Recently architect Tim Black, a director from BKK Architects in Melbourne, has been working on a new architectural product, which capitalises upon recent technological advances in digital design and fabrication. The product, known as Nűdel, is about to undergo a public funding campaign via the website Kickstarter. Prior to the launch of this campaign, Tim Black took some time out to answer some Red + Black questions about this innovative project.
R+BA – How important is it for architects to innovate outside of the traditional building design framework?
TB – Architects are, and always have, looked beyond the built environment for sources of inspiration and innovation. Architects have a great set of skills well suited to innovation, it would seem a pity not to apply these skills. That said, the world still needs architects to create great spaces and places!
R+BA – Tell us about the Nűdel System.
TB – Nudel is a making system; it allows users to create and upload CAD models that can be converted to custom construction kits. Initially, the kit-of-parts will comprise 3D printed connector components in Nylon, with strut components made from CNC cut Tassie Oak dowel. Over time, the ambition is to extend the range of materials and components that make up the system.
Nudel aims to overcome a number of limitations to creating large scale custom 3D constructions, namely; cost, transportability, and complexity. 3D printing alone is not well-suited to such assemblages due to cost of production and transport.
Nudel solves this by automating the optimization and disaggregation of a given design into component parts that can be easily shipped in a cardboard tube or the like. By breaking down a design into connectors (or nodes) and straight elements (or struts), large scale designs can be readily flat-packed for delivery.
Nudel also deals with the “Ikea problem” of custom made constructions; how do you identify specific parts and get them in the right order for easy assembly? By cleverly encoding each part with assembly information, Nudel makes it easier for users to build the custom kits they’ve designed and ordered.
Beyond these technical aspects, Nudel’s ambition is to build an evolutionary design community. We see a future where users share and adapt each other’s designs in an evolving conversation that continuously re-imagines what Nudel is and what it can be used to make.
R+BA – Do you see this system as more of a design tool or a building product?
TB – At this stage, Nudel is more of a design tool than a building product. We think that Nudel will serve a range of users; makers, hobbyists, designers, generally tinkerer types. But we also hope that there are a class of unanticipated users that might see opportunities in the system we haven’t yet considered.
Full scale built applications are probably some years off. We have been tracking quite closely developments in the field, work such as the “smartNodes” project that The Independents’ Group at RMIT University has been working on (http://fieldsofactivity.com/smart-nodes/). Their research looks to apply a similar approach to Nudel at the building scale. Perhaps Nudel will be in a position to assist them in a few years time!
R+BA – Where did the idea come from?
TB – Nudel is an outgrowth from an ongoing research and development program that my practice, BKK, has been running for some years. The program started with of our involvement in the Embedded Practice Research project run by RMIT’s Spatial Information Architecture Laboratory (SIAL).
BKK , along with McBride Charles Ryan, Arup, and other practice members, had office-based PhD researchers for three years looking at the application of parametric design approaches into small and medium practices. Rory Hyde was our doctoral candidate. He is now curator of architecture and urbanism at the V&A in London.
It was also through the SIAL that we were introduced to RMIT’s Innovative Structure’s Group, headed by Professor Mike Xie. BKK worked with ISG on some innovative footbridge designs, applying their evolutionary structural optimisation algorithms to large scale civic structures.
Nudel draws a number of these threads together – a parametric design approach underpins the enterprise but is also heavily influenced by optimisation procedures.
R+BA – What is the Kickstarter Campaign for?
We see the Kickstarter process as less about raising funds – it’s really about achieving a level of market validation and to start to the process of building a community; to prove there is a genuine demand for the concept and lay the foundations for a Nudel ecosystem. That said, we will be using the funds to help build the online platform, a digital sandbox for users to upload, share, modify, and order their designs.
R+BA – How much money do you hope to raise?
TB – We’ve set a Kickstarter goal of $50,000
R+BA – Do you see this as part of a trend where architects use Kickstarter to fund projects that might not otherwise get off the ground? Do you think in the future we will see whole buildings procured this way?
TB – There is certainly a lot of opportunity for the crowdfunding model to be applied to building and construction. There has been reports of a crowdfunded highrise in Columbia, for example, while in Australia, CitiNiche has established a platform for mid scale developments.
R+BA – Thanks for your time
You can now support the Kickstarter Campaign by following this link
For more information about Nudel
Architecture is for Everyone
I love this concept; it has interesting potential. Will visit the Nudel site and social channels and see if I can help spread the work. Am looking forward to further developments in crowd sharing.