The following interesting interview with Arthur Mamou-Mani will also be published in X-Paper Shanghai.
1. How did the idea of 3D pop-up shop come out?
Last April we completed a giant laser-cut blue origami at the Xintiandi Style mall as part of the RIBA window display project with ARUP Associates (more details here).
During the celebratory dinner I talked to the client about a lab that I am opening in London called the FabPub in which people can come and use 3D printers and Laser-Cutter to create all kinds of personalized objects.
They asked if I could do a similar project at Xintiandi during the Fashion week but in a pop-up format. After several email discussions we decided that the whole project should be 3D printed! This is quite a challenge as large-scale 3d printers are still quite experimental. We found several amazing sponsors, such as Hypecask, who manufacture giant printers and Voltivo who produces a bio-plastic which we are using for the whole project. Once we had the right tools we started testing many options which was great because there was an immediate creative loop between our computers and the 3D prints. By using the same printer for the tests and the final product in Shanghai we could be precise to the micron and know that the prints will be exactly the same on the other side of the globe. We sent three Hypecask DeltaTower printers in Shanghai and started printing 200 different modules. It made a lot of sense as sending the 200 modules would have taken a lot more space! Since we could personalized every module we thought of a charity event in which 100 people will get their name 3d printed on the modules and at the end of the event, they will all collect their module. The money raised from this contest will go to charity.
2. What do you think about 3D printing and its future?
3D printing was invented by Chuck Hull in 1983 so it is as old as me. As architects we have been using this technology since at least 10 years, producing models for our projects. The real revolution is when printers went from very expensive tools to open-source, small desktop devices. Adrian Bowyer of Bath University invented a printer that could partly print itself, the RepRap. Most of the desktop machines that we see today are variations of this early concept. Makers around the world are hacking machines to print anything from bio-tissue to chocolate or clay. The revolution is not just the machine itself, it is the shift in mentality from a passive consumer-based society to an active collaborative and creative one in which people will not just buy, they will participate. Everyone will have a 3D printer at home and will download and modify 3d files to their requirements. This will go from furnitures all he way to food. It will be an exciting time in which everyone’s home will be truly different, the end of the IKEA home! This pop-up shop is an attempt to instil some of this spirit in the shopping mall.
3. According to you, what changes the 3D printing will bring to us, especially on the architecture and construction fields?
A friend of mine Dr. Zoe Laughlin, who runs the Institute of Making in London cleverly describes a lot of the objects that are being 3D printed today as “crapjets” . Very often we see small plastic objects that take very long to print and are very rough looking. The roughness is due to the way objects are modelled in the computer and then sliced into thin layers that are printed one after the other from bottom to top. With three friends of mine, Adam Holloway, Karl R Kjelstrup-Johnson and Andrei Jipa, we worked on a software called Silkworm (more info here) that transforms curves in the computer directly into a code that prints without the need for slicing. Since the software is linked to a very popular design 3D modelling software called Rhinoceros and Grasshopper, it creates a very direct connection between designs and 3D printing. This is how we designed the modules of the pop-up project. This process gave a very unique lace-like quality to the modules. In the future, architects will 3D print their building, it will happen in two different ways: First, cranes on site will become giant 3D printers which might be directly controlled by a 3D modelling software so directly connected to the Architect’s computer, it will be used for the main structure, either using concrete or a very advanced bio-concrete made of organic material similarly to the bio-plastic we are using with our printers today. Secondly, architects will 3D print the components of their buildings on site with smaller machines. I don’t believe a project will be 3D printed in one go, there will still be a need to assemble pieces as we are doing for the pop-up store. Architect should start learning about 3D printing as the change is happening very fast!
4. How about your cooperation with Xintiandi?
When Xintiandi talked about doing this project at first, I sent a presentation with many different digital fabrication technique, such as laser-cutting or CNC milling, which are more common for pavilion projects.I also sent them projects that I have done in the past with the different tools (for example the pavilion that I worked on at the Burning Man festival – more info) and asked them which one I should use for the pop-up store project. They immediately said “3D print the whole project!”. This was quite scary at first but I felt so lucky that a client was willing to let us experiment with such an advanced tool. This project will be one of the first of its kind. Only a very open-minded and creative client could let this happen. People increasingly shop online through websites such as amazon or ASOS, I believe pop-up shops like this one gives another reason to go shopping physically, you will discover a one-of-a-kind interactive space that will only last a short time. So we need more Xintiandis in the world!!