Presentation: 2015 North American Materials Education Symposium (NAMES6)

Fab Wars: Tools, Tolerances, and Techniques

March 25-28, 2015 – The University of Ohio, Columbus, OH

Architecture as a material practice implies that making, the close engagement of the material, is intrinsic to design process. Making, however, is increasingly mediated through digital technologies: today it is the CNC machines and not the hands of the maker that mostly shape materials and their properties.[1]

Branko Kolarvic

Within the academy of architecture, tools have always had a presence, being integrally embedded into a curriculum of making – aiding the designer in the production of artifacts and the realizing of drawings. Tools are carefully chosen and considered by the designer with the understanding that tools produce outcomes and are used to reinforce objectives. Using different tools to perform the same operation will alter outcomes, even when design remains a constant. It is also evident that different tools produce varying degrees of craftsmanship that are brought into reality by their own precision, tolerances, and the techniques of operation. In the defense of design integrity and innovation much has been debated in reference to analog vs. digital tools. For all intents and purposes, a ‘Fab(rication) War’ has ensued between architectural purists (analog) and architectural revolutionaries (digital).

David Pye in his book The Nature and Art of Workmanship, states that “Craftsmanship means simply workmanship using any kind of technique or apparatus, in which the quality of the result is not predetermined, but depends on the judgment, dexterity and care which the maker exercises as he works. The essential idea is that the quality of the result is continually at risk during the process of making.”

This presentation will examine how fabrication techniques alter design outcomes and challenge perceptions of tolerances and the tools used to produce artifacts in architectural education. Outcomes of this inquiry are evidenced with a project-based learning exercise in an architectural ‘Materials’ course wherein students were asked to select and recreate a Japanese wood joint using two methods/tools.

Analog: hand crafted using hand planes, chisels, saws, etc.

Digital: Computer based design using CNC routing technologies.

[1] Branko Kolarevic. The (Risky) Craft of Digital Making, Manufacturing Material Effects:Rethinking Design and Making in Architecture. (New York, NY. Routledge, 2008), 119-128.

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Paper Presentation: 2015 National Conference on the Beginning Design Student (NCBDS31)

Engaging Material Intimacies

February 26-28, 2014 – University of Houston, Houston, TX

(Our) sensual and personal relationship with stuff has fascinating consequences. We love some materials despite their flaws, and loathe others even if they are more practical.[1]

Mark Miodownik

Humans are primarily experiencing beings. As situations and environments around us change so does our dependency on the various senses. Juhani Pallasmaa in his book, Eyes of the Skin, posits that society has become ocularly dependent and urges a return to all the senses as a means of arriving at a more embodied existence. It can be argued that the materials of the constructed environment provide a framework and critical adjacency to our own physical presence, which allows for intimate encounters and sensual discoveries. While the cohabitation of the kinetic man and the firmness of the material world appear to remain constant, the beginning design student naively understands this dynamic relationship.

This paper seeks to examine, as well as provide, several modes by which the beginning design student will begin to interrogate the material world to find within it embedded meaning and material understanding. Students enrolled in an architecture Materials course were asked to participate in three material exercises, which were crafted to reinforce and enhance their material knowledge, and provide a captious foundation for material advocacy and agency. 1) Reflective Pasts examines personal memories of material encounters that hold long-lasting impressions on the psyche of the experiencing self – presented as a personal narrative. 2) Concrete Realities analyzes current conditions of built spaces from a purely material construct and applique, utilizing a combination of digital and analog media. 3) Speculative Futures envisions new realities of the material world and proposes conceptive innovations. As these endeavors play out in combination with each other, material intimacies are engaged and exposed.

[1] Mark Miodownik, Stuff Matters: exploring the marvelous materials that shape our man-made world (London, Penguin, 2013), xvii.

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Guest Critic & Competition Jury: Auburn University

Alagasco Design Competition: Assisted Living Facility – 4th year Comprehensive Design Studio

December 5, 2014 – Auburn University, School of Architecture, Auburn, AL

Spent the day reviewing 60+ projects from the 4th year Comprehensive Studio at Auburn with my colleagues Emily McGlohn and Hans Herrmann.

