ARC 550– Texture and Tectonics

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Course Details

Course No.: 10370

Department: Architecture

Semester: 2015 Fall

Location: Crosby – 115

Meeting Day(s): Thursday

Meeting Time: 10:00AM - 12:40PM


Nature is a great resource for understanding lightweight structures, with numerous examples involving the intelligent use of non-repeating geometry, material properties and material placement (i.e. the structure of a leaf).  The aim of lightweight construction is to produce rigid components while using the least amount of material as possible.  However, it has been complicated and expensive to copy complex natural structures with current manufacturing technologies.  This objective can be achieved by structuring thin, sheet materials into the “third dimension” with simple and efficient manufacturing tools, which increases the flexural rigidity of the material while preserving its surface qualities.  To that end, this course will engage in a critical analysis of material texture and how it can be leveraged for new and efficient tectonic systems.


This technical methods seminar for the Material Culture Graduate Research Group exists primarily as a practical, hands-on introduction to material fabrication and construction through the use of digital tools. More specifically, the course serves as a platform to familiarize students with existing techniques of digital fabrication while fostering an environment dedicated to advanced material studies, empirical experimentation, and tacit learning.  Students should expect to become proficient with various manufacturing techniques, both digital and manual, as they develop research projects related to the content of the course. The Shop/Fab-Lab will serve as our laboratory and students will be introduced to digital fabrication tools such as the Laser Cutter, Plasma Cutter, 3-axis CNC Router, and 5-axis CNC Router. There will be two projects, each addressing a particular drawing-to-production strategy and each addressing a particular attitude toward the synthesis of form and structure using planar, sheet material.  Students will spend the first half of the semester working individually on specifically guided projects to gain familiarity with the tools and various material palettes with an emphasis placed upon digital craft and the resolution of the joint.  Students will then form groups to propose and fabricate a final prototype at full-scale.