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FORWARD The Architecture and Design Journal of the AIA National Associates Committee

Craft Spring 2013

Published by The American Institute of Architects

FORWARD SUBMISSIONS Forward welcomes the submission of essays, projects and responses to articles. Submitted materials are subject to editorial review. All Forward issues are themed, so articles and projects are selected relative to the issue’s specific subject. Please contact the Forward Director, Olivia Graf Doyle, at if you are interested in contributing. NATIONAL ASSOCIATES COMMITTEE (NAC) EXECUTIVE BOARD Haley Gipe, Assoc. AIA - Chair Wayne Mortensen, Assoc. AIA - Associate Director Ashley Clark, Assoc. AIA- Senior Associate Director Venesa Alicea, AIA, LEED AP BD+C - Advocacy Director Jared Hueter, Assoc. AIA - Community & Communications Director Cesar Gallegos, Assoc. AIA - Knowledge & Programming Director Brent Castro, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP - AIAS Liaison Erin Murphy, AIA, LEED AP - AIA Staff Director, Staff Liaison NATIONAL ASSOCIATES COMMITTEE MISSION The National Associates Committee is dedicated to representing and advocating for Associates, both mainstream and alternative, in the national, regional, state, and local components of the AIA. FORWARD MISSION To be the architectural journal of young, aspiring architects and designers of the built environment specifically targeting design issues.

FORWARD Olivia Graf Doyle, Assoc. AIA - Director C.A. Debelius, Assoc. AIA - Assistant Director Cindy Louie, Assoc. AIA - Assistant Director Janice Ninan, Assoc. AIA - Assistant Director Chris Werner, Assoc. AIA - Assistant Director Special thanks to Peer Reviewers Gregory Marinic, Meg Jackson and Joe Lawton FORWARD 113: CRAFT Spring 2013. Volume 13, No. 1. Published bi-annually by the AIA. COVER IMAGE Stay Down, Champion, Stay Down by SPORTS THE AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF ARCHITECTS 1735 New York Ave., NW Washington, DC 20006-5292 P: 800-AIA-3837 or 202-626-7300 F: 202-626-7547 ISSN 2153-7526 Copyright and Reprinting: (C) 2012 AIA. All Rights Reserved. Each article reflects the opinions of the individual authors and not the American Institute of Architects. © Copyright of Individual Articles belongs to the Author. All image permissions are obtained by the articles’ authors and © Copyright of Article Images belong to the Authors




Topics: Craft


State of the Art


Hair, Spikes, Cattail & Turkeyfoot

by Olivia Graf Doyle

by Greg Corso and Molly Hunker

by W.H. Vivian Lee


Bogota Brick and the Tradition of Colombian Craft by Carrie Gammell


Craft in Education by Jeremy Chinnis


How Carpentry Became Craft


Making by Proxy


Thinking + Making

by Chris Werner

by Brian Kelly

by C.A. Debelius




Modernist Cabin


Hybrid Identities


FORWAD Team Bios

by Marc Manack & Frank Jacobus

by Timothy Dolan & R. Chadwick Everhart

by Gregory Marinic & Meg Jackson

Craft’s importance serves not only to create something beautiful, but it must also respect process, the act of making, and the ultimate outcome of an elevated atmosphere.�

Topics: CRAFT by Olivia Graf Doyle

My definition of craft has to do with clean and simple beauty. It is a detail so elegant and seemingly effortless that you feel it just couldn’t have been any other way. An inherent component of craft involves effort, time and quality – you can’t fake Craft. Rarely is craft visible in a photograph, which can be carefully composed to expose no weakness. Errors in construction are photoshopped, people and vases are positioned so as to add interest, scale and camouflage. Although I have only seen his work in photographs, never in person, I believe Architect Peter Zumthor’s work is the personification of Craft. Ideals of effortless beauty are meticulously created. His work demonstrates extraordinary attention to context, materiality, light and what he calls “atmosphere,” or experience. The photographs of his work convey this high level quality because there is nowhere to hide – the simplicity is in every detail and every form.

