An Architecture of Parts

Mollie Claypool, Manuel Jimenez Garcia and Gilles Retsin

We believe the construction industry is so flawed that we need to go back to basics. So we state the obvious: all architecture is made of parts! But what is a part, what are the building blocks of architecture? How can we rethink what they do, and what values should parts hold for us as designers?

In the pursuit of an architecture made of parts, we will develop “digital materials”, i.e. physical geometries which have the same structure as data in a computer program. Digital materials can be compared to Lego: every piece has a male-female connection which is the equivalent of the 0 and 1 in digital data. The design possibilities – or the way that parts can combine and aggregate – can be defined by the geometry and therefore, design agency, of the piece itself. To date, the concept of digital materials has been developed in the context of media arts at MIT, but has not been applied in architecture and related disciplines of the built environment.

By utilising digital materials as a conceptual driver for the project, we will hypothesise that a single part can hold enough information or data (or ‘design agency’) to be able to design, fabricate and assemble parts – or the bones, rather than the skin – (column, beam, stairs, services, windows) for an entire house, or housing.