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 Alicia Nahmad-Vazquez

Alicia Nahmad-Vazquez

Research student, Welsh School of Architecture

Alicia is an architect who explores design through the integration of materials and technology in relation to context specific environments. Her professional and research work has focused on exploring the relationship between architecture, technology and fabrication by implementing computational techniques on large scale design projects.

Born in Mexico City, she holds a degree in architecture by Tec de Monterrey CEM and a Masters degree in Architecture and Urbanism from the Architectural Association in London

Alicia has practised over many years as an architect. She was a senior designer for Populous for over 3 years in a leading role dealing with an extensive list of projects of various scales around the world, including the winning Masterplan for the Dubai World Expo 2020, Jaber El Ahmad Olympic village in Kuwait and the Russia Luzhniki stadium. Alicia was also part of the parametric geometry group at Populous, which aims to rationalise complex geometries and integrate fabrication techniques into their form. Before joining Populous Alicia worked as a designer for Zaha Hadid Architects, and also as a project architect for Grupo Inmobiliario Altiva (Mexico). Whilst at Grupo Altiva she played an active role in the design and construction of various residential complexes where she gained a broad range of site experience. She has also practiced as an independent architect developing various commissions from design stage to completion in Mexico City

Alicia has taught international design - build seminars and workshops at various universities, including KADK (Copenhagen), BMS College of engineering (India), Hunan University (China), Tec de Monterrey (Mexico) with Hyperthreads and the Architectural Association Visiting School.

Her work and collaborations have been exhibited and presented at various events, including the International Association for Shell Structures 2014, ACADIA 2014, Los Angeles, ACADIA 2012 San Francisco, the London Festival of Architecture 2010, Museum of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki, Greece and the BFI, as well as having been published in various web-based media.

Selected publications

+ A. Nahmad Vazquez and W. Jabi., 2017, “Investigations in Robotic Assisted Design: Strategies for symbiotic agencies in material-directed generative design processes”, International Journal of Architectural Computing (IJAC) ACADIA edited special issue 2017, SAGE.

+ A. Nahmad Vazquez, ”Provoking Instrumentality: A framework for Robotic Assisted Design”, ‘Spaces of Desire; remembrance and Civic Power’ conference at the Welsh School of Architecture. Awaiting publication

+ A. Nahmad Vazquez and W. Jabi., 2017. “ Pop-Up Concrete Constructions: Forming Fabric Reinforced Concrete Sheets”, International Journal of Computational Methods and Experimental Measurements, Wessex Institute of Technology. Volume 5, Issue 4, 2017, pp. 451 – 463. ISSN: 2046-0546 (paper format), ISSN: 2046-0554 (online), . DOI: 10.2495/CMEM-V5-N4-451-463

+ A. Nahmad Vazquez and W. Jabi., 2016. “RAF | A Framework for symbiotic agencies in Robotic – Aided Fabrication”. In P. Weber, ed. Proceedings of the International Peer-reviewed Conference on “Research Based Education”. The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, pp. 130-149

+ A. Nahmad Vazquez and W. Jabi., 2015. “Pop-Up concrete: Digital and Physical materiality”, 2015 Proceedings of the TxA Emerging Design and Technology Conference held during the Texas Society of Architects 76th Annual Convention and Design Expo in Dallas, Texas. Waiting publication date, paper accepted and presented.

+ A. Nahmad Vazquez and W. Jabi., 2015. “A Collaborative Approach to Digital Fabrication: A Case Study for the Design and Production of Concrete ‘Pop-up’ Structures”, International Journal of Architectural Computing, vol.12,issue 2, pp. 130 – 149.

+ Nahmad Vazquez, A., Bhooshan, S., Inamura, C., Zabel, J., El-Sayed, M. & Sondergaard, A., 2014, September. “Design, analysis and fabrication of expressive, efficient shell structures: a prototype exploring synergy between architecture, engineering and manufacture.” In Proceedings of the IASS-SLTE 2014 Symposium “Shells, Membranes and Spatial Structures: Footprints”. IASS SLTE.

