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Architect describes his use of digital fabrication
By Yang Di

WHO is he?

Arthur Mamou-Mani is a French architect and director of the award-winning architecture practice Mamou-Mani Architects. He is a lecturer at the University of Westminster in London and owns a digital fabrication laboratory called the FabPub, which allows people to experiment with large 3D printers and laser cutters. Arthur has taught parametric design tools, digital fabrication and environmental and structural simulation at leading academic institutions.

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Describe some of your works. Which are you most proud of?

In 2008, I worked on a large biodome in Chester, UK. It was a 200-meter-long undulating roof with an artificial ecosystem from Congo. It was such a wonderful experience as I got to work with a diverse range of specialists, and the complex computer model was linked to environmental and structural simulations. This was my first initiation to what we call computational design, which means using the power of the computer to generate designs from a set of rules. This project got canceled because of the change in government so I also understood the more political aspect of my job.

After that, the Royal Institute of British Architects asked me to work in Xintiandi and paired me with a young designer from Hong-Kong named Davidson Tsui. His shop in Xintiandi Style has a forest of white triangles so I designed a large blue free-form origami made of 500 folded recycled plastic sheets. They were all different and laser-cut individually based on a 3D file I did in London.

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The advantage of computational design is the precision that remains from one side of the world to the other as it is all based on 3D models. This project was the beginning of my collaboration with Xintiandi.

Are you now involved with any projects?

I am working on two projects at the moment. One is for an art gallery and is called cloud capsule, in which we are also using 3D printing to generate small structures that diffuse the light similarly to clouds. I love the interactive aspect of this project, which is similar to the 3D Printed Pop-Up Studio at Xintiandi. People will understand the process as much as the finished piece. We are also working on a ceiling installation for Buro Happold new headquarters in London. They are a prestigious engineering firm. This will be laser cut from plywood and the cuts will define how flexible the material will become.

Describe your design style.

I would prefer to use the work technique, which is the way I proceed for any creative work. I always try to consider the constraints and parameters of each project and then chose the right toolbox, which includes a material, a design and fabrication technique and a poetic narrative. These define what I call a playful computational process in which I can explore new forms while staying within a defined territory that is coherent to the whole. The resulting style is often curvy, unique, intriguing, tactile and interactive.

What do you collect?

I work in an old pub in London in which I placed a couple digital fabrication machines. A lot of the test models are exhibited here, which inspires the next project as they inform what can be done with the machines. I also collect minerals, sea shells and any interesting geometry I can find, and I have a huge collection of books in which I constantly draw. I cannot read without being inspired so all my books are covered in drawings and thoughts!

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