The fabrication community is usually centered around CNC machines that provide great precision and repeatability of the task. These Computer-Numerical-Controll devices are used to scan (laser, coded light), cut (laser, plasma, waterjet, airjet usually refer to as substractive process), route (milling), sinter (3d print, ultrasonic, polymerisation, rapid-solidification usually refer to as additive process) or assemble as seen in recent works of Hod Lipson and Jon Hiller or Jonathan Ward and Neil Gershenfeld. The latter propose to use a robotic machine to create complex structures that are composed of very precised and error-corrected (or balanced) quantities of materials from a small scale (micro at the moment) to bigger scale like furniture or even buildings.
Although many researchers in the area of self-assembly (in material sciences, biochemistry, synthetic biology) develop CNC robots or processes that influence the way living object behave or evolve (like in microfluidics, biomedical devices, nanoassembly), it is less frequent to find these machines when it comes to create bigger objects. Where is then the community of biomachining things like furniture, houses, etc ? If we refer to the term digital fabrication, where is the equivalent digital growing research when it comes to pleaching objects or structures important for the fabrication process.
Of course different scales and different environment (DIY vs University grade) are challenges to take on when one’s interested in interveining in the process of growing and create epigenetic robots and machine that follow the energetic and bio-ecologic context of plants and their surroundings. Of course, we could think of animals as well but I think plants are more interesting since they are older by an order of magnitude than other forms of life, they can adapt and react in such a richer way than the rest of the world… In terms of robots and machines themselves, like S.Papert body syntonic embodied computational algorithms in the 80’s we could imagine human acting as robots that could start to perform operations in nature (à la besley) or maybe children toys that would slowly but surely simulate the sun (heliotropism) or any other influential growing conditions of plants to help them develop in particular ways, forming patterns or maybe pleaching, grafting programmatically.
GIY: Grow It Yourself
With the emergence of citizen sciences movements like DIYBio, OpenWetWare, Fablabs, and new post-industrial production centers for technology like Techshops, Art and Technology centers, Medialabs and also Hackerspaces many places in the world have now the appropriate environnement to create these bio-intervention machines that would renegotiate the natural environment through technology without erasing it and replacing it by an artifical instance, as it is usually dialectaly proposed in the dualism between technology (the production of men) and its umwelt. Robots, machines, are very precise and can repeat task with a somehow predictable level of error, they contrast to men that usually love to drift and make breaks to philosoph about the world. I see here an interesting tension when it comes to their joint attention to the ephemeral modification of nature, for a while and then withdraw, to let the fragile and complex homeostasis of living system trying to cope with their unique intentions or predictable repetitions.
The words wabi and sabi do not translate easily. Wabi refers to quirks and anomalies arising from the process of construction, which add uniqueness and elegance to the object. Sabi is beauty or serenity that comes with age, when the life of the object and its impermanence are evidenced in its patina and wear, or in any visible repairs.
There are many ways to pleach a tree or a plant, some structures are helping more than others like these ones
The Prince and Count Claudio, walking in a thick pleached alley in mine orchard, were thus much overheard by a man of mine