in 1999. UAP presented metal-casting processes as part of a workshop held at the Maningrida Arts and Culture Centre. From this workshop, a long term relationship between Lena Yarinkura and UAP commenced. In a reciprocal exchange between artist and fabricator, Yarinkura worked with cast metal for the first time, and UAP developed new casting methods by working with the forms and surfaces created by Yarinkura’s woven sculptures. Initially, bronze cast sculptures such as the Camp Dog 2 were produced in 2003 (Figure 2). UAP’s partnership with Yarinkura continued, resulting in a major urban art project scheme, Seven Dogs, at Brisbane  Airport’s Skygate, in 2010.
The design process of the metal cast objects started with hand-woven designs Yarinkura created. These were then sculpted in a material that can be sand moulded, such as polystyrene foam. The sand moulds were used to form the metal sculptures by pouring hot liquid metals such as bronze or aluminium into them. The metal casts were then taken out of the moulds once they cooled down. This exchange of craft process and metal casting is an example of the research, by knowledge exchange, which informs and can be an indirect outcome from the fabrication of public art.  

KAUST Art Project


The second project to be discussed is the KAUST Art Project, located in Saudi Arabia. This project was a commission won through UAP’s Los Angeles Studio in 2006. Won via an international tender, HOK was chosen in collaboration with UAP to produce artwork commissions that celebrate KAUST as a global university. The primary focus of the project was to interpret and present interdisciplinary art and design that stimulates creativity and interaction. Therefore, UAP invited artists from all over the world to take part in this art project, such as Carsten Höller, Oliver van den Berg, Sopheap Pich, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Subodh Kerkar, Donna Marcus, Dalziel & Scullion, Dennis Nona, Richard Deacon, Erwin Redl, Fiona Foley, Simeon Nelson, Nja Madhaoui, David Trubridge, and Jason Bruge. Each artist worked with an interdisciplinary team to provide a site-specific artwork for various locations in the KAUST site.
The scope of this project and the constrained construction timeline of only 30 months required UAP to develop innovative, efficient fabrication processes to meet their deadline. They also developed new ways of managing work in the Brisbane workshop and on-site; as KAUST had several artworks to be constructed at the same time. The explorations during the KAUST project resulted in experimentations with new materials such as white brass, and the use of new technologies both in the workshop and the design documentation departments of UAP. This required them to engage with new software to help streamline documentation processes, and given the manufacturing complexities of some of the produced artwork, UAP was awarded the Autodesk Inventor prize in July 2009 for their effort in documenting some of the artworks.
One of the major artworks of the project was the Al-Fanar/ Beacon designed by Daniel Tobin. It is a sixty metre high structure that is a contemporary interpretation of a light house (Figure 4). It has become the symbol of KAUST, defining the entry point to the harbour where the university is situated. Inspired by the marine life of the Red Sea, Al Fanar is constructed from Ancient Arabic Maritime traditions, in-region artworks and architectural detailing. Its highly complex structure is built from pre-cast concrete blocks that are in amorphous hexagonal sections. The interior space provides a gathering space with a play of light and shadows. It is also an example of a large scale sculptural and architectural work designed and fabricated by UAP.

Gehry Staircase. University of Technology Sydney

The third project discussed is the Gehry Staircase. Designed by Frank Gehry, the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building at UTS Sydney has a sculptural central staircase that works as a bridge bringing students together. UAP was commissioned to fabricate these stairs (Figure 5). Working with Gehry Partners, UAP explored fabrication methods for the sculptural staircase that required complex research and investigation into form, material, and structure to determine how best to construct this ambitious vision. The sculptural piece is built from hand beaten stainless steel metal plates that are welded together and then polished to achieve the smooth mirrored effect.
As with many of Gehry’s designs, the staircase was designed manually through an iterative process of cyclical testing. It was then digitally modelled for precision, representation, and manufacturing. However, due to the limitations of manufacturing processes especially in steel, it was difficult to achieve the complex forms of the staircase design by automatic manufacturing systems. The complex form of the staircase challenged UAP’s existing capabilities. The manufacturing of the staircase involved dividing it into modular pieces which were built one by one by metal casting artisans, welders and polishers. The modular pieces were then assembled in the factory using a mock-up model; then they were placed on site. Transgressing a digitally modelled staircase by manually making it was a painstaking process, leading UAP to explore advanced manufacturing possibilities for the manufacture of future projects.
As part of this strategy, and in response to an increasing demand of complex architectural designs, UAP has acquired an industrial robotic arm.  To further develop its capabilities and examine the affordances of robotic vision systems, UAP is currently undertaking a research project funded by the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC), in collaboration with QUT and RMIT. The project is looking into research-led innovation to enable mass-customisation manufacturing of products, processes, and services for art and architectural fabrication in Australia.

