Research is fundamental to the way we design. Each project begins by asking questions about the larger cultural or environmental context, available fabrication methodologies, or materials that might be appropriate. Both of our principals are engaged in academia as professors at Harvard Graduate School of Design and at MIT and our studio parallels many of their research interests being pursued within the academy. Within our studio, our team consists of architects, designers and researchers. A typical design project might begin with a research study on the history and ecology of the site, or it may delve into innovative construction techniques. Design research might support the design process with specific insight into a place, or may support the design with custom software to realize a particular design operation. Stand alone research projects may be based on funding from grants and may result in the publication of research papers, or a book. The studio is currently undertaking a research project into the environmental history of the Schuylkill River and its role in the extraction and energy industry.
The development of digital software tools is already revolutionizing every aspect of the design work flow. 3D modeling and parametric software have become the norm in the design of a project, and computer controlled fabrication translates design files into fabrication files. Digital tools are also being customized and unique computational scripts are tailored to specific needs. The MIT Collier Memorial employed a custom software application to analyze the structural performance of the stone blocks that allowed us to study form and structure in parallel and optimize the form around structural parameters through the use of parametric tools.
While the building industry is famously risk averse, the introduction of CAD/CAM software and CNC fabrication is revolutionizing building systems through building information models (BIM) and straight to fabrication processes for "outputting" components ranging from sheet metal ductwork to aluminum extrusions for curtain walls. This has led to the proliferation of complexity, often for complexity's sake, and has enabled the building industry to expand what would be considered "buildable." The question now is, "if everything is possible, what do you choose to build?" We are advocates for embracing of new fabrication techniques with an interest in exploiting the new potentials that these technologies offer, and leveraging the ability to become highly specific with geometry and software, without becoming gratuitous. Digital fabrication has allowed us to deliver more design in projects with less material, in shorter time frames and with more precision. The Swingtime project employs a rotational molding set up to produce large scale, light weight, single piece plastic components that are impact resistant and light diffusing for a unique interactive swing environment.