#2 Prefabrication and Self-Construction

One of the question marks our network deals with is which local resource is suitable for which productive reality. On one hand the use of natural materials is an invitation for manual work: the processed products are mainly nontoxic and most of the techniques are simple enough to be learned by everyone with the right motivation and a few purposeful training sessions. On the other hand, manual work can easily get an unbearable cost-factor, especially in more industrialized countries. To (re-)introduce natural materials, including their environmental and social benefits, into the nowadays building market calls for viable alternatives to the completely crafted, isolated single-family house.

A specific issue that is related to this, deals with the technical possibilities which can help us to achieve results that were not imaginable some decades ago. The above mentioned efforts towards rationalisation can also go along with new design opportunities and a broader acceptance of environmentally friendly solutions.

During BIØN-talks 3, one of the thematic conferences included in the workshop program, the issue of Natural materials and complex geometries has been discussed. While AK0-chair Stefan Pollak highlighted the intrinsic complexity provided by many natural resources, that hold packets of information in their material behaviour on how to deal with them, two other contributions showed the possibilities of where computer controlled design and manufacturing processes can lead us in the realm of raw earth and similar materials.

Alessandra Fasoli from the FabLab Rome gave a perspective on recent experiments where raw earth as a building material has been explored with the use of 3D-printers, masonry-robots or drones for a numerically controlled architecture. Rossella Siani from the University of Naples introduced to the basics of parametric design and showed some possible outcomes of algorithmically controlled design processes to realize with earth.

Contemporarily, the workshop activity on the building site gave the possibility for a small experiment in this sense. In collaboration with a small timber-construction company, a quincha-façade with an articulated geometry has been built. Precise prefabrication of the wood elements made the assembly on site very simple. The wattle-and-daub texture has not been clad in order to show its natural origin. The binomial of natural materials + complex shapes seems to work and is awaiting new opportunities to be further explored.

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