In Singapore: Designer Nation from New Design magazine has featured seven prominent designers from Singapore, one of whom is Assistant Prof Carlos Bañón. 

Read the E-magazine here.

 Pg 65- 66

 Carlos Bañón | Founder of AIRLAB

I’m the co-founder of AIRLAB and also an Architect and Professor at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). I have a huge interest in pushing the exploration of the convergence of technology and design and its implications in design processes.

In 2015 I co-founded the Architectural Intelligence Research Laboratory (AIRLAB) in Singapore, which brings together a multi-disciplinary group of Architects, Researchers, and Material Scientists. We explore new notions of architecture dealing with contemporary challenges, with a strong emphasis on digital design and fabrication tools. Our ambition is to achieve more efficient, adaptable, versatile, and lighter products by introducing technologies like 3D printing and Digital Manufacturing in our design workflows.

Back in my undergraduate days, I was fortunate to be part of the Pioneer batch of students of quite an experimental six-year Architecture Programme in 1996 at the University of Alicante, Spain. I was taught by a very young faculty back then, who are now leading some of the top architectural schools around the world.

In 2014, I moved from Spain to Singapore after joining SUTD, one of the world’s most exciting universities, that is pioneering the integration of advanced digital tools and fabrication methods through an entire design curriculum.

Ultimately my job as a designer is to look into the future; In particular, I am interested in making meaningful use of technology and digital tools to conceive otherwise unimaginable designs and to be able to fabricate them. 3D Printing and Digital Design can enhance creativity and reduce uncertainties at the fabrication. Thanks to digital simulations and precise use of data, a higher number of iterations can be tested before the design is executed and finally produced.

Singapore is well known internationally for being an early adopter of new technologies, and for pushing innovation in research. This is a fantastic environment and provides fertile ground for AIRLAB to grow as we are ambitious in pushing the boundaries of physics by using state-of-the-art technology to impact the built environment.

Over the last six years, we have worked alongside phenomenal partners in Industry and Research institutions. Autodesk, Gardens by the Bay, DB Schenker, Keppel Land, and Netatech have trusted in our design approach to bring value and innovative solutions to their business. Recently, we have also won several awards for one of our most significant projects, a 3D Printed pavilion in Stainless-steel for Gardens by the Bay.

In the Architecture field, I admire the radicalness and thoughtfulness of Smiljan Radic; and the brilliant combination of geometric exploration, revolutionary discourse, and graphic representation of Efren Garcia-Grinda and Cristina Diaz Moreno.  And, of course, Enric Miralles, a genius that has always been a permanent secret- agent in my work.  I am also a fan of Ronan and Ewan Bouroullec’s work. They achieve a notion of elegance and sensitivity in their geometries, textures, and colours rarely seen.

AirMesh is the result of five years of research in our lab. It presents a bold design and fabrication method, leveraging 3D printing technology to blend structure with nature. We wanted to tackle the sustainability challenges not addressed in standard construction methods: material wastage, structural efficiency, and optimization of costs. Consequently, 3D printing technology is chosen because the process can be so precise that it generates no material wastage during the fabrication. Therefore, even in complex neural networks, characterized by non-standard geometries, it is no more costly due to intricacy. The cost is directly related to the amount of material used and the bounding box of the printed components.

For us, as designers, we develop free-form structures that use the material in an optimized way and where necessary. This process produces a lightweight and more slender structures compared to typical standardized systems that are usually bulky, non-aesthetically pleasant, and geometrically discontinuous. In addition to advancing technology in construction, we wanted to be able to test the delivery of a plug and play “IKEA-like” assembly system, setting the precedence for future 3D-printed structures, which can one day replace traditional construction methods. AIRLAB typically fully derives and performs the structural calculations in each of our designs. That allows us to have full control of what happens in each of the components involved.

We are very grateful that our perseverance saw fruition by being the first ever 3D printed structure being approved by Building and Construction Authority here in Singapore.

The novel coronavirus is a human catastrophe that has caused a significant impact on the lives of millions. But we need to remain optimistic and seize opportunities that this pandemic can present. I believe that we can be creative in transitioning to not just a new normal but a better normal. Designers from all over the world are joining forces to help cope with this pandemic and to make our world a safer and better one.

Technology is facilitating amazing ways to join forces to fight the effects of Covid 19. With digital fabrication and 3D printing many ‘makers’ in the world have contributed to save lives by designing and printing self-protection devices for healthcare workers. Thanks to the adoption of new technologies, a distributed production has been possible by sharing just an STL file of the components to print. To this end, AIRLAB has also been actively working on a number of ideas to help curb the effects of this pandemic.

Covid-19 has forced design firms and academia to move into digital platforms in order to continue activity. This ‘new normal’ way of teaching, of having meetings, will continue to be more widely adopted and, even when gatherings can be organized with less social-distancing restrictions, will remain mainstream. I hope that innovation and new technologies applied purposefully are adopted by the leading developers and public stakeholders, to help manufacture altogether a better and more resilient normal.