The Arts & Crafts Movement began as a process of searching for aesthetic decoration and design and it was a premise for opposing the art styles that were created by machine-production. The movement associated art with craftsmanship and it emphasized that artwork should be done by individual persons and not by industrial processes such as the use of the machine in production. Arts and Crafts objects were created in their simpler forms and they had no superfluous decoration. The movement also emphasized on the qualities of the materials used. The artworks drawn their designs from the British fauna and flora employed the traditions of the British rural setting. On the contrary, digital fabrication and design, unlike Arts & Crafts Movement, emphasizes on the use of machines and computer-controlled process to design and create objects and other pieces of artwork. It emphasizes on industrial production other than individual craftsmanship. Supporters of digital fabrication and design argue that this architectural production method saves time and it is also possible to produce or design many items without causing an error. Additionally, the use of machines involves a low cost of labor as it would be in the Arts & Crafts Movement period where many people had to be employed to create a particular item. However, just like the Arts & Crafts Movement, the digital design also draws its design patterns from the natural objects that are found in the natural environment. However, the design and patterns created by digital fabrication are more sophisticated than those created during Arts & Crafts Movement. This is because, with the use of sophisticated machines like 3d printing or laser light, it is possible to make complex cutting including super-complex designs on the products creating items that are more advanced and more appealing to the eye.
The Arts and Crafts Movement particularly insisted on craftsmanship because it was the best way of encouraging creativeness of people in creating new products and designs. Its main focus was to put man back in its natural environment, in this case, his rural setting, and offer him an opportunity to explore his innovate skills to create new products and designs. The reason for this idea is that good honest skills and craft skills are the key components of a successful manufacturing process. On the other hand, digital design has been perceived to reduce innovative skills among people. It does not support craftsmanship since most of the designs and manufacturing are done by computer-aided processes. This is an indication that innovative ideas and skills rely on some few individuals who design the computer-aided manufacturing machines and leaving a larger number of people just to operate the machines. It, therefore, implies that with digital fabrication and design, many people will not have the opportunity to participate in developing new products and designs even if they have the skills required to create a new product.
To understand the similarities and differences between The Arts and Crafts Movement and digital fabrication and design, this paper provides a description of two architectural designs created by these architectural methods and they include the Red House (1859-60) and Landesgartenschau Exhibition Hall. The Red House, usually referred to as the first Arts and Crafts building, was the official residence of William Morris and his family. This was also the only house Morris built for himself and the only house designed by Webb. Some of its features include asymmetrical, L-shaped plan, picturesque set of masses, pointed arches with steep rooflines based on the Gothic style. Its brick construction and tile roof largely lacking ornaments manifest the simplicity of artworks that Morris has been advocating for during the Arts and Crafts Movement by referring to the building as a mere residence, however, Edward Burne-Jones richly decorated the interior of the house with murals signifying his craftsmanship skills in creating pieces of arts. This house manifests a sharp contrast with the modern house designs that are pretentiously and elaborately decorated with a high level of sophisticated design and patterns. This house was located in the outer suburbs of London away from the crowded and polluted environment. Its location also supported Morris’ idea that man should be allowed to interact with his natural environment to explore his innovative and craftsmanship skills. The inclusion of a servant quarter in the Red House’s compound also supported Morris’s claim of social inclusion where the capitalists and people from other social classes leave together to avoid class distinction. Morris is also eligible for criticism because he sold the house only after five years because he found it cumbersome to communicate from town to his house, which indicates that it is easier acquiring innovative skills in towns and cities more than it is in the rural environment due to the cosmopolitan characteristics of the urban centers.
On the other hand, Landesgartenschau Exhibition Hall is one of the best-known building created by digital fabrication and design. It is the first building to have its primary structure totally made from robotically prefabricated beech plywood plates. The building of this structure depended on coherent digital chain originating from the geometry generation to the digital fabrication and structural analysis. The robot created a total of 243 geometrically beech plywood plates for the construction of the structure. There was also digital prefabrication of waterproofing, cladding, and insulation. The design of 7600 individual finger joints, through their interlocking surfaces, ensured that the stability of the structure, something that provided the credibility of digital fabrication and design. These interlocking surfaces give an amazing pattern of sand dollar’s microscopic connections, revealing the sophisticated architectural designs through digital fabrication that Arts and Crafts Movement cannot create. In contrast to Red House that took several months to complete, the building of the fabricated plywood plates only took a short period of three weeks.
In conclusion, Arts and Crafts Movement was a basis of opposing the industrial revolution and supporting craftsmanship outside industrial settings. It based its architectural designs from the objects of the natural environment and insisted on the simplicity of structures. It also championed for artworks that will ensure that there are no class discriminations. Digital fabrication and design, on the other hand, is the modern way of creating structures and objects through the use of computer-controlled process. It advocates for industrial processes as the ways of creating sophisticated designs that cannot be created by the work of bare hand and tools. It also creates structures with exact precisions that ensures consistency of products created by a given robotic process. Just like Arts and Crafts Movement, digital fabrication and design also base its patterns and design from fauna and flora of a natural environment. However, digital fabrication and design has the opportunity to create and add more sophisticated design methods to improve the aesthetic value of the structures created through this process. Additionally, the fundamental principles of digital fabrication and design relies on the artistic ideas that were created during the Arts and Crafts Movement.
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