Innovation in the Creative Industries

As the creative industries continue to flourish, influenced by neo-liberal planning and policies, the role of the art fabricator continues to grow in both scope and significance. While neo-liberal approaches to planning policy transferred investment in public art from the public to the private sector, its intention was as Michael Keniger wrote, to emphasise that building is ‘a cultural act as much as it is a physical one.’ Stuart Cunningham describes this economic shift where ‘creative production and cultural consumption are an integral part of the new economy.’ The role of the art fabricator is too often diminished by an emphasis on a sole author, perpetuated by a post-conceptual art world, that has yet to let go of 20th century practices in the creation of art. This paper has aimed to highlight the important contribution art fabrication has to make as a process that is informed by, and informs, research and innovation.
Through the analysis of UAP’s timeline, this paper presents two important findings. Firstly, that over time public art has progressed from an autonomous form applied to public architectural spaces, to architectural objects or sculptures that are seamlessly integrated into a project. This is exemplified through works such as Yarinkura Seven Dogs for Skygate (2010), Brisbane and Frank Gehry’s stairs (2015) in the UTS Dr Chau Chak Wing Building. Secondly, the complexity and scale of art works have compelled UAP to embrace innovations in fabrication technologies through works such as KAUST (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology).
UAP’s engagement with collaborative processes has come about from a reciprocal engagement between artist and maker. Artists’ and architects’ vision are pushing UAP to engage in experimental and cutting edge processes and technologies, while UAP has shared their processes and capabilities to push artists’ and architects’ material use and knowledge. This exchange of knowledge between visionary and maker demonstrates a clear transgression between craft, making, and technology. By documenting art fabrication processes, and analysing them further, there is the potential that the research and innovation by making, could be shared more broadly with construction and manufacturing industries involved with the built environment.
 

 

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Knowledge Sharing Opinion

Selecting Suitable projects for Advanced Manufacturing Technologies

In an exciting development, UAP has invested in Advanced Manufacturing Technologies, but how do they decide when to use these technologies? We sat down with UAP’s General Manager Amanda Harris and asked her, ‘How do you decide which projects are best suited for using Advanced Manufacturing Technologies?’

UAP ready for Industry 4.0
One of the great things about the way UAP works is their capacity to accommodate such a variety of different ways to work and different tools to work with, as Amanda tells us, ‘We have all the different tools of the trade here and a wide, wide array of projects to employ them upon. In addition, we have a team of talented people with decades of experience. Our  expertise ranges from people who are working in digital spaces to specialists working with more traditional tools.’
In our research, we have found that Advanced Manufacturing Technologies (AMT) are most easily taken up by large firms (defined by having 500+ employees), while small to medium enterprises experience more difficulty in transitioning to new technologies. However, the unique and agile way that UAP conducts business provides them with an advantageous position to adopt new ways of working. As Amanda explained to us, ‘Because we have a broad skillset and specialist team members, who’ve been working here for 10 years, 20 years, they are experts within their field, so that makes it easier for us to key in the next step. We have the advantage of being able to draw on knowledge of existing processes and techniques, and then understand where there might be gaps in them.’
It is also the case that UAP has strived to continually adapt to new ways of working, making a move to AMT a gradual one, rather than a huge leap. Amanda feels that UAP are in a good position to begin working with AMT, ‘Every project we have is unique, and our team is used to solving problems or approaching a process that we haven’t undertaken before. So while adapting to new technologies can be a steep learning curve and potentially intimidating, we’re practised at the unfamiliar. .’
Another important success indicator for the implementation of new technologies in existing firms was support from upper-level management. Amanda told us that at UAP, ‘we want to be the innovators.’
How are projects selected for Advanced Manufacturing Technology?
In explaining how she selected projects that were suitable for AMT, Amanda explained that ‘for me; it’s about making small progressive steps.’
Amanda emphasised that using technology was about developing their existing, internal processes. ‘I don’t mind what the technology is or what kind of innovation we’re looking at… if we can see there is a way that we can develop our Intellectual Property, and in doing so widen our delivery capabilities (or make existing tasks easier!), then that’s something we want to turn into an advantage. Ultimately, making commercial projects more successful is what drives us to attack anything new.’ She also highlighted that the application was more important than the technology by itself, reflecting on previous work completed by the firm that, ‘often here, if we try to innovate for innovation’s sake, we don’t see a lot of traction, and that’s because the commercial side of the business always wins. You have a pipe dream and a deadline. I think everyone can predict the winner when those two things are matched up. So what we’re doing now, is trying to chip away at the pipedream by using every deadline to our advantage. Sure, we might not develop and test an entirely new process start to finish on a project. But we achieve the first step of that new process on project one, the second step on project two and so on. And of course there are some failures in there, so we also work with a Plan B in mind, that is more traditional, just in case.. because, well the deadline is still looming.’
For that reason, Amanda always selects projects where using these technologies align with the commercial requirements; she told us, ‘to break that cycle is to find a commercial project that will benefit from that kind of innovation and then key that innovation in. It can’t just be a superficial inclusion that doesn’t help the process.’ The other factor that determines if a project is suited to the use of AMT is the availability of time within the programme to accommodate training and any setbacks with the technology, as Amanda explains, ‘The next checkpoint is the scenario where you have a little bit of programme or time within those projects, those are ideal. This isn’t always the case though, at the moment we’re using Augmented Reality to set out fabrication parts for a project that has an incredibly short timeline. In this case, we’re ahead of where we would be traditionally, even though we’re adapting to newer technology – the time savings are that great. This is only possible with the talent and engagement of our team, and their ability to collaborate. In this case, we have Steve Walsh, our Head of Fabrication, working with Luke Harris, our most tenured digital designer. Together they are bypassing the need parts of the traditional workshop drawing set, and making the assembly and fabrication occur at pace, to meet a very tight deadline.’
Baby Steps
As with most of the research on the successful integration of AMT in firms, there needs to be a steady progression of technology used by staff, gradually leading up to the employment of AMT. Amanda reiterated the practical importance of this in the day to day operations and meeting client expectations. She told us that, ‘the way that we try to make these developments is to incorporate those steps so that we’re not trying to solve any problems that we can’t see any other way to resolve.  The ideal scenario is not to take a commercial project and be in a position where the only way we can deliver it is with new technology. Instead, the intent is to find a commercial project, identify a way that I think we can improve a step within it, a small step, and then deliver within our existing delivery model.’
The delivery of good quality projects is always the priority
The most important consideration is that the project will be delivered – on time and fit for purpose. The technology has to be employed in such a way that it won’t hinder project deliverables, as Amanda tells us, ‘if a piece of equipment or tech failed, we just can’t be in a position to not deliver for the Client. So there’s a lot of steps in qualifying the tech.’ As such, it is always more about the process of delivering the project than it is about the technology itself.
 

