The Tectonic Reef, an installation built on the beach during the St Kilda Festival 2011 was the result of the first initiative of the Ex-Lab, the Digital Design + Fabrication Intensive Summer Workshop 17 Jan – 11 Feb, 2011, Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, The University of Melbourne. The intensive 4 week workshop introduced students to advanced digital modelling and parametric design software with a focus on producing physical objects through different digital fabrication methods.

Students were introduced to design processes that promote performance-driven designs that can adapt to their setting as live organisms adapt to their habitats. Harnessing the power of computing allows the designer to define parameters that will express the final outcome and quickly visualize the multitude of potential results. The workshop culminated in the design, fabrication and construction of the St Kilda installation, a piece that explored this potential by allowing the final form of the installation to be defined by the participants at the festival by following a simple set of rules, much like the growth of a simple organism.

These processes and themes are explored through utilizing advanced computational design tools allowing students to explore the multitude of possible results and rapidly analyze them as physical objects through the use fabrication equipment including laser cutting and 3D printing. These fabrication and design tools allow students to extend their creative ideas in an environment which encourages experimentation.