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New ‘FabLab’ helps Utah architecture students dream big

SALT LAKE CITY — Digital design has changed the way architects dream up and build the world around us. To keep up with those changes, the University of Utah College of Architecture and Planning celebrated Wednesday the completion of a new digital fabrication lab, known as the FabLab.

The cutting-edge lab, funded by Big D Construction, enables students to develop better designs with models, more quickly.

“The world of architecture and design and planning is rapidly changing,” said Nick Hammer, a masters architecture student using the new digital tools. “New tools to be able to do mockups, building designs, concepts for our buildings.”

To stay on the forefront of the field, architecture and planning students use these digital fabrication tools, like laser printers and specialized cutters, to transform their ideas into models.

“It speeds up our process to design,” said Hammer. “It also allows us to create more versions of that mockup if we need it. These tools are able to speed up the process and manipulate it to where we’re developing more advanced and better buildings.”

That opens up the creative process for students like Hammer, who is finishing up his degree. He can explore what he likes and doesn’t like with a specific design when he’s holding a digitally-fabricated wood model in his hand.

“Where you can manipulate it, and look at it up close,” he said. “All of those iterations are able to produce a more in-depth building, essentially.”

A massive new Computer Numerically Controlled cutter enables students to construct mock-ups and prototypes that range from human scale to building scale. The lab is a creative space for students from architecture, design and city planning to work across disciplines and to explore their ideas. The FabLab houses the digitally-driven tools that make models in hours, rather than days when made by hand. It helps students take their ideas from the computer to production of models they can use to rework that idea.

“These tools can deliver much more complex representations of your ideas than what you might be able to do by hand, in a much faster turnaround time,” said Jonathan Mills, a visiting assistant professor of design, who called the lab a big leap forward for the College of Architecture and Design.

That allows students to develop ideas and designs with a greater degree of detail.

“We have this experience now to be able to make those products,” said Hammer. “The professional world is in need of those students.”

It helps when the students using the new tools graduate. According to the program, 97 percent of University of Utah College of Architecture and Planning grads have jobs waiting for them, and applications to the program are up 30 percent.

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