This story is from UCLA Today, a discontinued print and web publication.



Abstract made real

Greg Lynn, studio professor in the School of Arts and Architecture. UCLA Today

When the world's leading architects gather for the seventh  International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale in Italy this summer, they won't find renowned professionals like Frank Gehry or Philip Johnson holding down the United States Pavilion, as they have in the past.

This year, the U.S. Pavilion has turned this most prestigious event over to UCLA and Columbia University architecture students, who will present their technology-driven design  projects and conduct a workshop in the pavilion.

It's the first time in the history of the Venice Architecture Biennale that a U.S. commissioner has chosen to spotlight  student work in the U.S. Pavilion.

And Greg Lynn, UCLA studio professor in the School of the Arts and Architecture, believes he knows why.

Mechanical, electrical, plumbing and information systems of the house are braided across these forms, called the X-Ray Wall System.  

"In the last five to 10 years in the United States, there's been a kind of explosion of research  activities in the universities that, in a certain way, has overshadowed professional [architectural] work," Lynn said. "The idea of picking Columbia and UCLA is that the work students are doing is as  interesting as the work the practicing professional world is doing."

The UCLA architecture students going to the Biennale, which runs from June 18-October 29, were  selected from those who have been participating in Lynn's 10-week seminar, "The Embryological House."

A furniture element with infinite variations. While UCLA's Department of Architecture and Urban Design has a long tradition of applying digital technology to architecture, Lynn took this one step further: He brought an interest in  transferring technologies from other fields into architecture.

Working in teams with advanced design software typically used by automotive and other industrial  designers, engineers and Hollywood special effects artists, the students designed interior house elements and fabricated them with a computer-numerically controlled (CNC) robot that milled the forms.

  "Using animation software and advanced surface-modeling software for

An exploded view of components in a prototype called Shoe Floor. designing more complex shapes for architectural applications is one thing," he said. "Bringing in the mill is a way of testing some of the things in model and full-scale form — to use robotic fabrication rather  than handcrafting."

Advanced design software, based on the curves of calculus equations rather than on coordinate points in space, allows for the creation of innumerable  variations in shapes. "You don't have to design every single variation; you just design a system in the computer and then let it calculate all the subtle variations," Lynn said. 

"The architect's job is really to design the seed for it. You design a program in a manufacturing system, and then all of the variations and specific examples of it happen after you've designed that seed."

  Lynn's students who are learning to interface with computers in this new way are excited about the process.

  "This seminar has definitely been one of the highlights of my two years at UCLA," said Patrick McEneany, a second-year graduate student and one of the 10 UCLA students going to Venice. He  worked with three other students on the "X-Ray Wall System."

A prototype of furniture that can serve as entertainment centers, cabinets and light emitters. "I was able to bring together both technical knowledge and creative discussion," McEneany said. "The fact that we get to actualize our design is something unique to the  program, too. A lot of other schools that are doing this same kind of research with the complicated forms and geometry are not able to take it any further than the computer renderings because they don't have access to the CNC mill."

Lynn and his students will bring one of the milling machines and 10 computers to the U.S. Pavilion. Next to their exhibition space, the students  will create a workshop environment where they will work on projects for four and a half weeks. Through a large glass window, visitors will be able to get an idea of how they work.

  Industrial designers, corporate marketing people, philosophers, architects and cultural

Music, ambient sound, images and light are emitted from this armature that hangs in the interior of the house. theorists will also meet with the students to discuss their work.

"Working with a technology like this creates a new language that you have to become facile  with to communicate with one another," said Amanda Salud-Gallivan, a second-year graduate student representing the "Soft Ball" team project in Venice.

"So it will also be a little  institute where we can bring people in and talk to them about the implications of what we're doing," Lynn said.

Media Contact