Lightweave Mid-November Update

We are really excited to be entering into the final fabrication and testing phase of our Lightweave project for the NOMA district in Washington DC. Our shop and studio have been consumed by the artwork for many months. Below you will find some images from the Future Cities Lab Instagram feed documenting the last six weeks or so.

Some fun fabrication details: The Lightweave installation is broken into 6 sections - each section is a little over 65' long. Within each section there are ~26 doubled stainless steel tube "lattice modules" that are CNC bent then individually hand-welded here in our San Francisco shop. The LED aluminum U channels were created using a special die run at an aluminum mill, then CNC bent and anodized clear. Each sections 26 lattice modules (2 welded stainless steel loops, 1 lattice mounting plate, LED aluminum channel, LED strip and wiring) weighs between 22 - 32lbs (~25 lbs average) so they are easy to lift and bolt into the beam plates.

-Jason & Nataly (and the rest of the awesome team at Future Cities Lab!)


2017 ACADIA Proceedings.jpg
Lumen at PS1 (Jenny Sabin)

Lumen at PS1 (Jenny Sabin)

Confluence Park Pavilions (Andrew Kudless)

Confluence Park Pavilions (Andrew Kudless)

Jason Kelly Johnson's "President’s Foreword" to the ACADIA 2017 Conference Proceedings (available here)

“Testing Ground”

Now in its 36th year of existence, the ACADIA community continues to thrive. Since its inception, Acadians have produced pioneering work and research, making key contributions to the fields of architecture, design, computation, engineering, scholarship, education, and beyond. As the most selective peer-reviewed conference of its kind in the world, it is also an open setting to discuss and debate experimental ideas no matter who you are or where you come from. I often call ACADIA a “testing ground”. It is a conference that explicitly accepts and cultivates early work-in-progress explorations, where one can share and celebrate prototypes, iterations, glitches, failures, tests and triumphs.    

My own involvement with ACADIA began over a decade ago. After having just become an Assistant Professor and co-founder of Future Cities Lab, I was fortunate to have a project accepted for presentation at the conference. It was exciting to discover a peer group with overlapping research interests in fabrication and robotics, and also mentors willing to provide constructive feedback and encouragement.

At these early ACADIA conferences I fondly remember getting to know the emerging work and research of people like Andrew Kudless and Jenny Sabin. Andrew’s early explorations in form-finding and material systems, most often using inexpensive wood laminates and plaster, allowed him to iterate and produce families of experiments, rather than mere one-offs. In a similar fashion, Jenny’s early research into textile systems and weaving algorithms allowed for the production of thousands of exploratory prototypes, some fantastically monstrous, others more refined and systematic. During these years I was also struck by the support and mentorship they received from the ACADIA community. People like Philip Beesley, Mike Weinstock, Achim Menges and Branko Kolarevic, come to mind. Not only do they regularly attend the conferences and provide support, but they mixed it up later in the evening, helping emerging generations connect the dots, meet future collaborators, and openly discuss potential new avenues of research. It is exciting to see projects from Andrew and Jenny now being realized. Andrew’s concrete shell pavilions at Confluence Park in Texas, and Jenny’s recently executed project Lumen for MOMA PS1’s Young Architects Program, are both excellent examples of Acadians moving from the “testing ground” to real-world constructions of the highest quality.

Similarly, during the year the majority of Acadians work tirelessly to experiment, write, design, build, prototype, collaborate and teach. Near the end of the year they gather in one place to exchange ideas, debate, share, learn and celebrate the past year’s accomplishments. It is in this spirit that our “testing ground” exists and flourishes. This year, with the MIT School of Architecture and the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts as our extraordinary backdrop, we explore the conference theme of “Disciplines and Disruptions”. In the spirit of Acadians past and present, the conference Chairs speculate that: “Distinctions between design and making, building and urban scale, architecture and engineering, real and virtual, on site and remote, physical and digital data, professionals and crowds, are diminishing as technology increases the designer's reach far beyond the confines of the drafting board. This conference provides a platform to investigate the shifting landscape of the discipline today, and to help define and navigate the future.”

