Laboratory for Applied Building Science (L.A.B.S.)

Former Director: Phillip Anzalone, AIA

The invariable ability of students to question both the theoretical implications and practical applications of digital design has been a critical mechanism in keeping the research at the Avery Digital Fabrication Lab not just current – but ahead of its time. Industry has finally seen a shift towards CNC fabrication becoming more widely accepted and implemented, for reasons of both aesthetics and efficiency, while Building Information Modeling has concurrently grown as one of the most widely used instruments of digital design, both in academia and in practice. Within the academic realm, Columbia students have continued to challenge the given methodologies of software in order to apply digital tools to their research, rather than the reverse. The integration of CNC fabrication into parametric modeling, BIM and other organizational hierarchies has challenged working models of fabrication at the scale of the prototype as well as the building, offering a level of complexity and specificity thought to be impossible until recent years.

The shift toward more expansive forms of digital production within the design and construction industry affords opportunities to not only reconfigure the relationships between the key players, but also incorporate industry sectors not typically associated with building construction. At the core of this shift is the integration of communication through various forms of digital networks, CNC fabrication being just one among many, with the ambition of developing a comprehensive, well organized, easily accessible, and parametrically adaptable body of information that coordinates the process from design through a building’s lifecycle. CNC technologies afford the architect an opportunity to strategically reposition design within the fabrication and construction processes; not only have the products of the architect—until recently, only drawings—become highly specific 3-dimensional representations, but because of the hierarchical assignment of parameters, the design itself has remained malleable until fabrication commences.