MSU Friday Forum Lecture

Taking a Break to Dislocate

November 21, 2014 – Mississippi State University, Starkville, MS

My time away from the University is usually spent consulting with design firms across the country.  This lecture examined two projects that I have been engaged with over this past year (1) Airbnb Haus with WOW Atelier for the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, and (2) Allied Health and Technology Building with Method Studio.  Both projects utilize a design/build delivery method, yet demonstrate a broad range of issues surrounding such a process.

 

TSD Poster xtravel map

Abstract Accepted: 2015 National Conference on the Beginning Design Student (NCBDS31)

Engaging Material Intimacies

February 26-28, 2014 – University of Houston, Houston, TX

(Our) sensual and personal relationship with stuff has fascinating consequences. We love some materials despite their flaws, and loathe others even if they are more practical.[1]

Mark Miodownik

Humans are primarily experiencing beings. As situations and environments around us change so does our dependency on the various senses. Juhani Pallasmaa in his book, Eyes of the Skin, posits that society has become ocularly dependent and urges a return to all the senses as a means of arriving at a more embodied existence. It can be argued that the materials of the constructed environment provide a framework and critical adjacency to our own physical presence, which allows for intimate encounters and sensual discoveries. While the cohabitation of the kinetic man and the firmness of the material world appear to remain constant, the beginning design student naively understands this dynamic relationship.

This paper seeks to examine, as well as provide, several modes by which the beginning design student will begin to interrogate the material world to find within it embedded meaning and material understanding. Students enrolled in an architecture Materials course were asked to participate in three material exercises, which were crafted to reinforce and enhance their material knowledge, and provide a captious foundation for material advocacy and agency. 1) Reflective Pasts examines personal memories of material encounters that hold long-lasting impressions on the psyche of the experiencing self – presented as a personal narrative. 2) Concrete Realities analyzes current conditions of built spaces from a purely material construct and applique, utilizing a combination of digital and analog media. 3) Speculative Futures envisions new realities of the material world and proposes conceptive innovations. As these endeavors play out in combination with each other, material intimacies are engaged and exposed.

[1] Mark Miodownik, Stuff Matters: exploring the marvelous materials that shape our man-made world (London, Penguin, 2013), xvii.

Paper Presentation: 2014 Creating_Making Forum

The Making of a Vertical Garden: Lessons in Collaboration, Consciousness, and Craft

November 5-7, 2014 – University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK

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Paper Presentation: 2014 Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) Fall Conference

Inquisitions of Culture, Craft, and Materiality

October 16-18, 2014 – Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS

The home food production garden was once the backbone of American food security. However, a cultural shift away from gardening has resulted in residential properties abdicating secure garden space. Lack of food security affects the availability, quality, and affordability of fresh local produce. First Lady Michelle Obama has made food security one of her top priorities; demonstrating her commitment by devoting some of the White House grounds to food production. Others have also trumpeted food security as being vital to the health and welfare of the people within the United States, in particular those of low-income or located within urban food deserts.

To this end, a multi-disciplinary team of Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Water Resources, and Food Science experts and educators was assembled to engage issues of food security through the development of the Garden Education Teaching and Training Site (GETTS). This project will act as a replicable model for home food production and is funded by a $50,000 seed grant to be utilized over 2 years. One of the objectives of GETTS is to develop proposals for three scales of the family vegetable garden, of which the primary focus of this paper/presentation is the small vertical garden. A design/build methodology and pedagogy was utilized in an Architecture Materials course where students were afforded the opportunity to collaboratively design and construct an innovative and affordable solution to vertical gardening. As students worked closely with Architecture and Landscape Architecture faculty they were tasked with developing appropriate and site sensitive designs, the selection and procurement of building materials, and the fabrication and construction (on-site) of their proposals. Documentation sets, in the form of brochures and user-friendly construction assembly instructions (Ikea style), were also created by the student groups for dissemination at University Extension Centers and to be made available online in digital format for broader exposure and use by the public. The project’s process from conception through design development, and material procurement to construction and install (before, during, after), was documented by a designated student team tasked with digitally recording, editing, and producing a documentary/promotional video of the work.

Through this design/build experience students have become more aware of societal and cultural issues surrounding food security; developed tacit understandings of building materials, assemblies, and craft; were exposed to and developed a consciousness toward project budgets, timelines, and material acquisition; and an appreciation for the complexities of project management, coordination, and implementation.

