Comunicación ICERI 2014 Timber Structures

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A.J. Lara Bocanegra 1 , A. Roig Vena 1 , I. Domínguez Sánchez-de-la-Blanca 1 , J. Perez-de-Lama 2

1 University of Sevilla (SPAIN) 2 University of Sevilla, Spain (SPAIN),,,


The consolidation of environmental awareness, the emergence of new high-performance structural timber products – such as micro-laminates, cross-laminates -, and the development of new digital technologies (design, structural analysis, fabrication), are determining revolutionary changes in the contemporary architectural panorama, in which timber has reappeared as a sustainable and technological material, that is able to satisfy the most innovative architectural demands, such as high-rise constructions, large-scale shells and complex geometries. Being the result of recent developments in the field, the topic in its new complexity is not included in the regular curricula of most schools of architecture.

In the field of digital design and fabrication technologies and its applications in Architecture, the University of Sevilla (Spain) incorporates a relevant facility in the Spanish context. This is Fab Lab Sevilla (Digital Fabrication Laboratory Higher Technical School of Architecture University of Sevilla), that takes part in the global Fab Lab Network, lead by the Center of Bits and Atoms (CBA) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). This facility is equipped with CC (Computer Controlled) machinery capable of prototyping structural timber models, in reduced and real scales.

The communication presents the educational experience developed in the course entitled Architectural Design and Digital Fabrication of Timber Structures which was offered to students of the Higher Technical School of Architecture, University of Sevilla, during the 2012/2013 academic year. The course was developed in collaboration with the Fab Lab, in collaboration with Fab Lab Sevilla offering students access to knowledge that extended the regular curriculum as well as the possibility to experiment hands-on with digital fabrication processes.

Learning techniques deployed in the course will be described, including tutored self-learning and collaborative learning, supported by information exchange on a dedicated web platform; and learning based on the idea of reverse engineering and re-engineering using case studies of a range of contemporary timber architectural structures. Case studies included development of parametric models for each of the buildings and fabrication of structural scale models using CC machinery. Quality control of the course development, through students surveys during the course, and evaluation practices, including collective evaluation, will be discussed as well. Considerations on the incorporation of digital fabrication tools to the study of architectural timber structures will be presented.

Eventually, factors affecting the exceptional motivation of students participating in the course will be analyzed; motivation which was confirmed by the high-quality exhibition showing the course production that was shown at the Higher Technical School of Architecture main hall for a three months period, as well as by the publication of results derived from the course in various media. Keywords: timber structures, fab lab, digital design, digital fabrication, reverse engineering, collaborative learning