Innovation doesn’t always mean employing new technology—it can also mean renewing and refining methods known for centuries. That was a theme of RECORD’s Innovation Conference June 8, the magazine’s 18th such gathering and its first in San Francisco. More than 200 architects converged on the Mission Bay campus of the University of California, San Francisco for a day that began with architect Diébédo Francis Kéré showing how he made skylights for a school in Burkina Faso from slices of clay pots, and ended with Allied Works Architecture founder Brad Cloepfil displaying a model for the National Music Centre of Canada made of slices of a trombone encased in plaster. In both instances, there was innovation in form-making, but not a computer in sight.
Editor-in-chief Cathleen McGuigan set the tone by noting that architects are increasingly expressing a desire to “return to work produced by hand – to a feeling of craft.” Adam Marcus, the principal of Oakland’s Variable Projects, said digital fabrication has made it easy to customize building components. But another way to achieve variation, he says, is to rely on the hand, thereby “introducing risk into the process of making things.”