Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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The Bionic Hand: Augmenting the Manual and the Digital

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posted on 2021-12-07, 23:18 authored by Davie, Sarah

The tension between the hand and machine is currently at the core of one of architecture’s biggest debates. Pallasmaa and the firm Kieran Timberlake, for example, hold very different positions on this spectrum, both with a significant following.  Kieran Timberlake, who designed Loblolly House, use digital design and construction methods to discover new construction techniques for a globalised world. The capacity of parametric software, 3D printing, and robotic fabrication has been rapidly advancing in the last decade. They are opening the possibilities of new sculptural forms, more efficient construction processes, and alternative forms of detailing and ornamentation.  In contrast, Pallasmaa uses ‘the thinking hand’ to draw out intimacy: nooks, irregularities, material richness, and handcraft that invite the user into a closer relationship with architecture. Hand drawing and hand making are crucial to Pallasmaa’s goals: intimacy exists in both the design process and the final form of architecture.  The design process is not as divisive as famous pillars at each end of the spectrum imply. In this work, I explore: how can emerging technologies and ‘the thinking hand’ complement each other? And how might the ‘bionic hand’ inform both intimacy and efficiency?  I explored this through designing a six-unit housing project in the Wellington suburb of Hataitai. The site is next to Roger Walker’s maze of intimate moments, Park Mews. I approached design through hand and digital processes.  My main intention was to document a design process that integrates hand and digital techniques, showing one way an exchange between them could occur. I aimed to combine efficiency and intimacy, through exploring digital and hand techniques. This resulted in findings of the possibilities of the bionic hand in both the form and formation of architecture, the design’s place in the context of New Zealand suburbia and its place in the discipline.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Kebbell, Sam