Exploring the Importance of Craft A successful project is dependent on the craft of the builder and the craft of the designer. They cannot exist independently. One of my favorite

projects is Zumthor’s Therme Vals, a spa in Switzerland, because of the marriage of skilled assembly and amazing design. I wonder if this quality of craft is perceptible to those visiting the building who have no architectural education or training? While we’re looking at how one material cleanly transitions to another, or how an elegant metaphor transforms into place; a non-architect may simply want to enjoy the destination. How, then, does craft affect the emotion of how we experience space? Is it only noticeable when you know what to look for, or does it subconsciously enhance the experience? In a culture of bigger and cheaper equals better, mass production and convenience, what is the importance of craft if only appreciated as an opulent art form? Do architects create craft for other architects to admire, or is it discernible to the users and public for whom we build? 2

My father, a Swiss citizen, visited Zumthor’s Therme Vals in 2000, four years after construction was completed. Architecture enthusiasts and Swiss residents alike, go to the natural spring baths for rest and relaxation. He is a retired banker by trade and an artist at heart, but does not have the trained eye of an architect. I interviewed my father, Raoul Graf, regarding this trip to explore the theory that if done well, craft can influence user experience on a conscious and subconscious level.

Interview Q: Why did you decide to visit Therme Vals? Is it a vacation destination in Switzerland because of the hot springs or to see the design of the space? A: Having spent a week cycling in Mallorca, Spain, recuperating in the Swiss Alps, hiking to the nearby Zervreila dam and relaxing in a renowned thermal spa for a few days sounded very enticing to me. After all, I only knew of Vals for its namesake bottled mineral water. There are other more famous thermal baths in Switzerland, such as Bad Ragaz, but people come to Vals mainly to see the architecture of the spa.

Q: How did you feel when you first entered the space? Did the feeling change as you moved to different parts of the building? A: After we checked in at the adjacent hotel with its modest, unappealing architecture from the 1960’s, my first impression of the spa was of total disbelief. How could this quaint village’s authorities have approved such an impressive, modern building to be placed amidst all the traditional houses in a steep hillside? Visiting the interior the next day for the first time was a memorable experience. The dark-grey stone walls’ harsh lines melted seamlessly into a fascinating set of rooms with carefully designed, partially day-lit hallways. Q: Did you have these feelings because of the architecture? How did the light, material, textures and scale of spaces affect your perceptions? A: Undeniably it was the architecture with its simple, yet very complex design. The individual spas were located on different levels, without doors, but with steps of varying sizes and directions creating the desired separation and tranquility.

Q: Did the fact that the materials are cold and that there are strong contrasts in light make you feel uncomfortable? A: Not at all. The sound of flowing waterfalls and distant, echoing voices from invisible guests located in the various spa rooms gave me a sense of being in a natural environment.

A: The unusual exterior design and placement of windows immediately fosters a curiosity about the buildings interior. I recall the surprisingly high ceilings with light pendants creating an intimate atmosphere throughout the spa, aided by the varying degrees of sunlight entering through carefully placed windows.

“An inherent component of

Q: Was it what you expected a spa to be?

craft involves effort, time and quality – you can’t fake


A: Oh, yes! The spa’s design itself is unique, but the service and organization of the spaces also make it a great performing spa. Jumping from the sauna into an ice bath, moving from the Turkish bath to pools with floating rose petals, night swimming in the outdoor pool under a moonlit sky in below freezing air temperature, followed by one of the numerous massages offered… what more do you want from a thermal spa? Q: Did the architecture help or hinder relaxation? A: Since the spa’s interior is consistent throughout, there are no obvious distractions. Yet, its creative layout constantly reminded me that I was fortunate to be in this space. Q: How tangible was the architecture? Did you have the urge to touch the stone? A: Of course. The stone, which is said to be from the local valley, has a surprisingly smooth texture and is not as cold as one would at first imagine. Q: Were there any specific details that you noticed?

Q: How does the space represent or exemplify craft to you?

A: The intricate details, sometimes only noticeable when meandering repeatedly through its halls, as well as the materials used, both inside and out, make it a rare piece of art even for an architectural layman.