On behalf of the ACADIA Board of Directors and its membership, as President of ACADIA I want to acknowledge the 2017 MIT conference team for their extraordinary organization, energy and thoughtfulness.

Special thanks to Conference Site Chairs Skylar Tibbits and Takehiko Nagakura, the Technical Chairs, Exhibition Chairs, Session Chairs, Hackathon Chairs, and many other advisers and supporters including Dennis Sheldon, and Head of the Department of Architecture at MIT, Professor Meejin Yoon. Workshop Chair Justin Lavallee (with Brandon Clifford), assistant Maroula Bacharidou, copy editors, graphic designers, staff members Patricia Driscoll, Inala Locke and many others were also instrumental to the success of the conference. Chairing and hosting a conference requires a thankless series of meetings and tasks that require vision, energy, a sense of humor, diplomacy and above all patience. Skylar, Takehiko and the extraordinary team they assembled, have patiently and generously worked with us over two years to craft a thought-provoking conference, exhibition, workshops and hackathon events.

I would like to acknowledge ACADIA’s many sponsors this year. Year-after-year the support of sponsors allows us to host a world-class event with an unsurpassed roster of keynote speakers, awardees, exhibits, publications, workshops, special round-tables, events and celebrations. Additional sponsorship from Autodesk allowed us to support more ACADIA Conference Student Travel Scholarships than ever before, and the ACADIA Autodesk Awards Program will honor and financially support emerging paper and project research again this year. I would like to personally thank Matt Jezyk from Autodesk for working with us over several years to make this an annual feature of the conference. Shane Burger, in his role as ACADIA’s Development Officer, took the lead with sponsorship again this year. Adam Marcus, in his role as ACADIA’s Communications Officer, also maintained key partnerships with Architect’s Newspaper and Archinect. Under their leadership our development and communications efforts have never been stronger.

I would also like to thank the ACADIA Board of Directors and Officers. Through the leadership of this dedicated group of people, ACADIA’s organization, finances, sponsorships, marketing and other outreach efforts have never been stronger. In addition to Shane and Adam, board members Mike Christenson, Kory Bieg, Dana Cupkova, Philip Anzalone, Kathy Velikov and others, have taken key leadership roles this year. We look forward to continuing to build-upon and evolve these efforts in the coming year as ACADIA prepares to host its follow-up conference in Mexico City in October 2018.

Finally, this year the ACADIA community mourned the tragic loss of pioneering architect Zaha Hadid. She was previously awarded ACADIA’s highest honor - the ACADIA Lifetime Achievement Award for Design in 2014. Zaha, along with her partner Patrik Schumacher and legions of extremely dedicated employees and collaborators, produced a trail-blazing body of cutting-edge work. Together they pushed design, computation, fabrication and construction into radical new territories. For many years her employees, collaborators and students have also made critical contributions to the ACADIA community. While we mourn Zaha’s loss, we also celebrate and take inspiration from her spirit of inventiveness and risk-taking. At this year’s Conference and Annual Meeting, we will honor Zaha for having the courage, patience and fortitude to devote her life to translating spectacular visions, paintings and models, into buildings and public spaces with the highest degree of conceptual thinking, craft and computational rigor.   

Jason Kelly Johnson
ACADIA President

Associate Professor, CCA San Francisco
Founding Design Principal, Future Cities Lab

jason's President’s Foreword to the ACADIA 2016 Conference


Jason Kelly Johnson's "President’s Foreword" to the ACADIA 2016 Conference Proceedings (available on Amazon here)

“Complex Entanglements” 

ACADIA was formed in a meeting 35 years ago on Oct 17, 1981 at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Since its inception the conference has served as an incubator for emerging ideas in feedback loops between academia, industry and professional practice. Over the years ACADIA’s members, leadership and attendees have included some the most inventive and important figures in the fields of architectural education and design, computation and engineering. While ACADIA is the most selective peer-reviewed conference of its kind in the world, it is also an open setting to discuss and debate experimental ideas no matter who you are or where you come. The fruits of these debates can be found in influential schools and research centers around the globe; in award-winning software, hardware, products, furniture and installations; to much larger constructions defining cityscapes from California to New York, London, Dubai, Beijing and beyond. Ideas get percolated at the ACADIA conference, iterated, prototyped, questioned, refined, built, then interrogated further as time passes, where they ultimately continue to evolve. 

