China’s extraordinary urbanization has created a need to build swiftly and economically. This has led to losing some of the culture’s architectural identity. Shanghai-based architectural design firm Archi-Union Architects has been experimenting with digital fabrication and robotics in an effort to merge the best of both worlds … complex buildings rooted in China’s rich history, yet completed in shorter timeframes.
Their recent project “In Bamboo” was a design based on algorithms and a pair of robotic arms rigged to cut like two hands of a human being. It was completed in less than 2 months compared to 12-24 months by building with traditional methods. The Daoming Town multi-functional rural community cultural center integrates the site with the surrounding villages and with the natural ecology. Daoming Town is well known for its enduring tradition of bamboo-weaving. The project integrates traditional construction techniques with prefabricated industrialization.
Archi-Union learned the limits of using bamboo for use as the primary structure system in architecture, but also learned that bamboo as a protective sheathing on the exterior façade of a building performs very well. They worked with a local bamboo artisan who modeled over 20 variations of different weaving patterns using thin strips of bamboo to arrive at the façade pattern we used for the project. The use of woven bamboo on the façade produces an effect of seeing something familiar yet encountering it in a new context.
One brush stroke, one period of creating, these are values held by the Chinese traditions of landscape painting and of garden construction. In both disciplines the desired expression is best captured when recorded at one stretch, in one breath. With digital design technology, these immediate brush strokes can be achieved while still preserving architecture traditions.