You Can’t Fake It What strikes me from the conversation is that my father repeatedly used the word “careful,” whether a detail was carefully designed or windows carefully placed. This means two things: craft is noticeable due to quality and perceptible attributes of precision and considerateness, and, it is appreciated. He recognizes craft as being both tangible and ethereal. Although the architect and non-architect’s motives may be different, there is universally the desire to physically touch a material’s surface. I normally have the urge to reach out and touch a material in an attempt to soak up design understanding and construction ability - to soak up that ‘craftiness’ through osmosis. For the non-architect, in this case my father, seeing a harsh material and then to his surprise discovering it has a completely different affect than expected, exemplifies the conscious impression of craft. On a subconscious level, craft evokes a sense of gratitude and a moment of tranquility. The spaces affected his emotion and experience of the environment successfully. 4

Repeatedly traveling through the corridors to reach every destination, my father observed something new each time and this made the experience memorable. He recalls the materials, context and layout from his photographs, however, he recalls the experience because of the hospitable and impressionable atmosphere. Not only is it relaxing, as a spa is meant to be, it is poetic – a carefully crafted, functional work of art. Craft’s importance serves not only to create something beautiful, but it must also respect process, the act of making and the ultimate outcome of an elevated atmosphere.

Forward 113 From BIM to CNC Milling and 3D printing, to physical models, textures, materials and products, Craft is most definitely a varied topic in our industry. It seems to be both a forgotten and an ever-evolving art form. In this issue of Forward, articles aim to discuss these dichotomies. There are many differing viewpoints on what constitutes craft; whether

there should be a return to a historical tradition of building and detailing, or how new methods and tools of construction are affecting the way we design. How do we teach craft and how is it put into practice? From finding craft to creating craft, articles discuss experience, production and theory. In exploring various facets of the topic, our hope is to stimulate an expanding academic, artistic and practical vocabulary of the importance of craft in the atmospheres we imagine and create.

Perhaps craft is an intuition, an attitude, and a privilege - in the end it just seems right. Please visit our website for all issues of Forward and the Fall 2013 submission guidelines at:

Image Credits

All photos by Raoul Graf

Olivia Graf Doyle, FORWARD Director Olivia Graf Doyle, Assoc. AIA, is a Project Designer at Cannon Design in Los Angeles. She graduated with degrees in architecture and advertising from the University of Southern California. Olivia has worked on a variety of projects that range from medical to K-12 and university to interior architecture. Outside of work, Olivia is actively involved with the local design community; she was an Associate Director on the board of AIA Northern Nevada, started chapters of the Young Designer’s Networking Group in Reno and Sacramento, and has been published in several architecture history textbooks.



E OF By Greg Corso and Molly Hunker Image 01_Life Will Kill You


The Arts and Crafts movement of the second half of the 19th century emerged as a cultural and artistic response to the dehumanization caused by the industrial revolution1. Ostensibly, the elevation of industry and technology took away the rawness, the imperfection, and the dignity of handwork by replacing craft with assembly and aesthetics with logic and efficiency. There is a potentially counterintuitive relationship between advances in technology and the aesthetic outcome of production. Current trends in architectural design increasingly embrace a tool set of hyper-digitalization that departs from the potentials of the analog process. With a contemporary interest in sensation and affect, designs driven by patterns and complexity are lending themselves to these types of digital tools. The powerful impression of computer based architectural design can conceivably compromise the personality or sensibility of work by simply considering process as the outcome instead of the outcome of process. With modern technology allowing for scripted solutions, algorithmic processes, and computer aided fabrication, design can often be aestheticized through esoteric logic rather than emotional resonance and intellectual accessibility. Interestingly, most other creative disciplines such as music, art, fashion and film have demonstrated a different trajectory, embracing the zeitgeist that is the do-it-yourself (DIY) ethos. In recent years there has been an emergence of craft and DIY marketplaces (large craft fairs,, etc.) that have appealed to the public demand for objects with personal character, authenticity, and real authorship. This gravitation, also evident in the Arts and Crafts movement, can be seen as a response to today’s uber-digital world, a way to harken back to something more human and recognizable. While current technological advances in design are objectively of extreme value and significance, they cannot drive design alone nor be design itself. While the digital realm helps provide precision and control, analog craft aids in establishing an environment of personal resonance and relatability. At SPORTS, we have been interested in how ideas of material, craft, and cultural tradition can both complement and provoke contemporary notions of aesthetics and atmosphere. How can we reconcile the digital process with the character of the analog to elevate design’s emotional engagement with users? How can we view the richness of folk traditions regarding making, necessity, and custom through the lens of contemporary design? Several of our recent works attempt to explore these questions.

