Bridging technology and craft with MADWORKSHOP
From California to Venice, an eye-catching bridge has united the two cities in their shared reflection on one of history’s longest dichotomies, the interaction between humans and machines, offering a unique link between craftsmanship and machine-made objects
Between green trees and contemporary artworks, stands Arroyo Bridge Section, a red-coloured sculpture on display at the Marinaressa Gardens built in collaboration with Mary and David Martin’s MADWORKSHOP. The sculpture is the newest iteration of the Arroyo Bridge project that was undertaken in 2014 by an undergraduate architecture studio at the University of Southern California run by R. Scott Mitchell of Gigante AG, sponsored by MAD and with the support of the Autodesk Technology Center in Boston. This bridge, of nearly 25 metres long and built on private land in California, was conceived as a robot-fabricated overpass aimed at exploring new modes of robot-assisted fabrication. Eight years later, the bridge model was translated from a pragmatic object to Arroyo Bridge Section, a “purely aesthetic and gorgeous” scaled-down version in Venice.
Photo credits: Clelia Cadamuro
Arroyo Bridge Section takes, as the title indicates, a section of the bridge and pushes fabrication methods beyond robotic processes back to the hand. While Arroyo Bridge was built through a combination of human hands and robotic manufacturing, Arroyo Bridge Section was built entirely by humans, working tirelessly from mathematical calculations to produce a sculpture that is at once deeply engineered and profoundly hand-crafted.
“The essence of the Arroyo Bridge Section is the interaction between humans and machines – where humans are the master welders and machines are the strong yet nimble apprentices”, explains David Martin, co-founder of MADWORKSHOP. The project addresses and reflects on the imbalances that might be perceived in the relationship between the human and the technological, proposing tangible and promising examples of what happens when these two powers are united. “While humans are better than machines at dealing with complex geometry welding; machines are superior in strength, precision, and accuracy”. Bridging the gap between the two is the synergic partnership that Martin sees “as the future of human-machine interfaces”.
Photo credits: Federico Vespignani
Thanks to a steel base, the sculpture is anchored onto its pedestal while the top half, crafted from a balance of structural alloy tubes, conceptually lifts the structure, introducing a sense of fluidity and forward momentum. The shape is almost anthropomorphized, articulating a feeling of a bird taking off, a moment of flight, a surprising reading for a sculpture that is almost pure engineering. This engineering is precisely what lies at the heart of Arroyo Bridge Section: its goal is to offer a demonstration of the next and new world of architecture and construction, showing what is possible when the relationship between our ideas of the natural, our ideas of the human-made, and our ideas of the mathematical, begin to coalesce.
Taken out of its original setting, the sculpture brings to the Marinaressa Gardens a remarkable insight. By means of creative shapes and materiality, the sculpture starts a dialogue with its viewers by offering a counter to the often simplistic binary of natural vs technological, human vs computer, fabricated vs made. It argues for a nuanced approach to the possibilities and productive tensions inherent in the relationship between technology and craft.
You can visit Arroyo Bridge Section at the Marinaressa Gardens until the 27th of November or discover their work by exploring the virtual tours online. Discover more about the project on their profile online or website.