At last year’s event in Cincinnati we organized a special session called Pioneers of Computational Design moderated by Robert Aish featuring Don Greenberg, Tom Maver, and one of ACADIA’s founding members Chuck Eastman. This remarkable session revealed that our founding member’s interests extended beyond “CAD” and included pioneering research in topics including virtual reality, computer graphics and building information modeling. The session was also a reminder of how far ACADIA has come in 35 years, where computational and technical subjects are no longer partitioned from the complexities of the architecture studio. This year’s conference sessions and publications will no doubt epitomize this transition. Presenters will describe emerging pedagogies, research models from schools, labs, shops and offices around the globe, where computation and design are now pursued simultaneously, most often entangled with other unexpected disciplinary and non-disciplinary concerns and possibilities.

During a coffee break at one of my first ACADIA conferences I recall finding myself in a conversation with the late Professor William J. Mitchell (also one of ACADIA’s founding members). He had founded the MIT Media Lab’s Smart Cities Program and his book "The Logic of Architecture: Design, Computation and Cognition", published in 1990, was credited by The New York Times as having, "... profoundly changed the way architects approached building design". Bill had just listened to me present a project and asked me questions that surprised and inspired me: “It is a beautiful project, but what if a city was filled with projects like yours? What kind of world would it be?”. While Bill was known as a technologist, he was also deeply interested in broader ideas about the role technology could play to positively shape cities and society. In many ways his attitude thankfully lives on today. Just look at the range of this year’s ACADIA papers, projects, participants and speakers. In the words of this year’s Conference Chairs one of the defining features of this event is to explore the “complex entanglements” and feedback loops between a radically diverse set of design ecologies, what they call, “autonomous and semiautonomous states”. Participants share a fascination with the interplay of these states where computation, artificial intelligence, and human ingenuity can yield radically new and innovative modes of designing, building, thinking, and interacting. In the spirit of William Mitchell, in the midst of our extraordinary experimentation and technological innovation, let’s not forget to ask ourselves and our colleagues: “What kind of world would it be?”    

On behalf of the ACADIA Board of Directors and its membership, I want to acknowledge the 2016 University of Michigan TCAUP team for their extraordinary organization, energy and thoughtfulness. Special thanks to Conference Site Chair Geoffrey Thun, Conference Co-technical Chairs Kathy Velikov and Sean Alquist, and others members of the team including co-chair Matias del Campo, workshop co-chairs Wes McGee and Catie Newell, exhibition chair Sandra Manninger, staff members Kate Grandfield, Deniz McGee and many others. As they have now discovered, organizing an ACADIA conference can be a little like using your own backyard to host a wedding, a graduation and a funeral - all in one weekend. Each event requires the hosts to assume different personalities - the strategist, the enforcer, the MC, the inspirational speaker. It requires a thankless series of meetings and tasks that require vision, energy, a sense of humor, diplomacy and above all patience. That being said - Geoffrey, Kathy, Sean and the extraordinary team they assembled, have patiently and generously worked with us over two years to not only craft a thought-provoking conference, exhibition and workshop series, but also produced some of the highest quality publications ACADIA has ever seen. We extend to you, and the entire TCAUP community, our sincerest admiration, respect and appreciation.

I would also like to acknowledge ACADIA’s many sponsors this year. Year-after-year the support of sponsors allows us to host a world-class event with an unsurpassed roster of keynote speakers, awardees, exhibits, publications, workshops, special round-tables, events and celebrations. Additional sponsorship from Autodesk allowed us to support more ACADIA Conference Student Travel Scholarships than ever before, and a new ACADIA Autodesk Awards Program will honor and financially support emerging paper and project research. 

