Augmented Craftmanship @CAADRIA


Tang, M. Augmented Craftmanship: assessing augmented reality for design-build education. 27th International Conference of the Association for Computer-Aided Architectural Design Research in Asia (CAADRIA). Sydney, Australia. April. 2022

Project “Augmented Craftmanship: assessing augmented reality for design-build education” is exhibited in the 2022 CAADRIA conference project exhibition.

Augmented Reality (AR) has been used in Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industry by offering digital overlays on top of the physical world. AR includes two categories of devices. The first is the head-mounted displays and glasses such as Hololens or Magic Leap. The second is hand-held devices such as mobile phones and tablets. AR brings virtual objects and data into the physical world rather than immersing the wearer in wholly virtual reality. For instance, Hololens actively maps the physical space in three dimensions using several types of cameras on the visor and uses this data to place virtual objects realistically within. Holographic virtual objects are superimposed within physical space using light reflected off a transparent lens into the eyes. Thus, the non-physical hologram cannot obscure the physical world, but they can be interacted with.

Over the past few years, AR has been used in the AEC industry for project planning and management, workforce training, BIM integration, and construction site inspection. The AR technology is becoming an ‘ultimate display’ that will allow us to explore, discover, evaluate, and improve our design. (Tang, 2018)  [1]  This research focuses on assessing Microsoft HoloLens AR for design-build education, specifically using AR to assist the physical model making. Students were empowered to consider using AR to help various responsibilities architects, engineers, and builders provided in practice. This pedagogical method actively questions where the “translation between immaterial and material can be learned from both architects and builders.” (Tang, 2021) [2]

We taught how to use AR to enhance both small-scale and full-scale architecture installations through several design-build courses. With the emergence of digital modeling and fabrication technologies, a growing obsession with digital formalism is more evident in the new generation of students. This tech-heavy process often results in increasing complexity of 3D form.  However, digital technology is usually being harvested as a tool to create unique formal complexities but has little ground in the traditional build process. Renzo Piano adds that “An architect must be a craftsman… someone who does not separate the work of the mind from the work of the hand” (Piano 1992). [3] “Craft” is associated with materials and tools and is traditionally understood as making with physical materials.  We define and explore the nature of craftsmanship or builders’ role in today’s digital, analog or hybrid environments, including AR technology.

The team has implemented the AR through Fologram App in Hololens and Grasshopper-driven UI. The AR interface allows image tagging and hand gestures to interact with the virtual objects. The focus is on whether the AR can help the designer achieve accuracy during the “making” process. The team experimented with installations that investigated AR to assist the small-scale and full-scale construction processes.  Joint, material, and new assembly methods were examined while utilizing Microsoft HoloLens.  Precedent research was conducted to compare and understand relations between hologram and other mobile-phone-based AR methods to gauge their impact on the AEC industry.

Large Scale project. AR for project planning and management

In this project, several full-scale wood frame installations were constructed without AR. The AR model is used for students to test veracious “decorating” schemes using various materials and assembling methods. The AR model provided an onsite visualization for the designers to evaluate how their proposed add-ons will affect the spatial experience. Then the selected proposal is fabricated and installed. AR helped to pinpoint the joint position during construction.

The following three small-scale projects experimented with AR to augment the build process. “We must not separate the work of the mind from the work of the hand.” (Tang, 2016) [4]. Specifically, the following projects are trying to find a new augmented build process essential for architecture students and construction workers in the AEC industry.

AR for assembling work

AR is used to augment the “assembling” process in this project. AR provides visuals for a complex spatial frame structure. The 3D coordination of each frame is rendered in Hololens. Students use a hot-glue gun to weld all the frames following the holographic reference.

AR for cutting work

In this project, an image tag is attached to a hot-wire foam cutter to provide real-time anchoring for Hololens. A cutting guideline is provided through AR to the sculptor to control the angle of each cut. A digital sculpture is rendered in Hololens to provide sections and the normal direction of each surface.

AR for marking work

The installation includes hundreds of wool threads stretched in 3D space in this project. The challenge for students is to paint black ink to cover a section of every single thread. The goal is to create an optical illusion of a continuous 3D surface. A 3D holographic surface is rendered in Hololens to provide the anchor points for black ink for every thread. Students then painted the yarns with accuracy rapidly.


If there is a line between the physical world and the virtual world, that line has been blurred today with the emergence of AR. Perhaps, as David Pye suggested that the “workmanship of certainty” is an automated process where the result is predetermined before a single salable thing is made (Pye 1995). [5]. These AR approaches demonstrated the convergence of digital and analog methodologies influenced by these new build strategies. The new approach of the design-build process received much positive feedback from students. It would be a challenging task if we did not have AR-based 3D anchors, spatial mapping, and holographic overlay methods. However, these processes need a comprehensive understanding of the new build process and a customized UI to facilitate, requiring architects, builders, and AR developers to work as a team.


Hololens for Design-Build, University of Cincinnati.
Students: Alexandra Cole, Morgan Heald, Andrew Pederson,Lauren Venesy,Daniel Anderi, Collin Cooper, Nicholas Dorsey, ,John Garrison, Gabriel Juriga, Isaac Keller, Tyler Kennedy, Nikki Klein, Brandon Kroger, Kelsey Kryspin, Laura Lenarduzzi, Shelby Leshnak, Lauren Meister,De’Sean Morris, Robert Peebles, Yiying Qiu, Jordan Sauer, Jens Slagter, Chad Summe, David Torres, Samuel Williamson, Dongrui Zhu, Todd Funkhouser.
Project team lead: Jordan Sauer, Yiying Qiu, Robert Peebles,David Torres.

