So with today's blog on Meet the Maker I want to introduce you to the fabulous, Will and Mike of FAB Architects who are unapologetic geeks who are just as likely to be found fiddling with an Arduino, 3D printer or off in a VR world as they are to be found drawing a set of plans. This isn’t to say they don’t know their way around a building; with two decades of experience in the industry, their aim is to bring architecture into 2019 using cutting-edge ways of designing and representing the spaces they create.
“It’s not that clients can’t read drawings,” says Will, currently developing FAB’s VR services, “it’s just we feel that given the huge financial commitment associated with undertaking an architectural project, and given that the technology is becoming so accessible, it is only fair that we try and show people what it would be like to be in a space, rather than just present a diagram of how it is laid out. This gives people confidence in the work we do, and the design they have entrusted us with.”
With everything modelled, often in impressive detail in 3D, FAB have been using game design software Unreal Engine to import their models, allowing them to use the Oculus Rift to climb inside their ideas, continuously testing and tweaking the design from a real-life perspective.
Making and prototyping is a key part of their workflow, whether that’s using the laser cutter and 3D printer to make models, or outsourcing larger elements such as the CNC cut furniture they built for a recent residential project.
“It’s really important to us that we are able to test out ideas outside of the screen,” explains Mike, the brains behind the electronics side of the company, “and we’re constantly trying to grow this side of our practice. One of the great things about basing ourselves in an environment with making facilities is that we have access to the tools and expertise we need do this. We’re currently in the process of building our second CNC mill to help us prototype building elements.” Apparently the first iteration wasn’t accurate enough, but we’re assured that practice makes perfect.
Will and Mike currently teach at Oxford Brookes and Brighton universities, and have previously taught at Chelsea College of Art and UCLan, with the aim to explore worlds where ideas exceed the present limits of reality.
“Futures and Beyond,” (spot the familiar acronym), “is our research and teaching platform that explores the impact of technology on society. We utilise fictocritical, narrative-driven techniques, to explore the near, and sometimes distant future, asking what we can do now to create, or at the very least; influence the future we wish to inhabit.”
Mike and Will come from an experimental background having done their Masters in Architecture at the world-renowned Royal College of Art. FAB explain that their artistic background has taught them to think about their work in less traditional ways, and they are constantly thinking about their ‘audience’, whether this is the user of their architectural projects or the public in their exhibited experimental works.
“A few years ago we worked with a collective of makers and design historians to curate an exhibition of theoretical works at the Saatchi Gallery as part of the Craft Council’s ‘Collect’ show. We used CNC milling, laser cutting, 3D printing and Arduino to create an automated scaled model of a Houses of Parliament on wheels. It was a comment on the London-centric and aesthetically disconnected nature of contemporary politics, but it was also about getting our hands dirty and using new tools to turn a wild idea into something exciting to look at and easy to understand. It’s not just about the idea, you have to communicate it in a clear and engaging way, and that’s something we try to do in all aspects of our work.”
There’s an impression that architects spend their days sat at a drawing board dreaming about concrete and glass. Turns out there’s a lot more to it than that.
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