Lastly, I would like to thank the ACADIA Board of Directors and Officers. Through the leadership of this dedicated group of people, ACADIA’s organization, finances, sponsorships, marketing and other outreach efforts have never been stronger. We look forward to continuing to build-upon and evolve these efforts in the coming year as ACADIA prepares to host its follow-up conference at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts in October 2017.

Jason Kelly Johnson
ACADIA President

Associate Professor, California College of the Arts, San Francisco
Founding Design Principal, Future Cities Lab

Future of Sport Stadium - USA Today

Future Cities Lab was excited to work with the visionary folks at Attention Span to help envision the future stadium for their clients Delaware North (the Jacob's family - best known as the owners of the Boston Bruins). Just ahead of the 2016 Super Bowl, the project got some recent press in the USA Today - gracing the front page of the Sports Section on 1/26/16!  

From the USA Today: The "Future of Sports" is a 50-page document that imagines what's ahead in the industry over the next 25 years. These are not so much predictions of what will happen as working versions of what could happen — provocative prognostications based on interviews with academics and futurists, all subject to inevitable revision as Father Time throws his customary curve balls."

The project team included: Jason Kelly Johnson, Jeff Maeshiro and Elaine Suh.

SF Market Street Prototyping Festival a Model For Participatory Urbanism

** Link to the official MSPF Data Lantern prototype page here.

Future Cities Lab recently participated in the San Francisco Market Street Prototyping Festival (MSPF) design charrette, where we caught up on the panoply of designs and fructifying prototypes. With two months left until the festival start date of April 9th, projects are developing quickly and promise some interesting concepts for public space. Questions of history, human interaction, policy, and public art are all up in the air, tied together neatly by the apropos choice of venue, The Village, located at 969 Market Street. Open only since August of last year, the space has already attracted a wide range of corporate events, and with it's street-facing doors wide open became the perfect location to lure in random passersby from Market Street, the festival's key clientele. 

The 50 design teams come from a wide range of backgrounds and the projects encompass a wide range of ideas. The Show Box by Jensen Architects is a variable set of cardboard tubes strapped together to form a playful terrain for seating and performance. Daily Boost is a series of platforms for learning affirming poses and postures, a kind of gym for the soul. Meet Wall by AMLGM is a sensing wall that flexes open to become more transparent when people approach, encouraging interaction and performance.

This festival is an ambitious undertaking, and is shaping up to deliver on it's promise of urban innovation. For us, this is the powerful potential of the MSPF: the opening up of urban design to an informed public, the crowd-sourcing of innovation through a structured system of haptic feedback between citizen and city, the maker ideology inherent to the Bay Area. This is what our project, Data Lanterns, is attempting to capture. Instead of data visualization, we believe data physicalization can generate spatial and public benefits, improving the city by tapping into the constant stream of data it produces. For more info please check out our Data Lantern project page (and if the mood suits you, "support" us) at a new civic innovation in its own right, Neighborland:

Creative Architecture Machines 2014 @ CCA

Jason was thrilled to teach another CREATIVE ARCHITECTURE MACHINES studio this Fall 2014 semester at CCA San Francisco. Special thanks to co-teacher Michael Shiloh, the students that included UGrads, Grads and students from CCA's amazing MAAD Digital Craft program, and our collection of reviewers and various guests throughout the semester. Special thanks to the Architecture staff, folks in the CCA Hybrid Lab (supported by a generous grant from Intel) and the Rapid Prototyping Studio for their support throughout the semester. This semester the Digital Craft Lab also hosted the Creative Architecture Machines Colloquium which brought together an incredible line-up of speakers and participants.    

#creativearchmachines #digitalcraftlab #ccarts #whodoesthat #sanfrancisco #futurecitieslab

2014 CAM Final Review Web and Print Handout_horiz.jpg

12/6/2014 Final Reviewers:
Jerem Blum #throughglass, Google X; Marco Teran, 3D Systems; Mitchell Joachim, Terreform1 NYC; Mike Estee, Other Machine CoJonathan Proto, Bot & Dolly / Google; Sean Lally, Weathers - Chicago; Allison Arieff, SPUR / New York Times; Kendra Byrne,  Bot & Dolly / Google; Lian Eoyang, CCA / VIF; Mike Kuniavsky, XEROX PARCElizabeth Goodman, Confectious / UC Berkeley; Petr Novikov, IAAC Mini-BuildersLabori Construction Robotics; Fedor Novikov, Labori Construction Robotics; Peter Hirshberg, Gray Area Founder / ReImagine; Michael Sturtz, Crucible / Stanford University d-schoolSasha Leitman, Stanford University CCRMASteve Okay, Hacker; Scott Minneman, CCA / Onomy Labs.


