Medium Resolution

Student
Gil Sunshine

Advisor 
Axel Kilian

Readers
Brandon Clifford
Caitlin Mueller

Extrude, saw, turn, repeat. During the industrial revolution, machines and techniques were invented and advanced for forming materials into standardized shapes. This would lead to the development of the industrially mass-produced standardized building materials used today and left an indelible mark on architectural thought. The architecture of modernism, especially the international style, embodied the logics and efficiencies of the factory while the endless linear and rotational processes of industrial production were quite literally imprinted on its geometries. To an unprecedented degree, architecture became a practice of blind trust in superficially dimensioned materials specified from afar. This intertwining of mass manufacturing and architecture has only intensified over time even finding its way into the tools of architect. “Extrude”, “trim”, “revolve”, “array”. The 3D modelling software used by the architect contains analogs to the machine processes and abundances of industrial production. Today, however, as we increasingly face the effects of the excesses of the Anthropocene and related disruptions to the building material supply chain, architecture must develop a broader material palette to include the found, the unwanted, the offcut and the wasted. This produces a new relevance for an architecture of underprocessed and irregular materials. Given architecture’s proclivity towards the standard, how might this new material paradigm make its own mark on architectural thought?

Rather than operating solely with the mindset of material predictability under an industrialized global supply chain, the architect must also learn to accommodate materials as they come. In order to adapt to material irregularities architects have adopted various 3D scanning techniques to produce digital representations of materials, which can then be manipulated in 3D modelling software to derive digitally informed fabrication and assembly processes. By the nature of their discrete sampling, however, these representations vary in their precision. What the architect encounters in the 3D modelling environment is not the material itself in its infinite specificities, with its weight, moisture content and smell, but rather a surface representation composed of a large but finite set of points. This surface might be called medium resolution. This thesis operates within the medium resolution surface condition, accepting it as a geometric paradigm necessary to respond to emerging material realities. In doing so, it replaces the predictability and relative surface precision of the standardized material palette with the specificity and precision of actions made possible by medium resolution representations.