Integration Studio: Advanced Construction

Steve Lee, Coordinator | View Syllabus

"...Eduard Sekler defined the tectonic as a certain expressivity arising from the statical resistance of constructional form in such a way that the resultant form could not be accounted for in terms of structure and construction alone."

The basis for the CMU studio course sequence for the first six semesters is the expectation that the student retains and applies knowledge gained each semester to current assignments in the studio. The spring semester of the third year of architectural studies at Carnegie Mellon University is focused on tectonics—the detailed development and refinement of architectural design as informed by the technical knowledge of structural systems, enclosure systems, material systems and the process of construction. The student is expected to comprehensively articulate concepts and develop designs with more precision and in greater detail than in previous studios and courses.

S16 | Rachel Muse (B.Arch 2018)    Click image for full presentation.

S16 | Rachel Muse (B.Arch 2018) 
Click image for full presentation.

S16 | Rachel Muse (B.Arch 2018) 

S16 | Rachel Muse (B.Arch 2018) 

S16 | Rachel Muse (B.Arch 2018) 

Learning Objectives

Upon successfully completing this course, a student will be able to:

  • translate a program into a building design that responds to user requirements
  • demonstrate the form-making implications of structural systems
  • demonstrate the energetic implications of materials selection, enclosure systems and building form
  • integrate multiple systems to achieve elegance, efficiency and economy in design
  • develop criteria for evaluating design alternatives
  • evaluate multiple design alternatives
  • draw technical documentation for the project using the conventions of architectural representation.

As a part of the SoA curriculum structure, this studio must satisfy the criteria for NAAB Realm C: Integrated Architectural Solutions. Graduates from NAAB-accredited programs must be able to demonstrate that they have the ability to synthesize a wide range of variables into an integrated design solution.

Studio Overview

The model that has been implemented to most effectively teach this material is the use of a studio coordinator, a lecture/workshop series and a structural consultant. The studio coordinator and structural consultant assist students with the application and synthesis of the knowledge from prerequisite studios and technology courses through pin-ups and board crits and are available for design reviews on a weekly basis. The program for the semester-long project is the same for all students, while the sites differ among studios to encourage dialogue and to maximize learning opportunities from observing multiple approaches to design and context.

The studio also includes a class-wide sketch problem. The sketch problem is designed so that student teams can rapidly consider all of the issues to be covered by the studio, to learn to interpret solutions from analysis of source material and to learn to generate —evaluate—formalize design alternatives.

The following criteria are used to evaluate student work in this studio:

  • Aesthetics The degree to which the proposed building responds to formal issues as articulated in this and prior design studios.
  • Experience The degree to which the design uses a thoughtful narrative and carefully articulated spaces to create meaningful experiences for the user.
  • Structure, Enclosure & Materials The degree to which the set of selected building materials, components and systems and their proposed implementation are appropriate to the intended occupancy, articulate the desired architectural order, and satisfy the physical design requirements.
  • Constructability The degree to which the proposed building is informed and developed in response to an understanding of the processes of construction.
  • Presentation The clarity, craft and completeness of the presentation(s).
S16   |   Anthony Nitche (B.Arch 2018  )   Click image for full presentation.

S16 | Anthony Nitche
(B.Arch 2018
Click image for full presentation.

S16 | Anthony Nitche (B.Arch 2018)

S16 | Anthony Nitche
(B.Arch 2018)

S16   |   Anthony Nitche (B.Arch 2018  )

S16 | Anthony Nitche (B.Arch 2018)

S16   |   Anthony Nitche (B.Arch 2018  )

S16 | Anthony Nitche (B.Arch 2018)

S16   |  Anthony Nitche (B.Arch 2018)

S16 | Anthony Nitche (B.Arch 2018)


Required readings include:

  • Pirsig, Robert, Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Morrow 1974.
  • Sennett, Richard, The Craftsman, Yale University Press 2009.
  • Crawford, Matthew B., Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work, Penguin Press 2009.

Thanks to the dedicated efforts of Architecture Librarian Martin Aurand, we have established an online research guide and a small book collection in studio. 

Spring 2016 Semester Project: 
A Project-Based Learning Charter School for Pittsburgh

Maker culture is taking on an increasingly important role in our society. Emerging from the fledgling DIY movement and disseminated through the increased use of digital technology, the culture is embraced by people of all ages and all socio-economic backgrounds. In the previous generation, the local library and neighborhood community/recreation centers were places where kids and adults could hang out and interact. But with the advent of 24/7 TV, video games, the Internet, air conditioning, and social media (plus shrinking resources of cash-strapped, post-industrial municipalities), these essential social spaces are rapidly disappearing. Can we effectively deliver this knowledge and these skills by focusing on the neighborhood—public schools, charter schools, community centers, public libraries, membership-based entities like Tech-Shop, etc? And can project-based learning rooted in maker culture become the new paradigm for K-12 and adult education?

In this semester-long project, students will prototype a charter middle school for 6th to 8th graders based on the principles of project-based learning in three Pittsburgh neighborhoods. See more project details in the course syllabus.

S16 | Pam Pan (B.Arch 2018)

S16 | Pam Pan (B.Arch 2018)   Click image for full presentation.

S16 | Pam Pan (B.Arch 2018)
Click image for full presentation.

S16 | Pam Pan (B.Arch 2018)

Epic Metals Competition

Through the generosity of Epic Metals Corporation the Advanced Construction Studio offers a week-long sketch problem with a total of $2,400 in scholarships for the winning teams. In the Spring 2016 semester, the competition brief was the design of a camera obscura.

Epic Camera Obscura S16 | Ai Fukuda & Fan Yang (B.Arch 2018)


Each core studio is coordinated by a full-time faculty member, who develops the studio's pedagogy, content, projects, and faculty teams within the framework of the overall curriculum. The coordinator (in this case, Steve Lee) offers lectures, workshops and critiques to support the studio's learning objectives and make connections with associated coursework. Within each studio, sections of 9 to 12 students are led by the prominent practitioners who comprise our adjunct faculty.