Image 02_Life Will Kill You

Image 03_Life Will Kill You

Stay Down, Champion, Stay Down Stay Down, Champion, Stay Down is an installation about site and the relationship of the analog artifact and the digitally developed composition. It is a study of the role of both the handmade and “cursor-made� in curating a contemporary environment of space and visual effect. Considering the historical context of the Hollywood Walk of Fame immediately outside of the gallery entrance, the project explores the ground plane and its field of components. Given this context, the project is comprised of thousands of handmade terracotta tiles elevated by acrylic tubes, which create an undulating landscape on the interior floor of the gallery. By contrasting the ubiquitous terra-cotta tiles (made by local tile artisans in Los Angeles) with an elegant and precise surface of points developed from digital form making, a compelling condition emerges. Unlike other designs that privilege only the digital process, what materializes here is a visual and experiential landscape where the exotic meets the familiar. The contextual reference in combination with these two processes produces both a macro condition that is enigmatic (aggregated surface) and a micro condition that is relatable and identifiable (handmade tile).

Image 05

Image 06

Image 04_Stay Down, Champion, Stay Down

Image 07

Image 08

History/ In the Remaking By using cultural craft traditions and materials as a means to develop ideas of spatial and visual impact, History / In the Remaking experiments with the idea of folk vernacular as effect. Given that the theme of this installation competition is to celebrate Miami’s history, our proposal explores the historical craft of the chickee hut, a prevalent architectural manifestation of the Seminole Indians of Florida. While the chickee is still prevalent today as a kind of architectural novelty, the intention of History / In the Remaking is to re-envision this traditional design in a way that reflects the provocative context of urban Miami and its contemporary interest in atmosphere and stimulation.

Image 02

Image 03

Image 09_History / In the Remaking material diagram

Image 04


Image 10_History / In the Remaking

ge 05


By re-imagining the potential of the chickee hut’s traditional composition - a simple grid of wood posts supporting a canopy of palm fronds - our goal is to find a captivating harmony between the cultural craft and modern spectacle. The project highlights the familiarity and character of Seminole Indian craftsmanship by introducing a different but elegant compositional logic to the chickee hut typology. By interpreting the supports as a field condition rather than a simple structural component, the new composition provides visual complexity while the folk aesthetic of the chickee hut demonstrates social and cultural relevance. Working as complements, these elements produce a stimulating experience that can be appreciated and accessed on both a contemporary and historical level.

Image 11_History / In the Remaking concept diagram

Image 12_History / In the Remaking section drawing

Image 13_History / In the Remaking plan drawing (dowels only) Image 08_ The site organization and the process of material transformation is revealed from initial collection to patty export. 16

Life Will Kill You It is not uncommon for craft and folk art works to start with something ordinary and familiar and, through resourceful thinking and fabrication techniques, transform it into something that transcends its typical significance. The focus for Life Will Kill You is to identify how the components of everydayness can become elements of the extraordinary. Our starting point is the investigation of the potential of a common object, the zip tie. Considering its capacity to fasten, aggregate, and remain rigid, the material is exploited - its inherent qualities coupled with the precision and rhythm of the digital form to create a new object greater than its parts. Realizing the project consisted of fastening over 100,000 zip ties by hand onto strands of electrical lamp cord. The project employs wider, longer white zip ties on the exterior of the volume and brightly colored, finer zip ties on the interior if the volume. The result is a bulging contoured volume nestled under a soffit in the center of the showroom that, while shaping how customers move through the space, offers ever-changing glimpses of blurred yet vivid color. Together, the geometry enabled by the digital workspace and the ingenuity of the hand-making process allows the project to impose a compelling effect from an unimposing, common object. Image 14_Life Will Kill You construction detail

18 Image 15_Life Will Kill You

SPORTS Greg Corso & Molly Hunker Greg Corso and Molly Hunker are the cofounders of the design collaborative SPORTS. Their work explores the border between the everyday experience and the extraordinary, and intend to create compelling and accessible design that learns from craftsmen as much as architects. They live and work in Los Angeles, where they received their MArch degrees from the University of California, Los Angeles. Greg has worked in art and architecture studios in Europe and the United States and has taught at Woodbury University School of Architecture. Molly currently holds an Adjunct Faculty appointment and serves as the Assistant Graduate Chair at Woodbury University School of Architecture, and serves as the Assistant Coordinator of the UCLA AUD JumpStart Summer program.

