Architecture by Thurlow Small Atelier
Architects Andrew Thurlow and Maia Small want houses to be built the way car prototypes are, with milling machines and 3-D printers. They see digital manufacturing processes as an opportunity to define a new form of architectural ornamentation. “People will spend $150,000 on a very contemporary-looking RV,” Small says, “but then they want to spend $40,000 on a manufactured home that looks like the ones built twenty years ago.”
Three recent projects by their firm, Thurlow Small Atelier, use digital manufacturing and a structure’s program to determine surface shape. In their design for a mobile HIV/AIDS medical clinic, interior shelving gives what Thurlow calls a “voluptuous form” to the exterior of the unit. Their art pavilion proposal for the “ArtCity 2002” competition in Calgary takes its shape from studies of sightlines, seating positions, and other human variables. “It’s taking ornament to the biggest scale, which is that you can actually inhabit it,” Small says. And their study in manufactured housing, in collaboration with Irina Verona, investigates mass customization of what is usually a monotonous building type. The blueprints exist as a digital file that is sent directly to a milling machine, which means different versions of the design can be built without altering the manufacturing process.