+ Nahmad Vazquez, A., Bhooshan, S., Inamura, C., Zabel, J., El-Sayed, M. & Sondergaard, A., 2014, October “Topologically Optimised Shell Structure”, Design Agency: Projects Proceedings of the 34th Annual Conference of the Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture – USC, Los Angeles, California, 2014.

+ Nahmad Vazquez, A., Bhooshan, S., Zabel, J., El-Sayed, M., & Brunier, K., 2012, “Learning form Candela” Synthetic Digital Ecologies: Project Proceedings of the 32nd Annual Conference of the Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture - San Francisco 2012


A Framework for Robotic Assisted Design: Explorations of Industrial Robotics in Architectural Design

Architecture is going through a new phase of consolidation after a Paradigm shift of how architecture is conceived and how is it produced. It includes an increase in interdisciplinary approaches, a deep relationship between architecture and technology, an overall new era of trail and error -of prototyping in theory and in practice- and most importantly a change in the relationship between thinking and doing (Speaks 2011). This new era offers a great potential of combining computational and fabrication tools in architectural design for tasks of ever increasing complexity, to bridge the wedge between design and making that started during the renaissance and became only wider with the industrial revolution and the introduction of the production line.

Although industrial robotic arms have existed for at least 50 years within specialist environments, it is only in the last two decades that they have started to colonize other locations. Robots and more specifically robotic arms are not a black box that will change construction in the future. From the moment Gramazio &Kohler started their laboratory at the ETH in Zurich in 1995(Gramazio et al. 2014; Gramazio & Kohler 2008), robots in architecture have been concrete things with character, limits and influences. If architects are going to work with robots is important to define the ways and frameworks for collaboration, to design potential interactions and choreographies with them. Through iterative feedback mechanisms and observation of the relations created between the designer and the robot, this research wants to speculate how a deeper collaboration that acknowledges the “potential otherness”(Picon 2004) of these tools, through a learning-by-design method, could lead to the creation of new choreographies for architectural design and fabrication. 

Current conversations within architecture laboratories and research practices have focused on implementations of robotic production at building scale by connecting parametric models with robotic manufacturing tools and materials that allow the production of many different, customised parts. This idea stems from viewing robotics as a precisely controlled machine for fabrication and has led to the current scenario of relatively unchanged models of human-machine interaction and design processes. Robotic sensing technologies encourage the reconsideration of the relationship between human skill and mechanized production. Coupling sensing applications with robotic technologies entails rethinking the directionality of this workflow and encourages hybrid modes of digital practice where simultaneous visualization and material manipulation inform the design process. They encourage the creation of a collaborative workflow where humans and robots can work together through the use of feedback mechanisms within specific material processes of formation.

This research aims to develop a framework for symbiotic agencies in Robotic-Assisted Design by looking at the relationship between digital architectural design and its materialisation through a collaborative process between designer manipulation, phase-changing materials and robotic fabrication. In this context robotic technology is utilized initially as an ‘amplifier’ to the design process to realize geometries, that both derive from constructive visions and architectural visions through iterative feedback loops between both. The robot in this scenario is not only a final fabrication tool but becomes the enabler of an environment where the material, robotic and human agencies interact. This new environment enables to synchronize analogue and digital modelling through robotic agency within a dialogic design process between phase-changing materials, computational hardware, software tools and the designer.

The research will start with an analysis of the different agencies, their influence on the design process and the examination of several case studies. In the first state of this research the description of the agents and their relationships is more important than its implementation. After a stage of exploratory research for the development of a dialogic design process, it will set the digital and physical framework for its future implementation, evaluate it on the basis of designer use and compare this framework to traditional unidirectional fabrication processes that go from 'digital input' to 'physical output’ similar to current robotic fabrication processes, in architecture.