Advanced Synthesis Option Studio
Professor Ficca's option studios promote a design process that is transformed and enriched through direct engagement with architecture's material realm at the earliest stages of design. In an era of building information modeling, robust simulation tools and increasingly sophisticated virtual reality engines, what are the affordances of materially grounded design processes? How does the slowness of physical prototyping, coupled with efficiencies of computational workflows, transform the design process? How do these methodologies engender a deeper material sensibility earlier in the design process to lead toward substantial architecture that is in-formed by material knowledge and sensitivity?
Physical models and prototypes, produced through both analogue and digital fabrication, play indispensable roles in the development of student projects. These studios have explored topics including: the architectural skin, prefabrication, co-housing, and ductility of metals at an architectural scale.
Fall 2018 Studio - Solid: The Rise of Timber
Wood is arguably architecture’s original additive material. Epitomized through Laugier’s myth of the primitive hut in which trunk became column and branch became beam, the birth of architecture beyond the cave is inextricably tied to the tree. Despite the virtues of this abundant and replenish-able material, modernism largely passed by wood in pursuit of the promise of steel and concrete to usher in a radical new global style of architecture. While the stylistic ambitions of modernism were undercut by an era of iconic building, modernism’s primary materials of concrete and steel continue to serve as the basis for large-scale construction across the globe.
Although the spatial, aesthetic, and structural affordances of these materials are universally accepted and heralded, the ecological impact of their production are increasingly difficult to ignore. While it is naïve and problematic to assume a single material will serve as a panacea for architecture’s carbon footprint, tree’s natural carbon capturing abilities, relatively short replenishment rate, and abundance within responsibly managed forests make a compelling case for building with timber. A growing collection of large-scale timber buildings is upending misconceptions of building with wood, while demonstrating the efficacy of timber in the city. If the 17th – 20th centuries of western architecture embodied transitions from stone, brick, iron and concrete, might the 21st century be the time for timber?
In putting forth a material-centric agenda, this studio seeks to explore what it might mean to build with wood at larger scale in the city and how this method of construction might establish novel architectural scenarios. This studio aims to challenge notions of permanence to consider architecture’s presence through time. The studio is interested in not only the spatial-structural affordances of timber but also the psychological potential of wood environments and perceived notions of “natural” materials. In foregrounding structural-material conditions, the studio aims to extend contemporary material discourse from architecture’s skin to its bones.
Fall 2017 Studio - Matter Matters
This studio explored architecture’s temporality rendered through material and form. The life of buildings, shaped by environment and users and registered through the composition of matter and space, will drove our discussions and considerations. This studio leveraged the inevitability of change to consider the relationships of architecture to dynamic environments and patterns of use. It explored the register of buildings within time and through material. We considered architecture’s historical pre-occupation with permanence and stability in relationship to contemporary techniques of construction and material assemblies to explore the durability of form, the ecological footprint of architecture, and the architectural possibilities within a materially biased design process.
Funding from the Alcoa Foundation has provided resources for students to develop, prototype and evaluate architectural component systems, in materials as diverse as composites, metals and woods. These studios make extensive use of the Design Fabrication Lab (dFAB) to situate computational fabrication techniques within the design process and forge connections between design, simulation, and fabrication.