Professor Shaffer's new book explores architectural automations


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Situated within a growing interest in new machine processes by the architectural community, "Tectonic Machines! Construct the Exigent City!" documents professor Marcus Shaffer’s progress in designing and realizing semi-autonomous, city-making machinery. His recent work was on display this March at the Rhode Island School of Design in "An Exhibition of Architectural Machine Work" by Marcus Shaffer at the department of Architecture, BEB Gallery.

In formulating this bright work -- many of the pieces in neon pink -- Shaffer’s writings touch upon various architectural automations past, present and proposed; ranging from Homeric deidalia, to Tsutomu Nehei’s Builders; from Edison’s Monolithic Pour formwork, to Japanese efforts in saving the working methods of their master craftsmen through technology. In contextualizing the many drawings, models and prototypes that record Shaffer’s evolving machine, the book qualifies a need for automated construction technologies — specifically in environments of human displacement. As warfare, natural disasters and economic upheaval increasingly turn our cities into humanitarian crisis zones, the book raises a call for devising Tectonic Machines — deployable architectural proxies — as means of transmitting buildings and building beyond the limitations of conventional architectural practices.

Complementing the artistic content is the unique story line — especially, the forward, “Marcus Shaffer from Within,” which goes into great detail with historic photo archives of Shaffer’s familial past. He stems from a bold ancestry of engineers, big-machine makers, locomotive drivers, mine foremen, mechanics and helicopter pilots on aircraft carriers. The side of the family who owned sawmills built their own chainsaws. Two of the family members -- twin brothers -- were trapeze artists in a Bavarian circus. And his mother was an architect. He comes into perspective in a big way – his art, muscling into view from hundreds of feet away.

Shaffer is an assistant professor in the Department of Architecture at Penn State’s Stuckeman School. His research focuses on architectural works, theories and practices that engage the machine as an extension of our impulse to examine and remake the natural world. He lives in Seoul, Korea. He recently presented a paper at the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture annual meeting in San Francisco. He will also be presenting a paper at the International Conference on Material and Manufacturing Technology 2013 this summer in Seoul.

Also working on the book were Kyna Leski, Rhode Island School of Design’s Architecture Department head and founding principal of 3SIXO Architecture, and Peter Lynch, architect, is co-director of Metasus Design, a Rome Prize recipient and former Head of Cranbrook Architecture. 


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Last Updated January 09, 2015