Custom Handrail Design and Fabrication Processes

This exploration into a custom-crafted handrail involves two phases. In the first phase, I designed a handrail unconstrained by the material or fabrication requirements of actually producing the component. In my design, the handrail is set into the surface of a wall as if it’s been carved out. A bumpy texture, small and fine at the outermost edge of the rectangular handgrip, grows larger and more distorted as it spreads across the folded metal surface and into the wall cavity. This texture is meant to create visual and tactile surprise and to theatrically question the boundary of the wall and the contents of its poche.
In the second phase, I studied five possible processes for fabricating my design. Each process relies on varying degrees of digital modeling and computer numerated control, and distributes labor, authorship, and craft differently between the architect/designer and the fabricator/artisan. In an era when digital technology empowers the architects to design with nearly infinite customization possibilities, this exploration considers how that empowerment is distributed across the fabrication process. Each set of material and fabrication decisions not only redistributes labor and authorship, but also impacts the final product itself through material thickness, bending radii, connection details, and pattern distribution.