Digitizing and Fabricating Geomorphological Processes

Erosion processes change the topography of the earth in a vast range of scales based on the mobilization, relocation and transport of particles or material by a medium such as water, wind and ice.

The workshop explored the potential of introducing erosion-based processes, as a design thinking, to locally available fabrication methods. The application of these subtractive fabrication processes opened up a novel insight into the inherent material characteristics of limestone and how such holistic integration can be instrumentalised as an architectural design tool. This setup materialized unique topological formations and textures, which could not have been produced with any other standard fabrication method.

The custom fabrication setup consisted of a three-axis CNC machine and a high-pressure waterjet, adapted to erode the limestone work pieces. In parallel, a Grasshopper / Python script was specifically developed to allow the user to generate g-code and visualize toolpaths instantly within the CAD environment. The waterjet functioned as a customized end-effector, utilising a water pressure of 50-150 bar and a flow rate of 5-13 l/min while eroding the limestone.
Students had the opportunity to carry out various tests and experiments in order to gain an understanding of the material behavior and its heterogeneous nature. The seamless workflow allowed them to develop a material intuition and embed this knowledge back into their design.

With its high natural limestone deposits, the island of Malta was an ideal starting point for such a study. The characteristic landscape of the island is the result of the use of limestone as a prevailing building material as well as the interesting limestone formations at the coast of the islands, which are formed by natural fluvial processes and weathering.

The workshop was coordinated by ICD Researchers Katja Rinderspacher and Steve De Micoli and took place in Malta in May 2015 as part of the ICD Seminar Computational Design and Fabrication. It also functioned as a platform for academic exchange by inviting students from the University of Malta. A special thanks to lecturer Irina Miodragovic Vella.

Find the full workshop description here: Fabricating Erosion-Based Processes