“Collaborative Laboratory” is not only the name of this exhibition and the title of Archi-Union Architects’ retrospective publication looking back on its 15 year history. It also describes the collaborative and experimental approach to research, design, fabrication, and implementation that these architects have consistently pursued in their work.
Founded in 2003 by Philip F. Yuan, Archi-Union Architects is at the vanguard of research on how geometry, digital technology, and material are integral to a profound understanding of the design process and realization. Germinated under this influence, in 2015 Yuan launched the spin-off company Fab-Union Technology to focus on digital design, fabrication, and construction technology, such as brick and timber robotics and largescale 3D printing robotics. As a platform for research and development, Fab-Union Technology is driving the use of digital fabrication in the countryside, fusing digital technologies with local craftsmanship. This endeavor is enabling Archi-Union to take its design process and workflow in new directions. The two teams have collaborated on several innovative projects to date in China, including the West Bund Fab-Union Space (2015), Pond Society (2016), In Bamboo, and Cloud Pavilion (both 2017).
For the Chinese pavilion at the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale this year (2018), Archi-Union created an outdoor “Cloud Village” using robotic printing developed by Yuan and his team. The recycled plastic material used to create the pavilion makes reference to the environmental crisis of the Chinese countryside and at the same time asserts a critical reevaluation of sustainable spatial production for the future.