References 1. Jo Lauria and Steve Fenton, Craft In America: Celebrating Two Centuries of Artists and Objects (New York: Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2007), 79

Image credits All images of work by SPORTS. All photographs by Justin Harris, except “Image 14� by Tom Lance.

...“ Current trends in architectural design increasingly embrace a tool set of hyper-digitalization that departs from the potentials of the analog process... ...While current technological advances in design are objectively of extreme value and significance, they cannot drive design alone nor be design itself...�


Hair, Spikes, Cattail,

& Turkeyfoot : the research of thatch through making by Wei-Han Vivian Lee


A decade into the popular use of digital fabrication in architectural design, one thing is certain: this [digital fabrication] will not kill that [the construction drawing]. Digital fabrication promises, among other things, the transformation of architectural design from an allographic to autographic art. In the digital fantasy the architect, like a sculptor, has total agency with respect to the final form, unimpeded by the translation of the construction drawing. In practice1, however, these methods often require a new convention of construction documentation that speaks to the assembly of the coded, fabricated parts. There are also extant construction methodologies that bypass the process of representational translation through the custom of oral tradition. Thatch is one such methodology in which the material is difficult to tame, and whose associated construction processes are contingent upon the material’s indeterminate attributes. It is this indeterminacy that has constrained documentation of the dwindling craft. By eliminating the need for representational translation, oral transfer of thatching knowledge can account for hard to describe labor practices and complicated sequences of operations. Hair, Spikes, Cattail, and Turkeyfoot seeks to engage one of these oral traditions, that of thatch, by inventing new conventions of representation to decode the labor sequence in the assembly of a pavilion. The goals of this design project are two-fold: 1) to investigate, with the use of digital technology, the design and fabrication of strategic components that would bundle and organize soft organic matter into structure, and 2) to design a method of representation that redefines construction drawings based on a sequence of operations rather than an illustration of finished assemblies.

Image 01




Research Thatch is a method of construction commonly used for roof applications in vernacular architectures in both tropical and temperate climates. Known for its water shedding and insulating qualities, widespread use of thatch is also attributed to the access of rapidly renewable resources (grasses) and their ease of assembly and economy. Despite these advantages, knowledge of thatch work has declined in the last half century to only a few masters and fewer apprentices. While vernacular thatch structures are well documented, there is a lack of information pertaining to their process of assembly. One of the initial goals of our research was to establish a method of representation that compares the layers of structure, substrate, and aggregation from a variety of thatch practices. This drawing of thatch roofs provided a taxonomic understanding of the varied assemblies that emerge from a diversity of locations, vegetation types, and methodologies. No matter the climate, it was apparent that almost all thatch assemblies are non-structural2 ; plant matter is employed as a thickened skin atop a separate roof structure. Research also revealed a variety of tools and fasteners designed to secure the stalks of vegetation together and to the structure. What remained unclear however, was the processes by which the tools and fasteners were used, both to bundle the individual stalks of vegetation into a unit and to secure that unit to the structure. It was apparent that research of an oral tradition necessitated live demonstration. Thatch is a craft-based process. For this project, the process required physical instruction by William Cahill, one of the few master thatchers3 in the United States. Cahill shared his knowledge of the harvest, treatment, and assembly techniques used in thatching. A cattail-congested pond on the site provided the primary supply of thatch. Harvesting entailed “getting to know the grass�

in order to collect just the right growth and grain. Each stem of the plant was cut equidistant from the topography of the land, and a detailed slipknot diagram provided instructions on how to properly bundle the plant for ease of transport and in anticipation of the drying and threshing process. As harvesting was concurrent with the design of the pavilion, we calculated through digital modeling the quantity necessary to be collected of each plant type. Further computer estimation determined where each thatch bundle was to be segmented along its length relative to the desired sectional design of the structure. Working intimately with the vegetation informed the design of the pavilion. It was important to draw out the formal potentials of each of the thatch species for their aesthetic, functional, and structural properties. In the end, we used three types of thatch in the structure. Cattail is a common Native American thatch material where the base of its stalk is sponge-like with insulating properties. Cattail stems drastically taper from root to tip, offering an aesthetic opportunity in a gradient of thatch textures. Local Turkeyfoot was chosen for its water shedding qualities and located near the top of the pavilion. Turkeyfoot also has very distinctive, non-molting fronds, which were used in the design as a halo near the oculus. Phragmites4, a heavy structural reed, was used in a post-tension ring at the mid-section of the structure to counterbalance the eleven-foot tall conic form.

