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Laboratories for Possible Futures

Part 2 Project 2013
Nikola Enchev
Cardiff University, UK
The Laboratories for Possible Futures focus on a manufacturing process: 3D printing. As a nascent technology it is difficult to predict its eventual implications and it is a dangerous and exciting time to speculate. It is impossible to pick one material or printing process and claim it is representative of the whole: the risk of being quickly outdated and made irrelevant is very high. Conversely, it is hard to create a focused project that expresses such a broad process.

In response, this Thesis aims to approach ‘Process’ on two levels. The first is about creating a building program that captures the essence of the technological development of 3D printing where the plurality of Research and Development, from top-down corporate investment to amateur garage tinkering, is taken as a main driver. Thus the program is split into three: the Makerspace, the Fablabs & the Prototype Tower. The second goal is to express ‘Process’ by creating a permanent ‘expo’ of new digital aesthetics that radically coexist in the same building, thus offering an advance glimpse into the future where the hybridity of many different technologies is most clearly manifest.

Therefore the Tower becomes a perpetual expo of new technologies: as facade systems or as sculpture, art and installation. Radically different from any contemporary precedent, the Tower is a quasi-metabolist experiment in extreme digital eclecticism, embracing all implications of 3D printing at once. The Tower is simultaneously introverted and reflective, since it lacks its own set identity and is always defined by technological change. It is also extroverted and explicit in its propagandistic architectural expression: it is perpetually relevant and at the same time anticipatory of the future. By embracing the uncertainty and hybridity of technological development, the Tower exemplifies an architecture defined by ‘Process’: it is finished at any one moment in time, but it is never complete in the long run.

Thus, the Makerspace, Fablabs and Tower form the Laboratories for Possible Futures: the future is impossible to predict but it can be anticipated: aesthetically, programmatically and architecturally.

Nikola Enchev

Prof Richard Weston
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