High-tech Tyler workshop “augments” student success

October 2, 2019 | DesignPhiladelphia, 2019 Festival


Tyler School of Art and Architecture students participating in the Holographic Handcraft Workshop built a sculptural prototype using augmented reality technology supplied by industry partner Fologram


In the Tyler School of Art and Architecture’s first-ever Holographic Handcraft Workshop, Tyler School of Art and Architecture students and faculty in five academic programs used augmented reality technology to investigate design solutions for an industry partner Fologram, an Australian software developer. The four-day workshop helped inform the production process on Fologram’s award-winning pavilion at the 2019 Tallinn Architecture Biennale in Estonia and produced a 10-foot-high, sculptural prototype that will be on display at the Cherry Street Pier during the DesignPhiladelphia 2019 festival in early October.


The team of Tyler fabricators assembled the graceful sculpture—made out of 44 two-meter pieces of wood—while wearing Fologram’s augmented reality goggles, which allowed them to visualize a three-dimensional virtual “blueprint” of what they would be building. Students and faculty from Tyler’s Architecture, Ceramics, Glass, Metals/Jewelry/CAD-CAM and Sculpture programs contributed to the project.


The Holographic Handcraft Workshop was the product of an invitation from Andrew John Wit, assistant professor of architecture at Tyler, to Fologram—an Australian firm known for mixed reality applications—to partner on a curriculum-based project.


“We collaborated with [Fologram co-founder] Gwyllim Jahn and [Airbnb technologist] James Pazzi on the design and constraints of the prototype,” Wit said. “Fologram developed the software and computational model while Tyler explored fabrication techniques and feasibility. Through the proprietary HoloLens augmented reality headset, the build team was able to directly translate the prototype design from digital space to the physical, without the use of a single drawing.”


The creation of Tyler’s prototype sculpture helped inform the fabrication processes used for Fologram’s “Steampunk” pavilion at the Tallin Architecture Biennale (TAB), which consists of 250 12-meter wooden pieces. “Steampunk” won TAB’s 2019 Huts and Habitats competition and will be display at the Museum of Estonian Architecture through November 17, 2019. As part of DesignPhiladelphia 2019, the sculpture will be on exhibit October 2–13, 2019, at the Cherry Street Pier (121 N. Christopher Columbus Blvd.).


Using augmented reality is “kind of like ‘IKEA-izing’ the assembly,” said Christopher McAdams, an assistant professor of instruction in Tyler’s Architecture Program. “You’re working in real-time through the goggles, which shares layers of information in front of you. You make what you see.”


“Augmented reality is revolutionizing the building industry,” McAdams continued. “This project is something that couldn’t have been described through conventional architectural drawings. Exposing students to these new tools and a project with this level of sophistication will be a tremendous advantage for their future careers.”

“Not only that,” Wit added, “but interdisciplinarity is important to architecture. For example, we couldn’t have done this project without [Tyler Sculpture faculty member] Tim Rusterholz. We can accomplish much more when we work outside our disciplines and play to each other’s professional and creative strengths.”


Rusterholz and students in Tyler’s studio art disciplines, who have experience with woodshop tools, helped lead the construction of the sculpture through the creation of jigs and the use of power and hand tools. Conversely, the architecture faculty and students were well-versed in the lexicon of planning as well as the processing of digital, 3-D models.

At any given moment during the workshop, a different student would step up and lead the group to help advance the project. In this fashion, Tyler students replicated actual professional scenarios, exchanging ideas, contributing strengths and collectively troubleshooting in order to accomplish the dynamic end result.



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