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. :)


My ShapeOko found a new home that isn’t my dining table!  I picked up this workstation (for only about $23, thanks to this coupon) after seeing this recommendation by the project’s creator.  Very appropriately-sized, and very nice to have everything kept neatly together.

Next step will be to further secure/enclose the electronics, and to explore ways of enclosing the machine itself to catch debris.


Mbadika Update: Our Shapeoko 2 - Desktop CNC Mill 

Since early June, our team (Mbadika) has attempted to assemble the elusive Shapeoko 2, a Desktop CNC Mill kit available through Inventables, Inc. (a Chicago-Based Hardware Store for Designers).

If you are unfamiliar, a CNC Mill is a device that allows for the user to ‘mill’ (to cut, grind, or shape) materials such as acrylic, sheet metal, plastics, and plywood via a rotary tool. In other words, think about a Dremel (a popular rotary tool) attached to a printer, which can create 2D shapes out of a wide array of materials. 

The CNC Mill receives commands from your Desktop CAD (computer-aided design) program via an Arduino Uno Microcontroller (cool right?). We were able to attach a permanent marker to the end of the Z-Axis (which typically will hold the Rotary Tool, such as a Dremel) in order to see if the Arduino Uno was receiving code properly from our computer.

We were successful in getting the CNC Mill to write a few letters, despite our bootleg attachment design for the permanent market to the CNC Mill (video will be posted soon). 

After over 18 hours of pulling our hair out, we finally got our CNC Mill working. Now we can start making prototypes within our dorm 'office space’ in order to further develop our initial portfolio of products for Mbadika.

On a personal note, this is my first time assembling a complex machine or a machine that requires longer than a 5 hour build time. Therefore, I decided I deserved a little pat on my back.  


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

7 affordable desktop CNC machines starting from $1000,-

It seems like only yesterday that 3D printers were the newest craze. Not one day would go by or another groundbreaking printer was unveiled on Kickstarter and everyone would flock around to see what was new about this one.

Much different seems to be the introduction of desktop CNC carvers and mills. Not only are these mostly as much usefull as a 3D printer, they are now also becoming affordable. 

Below I’ve made a selection of desktop CNC machines that are available for roughly the same prices as you would pay for higher quality 3D printer(kits).

Openbuilds - OX CNC | $1K

The OX CNC machine from Openbuilds is an open source CNC machine with a strong community behind it. People work together on the development of this machine that is easy to build and operate.

More information about the Openbuilds OX CNC

Carbide 3D - Shapeoko | $1K

The Shapeoko CNC could be called the grandfather of desktop CNC machines. Shapeoko was one of the first (if not the first) companies to bring out affordable machines with decent quality that could be used by makers worldwide.

More information about the Carbide 3D Shapeoko

Inventables - X-Carve | $1 - 1.4K

If you  have a little more cash to spend then the X-Carve from Inventables might be the CNC machine for you. Inventables is long known for their excellent products and support. You can choose for the 31″ sized version but the 12″ seems a bit more desktop size. 

More information about the Inventables X-Carve

Inventables - Carvey | $2K

I have been pretty excited about this machine ever since I heard about it in a youtube vlog. Kickstarter backers should have received their machines by now and if you pre-order now you should expect to have one in about 10 weeks.

More information about the Inventables Carvey

Other Machine Co. - Othermill | $2.1K

The Othermill is made by a Brooklyn based startup that originally launched their product through Kickstarter. They were highly succesful and were able to sell hundreds of their CNC machine which was enough to launch their company.

More information about the Other Machine Co. Othermill

Carbide 3D - Nomad 883 Pro | $2.6K

The Nomad is the newest addition to the Carbide 3D family and can surely be seen as their response to the X-Carve from Inventables. I personally love the machine but the price tag might be a bit steep compared to it’s competition.

More information about the Carbide 3D Nomad 883 Pro

Makerdreams - Evo-One CNC mill | $3 - 3.9K

One of the first dekstop CNC mills from Europe comes out of the maker friendly country of Italy. The machine seems like a great first product for this new company and let’s hope that selling higher quantities of their products will lower the price of the machine in the future.

More information about the Makerdreams Evo-One CNC mill

Edit (08/02/2016):
I’ve added the Carbide 3D - Nomad 883 Pro after some requests.