Semester end exhibition of my “Cloud” design studio.

Design as a Performative Material Practice

P e r f o r m a t i v e D e s i g n

It’s emphatically about Material Capabilities. Peter Rice held the notion that textiles had the same buoyant future as steel. 1His work and ideas were a catalyst that transformed the Design Process order to: Material, Structure and Form. Performative Design as a Material Practice decrees acquiesce to invent new structural types and ways to use materials.

D e c o d i n g M a t e r i a l

Understanding that material is the genesis of Performative Design and that structure is inherently tied to materials is vital to Performative Design metamorphosing into a Material Practice.

M a t h e m a t i c s

The fundamentals of Architectural Geometry and Computational Geometry are two different brands of Mathematics that have lacked representation in Design. “a solid geometric understanding is an important step toward a realization of such a project.” 4 In regards to Computational Geometry,students and practitioners alike have fallen into the seductive powers of Nurbs which are happily applied by many but understood by few.

F a b r i c a t i o n

To Construct has been unnecessarily left up to ‘others’. It has been implicitly conceived as secondary to Design. Physical materialization will feed Performative Design through iteration and experimentation. Fabrication in this context is not model making, instead it is a means to express proof of concept. A common dialogue with fabricators is not the intention but rather integrating Fabrication into the Design Process is what’s relevant.

P r o d u c t

A computationally orientated “Cloud” studio is necessary in the effort of “Rethinking Metropolis.” The influential result of this studio within the context of “Rethinking Metropolis” is the feedback loop of Performative Design. This studio solicits a charge to develop new material prototypes that will challenge the use of materials in the new metropolises.

N o t e s

1. Peter Rice, 'An Engineer Imagines’, Ellipsis London Press, 1996

2. Bill Addis, 'The Art of the Structural Engineer’, Artemis, 1994

3. Achim Menges, 'Material Computation’, Architectural Design, Wiley, 2012

4. Helmut Pottmann, 'Architectural Geometry’, Bentley Institute Press, 2007

5. Mark Goulthorpe + Amy Murphy, 'ACSA 100’, 2011

6. Zaha Hadid, 'Common Ground’, Venice Biennale, 2012

7. Wiel Arets, 'NOWNESS’, IIT Architecture, 2013 


Machine zen. Full video at #cnc #mandala #shapeoko

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Late Post: June 06, 2014 @ New House, MIT

So, we (Mbadika) finally received our Desktop CNC Mill from Inventables, Inc. (a Chicago-based Hardware Store for Designers) and began constructing our kit, the Shapeoko 2, for use during the Summer for constructing prototype Solar USB Charger kits for Sub-Saharan African youth to learn electronic and hardware product design and development.

I clearly recall someone stating that the kit would only require a 3 hr. assembly time for a novice designer or engineer. Well, I had myself and a MIT-Graduate Student in Mechanical Engineering assembling the kit for over 3 hrs. with minimal progress. Since I’m also moving into another dorm in a few days, I figure we have to wait until we settle in before restarting the build.

However, we did notice two things about the kit that caught our attention; (1) Its powered by an Arduino (pretty impressive programming feat) and (2) It includes a 220V “Dremel”-ish Rotary Tool (this means that it uses more voltage than the mini-fridge in your dormitory). The person who designed the kit did create a pretty impressive assembly, however the instructions could be a little more….comprehensible.

[Again, I’m used to following assembly instructions and was in the company of a MIT-Graduate Student in Mechanical Engineering…still a little difficult for both of us to follow the instructions]

We shall see if the kit was worth the price tag ($685 for the 220V version or $650 for the 110V version). If we can get it working, I think this will be a very impressive addition to the Mbadika arsenal. :)


Decided to sell the extra bat symbols I had cut. The next bat signal is going to be bigger so I have no use for them. I added some 24 karat gilding to the edges. I thought it would contrast more than it does. But its still a nice touch. Then I 3d Printed and painted some stands.

If anyone is interested Ive got them listed on etsy.

Red Oak Bat Symbol with Gilded edge, On 3D Printed Stand


Today I switched over to my large carbide endmill (see my post about endmills) in lieu of the problematic stock bit I had been using.  This time there was no burning, scorching, or dragging whatsoever (hooray!), and the job went faster as well (thanks to cutting in five 1.5mm increments rather than seven or so 1mm increments).  Beginning to feel a little more confident with this CNC sorcery.




Bat Signal Part 2:

Christmas gift for a friend.

Circular box bought from hobby lobby. some 20,000mcd leds from the Internets. bat symbols cut out of red oak. some polycarbonate backed with white tissue paper. reflective Mylar. hot glue, 3d printed parts. some electrical tape. a little paint. laminated milled pine base. a switch and a 12v power adapter.