Designing with Open Source Tools

21st December, 2020

New ways of modelling and advances in manufacturing techniques are bringing designers much closer to the fabrication and assembly of buildings. This change is evident at The Gantry, a series of 23 mass custom-built artist studios housed in a truly unusual structure.

The structure is a London Olympic legacy product – a 240m long steel frame previously containing ventilation equipment for the Broadcast Centre studios behind. It was originally slated for removal following the Games. Rather than demolish this striking construction, architects Hawkins Brown saw potential in its ultra-rational grid and opportunities to insert objects onto its enormous decks. Twenty-one individual artist studios in a chequerboard pattern plug into walkways running down the Gantry’s central spine.

Over recent decades technology has enabled manufacturing to diversify away from large scale mass standardisation towards a network of small-scale makers. These makers use digital tech alongside advanced manufacturing machines to rapidly prototype and customise products in a way not previously possible for small companies and individuals. WikiHouse is an open source design and construction toolkit that harnesses these changes for the building industry. It uses a standardised kit of parts but enables a high degree of customisation in size, shape, openings, cladding and plug + play equipment. With its focus on innovative technology and ability to create varied character, it was a perfect fit for the Gantry artist studios.

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