Computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) has revolutionized architecture. Proponents argue that CAM’s computer numeric controlled (CNC) machines make individual architecture components that are not prohibitively expensive, reconnects designers directly to making, and transforms architectural form.[1] Despite these accolades, there is a distinction between CNC equipment directly and indirectly fabricating architecture components. Directly, CNC equipment punched the holes in the copper screen for Herzog and deMeuron’s DeYoung Museum and the steel skin and structure for SHoP’s Barclay Center. Indirectly, makers use CNC equipment to fabricate tooling (e.g. molds, patterns, and dies) to repetitively manufacture components that have been customized on a per-project basis. Examples include the pressed ceramic tiles on Machado Silvetti’s Center for Asian Art at the Ringling Museum and the precast concrete panels for COOKFOX Architects’ 260 Kent Street in Brooklyn.[2] The term ‘customized repetitive manufacturing’ or CRM refers to this process.

Through research, we have collected over 200 examples of CRM in architecture. Our CRM examples are located around the world and demonstrate a global application of CRM in architecture. See figure 1. A wide range of architecture practices use CRM in their building design; this includes high profile firms such as Foster and Partners, Herzog and deMeuron, and REX; as well as local and experimental practices such as LMN Architects, 5468796 architecture, and Assemble. Some firms, such as Kengo Kuma and Associates and Neutelings Riedijk Architects, are ‘repeat offenders’ and have many projects on our list of examples (four and six, respectively). Some firms, such as Gramazio Kohler Architects and Herzog & deMeuron are well-known for experimenting with CNC technology but have used CRM for several of their award-wining projects.

In architecture, CRM’s production runs are smaller and manufacturing more flexible than those typically associated with repetitively manufactured, mass-produced components. CRM manufacturers need to respond to orders as they are placed, tooling changes must be quick, and machine set-up times short. There are specific types of manufacturers and manufacturing facilities that can take on CRM work. This paper defines manufacturing terms and provides broad overviews of manufacturers, while focusing on those elements that relate to CRM in architecture. We concentrate on manufacturers that are able to take on custom work via contracts, while demonstrating that the types of manufacturers for CRM in architecture is broad. Using the case studies, this paper explores, categorizes and qualitatively identifies different types of CRM manufacturers of architecture components.

[1] Kolarevic, Branko and Kevin Klinger. Manufacturing Material Effects: Rethinking Design and Making in Architecture. Routledge, 2013

[2] Machado Silvetti. Center for Asian Art at the Ringling Museum of Art. 2016, Sarasota, FL plaster molds were fabricated with a CNC mill. COOKFOX. 260 Kent. In-progress, Brooklyn NY used large-scale, 3D printed molds that were CNC milled to their final shape and finish.