Professors Igor Siddiqui and Nerea Feliz were invited to design all stage backdrops for the 2016 SXSW Eco conference. Tasked with providing a striking visual presence, with designs that highlight innovation, Siddiqui and Feliz used the challenge as an opportunity to explore issues of serial variation, digitally derived patterning, and robotic painting. The resulting project, Serriform, is a series of eight architectural backdrops, comprised of custom-fabricated columns and robotically-painted textile panels. (The project’s name comes from the serrated or saw-toothed edges of each column.) With backdrops for every public event at SXSW Eco—from a 30-foot stage for keynote speakers, to more intimate presentation spaces— Serriform is the most visible design project at the conference.
“Through this extraordinary opportunity, we have been able to not only integrate academic research with practice, but also collaborate in exciting new ways,” remarked Igor Siddiqui. “ The project’s fast turnaround time allowed us to see a design idea come to fruition very quickly, which is not always the case with architecture.”
The project is the School of Architecture’s first significant effort in using robotics for full-scale architectural installations. Columns were digitally fabricated from medium-density fiberboard using CNC machinery. All are self-supporting and have geometrically similar but slightly varying form. The companion paintings were generated by the school’s KUKA Robotics KR60 robotic arms. Research Associate Benjamin Rice worked with Siddiqui and Feliz, and several architecture and interior design students, to integrate robotic technology into the design process. The robots created paintings of digitally scripted patterns that, with the columns, suggest a highly differentiated tectonic assembly. View a video of UTSOA robots fabricating paintings for this project here.
Inspired by an iconic piece of furniture— Ettore Sottsass’ 1992 Adesso Peró bookcase—but interpreted through the lens of digital design, Serifform captures the tension between flatness and depth in architectural surfaces. For Siddiqui, the project is a continuation of an ongoing exploration of non-repeating yet serially produced geometries enabled by digital design tools, a theme explored in his previous work. For Feliz, the temporary nature of the installation prompted consideration of how the fabricated components could be used after the conference. As a result, the constituent components are designed to function as a self-supporting shelving and partition systems in the future.
The SXSW Eco conference, to be held in Austin on October 10-12, features collaborative events, along with dynamic sessions and competitions that introduce attendees to transformative designs, technologies and ideas. The aim of SXSW Eco is to create a space for business leaders, policy makers, innovators and designers to advance solutions that drive social, economic and environmental change. Keynote speakers for 2016 include Bill Nye (aka The Science Guy), architect William McDonough, and others.