Course Tittle: CREATIVE ARCHITECTURE MACHINES;   Term: Fall 2014
Institution: CCA - California College of the Arts, San Francisco, CA
Other Affiliations: CCA Digital Craft Lab
Instructors: Jason Kelly Johnson (Future Cities Lab & CCA) with Michael Shiloh (CCA)
Phase 02 Duration: 8 weeks (Oct 1-Dec 6, 2014)
Social Media Tags: #creativearchmachines #digitalcraftlab #ccarts #whodoesthat #sanfrancisco #futurecitieslab



Team: Clayton Muhleman, Alan Cation, Adithi Satish
Synopsis: Swarmscaper explores the potential of an autonomous swarm of robots capable of operating independently in hostile environments. Utilizing on-site materials to create inhabitable structures, the robotic swarm’s behavior materializes through a slow and constant process of layered 3d-printing.
Keywords: Mobile 3d Printer, Machine Vision, Extreme Environments, mutant materials
Open Source: Instructables Link (includes in-depth details, images, 3d files, code)
Hardware: custom 3d printed tank-style robot, dc motors, Arduino micro-controllers, peristaltic pump, X-Bee
Software: Arduino, Grasshopper, Firefly, Reactivision machine vision
Primary Fab Materials: Sawdust, Sand, custom glues and bio-resins  


CCA Student Team: Thomas Monroy, Taole Chen
Synopsis: The Sky Printer is an adaptable, cable-based delta-gantry system that can span large areas with a minimal footprint. The Sky Printer is designed for large- scale applications in potentially remote locations. It can be understood as the evolution of the conventional 3d-printer.
Keywords: Skycam 3D Printer, Deltabot Printer, Large scale 3D bio-printer
Open Source: Instructables Link (includes in-depth details, images, 3d files, code)
Hardware: Custom mobile deltabot style 3d printer, 3d printed stepper motor mounts,  TinyG micro-controllers, custom pneumatic pump
Software: Grasshopper, Firefly
Primary Fab Materials: Clay, sand, salt, bio-matter including seeds, worms, etc.  



CCA Student Team: Manali Chitre, Anh Vu, Mallory Van Ness
Synopsis: Terra-Spider is part of a wireless robotic system capable of designing, repairing, and maintaining vast landscapes over extended periods of time. Taking inspiration from current farming and remediation practices as well as land art projects, this proposal rethinks the way landscapes are addressed. By programming each robot to understand the given site conditions, and equipping it with tools to remove and place bio-matter, it begins to take on a life of its own, creating patterns in and shifting the soil to best address the specific site’s needs.
Keywords: Bio-remediation Robot, Hexapod robotics, Machine Vision, Landscape Robot 
Open Source: Instructables Link (includes in-depth details, images, 3d files, code)
Hardware: custom 3d printed / lasercut spider style robot, Arduino micro-controllers, dc motors, peristaltic pump, drill bit and motor, X-Bee
Software: Arduino, Grasshopper, Firefly, Reactivision machine vision
Primary Fab Materials: Bio-matter with Phytoremediation plant seeds


CCA Student Team: Prerna Auplish, Evan Bowman, Ryan Chen
Synopsis: Space Weaver is designed to create ultra-lightweight woven structures with fibrous materials. Using a 3-axis gantry system, woven forms are created in a similar process as most 3D printers, except they produce a significantly higher strength-to-weight ratio, result in zero waste, and require no support material. In short, Space Weaver is a seven foot tall 3D printer that uses carbon fiber and fiberglass to print five foot tall woven structures.
Keywords: Robotic Weaving, Column Weaver, Composite Printing, Carbon Fiber 3D Printing  