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Knowledge Sharing

Design Robotics 'Mudpit' Presentation with QUT's Design Lab

Design Robotics recently presented their research at an informal gathering, called a Mudpit, to QUT’s Design Lab Research group.
The mission of the Design Lab Research group at QUT is to ‘Change by Design.’ That is, Design research at QUT aims to demonstrate how design can be applied to achieve solutions to broader social, cultural, economic, and environmental problems.
The Design Lab website explains that ‘Design is no longer just the pursuit of creating objects or artefacts. It is a method and a research approach able to drive Australia’s National Innovation agenda. Harnessing this potential, the QUT Design Lab was founded in 2016 to employ bold, fresh, and rigorous design-led research to tackle major societal challenges facing society, industry, community, and the environment. Acting as a hub and home for a diverse team of academics, research students, and industry professionals, the QUT Design Lab supports transdisciplinary collaborations that result in tangible impact and engagement, and which transfer knowledge and technology into beneficial applications for industry and society.’

At the presentation Al Burden, the Design Robotics PhD Candidate, gave a short demonstration with the UR10s at QUT.
The Mudpit is an informal way of sharing research between colleagues to share knowledge and develop opportunities for collaboration.

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Knowledge Sharing News

Design Workshop with QUT's UR10 Robotic Arms

 The Design Robotics Team hosted a group of students from the University of Queensland’s School of Architecture to work with one of our UR10 Robotic Arms.
The students worked together to design a wall panel using Morpholo Tiles. Designed by Thieri Foulc in 1985, Morpholo tiles are a combination of square tiles which can be arranged in different ways, as a game or a piece of art. In total, there are 240 tiles, containing black and white shapes; the only rules to the game are to match the black edges with black, and white edges against white, which creates numerous possible configurations.
As a method for organising these tiles, a code can be generated using a mathematical formula.
You can see what the Morpholo Tiles looked like below.

Working with a pattern created by the Morpholo Tiles, Students created a three-dimensional version, as a wall panel. This was done by cutting the pattern lines out of foam blocks; where the solid was the white and void cut out, the black. They used the UR10 Robotic arm, with a hot wire cutter attachment, to cut the desired pattern out of each block of foam. These blocks were then assembled into a wall panel, like bricks to create a pattern.
It was a great opportunity to exchange and share out knowledge and practical skills with our colleagues. The outcome of the workshop was successful, and we hope to build on this work to create wall panels, with mass customised components and different materials, for future built environment applications.  

