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GIANTS! Episode#4
Photo Credit: Adam Smith


Today we speak with Wes McGee, who is an Assistant Professor in Architecture and the Director of the FABLab at the University of Michigan’s Taubman College, as well as co-chair of the upcoming Rob Arch 2014 conference, which covers all topics surrounding robotics in architecture.

Wes has been published and presented his work in numerous institutions around the world, and is a founding partner and senior designer in the studio Matter Design, which was awarded the Architectural League Prize for Young Architects & Designers in 2013. In short, Wes is a mover and shaker in the increasingly exciting and relevant intersection of design and advanced fabrication.


This two-parter GIANTS! post coincides with our coverage of the Rob Arch 2014 conference, which covers all things regarding robotics in architecture with our coverage of the Rob Arch 2014 conference, hosted by the University of Michigan’s Taubman College.

In the first portion of this walk we cover some of the general topics most relevant to DigiFab (which, for the uninitiated, is short for Digital Fabrication). We also discuss some of the exciting work that Wes has been doing recently, and parse out some of the terms used in this field.Whether you’re all about DigiFab, or merely interested in understanding where this stuff sits relative to the fields of architecture and design, this one is for you.

In the second half we get into the overarching focus of Wes’s work, and discuss the pedagogical and industrial implications of robotics. It’s an all around exciting (and slightly terrifying) look into the cutting edge of advanced fabrication that is growing in the world’s top architecture institutions.

Over the weekend head over to our coverage page for the live feed of the conference, courtesy of our new friends over at Tint!

#1 Research Through Making 2014

Taubman College of Architecture + Urban Planning

#2 Kuka Prc

by: Robots in Architecture


“Another Grasshopper plugin, and maybe a bit specific, but PRC is a great tool for robot motion control and simulation. A major part of my research centers on tool like this, and while we use our own python based tools for most applications, PRC is one of the most user friendly plugins available for the task(though currently it is Kuka robot specific). They have hundreds of commercial and academic users around the world, and Sigrid and Johannes(the founders of the Association for Robots in Architecture) have worked very hard to make robotic tools accessible to the design community.”


#3 Kangaroo

By: Daniel Piker

“While we are on the subject of computational form-finding…Daniel Piker’s Kangaroo is arguably one of the easiest tools for the quickly testing relaxation methods through Rhino/Grasshopper. We have used it to simulate everything from glass slumping to bi –stability in composite structures. Daniel has always been a big part of the design computation community, and is one of our keynote speakers at Rob|Arch 2014.”


#4 Shell Structures for Architecture

By: Sigrid Adriaenssens, Philippe Block, Diederik Veenendaal, Chris Williams

“Computational form-finding has been pretty influential on my work over the past few years, and Philippe Block is one of the recognized leaders in the field. His new book really takes a deep look into the capabilities and potentials for these techniques, going into great detail about how, why, and when certain approaches should be considered. While computational design techniques are becoming more widespread in the design process, there are still a huge opportunities for increasing the quality and number of connections between design, fabrication, and structural analysis tools, and this book gives an extensive look into some of the cutting edge work going on in the field.”


#5 Volumetric Robotics

By: Brandon Clifford

“This recent collection of projects was put together by my partner at Matter Design, Brandon Clifford. While I think it stands on its own by highlighting a number of interesting projects in a well curated manner, I think it also illustrates an emerging pedagogical model for incorporating fabrication research(especially robotic fabrication) into the design curriculum. The work also illustrates the importance of a multifaceted approach to research, going beyond simply putting a tool on a robot and making interesting forms.”


#6 Robotic Fabrication in Architecture, Art and Design 2014

By: Brandon Clifford

“Published by Springer’s Engineering series, the latest proceedings from the Rob|Arch conference series present an interesting cross –section of projects from the robotic fabrication community. A number of trends are emerging in the field, and I think architects and designers are engaging these processes in fundamentally new ways.”


SC Live @ Rob|Arch 2014
That will do it for this portion of the two part GIANTS post for Wes McGee! As a reminder, Section Cut is one of only three media sponsors for the Rob Arch conference, so if you’re interested in hearing more about robotics in architecture, be sure to tune in next week and search #RobArch2014
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