Open Source: Instructables Link (includes in-depth details, images, 3d files, code)
Hardware: Custom 3d weaving machine, 3d printed magnetic spindles, TinyG micro-controllers, modified Shapeoko hardware
Software: Grasshopper, Firefly
Primary Fab Materials: bio-resinated Carbon fiber, hemp, other threaded spools 


Team: Brett Petty and Meshal AlButhie
Synopsis: Live Forms revolutionizes the process of creating mass customizable formworks for construction. By allowing for a direct link between a parametric computer model and a robotic jig, a designer can iterate and explore a multitude of design potentials.
Keywords: Robotic Jig, Live form works, Concrete jig, Piston driven forms 
Open Source: Instructables Link (includes in-depth details, images, 3d files, code) 
Hardware: custom 3d printed robotic jig, Arduino Uno micro-controller, servo motors, 1/4 plywood, Latex
Software: Arduino, Grasshopper, Firefly
Primary Fab Materials: Plaster, concrete, resin, other related castable materials 

Datasprayer Update

THE DATASPRAYER PROJECT IS ABOUT MERGING THE DIGITAL AND THE PHYSICAL. It’s about making data more tangible and enriching the urban realm with layers of information that are normally inaccessible or hidden.
— Future Cities Lab

In the past few years an impressive collection of data-visualization projects have emerged that overlay publicly available data onto digital maps. One of the most compelling examples is Crimespotting by Stamen Design where crime types, dates and times are superimposed on a Google map. Another example is the Bike Accident Tracker project. These maps give us a spectacular birds-eye view of data and allow one to explore topics at multiple scales over time. On the other hand - these digital maps tend to be incredibly disengaged from the actual locations or events they are mapping. Most often one also needs a large screen or tablet to view them effectively, and therefore they are not that useful when you are walking or riding through the city itself.      

These digital mapping projects and others like them led us to wonder: How could we remap this data back onto the city to make it more useful and meaningful to the citizens on the ground? How could we make this data more tangible, legible and a part of the physical urban realm?  

An early prototype of the Datasprayer project by Future Cities Lab / Jason Kelly Johnson. 

An early prototype of the Datasprayer project by Future Cities Lab / Jason Kelly Johnson. 

What is Datasprayer?

Datasprayer is an experimental urban mapping robot. It harvests geotagged datasets and symbols from maps found on the internet and “sprays” them back onto the city. The rover works autonomously to reveal layered palimpsests like crime, accidents, toxicity, flooding, social media trends, wifi access, consumer ratings and more. Datasprayer seeks to weave the richness of the internet - including its precision and unpredictability - back into the city. 

The Datasprayer is an autonomous GPS-guided rover and real-time urban mapping robot

The Datasprayer is an autonomous GPS-guided rover and real-time urban mapping robot

Project status as of 22 July 2014: After an initial round of experiments along the San Francisco coastline, Datasprayer is currently undergoing testing in Athens, Greece and on Lido Island in Venice, Italy. We are in the process of drawing 50m long dashed lines across various urban coastal sites to demarcate future sea-level rise due to climate change, and most importantly, to raise public awareness.

Venice overlaid with water elevation set to 1m above the current sea-level. 

Venice overlaid with water elevation set to 1m above the current sea-level. 

Project Team

Lead: Jason Kelly Johnson (Future Cities Lab / CCA)
Assistants: Jeff Maeshiro, Taylor Fulton, Camille Lo


The project was influenced by some amazing past work by the Institute for Applied Autonomy, the Feral Robots work by Natalie Jeremijenko, the artist Eve Mosher, the maps / earthworks of Robert Smithson, and many more. We also admire and follow many other data obsessed people including Laura Kurgan and the folks at Stamen Design in San Francisco. 