Inquisitions of Culture Craft and Materiality_ACSA_fa2014.pptx

Presentation @ Rankin County Forestry Association quarterly meeting

Solid Timber Systems and the Future of Wood Products in the Construction Industry

August 21, 2014 – Brandon, MS

Invited lecture to discuss innovations in the wood industry, focusing on CLT and Solid Timber construction.

Paper Presentation: 2014 International Making Cities Livable Conference (51st IMCL)

Competitive Solutions to Urban Voids and the Spaces In-Between

June 8-12, 2014 – Portland, OR

Urban voids pepper the metropolitan landscape and manifest themselves as blighted sites, dirty alleyways, concrete deserts (parking lots), buffer zones near and around freeways, vacated properties, post-industrial terrains, and marginalized open space. In 1966 Constantinos Doxiadis boldly claimed that, “we BUILD bad places – we build dystopias and we live in them!” Urban voids, or bad places, are what Roger Trancik terms “Lost Space”; they are anti-spaces with no immediate value, and do not contribute to increasing social and contextual capital. Yet it is in these very spaces that hidden resources reveal themselves, and it is where “the city reinvents itself; they are playgrounds of urbanistic innovation and cultural breeding grounds” (Nefs 4).

This paper focuses on the utilization of competitive vehicles, e.g., design competitions; as solution generating devises for envisioning previously occupied, vacated, and neglected spaces in the city, as well as the haphazard spaces of the in-between. The primary misgiving of most idea based design competitions is that the resultant submissions are idyllic and utopian in nature; however, the reality of their implementation more often than not only perpetuates that which it was tasked to alleviate or minimize. On the other hand, design/build competitions have a “built-in” mechanism for immediate realization and testing of the proposed solution.

Ballet West: Fluid Adagio Design/Build Competition and SixtyNine Seventy: Urban Ideas Competition, are international design competitions and are used as contrasting case studies for analysis of their organizational structure, implementation practices, and manifested outcomes.

Paper Presentation @ 30th National Conference on the Beginning Design Student (NCBDS)

Artifacts of Non-Representation and the Inverting of the Design Paradigm

April 3-5, 2014 – Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, IL

The objective of this abstract is to question the primary role of the artifact in architectural education as simply a means of representing something considered to be “real”, or at least more real. In order to challenge such a stance, the design paradigm – commonly used in studio based teaching, of generating representational relics must be inverted to allow for the artifact to not be the primary pursuit.

Architectural artifacts are typically produced in design settings to provide evidence of, or a vision for, a desired future reality; often viewed as a utopian ideal. K. Michael Hays, in his summation of Manfredo Tafuri’s, “Toward a Critique of Architectural Ideology” exposes the problem of utopia, which is “to plan the disappearance of the subject, to dissolve architecture into the structure of the metropolis, wherein it turns into pure object”.[1] When artifacts are constructed as objects, they prohibit their ability to manifest the subject of humanity and rarely exceed expectations of the “real” when they are built in their intended and habitable scale.

Artifacts of non-representation, on the other hand, originate from a given or gifted condition that allows for the examination of the objects and subjects in question, and consider the heterotopian misgivings and failures of their context. The great urban centers of the world, e.g., Paris, New York, New Delhi, Mexico City, etc., in combination with their associated mega-infrastructures provide for complex manifestations of heterotopian ideals, and present themselves worthy of investigation for the process of design inquiry.

Inspired by the work of Voltaire[2] and Daniel Libeskind’s[3] didactic constructions of the same name, Micromegas is a first year project that attempts to engage the given condition of the city, at an elevation of 24,000± feet, thus allowing for a reading of both the object, and the developmental subject. Through a process of overlay, transparency, collage, constructed drawing, and molding, Micromegas is not a representation of the city or a critique of it’s inhabitants, but an altogether new artifact; an undiscovered landscape if you will.

[1] Hays, K. M. (2000). Toward a Critique of Architectural Ideology. In K. M. Hays (Eds.), Architecture Theory since 1968 (pp. 2-5). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

[2] Voltaire, F. (2002). Micromegas and Other Short Fictions. H. Mason (Ed.). (T. Cuffe, Trans.). New York, NY: Penguin Putnam. (Original work published in 1752).

[3] Libeskind, D. (1979). Micromegas: The Architecture of End Space (Drawings). Retrieved from http://daniel-libeskind.com/projects/micromegas/images