Tuesday, June 24, 2014


The following is a summary of some of the ideas that we have chosen to continue to explore.

A number of schemes looked at radial, or semi-circular approach to occupying the site. This is probably a natural response to the geometry of the site that we are using for this project.   These schemes explored variations on this same basic half circle site plan.  While this might be an obvious solution for this site, there are several advantages to this approach.  First, we felt that the half circle schemes could create an interesting inside – out quality.  On the inside of the ring a central space is created, and the outside of the ring amplifies views toward the adjacent pond, a key site feature.  We also thought many of these could be easily constructed in wedge shaped modules, pre-assembled in the shop, and then bolted to each other at the time of installation.  This becomes a viable strategy for construction which is a critical consideration for this project.  The students will now attempt to combine these various radial ideas into one or two schemes to develop.

This scheme shares a lot of ideas with the radial schemes mentioned above, although it does not have the same radial footprint.  This scheme is perhaps more successful in creating a space to be occupied than some of the radial schemes.  This project was one of the overall favorites in the voting process.  The students will look to either develop this scheme based on the critique, or perhaps combine elements of this scheme with some of the radial design ideas above, in particular ideas related to seating, a weakness of this scheme.

This scheme, and the potential it has, is initially very intriguing.  The idea of building a series of ‘U’ shaped geometric sections, incorporating innovative seating elements, and then repeating this shape with variation in linear bays is very exciting to me.  The geometry and proportions need to be refined, but the simplicity of approaching this project as a series of sectional slices has strong potential.  It also, like the radial schemes, presents a very viable construction process.  Each bay could be constructed by a different team of students, and then spliced together on site.  It’s kind of like a sectional sofa (ok, that analogy might kill this design in the eyes of the students) - put the individual pieces of furniture together to create something larger, more dynamic, and in this case spatial.

This scheme was intriguing to all of us because it was one of the few schemes that looked at the linear site movement along the path as a design consideration.   The idea of framing the path is a strong idea.  Also, we liked how this scheme created a space in the center through the overlapping of linear forms.  The geometry of this scheme presented an interesting and unique approach to the site.


These projects are really two different schemes, yet we felt that they could somehow be combined into an interesting synthesis.  The ‘blocks’ scheme was interesting in the way it creates creative seating opportunities.  It is perhaps a little busy, and over designed, but the potential for a blocky, occupiable “landscape” of seating elements is a very interesting idea.  We thought this would create a very successful gathering space for students to hang out.

The ‘ceiling’ scheme is exploring a dynamic canopy of linear, block like elements. It explores the use of simple forms to achieve a dynamic character through repetition and variation.  There are some structural concerns, however we liked the way this design created a dynamic form through the use of simple repetition.  Where this scheme falls short is in the human aspect - the seating elements below.  Where the ‘block’ scheme falls short is in the exploration of canopy.  Perhaps these two could combine?  Students will be exploring this synthesis in the next study.



How does the design process change when my students know they will be held accountable to build what they design?  That is one of the fundamental questions that I am interested in with this course.  Hopefully, this understanding that this structure will be built (by this class this summer) will lead to a more careful attention to the art of building as a fundamental aspect of the design process.

This past week, students submitted their first design studies for the Architecture Design Build Summer studio.  I have asked the students to consider form, space, tectonics and constructability throughout the entire design process. 

The intent of this first design study “MULTIPLES” was to get students working in teams, and to produce a variety of concepts and approaches to the design of the gathering space pavilion.  These are first studies, and as such they are valuable for getting ideas down on paper and giving the class a point from which to develop their work.  Design variety and multiple options allowed us to begin to make some decisions about design potential, and what we might want this project to become.  Students were grouped together in four teams of four persons.  Each team produced three design schemes for a total of twelve. 


During the first critique, we discussed each of the twelve projects in detail.  As a group we identified the strengths and weaknesses for each scheme.  At the conclusion of the critique, we discussed how we might proceed as a class, and began the difficult process of eliminating schemes.  As with any design project, it is necessary to prioritize, edit, and ultimately discard good design ideas to be able to move forward and develop the work.

To assist this process I had students each vote using colored sticky dots.  Each student voted for four projects; the most successful formally, the most successful spatially, the project that best considered tectonics and the project that was the most constructible or feasible.  The dot voting technique was primarily useful as a discussion generating tool by revealing patterns in how the students felt about the work.  It helped us to identify several projects with strong potential, and others that might be combined into single schemes.
The class now must synthesize and develop these ideas into 4 design schemes for next week. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Site Analysis

Before formally beginning the design process, we also spent some time understanding the project site.  The site is an existing semi-circular concrete pad directly south of the TEC building, adjacent to the west campus pond.  I believe architecture is a specific response to the uniqueness of each project site, and therefor I have challenged the students to think about the question “How can this project be situated here and nowhere else?”  During the site analysis, students were encouraged to understand both the physical characteristics, as well as the poetic aspects of the site.  Students were also asked to imagine and discuss the design potential while becoming familiar with the dimensional realities of this given site.  The ultimate goal is to create an authentic, site specific design response that addresses the spirit of this place through an architectural dialogue.


We began our summer design build project this week with a short precedent study.   The intent of this assignment was to have students’ research relevant architectural examples that would allow us to have a conversation about ‘DESIGN POTENTIAL’ for this project.  Students were asked to research precedents, and to frame their analysis based on the following criteria: formal characteristics, spatial characteristics, modulation of natural light, tectonics, materiality, and detail.  The purpose of this exercise was to get students thinking about what this project COULD become, and begin looking at design build pavilion projects of similar scale, complexity, and approach.  By understanding what has come before, we can move forward and invent new types of spaces while making informed design decisions – and perhaps find inspiration along the way.