My name is Andrea Graziano. I’m an architect (graduated in 2000) and for more than ten years I had my own architecture studio, mainly focused on big building site drawings and building systems coordination & management.
Since 2004 I started to be interested in computation as a medium to empower my work and digital expressive capabilities. In 2007, as a “professional curious”, I also started a blog named Digitag& that became relatively well known in the architectural research environment.
In 2009 I organized with Davide Del Giudice and CasArtArc one of the first big events in Italy about computational design in architecture. AAST [Advanced Architecture Settimo Tokio] was a one-of-a-kind event: 30 international projects exhibited (projects made by computational designers that were young at the time and then became renowned such as Nervous System, Span, Alisa Andrasek, Kokkugia, …), 1 conference, 1 symposium, 5 workshops tutored by international experts working in world-leading architectural firms.
During the same year, I was contacted by DuPont to work as a consultant to understand the potential of computational design strategies in their company. A few months later I was asked to design a series of Corian panels as a proof of concept of it. With Alessio Erioli, Corrado Tibaldi, we designed the “3D Math Serie” panels and DuPont won the gold prize at Batimat 2009.
It was in some way a turning point for me since in 2010, with Davide Del Giudice and Alessio Erioli, we founded Co-de-iT and everything changed. We started to teach workshops and do consultancies all around the world and after more than 10 years we have given more than 200 workshops and have had several consultancies ranging from small companies to very big ones (DuPont, Heier, Comau, Dewan, etc …).
Also, we always did research combined with digital fabrication. Since 2015 I also started to be interested in robotics and robotic additive manufacturing. The AARM funded project allowed us, among many things, to be deeply involved with robotic companies, integrators and industries. This led us to understand the big gap existing between the computational design research environment and the industry, especially the building industry. Since then we’re constantly collaborating with different companies to embed computational design strategies and computational fabrication into the industrial processes, especially the so-called “continuous processes” developing new design & robotics tools.
Why I joined the DRIVEN program
In October 2019 Francesco Cingolani told me that his company Volumes won, as partner of a bigger consortium, a European grant with the Reflow project. He was looking for a curator for an incubation program aiming to embed advanced computational design strategies in early-stage entrepreneurship for a circular economy.
I started considering this opportunity.
While I think I have some expertise in computational design and as a curator, I have little experience in start-ups (I only participated in a pre-incubation program as a candidate) and I am not an expert in the circular economy.
On the other side, I am aware of the gap between the computational design research environment, especially the academic one, and the industry. Despite two decades of amazing digital explorations, master courses, pavilions, workshops, prototypes and papers, the real impact on the global industry -especially the building industry- is very small if not irrelevant in terms of figures.
I think very seriously about sustainability andenvironmental issues. I’m exceedingly severe about it, since very often it is treated by architects and designers in a naive way and with linear thinking, proposing ideas to catch the public attention instead of providing effective solutions or an innovative approach to the topic.
This considerations led me to seriously consider this “curator” position as an opportunity and a challenge.
In first, it is an opportunity. Having the chance to shape from the very beginning a program like this could allow me to test some of my ideas about education and professional development. I also thought that exploring applications of computational design and fabrication strategies in the industry sector could be a very appealing experience. This project was also an opportunity to put on the table the extensive network of connections I have developed through the years with other computational designers; given their expertise on different topics, their contribution to the program could be crucial.
A final, very important consideration: this project was to me a chance to channel decades of experience in teaching into a project that went beyond the mere educational aspect.
I considered this opportunity also a way to challenge myself professionally on a different project and environment. That’s why I applied for the position and I ended up getting selected.
The curator role
A cooking recipe could be successful or not, but the selection and the quality of the ingredients are essential. Very often these ingredients are the key point that makes the difference in the end. This is why I consider working as curator is a great responsibility.
As often mentioned in my conversations with Francesco, we had the chance to shape the project from its early stage and with a good degree of freedom, something I consider a bit of substantial luck. We started to draft it since December and the main questions were:
How can we allow an heterogeneous set of professionals to take advantage of the enormous amount of knowledge, skills and processes developed in our computational design and fabrication field?
How could this experience and these technologies could enrich their projects and allow them to be more effective in the design, the development, and the production phase?
How can we address a diverse audience ranging from designer to makers, from architects to engineers and entrepreneurs, or even citizens?
But, even more importantly: if in an era of resource scarcity design needs to respond to the circular economy principles, can we think about digital technologies and computational design as a set of tools capable of augmenting our design space? Can we include material scarcity and its possible reuse as a performance parameter in the process?
To do so we planned to act in three different steps:
- EDUCATION – First, we must provide an exhaustive overview of computational design and fabrication strategies in order to enable potential incubated projects to understand the potential applications in their specific projects.
- TRAINING – Secondly, we need to provide incubated projects with specific skills. For that we defined 4 areas of knowledge: computational design, computational fabrication, data visualization, and machine learning.
- MENTORING – Thirdly, we need to provide incubated projects with specific support from different experts, in order to solve specific issues or to embed specific features.
The DRIVEN program focuses on supporting projects seeking to implement computational design strategies and processes towards a circular economy. We strongly believe such strategies and processes have a huge potential to redefine the entire production chain of design and construction. Computational design can play a crucial role in terms of material use awareness to optimize the flow of material and its economy, to organize its storage, transportation and reassembly. These elements are usually not incorporated in the design phase but they have social implications and economic properties that could enrich a design’s value, scalability, impact, and agency.
The future of education, of design and the pandemic
Francesco and I started this process in December 2019 to shape the program as a series of onsite events, workshops & meetings to be hosted at VOLUMES in Paris. After a few months we had to face something really new: a pandemic and its possible global effects.
Switching to online events was a big challenge. Today we are happy to see that our workshops are successfully running, but I think the real big challenge will be in the long run: we need to take this as an opportunity to rethink education, the role of design and architecture itself, and its fundamental social role.
I believe the main impact of this pandemic will be an acceleration towards a change that was already underway. It will filter, trigger and speed up the processes that were ready to take the stage.
Covid-19 clearly shows our fragility, our unpreparedness, the weakness of our economic systems and the consequent social injustices and inequalities. It shows us our exponential impact on the planet and the environment. But at the same time it paves the way to all those initiatives willing to embed more social equality, environmental awareness and a more careful and aware use of technology.
It is a unique and rare opportunity that we must be able to seize in order to propose and impose the changes we wish to make in our society.
Today more than ever we are called to design our future.
Featured image : Corian® 3D Maths Series Corian® 3D Maths Series - design by Co-de-iT (Alessio Erioli, Andrea Graziano) and Corrado Tibaldi