Installation. SAID, DAAP, University of Cincinnati
Base structure by 1st year SAID, students.
Add-on structure + Augmented Reality by ARCH3014 students.

GA: Robert Peebles, Lauren Meister, Damario Walker-Brown, Jordan Sauer, DanielAnderi. Faculty: Ming Tang

Check more Ming Tang’s AR projects.


[1] Tang, M. Architectural visualization in the age of mixed reality. Journal inForma. 11. Autumn 2018.

[2] Tang, M. Hu, Y., Hamaker, W., Mitchell, E. Architectural Interventions. Design-build collaboration on a global scale. UC Press. 2021. ISBN: 978-1-947603-14-1

[3]Piano, Renzo. Renzo Piano Building Workshop: in Search of a Balance. Tokyo: Process Architecture, 1992.

[4]Tang, M., Jordan, T. Digital Craft: New Mix of Process, Tools, and Material.Blur: d3:dialog, international journal of architecture + design. published by d3. 06. 2016

[5]. Pye, David. The nature and art of workmanship. 2nd ed. München: Herbert, 1995.

3D print for cast-in-place concrete

Cast-in-place Freeform Concrete with Big Area AdditiveManufacturing Formwork

Ming Tang, Noah Shroyer. Cast-in-place Freeform Concrete with Big Area AdditiveManufacturing Formwork. International Journal of Architecture, Engineering and ConstructionVol 10, No 2, Vol 10, No 2 (2021) 1-9

Abstract: Parametric design and digital fabrication give precise control in the design and materialization of complex geometric forms. Large-scale additive manufacturing machines can fabricate digitally generated architectural forms quickly and economically at full scale. However, their application in building construction has been limited. Through a case study, this paper examines integrating parametric design with material and constructed reality through 3D printed formwork for cast-in-place concrete. The following details are presented: (1) creating a parametric model capable of designing, testing, and manipulating the customized freeform in response to construction and material constraints, (2) fabrication method of big area additive manufacturing of formwork with carbon fiber-reinforced acrylonitrile butadiene styrene plastic, and (3) construction process (studying material behavior, testing the formwork, and the final onsite concrete cast)

This project was supported by the computation team led by Ming Tang, the design team led by Jose Garcia Design, the structural engineering team led by Pinnacle EngineeringInc, formwork and fabrication led by Cincinnati Incorporated. The project was constructed by the general contractor Jose Garcia Construction. The rebar shop fabrication was provided by Artistic Ironworks.

Video from Cincinnati Incorporated

Book available: MetroLAB

MetroLAB is a public-interest design/build program at the University of Cincinnati School of Architecture and Interior Design. This book highlights the mission, participants and projects from 2011-2017. The book is available for preview / order at Blurb.


Prof Tang’s ITSC RENOVATION project is featured in the book. This Metro Lab studio addressed the renovation of an existing interior space in the Information Technology Solution Center (ITSC) on the UC west campus. ITSC is an initiative of the School of Information Technology (SoIT) at the College of Education, Criminal Justice, Human Services and Information Technology (CECH), combining student workers with experienced full-time staff to create innovative technology solutions and reliable support. The objective of the renovation is to create a new high-tech look and an identity for the center and meet the growing needs for client meetings, demonstrations as well as for the staff of ITSC to produce their work.

The proposed design includes new interior surfaces, furniture, and other interior elements. The team also need to complete all fabrications and assembling job within a limited $9,000  budget.  The SAID design-build team utilized the cutting-edge computer-aided design (CAD) tools as well as computer-aided manufacture (CAM) tools and completed the entire project under the budget in only thirteen weeks.

In the design phase, students were required to develop a sequence of iterations to reflect the interior surface tessellation and optimization process of plywood panels. Parametric design software Rhino and grasshopper were used to form a network of triangular shapes and optimized the orientation of each panel based on the material performance and the relation to the daylight. This process created a smooth transition between frame-like panels to solid sheet panels. Later, the similar tessellation approach was used to create the table. The same triangular pattern is adjusted to achieve desired aesthetics on the new partition walls.

The inputs for the CAM pipeline include cutting patterns, panel anchor points, labels, and sheet layout while the outputs are sets of flatted triangular panels ready for CNC milling in the rapid prototyping center at DAAP. In the final assembling, fifty-two different wood panels were installed precisely on the wall.

Check more details on Prof. Tang’s MetroLAB studio here.

order the book online 


ITSC renovation project

ITSC Interior Renovation. MetroLab Studio ARCH7005, summer 2016.
Students: Mark Specker, Michael Czmiel, Adam Sambuco, Mary Cassidy, Megha Dubey, Mackenzie Grause, Kristin Plummer, Nicole Ridder, Han Shen, Jonathan Tomko
Faculty: Ming Tang
Client: ITSC, School of Information Technology.
Thanks for the support from
School of Architecture and Interior Design, DAAP.
School of Information Technology, CECH
UC Metro Lab, UCRI
Advisor: Xiangwei Zhao, Mei Zhao, Shubber Falah, Chang Di, Yingdong Hu. Volunteer: Benjamin Zhang



paper shelter installation

paper tube pyramid structure, with students from ARCH3014 SP15, and SAID2013 FA15 courses. Structure design: Jacob Anderson, Benjamin Blake, Caleb Lang.