CDR Design Technology Initiative Fosters Industry Engagement with Alumni-led Architectural Practice, Hanbury

CDR Co-director Nathan King, DDes (March, MS.Arch-ID 2009) and Jonathan Grinham, DDes (B.Arch ‘08, MS.Arch ’10) teamed up with graduate teaching assistant and CDR researcher Martin Angst (M.Arch 2019) to lead a robotics workshop at the offices of the Architectural practice Hanbury, in Norfolk Virginia on June 20th and 21st. Within the School of Architecture + Design, The Center for Design Research’s long-term Design Technology Initiative was highlighted in 2007 with a student exhibition at the International Milan Furniture Fair. At this time School of Architecture + Design faculty and CDR Co-Directors, Robert Dunay and Joe Wheeler, marshaled a group of 13 graduate and undergraduate students and their digitally-fabricated furniture prototypes to Milan Italy. Within this group of students was King and Grinham and this experience forged a long-term collaboration that has resulted in numerous international projects, exhibitions, and workshops.

The Hanbury Design Robotics continues this collaboration and coincides with the culmination of the two-week Virginia Design Medalist residency at Hanbury which was awarded to Dr. Grinham who is currently on the faculty at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. The workshop included a range of people from the office from CEO David Keith, Chairman of the Board, Jane Cady Rathbone, to a group of summer scholars from related universities including Virginia Tech’s own Aayush Das Anat who is entering the 5th year of the professional B.Arch program.

Early in the workshop the student scholars were taught the same computational design -to- robotic fabrication workflow used on campus in the CDR robotics courses. Using an industrial robot that was transported from the CDR Robotics Lab, the primary assignment was based on a long-practiced exercise based on the making of two-cuts, lengthwise rectangular volume of material.  As the workshop progressed these newly minted ‘design-roboticists’ became the instructors and worked with others in the firm to develop prototypical design experiments using a robot. “By the end of the session, we all felt comfortable enough to begin exploring other ways to safely and effectively use the robot. As Nathan described it, the robot is ‘a tool that moves another tool.’ These tools are able to move by following a series of planes located in space. Rather than perceiving these tools as novelties, we are encouraged to see them as accessible tools that will only enhance our skillsets…”  – Ariana Arenius, an upcoming 4th year in the undergraduate Architecture program at the University of Virginia.

Following the workshop, the CDR and Hanbury team continue to discuss ways to expand existing and create new collaborations in the future. “…there’s an amazing opportunity for schools, industry, and practice to collaborate in ways that’ll accelerate innovation in the built world.” – Design Director Robert Reis