Retool and Assemble Despite the variety of vernacular thatch applications, one of the most ubiquitous tools developed to thresh and dress thatch is the comb. The design involved redefining the comb to serve not only as a tool, but also as a fastener, a transporting device, and the structural basis for the pavilion. Given the opportunity to digitally fabricate any shape, we set out to design a comb that implicitly describes the assembly sequence while serving as a leave-in guide for the arrangement of the thatch into a unitized, stackable, comb-as-wall component. We arrived at a comb design that integrates several features: the sharp prongs thresh and hold the bundles in place, the handles facilitate transport and serve as apertures, the slot joints indicate an assembly logic, and the bent wings delineate the overall radius of the conic massing. These tacit programs built into the digitally designed component are at once a tool and a key to the overall design. The construction documentation consisted of corresponding instructions for both the water-jet machine and the thatcher, supplemented with diagrams describing the sequence of assembly. Each horizontal comb course diminishes in width consistent with the structural massing and the tapering sections of the thatch bundles. A catalogue of components illustrates the thatch bundle counterpart to each comb course. Color and pattern coding delineate thatch type, mixture, diameter, and length along the section of the pavilion. Together these drawings prepare the parts – that of comb and thatch – to be assembled on-site. The comprehensive sequence drawing instructs assembly and is the resolution to the catalogue representation. The representation of labor sequences – harvest, bundle, fabricate, thresh, sort, jam, stack, trim – produced a seamless process of assembly that made the construction of the pavilion possible in under eight hours.




“... a structure that looks forward in its use of digital fabrication without losing sight of the notion of craft in assembly” ...

Conclusion Oral traditions often involve intricate techniques that are difficult to represent and are therefore seldom documented. Digitally fabricated designs catalog an array of produced parts but require thorough explanation of component assembly. This project combines these two chronologically opposed methods of construction – digital and oral – to explore the role of sequence based drawings as a necessary convention in current architectural practice. The result of these processes is a structure that looks forward in its use of digital fabrication without losing sight of the notion of craft in assembly. The final product does not come fully formed off the bed of the water-jet cutter; it must be worked and processed to conform to the contingencies of the organic material. The indeterminate “fuzziness” in both the material and method of thatch necessitated the guidance of an expert, the retooling of the role of digital fabrication, and subsequently the rethinking of representational conventions. These drawings of a new thatching methodology serve not only as an artifact of construction, but as a testimony to the skills, labor, and the technological reinterpretation of an enhanced craft.


Project Credits Clients: Robert Grese, Director of Matthaei Botanical Gardens David Michener, Associate Curator of Matthaei Botanical Gardens Primary Investigator: Wei-Han Vivian Lee, Assistant Professor Taubman School of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Michigan Research and Design Assistants: Tarlton Long, Peter Yi Fabrication and Construction Assistants: Patrick Ethen, Rennie Jones, James Macgillivray, Tarlton Long, Nate Smalligan, Jon Swendris Structural Engineer: Andy Greco, SDI Structures Master Thatcher: William Cahill, Custom Roof Thatch

W.H. Vivian Lee W.H. Vivian Lee is an Assistant Professor of Architecture at University of Michigan, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and a principle of Lee Macgillivray Architecture Studio (L/MAS). Lee has previously worked as Project Manager at SHoP Architects and LTL Architects in New York City. She received her Masters of Architecture from Harvard’s Graduate School

of Design. Her research involves re-examining the role of craft and labor as related to digital fabrication in design.

