Simulating Craftwork in Contemporary Architecture

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Lökçe D., Allmer A.

JOURNAL OF MODERN CRAFT, vol.10, no.1, pp.37-57, 2017 (AHCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 10 Issue: 1
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Doi Number: 10.1080/17496772.2017.1294324
  • Journal Indexes: Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.37-57
  • Keywords: craftwork, ornament, facade, simulation, contemporary architecture
  • Dokuz Eylül University Affiliated: Yes


This article discusses how contemporary architects reinterpret traditional craft practices such as ironwork, woodwork, stonework, knitting, lacework, and paper craft in their building designs. It explores the Polish Expo Pavilion in Shanghai (2010) and Nottingham Contemporary (2009) in terms of digital design and manufacturing technology. In both buildings, the architects simulate the craftwork of paperwork and lacework on the facades of their buildings. Through the virtuosic use of CAD (computer-aided design) and CAM (computer-aided manufacturing), they expand the field of contemporary ornament by reintroducing traditional craftwork. The study argues that digital technology contributes to contemporary architecture as a tool for restoring traditions of craftwork, as much as an innovative medium for rendering images and presenting architecture. Simulating craftwork or reinterpreting handicrafts at the scale of a whole building positions history in a contemporary context. Renouncing Adolf Loos' remark on ornament as wasted labor and time, the digitally fabricated ornament is produced effortlessly, requiring little human labor. Yet, the worker's natural irregularity, or "maker's stamp" in John Ruskin's terms, are missing from these digital fabrications: there is no defect, or trace of an architect's presence in digital craftwork. Being devoid of such criteria that usually characterize craft, the paper states that mastery is redefined in the age of advanced digital technology and probes the current emphasis given to the digital image and its surface effects.