01. Open Data: The San Francisco Open Data Portal developed and maintained by Socrata. This is an amazing repository of regularly updated geo-tagged data in csv, json, xml file formats and more. For our sea-level rise water level elevation mapping we are scrapping data from using water levels at a 1m elevation. We'll be integrating more accurate data soon.
02. Coding Tools: We use the graphical coding environment Grasshopper to import, process and visualize our initial data-sets, and we use the plug-in Firefly to communicate with our Arduino micro-controllers, radios and GPS units. Grasshopper is built upon the 3d modeling software called Rhino. We also use Mission Planner to upload our GPS waypoints to the rover's Arduino and keep track of the robot in real-time.      
03. Urban Icons: Our urban icons are borrowed / modified NounProject graphic symbols created by these amazing folks. Some samples are below >>> 


04. Other thoughts on Drones: The military use of drones and rovers has emerged as one of the predominant tools for remotely gathering intelligence and waging war on foreign soils. Almost daily we read about US drone strikes carried out in the Middle East by US based computer technicians. We have all seen the video-game like footage of weaponized UAV's streaming through grainy desert landscapes with spectacular accuracy and terrifying anonymity. While the apparent successes and collateral damage have been well documented in the main stream media, we cannot help but wonder what the future holds when these technologies become mainstream? What will happen when our enemies have equal access to these tools and begin to emulate the tactics and methods established by the West? These questions have led us to ask: Could these technologies also be used for explicitly peaceful and useful purposes?

Upcoming + Recent Robotic Prototypes Workshops

"Robotic Prototypes" Workshops taught by Jason Kelly Johnson


7/2014 _ Venice Biennale 2014 . Venice, Italy - more info coming soon!
10/2014 _ ACADIA 2014 @ USC, Los Angeles, CA 


2/19/14 - 2/23/14 @ U Texas Austin (TEX-FAB 5)
2/7/14 - 2/10/14 @ Carnegie Mellon University (Eliciting Environments, Actuating Response)
1/15/14 - 1/18/14 @ Tulane University (Architect's Week)
9/2013 - 12/2013 @ Cornell University (X Studio)
7/22/13 - 7/29/13 @ UC Berkeley (Design Frontiers)
7/11/13 - 7/12/13 @ Facade+ SF (Architect's Newspaper)
2/15/13 - 2/17/13 @ Princeton University (Forging Fabrications) 
2/27/13 - 3/3/13 @ U Texas Arlington (TEX-FAB 4)
2/7/13 - 2/10/13 @ Ohio State University (Possible Mediums)
7/26/12 - 7/27/12 @ Collaborations SF (Architect's Newspaper)
many more ... to be listed soon ...   

Creative Architecture Machines @ CCA

Stratum Networks open-source 3d Clay Printer 

This semester Jason was excited to teach a new advanced architecture studio at CCA San Francisco called "CREATIVE ARCHITECTURE MACHINES". Students began by making 2D robotic drawing machines (see the results here) and then they designed and built their own custom 3D fabrication machines. The final few weeks of the semester were focused on creative output using Arduino and the Firefly plug-in for Grasshopper (Jason is the co-developer). The final public review was on Saturday, Dec 7 2013 in the CCA Nave. Jason co-taught the studio with the amazing Michael Shiloh who wears many hats including the community liason for Arduino.

Share: All projects videos are now on YouTube and published open-source on Instructables
Press: See recent press coverage: 3D Printing Industry blogHackadayArchitect Magazine by curator Aaron Betsky, GigaOM and more. Jeremy Blum from Google X recorded most of the final review using Google Glass - it is a pretty amazing collection of images and videos!

Geoweaver Exhibit: The Geoweaver robot and printed artifacts will be in the Possible Mediums show at University of Michigan TCAUP on 17 Jan 2014; and at Carnegie Mellon University "Eliciting Environments" exhibit, and the 2014 Bay Area Maker's Faire.
*** Stratum Networks CCA Jury Prize Fall 2013 and winner of an 2014 AIA Los Angeles 2x8 Honor Award: Huge congrats to Ugrads Taylor Fulton and Max Sanchez for winning the all-CCA Jury Prize for outstanding architecture studio projects. On 4/11/14 the pair also took home an Honor Award at the AIA/LA 2x8 competition. View their Stratum Networks video here and Instructable here.  