References 1. One example, Camera Obscura, designed

4. Phragmites are the most popular thatching

and built by SHoP Architects in 2005, is the first

grass in Europe. In North America, however,

building to be entirely digitally designed and

this reed is considered an invasive species that

fabricated. In this precedent, aluminum and steel

is quick to spread and harmful to native wetland

components were directly laser-cut from 3D

flora and fauna. Since our client is the Matthaei

computer models. SHoP Architects devised new

Botanical Gardens, the use of this species in

construction drawing conventions to accompany

the pavilion raised much concern. While the

the custom kit of parts.

majority of the pavilion was constructed from local plant life, we meticulously threshed the

2. The Iraqi Mudhif and North American straw

minimum amount of phragmites necessary to

bale construction are structural examples of

create an organic structural tension ring for the

building with plant matter. In both cases, only

balance of the overall structure.

plants are used for both structure and envelope – The Mudhif are bundles of reeds in an arch

Image Credits

formation and Straw Bale Construction stacks

Anya Sirota, James Macgillivray, Alex Watanabe.

unitized modules of hay bales.

All image rights are owned by the author, WeiHan Vivian Lee.

3. According to William Cahill, one of two Master Thatchers residing in the United States; the

Hair, Spikes, Cattail, and Turkeyfoot is funded by

other being Colin McGhee. The title of Master

the Research Through Making Grant

Thatcher requires at least 5 years of mandatory

University of Michigan, Taubman College of

apprenticeship under a Master before a thatcher

Architecture and Urban Planning.

can work alone.




Woven handicraft is an historic tradition integral to all social classes of Colombian society. Its legacy is ubiquitous in the country’s wearable and inhabitable arts—in handbags, hammocks, and hats. The practice of fabricating these cultural mainstays by hand from readily available raw materials serves two purposes: first, it forges a representative connection between the creators and their land, and second, it grants those often displaced and disenfranchised peoples a path to economic independence. The distinctive plaiting and weaving has directly informed larger scales of craft, from brickmaking and bricklaying to architectural design. Rogelio Salmona (1929-2007), a prominent Colombian architect, credited much of his aesthetic to both the poetic traditions of Pre-Hispanic societies in Central and South America and the geometric brickwork of Islamic societies in Spain and North Africa. His portfolio demonstrates a steadfast allegiance to the craftsman, to a belief that good architecture is dependent upon all scales of construction—from the form of each individual brick or thread, to the overall form of the structure or finished product. Likewise, he believed that society is dependent upon all classes of builders—from the indigenous handicraftsman and the brickmaker to the architect; each plays a significant role in the development of the country’s built landscape. EL ARTESANO: THE INDIGENOUS HANDICRAFTSMAN When perusing the artisan markets in Bogotá’s historic center, La Candelaria, tourists have their

pick of woven handicrafts. Located across Calle 16 from the Museo del Oro, one particular cluster of stalls offers everything from reproductions of gold artifacts to Arhuaca mochilas (backpacks), Wayúu hamacas (hammocks), and Zenú sombreros vueltiaos (wide-brimmed hats). Although each category of handicraft has its origins in a particular tribe of indigenous people and in a particular region of the country, each has grown in popularity to represent Colombians as a whole. THE ARHUACO The Arhuaco people descended from the Tairona culture, a group of chiefdoms in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta region in northern Colombia. (Image01) Due to the expropriation of their land during Spanish colonization, they currently occupy only twenty-two dispersed plots in the upper valleys of the Piedras, San Sebastian, Chichicua, Ariguani, and Guatapuri Rivers. In the higher lands the Arhuaco’s principal economic activity is subsistence agriculture, but in the lower lands they rely on the production of traditional

Image 01_Geography Arhuaco


Image 02_Mochila ArhuacaImage

clothing and mochilas—iconic, durable bags designed to carry personal belongings, coca leaves, food, and water.” (Image 02) Arhuaca mochilas are made of sheep wool, cotton, or hemp and are woven in muted earth tones reminiscent of their oft-overcast highaltitude climate, ranging from browns and beiges to blacks and grays. Each boasts an abstract symbol or a combination thereof which represents an animal, such as a centipede, a serpent, a frog, a vulture, a snail, or a scorpion; a body part, such as a set of ribs; a local land feature, such as hills and lakes, tree leaves, roads, or the snowy peaks of the Sierra; a life phase, such as pregnancy; or a concept, such as time and space, human thought, or the four corners of the world. Each finished backpack signifies the creation of a new life; thus, by creating these bags, the Arhuacan women are endowed with the strength and spirit of fertility. In order to

