Hybrid Heritage: An Investigation into the Viability of 3D-Printed Mashrabiya Window Screens for Bahraini Dwellings
Current debates on design and manufacturing support the claim that the ‘Third Industrial Revolution’ has already started due to Additive Manufacturing (AM) and 3D Printing. The process of solidifying liquid or powder using a binding agent or a melting laser can save time and transportation costs associated with importing primary material if locally sourced material is available. This research investigates a framework approach, titled SAFE, for discussing the functionality, economic viability, production feasibility, and aesthetic and cultural value lent by 3D printing on an architectural scale through a construction known as a Mashrabiya. This traditional window screen has distinguished aesthetic, cultural yet functional constraints, and there is a manufacturing gap in the market that makes it a viable product option to be 3D printed. The practical element and design process related to reviving this screen are examined, from complex geometry development to cost and fabrication estimations. 3D printing technologies potentially offer solutions to solve issues in construction and assembly times, reduce labour costs, and address the loss of hand craft making skills in a variety of cultures, typically Middle Eastern ones; this was a factor in the abandonment of old Mashrabiya in houses typified with Bahrain as a case. Presently, there is a growing wealth of literature that highlights not only the strength of Mashrabiya as a design concept but also as a possible 3D printed product. Interviews with a total of 42 local Bahraini manufacturers, academics and architects as well as 4 case studies and 2 surveys and 11 focus groups are hybrid mixed methods used to define a new 3D printed Mashrabiya (3DPM) prototype. The future of the 3D Mashrabiya prototype is further supported by economic forecasts, market research, and interviews with global manufacturers and 3D printing designers’ insights into the subject in an accretive design process. The research contributes to an understanding of the implications of technologies that enable mass customisation in the field of 3D-printed architecture in general and in the Bahraini market in particular. The process for developing a prototype screen and in determining its current economic value will prove significant in predicting the future benefits and obstacles of 3D-printed large scale architectural products in the coming five years as advised by industry experts. The main outcomes relate to establishing boundaries determining the validity of using 3D printing and a SAFE framework to produce a parametric Mashrabiya and other similar heritage architectural archetypes. This can be used to enhance the globalism of the design of Middle Eastern dwellings and to revive social identity and cultural traditions through innovative and reasonable yet superior design solutions using a hybrid architectural design language.
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