Final guest reviewers included: Jon Proto & Brandon Kruysman (Bot & Dolly / Google), Brian Harms (Samsung R&D), Jeremy Blum (Google X), Pablo Garcia (SAIC), Aaron Betsky (Director of the Cinncinati Art Museum), Bill Meyer (Director of New Media, Exploratorium), Mike Petrich and Karen Wilkenson (Founders of the Exploratorium's Tinkering Studio), Gian Pablo Villamil and Karl Willis (Autodesk), Andrew Kudless (CCA & Matsys), Mark Cabrinha (Cal Poly), Josh Zabel (Kreysler & Assoc), Andrew Maxwell Parrish (CCA Hybrid Lab / Intel Technologist-in-Residence).

Stratum Networks: a clay printing delta-bot

Stratum Networks: a clay printing delta-bot

Fluid In Flux: a wax in water 3d printer

Fluid In Flux: a wax in water 3d printer

S.A.M. Spring Aided Manufacturing: a "spinebot" style 3d printer

S.A.M. Spring Aided Manufacturing: a "spinebot" style 3d printer



CAM /// Creative Architecture Machines
Fall 2013 – CCA Advanced Architecture Studio: BArch 507-02 / MArch 607-02
Instructors: Jason Kelly Johnson ( with Michael Shiloh (
Google Community Page: #CreativeArchitectureMachines; CAM YouTube Channel

Since the late 1990’s architects have typically used commercial CAD software to feed CAM programs to feed CNC machines. These “computer-aided” processes and “numerically-controlled” machines are most often used to increase efficiency and make the design, prototyping and fabrication processes more routine, faster and cheaper. In architecture and design schools around the world students are increasingly being taught to use standard suites of software and industrial hardware technologies such as laser cutters, robotic mills and 3d printers as ways to precisely model the formal and geometric aspects of their designs. Yet these fabrication technologies are rarely interrogated or explored in a critical or creative fashion. Why is it that architects are taught to be mere users of technology rather than innovators? Why are the core creative tools of our profession designed by systems engineers? What creative potential exists at the heart of these machines, where bits intermix with atoms, where digital code meets material logic? 

This studio will embrace a more radical approach to the design and fabrication of architecture. The main ambition of the studio is to explore the efficacy of digital processes and their potential to contribute to a wider conversation about architecture, technology and culture. Through the production of experimental and speculative fabrication machines we will endeavor to contribute to a wider debate within architecture about the role architects might play in a coming world where the lines between the digital and the physical are rapidly being blurred beyond recognition.

Participants will explore these ideas through the iterative prototyping of actual living, breathing, working technologies. In Phase 01 of the semester students will create two-dimensional (X,Y) robotic “drawing machines” that respond to indeterminate inputs (sun, wind, sound, etc.) from their environment to create novel drawings, paintings, drippings, etchings, compositions in light and pixels. In Phase 02 students will create four-dimensional (X, Y, Z plus time) machines for the production of a radical new class of domestic dwelling unit. During this phase students will create desktop fabrication machines that approximate full-scale processes at an architectural scale. Students will work back and forth between processes ofdesign, prototyping, playing, hacking, coding, learning and feedback.      

The work of the studio will be situated at the intersection of architecture, robotics engineering and DIY hacker culture. We will also explore how allied design fields, such as those inventing new robotic devices, military systems, prosthetic engineering, high-tech clothing, furniture, lighting, automobiles, and more, are latent with new material, spatial and ecological possibilities. The studio will be extremely “hands-on” and will ask students to work iteratively and inventively through modes of digital and analog modeling, simulation, fabrication and performance testing. Structured technical workshops will cover the use of micro-controllers and a variety of sensors, actuators and other integrated electronic media, as well as modes of parametric modeling and digital fabrication.

Some Key Links

Custom CAM Arduino Kits put together for us by our friends at OddWires
Firefly plug-in for Grasshopper / Arduino by Johnson / Payne
The CCA Hybrid Lab and the CCA Rapid Prototyping Lab  

CCA Creative Architecture Machines lab studio space (Nov 2013)

CCA Creative Architecture Machines lab studio space (Nov 2013)