12 Questions with Enclosure Designer Kais Al-Rawi

12 Questions with Enclosure Designer Kais Al-Rawi

August 9, 2021

Senior Enclosure Technical Designer, Kais Al-Rawi, is an established leader in the field of generative and computational design methods. Focusing primarily on the facades and specialty structures of complex projects ranging from artwork and stadia to airports and museums. His expertise has been leveraged on several high-profile projects in the U.S. 

Recently featured in Archipelago, Al-Rawi discusses technology, 3D printing, and the most rewarding parts of working in enclosure engineering. 

1. What is the most interesting idea you've encounted in your world lately?
Please see my next answer. 

2. Where do you think no one is looking right now?
The ability to 3D print buildings from renewable biomaterials. We've seen many initiatives in 3D printing realm, some of which are biomaterial at a smaller scale, but rarely on a building scale. The design opportunities within 3D printing are very exciting and the ability to use renewable resources is very important, combined with ambitions for our industry to become carbon-neutral and the potential to even be carbon-negative. Technologically, 3D printing is advancing at a steady pace, however, it still faces challenges for implementation, some of which lie within positioning and mobility systems of 3D printers on construction sites.  

3. If you had a magic wand, what would you change about your industry?
Transforming our delivery methods from 2D to 3D on all projects. We're gradually implementing the use of 3D models as deliverables in projects; however, we face both regulatory and administrative challenges. There will always be a necessity for 2D documentations at certain stages, and 3D deliverables hold the opportunity to bridge many gaps in the project delivery process. We often see contractors recreating models when design teams can provide high fidelity models that can transition to construction without a gap in knowledge transfer.

4. What’s the most rewarding part of what you do?
Working with talented designers, architects, and engineers to solve design challenges of unique and complex projects at various scales and being able to see these projects through construction and realization.

5. What do you envision the next 12 months will bring?
The last 12 months have taught us that anything is possible in both negative and positive ways. I am optimistic that we’ll have a great year ahead of us if we take the lessons we've learned. The positives from the past year will allow us to make future decisions with resilience in mind.

6. What’s your favorite building?
At the moment, SoFi Stadium. It’s a project that exemplifies the architectural ingenuity of our time through many ways from design technology, complexity, coordination, collaboration, materials, scale, and systems. Ultimately all leading to a fan and visitor experience like no other. I’ve had the privilege to be part of this project over six years of my career.

7. Please dispel a myth or misconception about your work.
There's no such thing as a ‘press play’ solution within algorithmic design and parametric workflows in architecture and engineering. The designer’s intervention within these workflows is crucial to a successful implementation.

8. What are the tools, apps or gadgets that you just can't live without? 
Our team utilizes tools such as: Rhinoceros 3D and Grasshopper Visual Programming Plugin on anything from a quick geometrical study, a workflow, to the development of highly complex, and highly detailed 3D models. 

9. What's your biggest pleasant surprise related to remote work?
It’s shown us how we can work effectively and sustainably all around the world. 

10. What's your favorite productivity tip for staying motivated and getting work done
Diversify the tasks you complete in a day and don’t spend too much time on a single one. It’s okay to circle back if it takes too long.

11. What or who do your read/watch to keep informed?
I enjoy conferences and forums that tie our niche industry around the world, this includes the Façade Tectonics Institute (FTI)International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures (IASS), and Advanced Building Skins (ABS) among others.

12. Please nominate folks who should answer this text.
Alvin Huang, of Synthesis DNA and USC School of Architecture, for his digital innovation expertise in both design research practice and education.

Matthew Fineout, of Smart Architecture, a process and technology driven architecture firm established by architects and engineers who have worked at the interface of digital technologies, the architecture and construction industry for over thirty years.

This article first appeared in Archipelago, August 2021.