The Digital Fabrication Lecture Series hosted Iranian-American architect and researcher Nader Tehrani. Throughout his lecture titled “Instrumentalities: From Representation to Generation”, Tehrani navigated through a chronological selection from his ouvre. His projects demonstrated how digitalisation unleashes new potentials and challenges which requires architects to push beyond conventional design thinking.

NCCR Digital fabrication and the MAS ETH Architecture and Digital Fabrication welcomed renowned architect and researcher Nader Tehrani as part of the Digital Fabrication Lecture Series. He is the dean of the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture at the Cooper Union in New York and principal of NADAAA, a practice dedicated to the advancement of design innovation, interdisciplinary collaboration, and an intensive dialogue with construction practices. Tehrani gave a public lecture at the Arch_Tec_Lab followed by the final presentation by MAS students of “The Labyrinth”, an integrated design project built out of 11’000 robotically placed bricks at the Robotic Fabrication Laboratory within two weeks, which Tehrani also joined as a guest reviewer.

In his lecture titled “Instrumentalities: From Representation to Generation”, Tehrani presented a chronological selection of works which demonstrated how in his practice and research he continuously challenged the boundaries of representation in architecture by employing new design and fabrication tools and techniques. Nader showed that the introduction of the computer and the design interfaces along with it exponentially enhance the capacity of the architect in depicting reality. At the same, these innovations challenge the notion of compositional design in architecture as design through code and scripting is non-visual in its nature and therefore does not comply with the conventional compositional design thinking in architecture.

Tehrani revealed the explorative aspects of his projects, and showed that intense engagement with the real complexities of building through trial and error is the only way to push innovation in architecture and construction. This requires a heightened level of understanding concerning the nature of materials and the means to take advantage of their inherent qualities by making use of digital tools. Tehrani explained how they actively “invented” commissions at early stages of his professional life to design by building, and therefore challenge the concept of the architect that only “draws”. This allowed for a unique and unconventional language to arise in his ouevre. He also demonstrated that with growing size and complexity of projects, it becomes critical to actively engage with stakeholders in construction by fabricating as an architect, which allows for visualising the potentials offered by fabrication-oriented design thinking, the negotiation between the digital and the real, and the interfaces in-between.

After the summer break, Digital Fabrication Lecture Series will be hosting a lecture by Hanif Kara, Design Director and co-founder of AKTII and Professor in Practice of Architectural Technology at the Graduate School of Design, Harvard. Kara is particularly know for his ‘design-led’ approach and interest in innovative form, material uses, and complex analysis methods which have allowed him to work on numerous award-winning, pioneering projects.