Mass Customization Through Digital Design, Singapore

Mass Customization Through Digital Design, Singapore

The Future of US Pavilion was built to celebrate SG50, Singapore’s 50th year of independence in 2015.  It demonstrated the power of parametric computing from concept to completion.  The pavilion’s exterior skin consists of infinite variations made possible by mass customization and direct digital manufacturing.

The Future of US Exhibition Pavilion

Singapore is a city of architectural spectacles, but one structure that fascinated me the most during my recent trip was a small pavilion between Marina Bay Sands and Gardens by the Bay.  Similar to the World’s Fairs of the past, where people made their pilgrimages to see the wonders of the world firsthand, this pavilion was designed to host an exhibition called The Future of Us, which provided a glimpse of the future for everyone to see and experience.  It marked a significant milestone in the development of Singapore as a modern city-state as it celebrated 50th year of its independence from the British rule.  The pavilion has now become a permanent landmark in the City of Singapore and has been renamed the Silver Pavilion.

The future of us pavilion
The Future of Us pavilion

Mass Customization Through Digital Design

The pavilion consists of 11,000 perforated triangular aluminum panels that were designed to simulate the experience of walking under a tropical foliage.  A triangular panel is the basic building block that allows infinite combinations of forms.  However, each panel is unique in terms of perforations to allow varying degree of light and shade.  These variations were automatically generated by computer based design parameters in a process called mass customization. 

Mass customization
Mass customization

Direct Digital Manufacturing

Direct Digital Manufacturing allows the fabrication of components in a seamless manner from digital design on a computer to the actual building component.  The final product is not simply a replica of a physical product, but an actual product that can be used in construction.  The ability to design, simulate and test in the virtual world and the ease of customization and fabrication are far superior than traditional techniques.  The merging of design, technology and manufacturing made possible by parametric design points to the future of architecture and our place in it.

Detail of triangular panel
Detail of triangular panels

Architectural Laboratories

The pavilion was designed by the Advanced Architecture Laboratory (AAL) at Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD).  The entire project from initial design to construction was completed in just six months.  AAL and similar laboratories at other universities around the world are leading the way in merging the fields of materials science, architectural design, structural engineering, building performance and fabrication with the help of advanced computer simulation and parametric design. 

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The future is here

Whether it is the Whale in Budapest, or the Starfish Airport in Beijing, the future of architecture is here.  It is fundamentally reshaping the way we conceive, design, and build as well as educate the design professionals of the future.  Architecture programs at universities around the world are slowly embracing this future as evidenced by establishment of architectural laboratories at various universities.  There is also a growing interest in collaborative modes of exploration.  

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