Digital Fabrication for Contemporary Material Specificity

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The modernist model of “logical positivism” that emerged in the early-20th century Modernist movement placed the onus of design squarely within the material world. This movement attempted to replace the immaterial “metaphysical” approach to design and material with physically-provable absolute concepts of materiality. However, this model failed to recognize that the value and use life of modern material is highly contingent on distributed and imperceptible immaterial systems such as supply chains and reverse logistics that function beyond immediate scales of space and time (scales that are classically the territory single buildings and products). Approaching the design of buildings and objects through this constrained scalar lens has produced a significant amount of waste via inefficient object lives and perpetuated the logical positivist model of design through the wide misuse of current digital design tools. Contemporary notions of material specificity, such as DeLanda’s “possibility space” and McDonough and Braungart’s Circular Economy, attempt to reject logical positivism by identifying the contingent factors, or “events,” across a material’s life that must be designed for, such as its flexibility between uses and adaptability within the supply chain. Through a series of literature reviews, case study analyses, and experiments, this thesis will demonstrate the waste problems associated with logical positivism in modern design, describe the Circular Economy as a new form of event-scale for the design of materials, and posit how contemporary digital tools may be instrumentalized for material design at these new event-scales. Ultimately, this work constructs a new conceptual framework of event-scale thinking for material, which promotes different and less wasteful applications of digital tools in design and production.
Digital fabrication, architectural design, additive manufacturing, material optimization, circular economy
Pattullo, H. (2019). Digital Fabrication for Contemporary Material Specificity (Master's thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from