Architectural Fabrication: Towards Eco-Digital Design to Build Process in Architecture

  • Paolo CasconeEmail author
  • Elena Ciancio
  • Flavio Galdi
  • Andrea Giglio


The article focuses on the applied researches and built projects that I have developed with the COdesignLab in the field of architectural fabrication. Such work investigates on the role of parametric design and digital processes for building performative shells. As Mohsen Mostafavi pointed out in his book “Ecological Urbanism” (Menges et al. in Advancing wood architecture: computational approach, Routledge, London, 2016) the fragility of our planet could be an opportunity for “speculative design innovations” rather than “technical legitimation for conventional solutions”. With this cultural premise, as mentioned by Saskia Sassen in her essay “Global city 20 years later” (Cheret and Schwaner in Urbaner Holzbau. Handbuch und Planungshilfe, A. Seidel, 2013), the research project considers global cities as spaces for “advanced knowledge products”. The advanced production processes, as described by Chris Anderson in his book “Makers” (Menges in Performative wood: integral computational design for timber constructions, Acadia, 2013), are driving the—so called—“New Industrial Revolution”; thanks to the digital fabrication technologies the traditional relation between designer, producer and consumer is rapidly changing. Meanwhile the open source technologies are already affecting the economy supporting the development of low-cost computer aided manufacturing (CAM) machines creating new economic and social opportunities integrating traditional manufacturing processes for customized solutions. Therefore the applied research responds to the increasing desertification of our planet connecting digital fabrication processes with natural materials and smart construction techniques in order to evolve the vernacular architecture as classified by Bernard Rudofsky and Paul Oliver. As a matter of facts building with wood and clay/ceramics has many desirable properties as a building material: thermal mass characteristics (energy efficiency), humidity controlling properties (environmental control), plasticity of form (structural stability). For the wooden structures the inspiration was coming from Japanese traditional construction techniques of interlocking systems revisited with the aim of using local material according to climatic conditions. In order to develop customized and performative solutions we have integrated subtractive technologies using CNC machines and laser cutters. In the case of woodless constructions we have been inspired by the sub-Saharan spontaneous earth-made architecture and by the work of Hassan Fathy and Fabrizio Carola in Mali. The projects develop a catalogue of vaults and domes as a performative tectonic systems for architectural dwellings. Domes are realized using 3D printing technologies extruding local clay. Bricks are designed with a parametric approach and assembly bridging traditional techniques and CAM machines. After the first scale 1/1 prototypes built in Africa and Europe in the last years we have developed scientific protocols for the architectural fabrication within the possibility of self-producing and self-assembling structural components. Such scientific work has been presented in year 2015 at the IASS International Conference (structural design) and the PLEA International conference (passive and low energy architecture). This with aim to create a new discipline able to provide both structural efficient and anti-seismic solutions as well as energy saving performances for sustainable living. In year 2017 we will use the results of such applied research in order to design and self-build the African Fabbers School in Camerun.


Wood Clay parametric design Performative shells Digital fabrication Open source technologies Earth made construction Traditional techniques Computer-aided-manufacturing Anti-seismic optimization 


  1. 1.
    Menges, A., Schwinn, T., & Krieg, O. D. (2016). Advancing wood architecture: Computational approach. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Cheret, P., & Schwaner, K. (2013). Urbaner Holzbau. Handbuch und Planungshilfe. A. Seidel. Berlin.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Menges, A. (2013). Performative wood: Integral computational design for timber constructions. Milan: Acadia.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Vargas, D., & Cascone, P. (2010). The legendary Fabrizio carola:Respect for nature, for the country and for its people is a part of me. Respect stops me from abusing my freedom”. Domus n° 940, La nuova utopia.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Airsoldi, S. (2014). Urban [FabLab] ecologies, Ottagono n 247.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Anderson, C. (2012). Makers. The new industrial revolution. USA: Crown Publishing.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Rudofsky, B. (1964). Architecture without architects. New Mexico: University of New Mexico.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paolo Cascone
    • 1
    Email author
  • Elena Ciancio
    • 1
  • Flavio Galdi
    • 1
  • Andrea Giglio
    • 1
  1. 1.COdesignLabNaplesItaly

Personalised recommendations