Designed and built in collaboration with Igor Siddiqui, www.isssstudio.com
SXSW Eco Conference, 2017, Austin, TX.
The design of eight conference backdrops – the prerequisites for which included an innovative design approach, striking visual presence, and economy of material means – was used as an opportunity to explore issues of serial variation, digitally derived patterning, and robotic painting. Simultaneously operating as column system, partition wall, architectural scale robotic painting and shelving, neither furniture, nor architecture, Serriform eludes conventional disciplinary definitions. The project’s name, Serriform, comes from the serrated edges that define the silhouette of each column and whose geometries influence the pattern of the painted surfaces.
The temporary nature of the installation required considering how the fabricated components may be used after the three-day event. The constituent components were designed to also function as a self-supporting shelving and partition system in the future. Taking inspiration from Ettore Sottsass 1992 Adesso Peró bookcase, the serrated edges of the vertical structure can accommodate horizontal shelves. Sottsass's mass production repetitive design logic, was reinterpreted through the lens of digital production. Serriform’s H-profile columns (like that of steel members) transcended the furniture nature of the original bookcase becoming decidedly architectural and open to other spatial applications.
The result is a series of eight architectural backdrops ranging in size from a 30-foot keynote stage to more intimate presentation areas, all constructed from an array of custom-fabricated columns and robotically paint-brushed textile panels.
The painted panels that span between the columns feature robotically painted vectors that connect the geometries of neighboring columns to one another, stretching from column to column. The profiles of the columns determine the geometry of the painted pattern as they are all based on the same parametric script.
Kuka Robotics KR60 robotic arm was used to spray-paint the pattern on the panels. The robotic technology allowed to control the movement of the airbrush. We were interested in the kinds of qualities we could get out of this way of working.
Unlike a printed pattern, robotic painting is in some ways closer to what a human hand would achieve (with the added benefit of integration with digital files which ensure a different kind of precision) in that is based on movement and not a replication of an image. Each robotic mark happens in real time and in space, and is therefore subject to environmental factors and robotic behavior.
We were amazed by the idiosyncratic nature of each mark - none is the same even if the script is repeated. The differences in texture, density, and thickness offered additional variation and richness to the project.