In January 2016 the Chair of Sustainable Construction conducted a workshop for the MAS Digital Fabrication on the topic of sustainable construction. This workshop promoted the idea that a deeper understanding of the interactions between materials, technologies and construction offer new opportunities to optimize architectural designs and improve overall sustainability.

In January 2016 the Chair of Sustainable Construction conducted a workshop at the Migros Museum of Contemporary Art for the MAS ETH in Architecture and Digital Fabrication on the topic of sustainable construction and materials. The Migros Museum is part of the Löwenbräu Areal in Zürich, a post-industrial transformation and extension of an old brewery by ETH Zürich professors and architects Gigon/Guyer. The workshop took place during the exhibition of MOON Kyungwon & JEON Joonho that has been curated by Urban-Think Tank: “News from Nowhere: Zurich Laboratory”. The South Korean artists exhibited technological artefacts of a future post-apocalyptic scenario, while Urban Think Tank built small-scale and mobile social infrastructure.

During the morning the MAS students had a guided visit of the exhibition conducted by Alena Nawrotzki from the Migros Museum, followed by a discussion on the meaning of sustainability and the use of technology as solutions toward sustainability. Notions of equity and appropriate technologies were raised as the discussion probed the role of digital fabrication and the potential opportunities it might bring to issues of sustainability in construction. The emergence of this technology in architecture was seen as a tool allowing the integration of multiple function which could, in fine, reduce the material requirement in the built environment.

The second part of the day was a practical workshop. As the focus of the MAS is on wood materials, the students did hands-on experience with wood fibres. The aim was to unfold the material of wood into its primary components and functions. Counter-intuitive experiments using friction, tension and flexion properties of bio-based fibres allowed the students to better understand the meaning of these forces and to use them in unexpected ways for construction.

This short insight into sustainable construction, from high tech promotion in the exhibition to low tech experiments in the workshop, aimed to reinforce the notion that the physical properties of materials and the technological opportunities of digital fabrication can be linked as design parameters with the goal of optimizing architecture to benefit society.

1 „Erschliessung Neuer Brachen“, S. Cisar in Archithese, p. 52, 1.2013, Niggli Verlag, Sulgen.
2 Löwenbräu Kunst, Zürich 2016. http://www.lowenbraukunst.ch/
3 Migros Museum, Zürich 2015. http://www.migrosmuseum.ch/