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Knowledge Sharing News

Design Robotics & STEM Girl Power Camp at QUT

QUT Design Lab champions STEM Girl Power Camp again in 2018.

STEM Girl Power was on display at QUT on Friday 23 March 2018, as the QUT Design Lab again hosted a transdisciplinary campus workshop program for the final day of the annual STEM Girl Power Camp, coinciding with World Science Festival (WSF) activities in Brisbane. The 56 regional high-achieving Year 10 girls became designers for half a day to tackle some of the greatest global STEM challenges, through three hands-on workshops exploring wearable technologies, the future of robotics and plastics pollution.
With employment in STEM growing two times faster than other occupations, the Camp is an important initiative of Advancing education: An action plan for education in Queensland. Organised through a partnership between the Department of Education’s State Schools Division and the Queensland Academy for Science Mathematics and Technology (QASMT), the Camp addresses the lower participation rates of girls in STEM subjects and careers, particularly in regional Queensland.
“After a week of immersion in STEM during the World Science Festival, the QUT workshops gave the girls a great opportunity to explore real world applications of the STEM disciplines and widen their perspective on STEM careers, beyond what is available to them in their regional schools,” said Dr Kathy Mackey, QA Manager and Program Manager of the STEM Girl Power Camp. “Both the students and the teachers will return to their communities across Queensland with the tools to inspire others”, she said.
Program Co-ordinator Natalie Wright, said that the camp allowed QUT Design Lab to showcase design’s critical role in STEM education, and highlight the great work that its researchers are doing in the three core research programs exploring design for ‘Health and Well-being’, ‘Technologies of Tomorrow’, and ‘Communities and Resilient Futures’.
“The program was designed to ignite the passion for twenty-first century innovation and enterprise, and empower both the students and teachers as critical, creative and collaborative agents of change. It also exposes the girls to the QUT university campus and the feast of opportunities it offers them for future study”, she said.
Dr Rafael Gomez, facilitator of the Wearable Tech for Sun Safety (Designing for the Aussie Sun) workshop, said the experience in the J Block Fabrication Workshop highlighted the importance of designers, scientists and technologists working collaboratively to achieve solutions for the sun safety of Australians.
Dr Glenda Caldwell, Dr Jared Donovan, and Alan Burden facilitators of the Designing for the Future of Robotics workshop enjoyed sharing the Design in STEM experience with the diverse group of talented students drawn from across Queensland. “We were able to discuss a range of highly relevant issues in relation to robotics and the kinds of roles we want these technologies to play in future society. The students were incredibly bright, perceptive and brought an engaged criticality to the discussion”, Glenda said.
Dr Manuela Taboada, facilitator of the Plastic Attack: Saving our Oceans workshop, was also impressed by the enthusiasm of the girls and teachers who participated. “This collaboration with the Department of Education and Queensland Academies allows us to share and discuss ideas for improving our communities with some of our future leaders. It’s great to see the girls embracing these twenty-first century challenges, such as the human destruction of our ecosystems, with the gusto and agency that these complex systemic problems deserve.”
The QUT Design Lab would like to thank Karen Hall and Karen Macintosh from the Department; Dr Kathy Mackey from QASMT; Dr Erica Mealy from University of the Sunshine Coast and the staff from the QUT J Block Workshop (Wearable Tech for Sun Safety workshop); Alan Burden (Designing the Future of Robotics workshop); and Carla Amaral (Plastic Attack: Saving our Oceans workshop).

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Industry News Knowledge Sharing News

Design Robotics in Melbourne for Hermès at Work

Jared Donovan and Roland Snooks spoke at the Hermès at Work series of events in Melbourne on 10th March 2018. The series is described as, ‘Hermès at Work is a travelling exhibition, bringing the Hermès craftspeople from the intimacy of their ateliers in France to meet the public and demonstrate their craft.’ Jared spoke at the seminar titled, “The separation between man and machine is shrinking, how will this change craftsmanship.” Roland spoke at the event, “Craftsmanship in the Digital Age.”
The organisers promised that, ‘this engaging public event provides a fascinating insight into the traditions and values of Hermès in the crafting of fine objects; a presentation that encourages interaction by giving visitors in Melbourne the opportunity to meet and exchange with the Hermès artisans and experience first-hand their unique savoir-faire.’
For more information check out the Hermès at Work website: Hermes at Work

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Industry News Knowledge Sharing News

Festival of Ideas: FutureNet, Brisbane

Jared Donovan spoke at the Festival of Ideas event about the Design Robotics project. The event ‘explored the potential of disruptive technologies, such as drones, 3D printing, virtual and augmented reality, crypto-currency, robotics and novel materials as well as innovation in energy, medicine and digital business.’ It was hosted by the Future Net group on November 22nd 2017 at the new King Street Laneway venues.