Elena Manferdini, principal and owner of Atelier Manferdini, shares similar observations. With over 15 years’ experience in architecture, art, design and education, the California-based creative says that because digital tools have become the new normal, “designers, fabricators and builders are all on the same digital platforms, and this has enabled a higher level of sophistication in design production and also new collaborative possibilities.”
No idea how but let’s do it anyway
For Kruysman, a Masters graduate from the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), his current work as a creative technologist leverages his background in computational design, digital fabrication and multi-media visuals to translate his ideas to innovative creations across mediums.
Robots designed by Novel Technologies, where Kruysman is Creative Technology Director, were used to film scenes of 2013’s Gravity.
Photo courtesy of Bot & Dolly
The robots allowed Gravity’s film crew to take otherwise impossible shots of the actors in “space”.
Photo courtesy of Bot & Dolly
These include an animation-driven robot control system to automate and synchronise camera, lighting, props and actors so that they seem to float weightlessly in space for the Warner Brothers film Gravity, which starred Sandra Bullock. These shots were impossible to be shot using traditional wire work.
“As a communication tool, film has the ability to extend ideas through storytelling,” says Kruysman of the medium. “Just like the act of model-making has a unique way of influencing how you think about space in architecture, creating films has a way of making sense of complex design problems. Approaching the same problem through different mediums can be very insightful and has allowed me to explore ideas from a different perspective.”
Watch the “Mixed Mediums” film of an augmented gallery that Novel designed, developed and fabricated to help app developers understand how they use a new Augmented Images API.
Kruysman’s earliest foray into trans-disciplinary pollination was at SCI-Arc, while working on a thesis on collaborative robotics with two team-mates. “We had no idea what we were doing technically at the time,” he admits. “But each of us had complementary skill sets – coding, motion graphics and digital fabrication – and a real passion to hack machines in the hopes of producing new ways to think about architecture.”
With no space available – and no knowledge of robotics programming – the trio cleared out a closet and spent the whole semester holed up trying to devise new ways of programming robots. Their search led them to an interface developed inside of Autodesk Maya (a 3D computer graphics application) that allowed non-engineers to animate robots without the need of programming know-how, and that became the platform used by the entire school.
From façades to fabric and fashion
Like Kruysman, Manferdini’s multi-disciplinary background has helped turn her ideas into an eclectic body of award-winning works. After graduating from the University of Civil Engineering in Bologna, and receiving her Master of Architecture and Urban Design from the University of California Los Angeles, she founded Atelier Manferdini in 2014. Their recent projects include an eight-storey façade for the Hermitage parking structure in Florida and the gate for La Peer Hotel in West Hollywood.
But the multi-hyphenate is also a fashion designer. “I started crossing the fields of fashion and architecture at the beginning of my career. After a decade of training as an engineer and architect, I approached the problem of the dress as if it were cladding for a building,” she reveals.
“The only tool I mastered at that time was the computer; the only tolerances [permissible limit of variation in materials] I knew were of steel. Form and effect took place only through my understanding of geometry.”
In architecture, almost everything is designed and solved digitally or through scaled models ahead of time. Manferdini credits these skills of visualisation and form-making for helping her enter the fashion design industry. Her Eureka moment came when she realised that computers – as tools for creativity – were able to aid various design fields and therefore allow architects to work across them.
Manferdini combines fabric and machine to create highly textured and unique clothes and textiles.
Photos (clockwise from top): Atelier Manferdini, Affluency, HighStreet Culture
Modern technology and machines have enabled customisation in the design and production phases for any field they are applied to – even fashion. “Three-dimensional scanning technology, animation software, and laser-cutting set-ups have enabled us to design for a specific human body and produce a one-of–a-kind, mass-produced garment,” she elaborates. “The ultimate goal of applying digital techniques to fashion is to introduce customisation in the design phase. In the long run, this would blur the lines between couture and ready-to-wear lines.”
Manferdini, whose hybrid knowledge has birthed a unique practice, says multi-disciplinary and multi-scale design can promote an integrated, all-encompassing view of reality. Kruysman agrees that looking at the world through different lenses is “the only way to get a clearer and more holistic understanding of a complex problem”.
“For me, the magic is in building teams with hybrids – like engineers with a deep appreciation for design or designers with the ability to code. This creates a team that is as much creative as technical, and thinks differently about solving problems.”