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William Kreysler’s career path – from advanced boat manufacturer to composite fabrications firm – illustrates how architecture changes through developments pioneered in other industries. As a fabricator, Kreysler’s expertise is in growing demand as architecture and design incorporates new materials and techniques, requiring closer collaboration across industries.

Kreysler will provide the fabricator’s perspective on these collaborations in the Architecture + Industry in the Future → of Cities session of “Foundations and Futures,” chaired by Kevin Klinger. Kreysler owns and operates Kreysler & Associates, a fabrication firm for architecture, art, and industry. Formerly he was vice president of production at Performance Sailcraft Corporation and has also served as a lecturer at Stanford University, UC San Diego, and the US Military Academy at West Point. He earned a bachelor’s degree from San Diego State University in 1969.

Kreysler & Associates recently fabricated the exterior panels of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, designed by Snøhetta. The rippled façade they created envelops the museum in a composite material that is remarkably lightweight for its size. The massive scale, technical form, and construction cost savings Kreysler & Associates achieved in this project demonstrate the role fabricators play in revolutionizing architectural design.

The digital modeling increasingly used by architects in the design stage produces new, untested forms that require creative use of materials to realize. As Kreysler says, “Designers are becoming much more entangled in the manufacturing process.” Traditional architectural, engineering, and construction industries do not know exactly how to execute the complex forms digital designers create, leading fabricators play a larger role in the design process. Kreysler explains, “Architects are discovering that their best friend is the fabricator, who holds the key to both the limits and possibilities of architectural materials.” Today, and tomorrow, the materials of choice are composites. To utilize these new materials to their fullest, the architect must closely collaborate with fabricators who bring vital experience in crafting forms from a wide variety of materials, helping the design stay within the realm of possibility.

Our panel session Architecture + Industry in the Future → of Cities hopes to illuminate the necessary evolution of architecture towards closer collaboration between designers, fabricators, and contractors. Kreysler describes the modern construction industry as “a hive of bees rather than a lone operator.” While he is referring specifically to the mechanics and procedures within the design process, the sentiment has broader implications. This idea challenges the concept of the “starchitect” that has developed over the past half-century. Instead, Kreysler advocates for a more inclusive conception of architecture, where the larger group contributing to and affected by a project take precedence over the individual.

Kreysler’s experience as a fabricator will add another facet to the Architecture + Industry in the Future → of Cities panel’s exploration of the cross-discipline collaboration required to take design to the next level. The story of Columbus’ design heritage illustrates how local stakeholders in the architecture and industry of cities are already necessary partners in a project’s conception. As cities develop new formal, social, and environmental needs, design must respond. The proliferation of composite materials like those Kreysler uses represents one response, rendering fabricators more relevant, even vital, to the progress of design today.