craft a high-quality product, one woman steadily works on one bag for upwards of thirty days. A well-made mochila’s thick strap and crossbody bucket shape should effectively distribute a substantial amount of weight across its carrier’s back. In Arhuacan society, a farmer should be able to carry produce to and from the field with ease; in Bogotá, a student should be able to tote books to and from school. THE WAYÚU Another of Colombia’s more recognizable indigenous groups is the Wayúu. Speculated to have descended from the Arawak culture, the Wayúu people currently occupy land in the Guajira Peninsula in both northern Colombia and northwestern Venezuela. (Image 03) They mostly raise cattle and other animals, but due to harsh environmental conditions they must also depend on commercial enterprises for income.

Image 03_Geography Wayúu


Image 04_ Tela Wayúu

Like those of the Arhuaco people, the crafts of the Wayúu are reflective of their climate and location—in this case, a sunny desert off the coast of the Caribbean Sea. While the Wayúu knit their own colorful, cotton-based version of the mochila, their most recognizable products are the hamaca and its more coveted cousin, the chinchorro. The Wayúu hamaca displays geometrical abstractions of elements found in nature, such as animals, plants, and stars. (Image04) The more intricate the figures, the higher the value of the piece. The chinchorro is a more complex, double-sided hammock with lateral covers meant to thoroughly enclose and protect its inhabitant from the cold desert morning air. Each hammock requires two to six months of diligent manual labor. The Wayúu people see this extended commitment as more than just a cultural activity or an ancestral legacy; their work is a means of expressing their concept of life via the creativity of their patterns, the refinement of their craft, and the mythology of

their existence. The hammock not only serves as a traditional place of sleep for the Wayúu people, but as a featured piece of window-side furniture in the apartments of many Bogotanos. THE ZENÚ Perhaps one of the most continuously influential but now defunct Amerindian tribes were the Zenú, a people who occupied land near the Caribbean Sea’s Gulf of Morrosquillo from about 200 BCE to 1600 CE. (Image 05) Their economy was largely dependent upon agriculture and goldwork, and it was their gold which ultimately attracted the Spanish conquistadors to their land and led to their demise. In addition to their various metallic ornaments, few of which survived to present day, the Zenú were known for their wickerwork and woven hats. Undoubtedly the most transcendent and pervasive of Colombian handicrafts is the Zenú

Image 05_Geography ZenĂş


Image 05_ sombrero vueltiao Zenú

sombrero vueltiao, a wide-brimmed hat originally designed to shield its wearer from the high suns of the Caribbean lowlands. (Image 06) Whereas the early sombrero vueltiao was uniformly white or beige in color, the contemporary high-contrast version incorporates both sun-bleached and mud-dyed leaves.

for another three to four days before repeating the entire dying process until the strips achieve an even shade of black. The two colors of strips are then woven into the braids which form the sombrero. The crown and the brim of the hat are made separately by hand and later tied together by a foot-driven sewing machine.

The making of a sombrero vueltiao is a multistep process which begins with caña flecha (wild cane), a tall grass native to the riverbanks and swamps of Central and South America. The Zenú first remove the veins and dry the leaves in the blistering sun until they turn from their original shade of green to a muted white or beige. This is where the first process stops. In order to impart color, they then soak some of the strips in a sandfree mud bath for three to four days, wash them in cold water, and boil them with vija—another wild plant—for at least two hours. The craftsmen leave the mud-stained strips to dry in the sun

Like the Arhuaco and Wayúu peoples, the Zenú interpreted their creative process as a smallscale representation of their lives on Earth. Weaving brought together the knowledge of their craft and the fibers of their land to yield a functional finished product. In recent years the sombrero vueltiao has captured the attention of the Colombian elite, and the hat—traditionally, a humble accessory limited to the coastal peasant population—is now widely accepted as the ultimate symbol of the country at large.

EL LADRILLERO: THE BRICKMAKER Brickmaking is an informal subset of the Colombian construction industry. Thousands of impoverished Bogotano families depend on the mining, molding, and baking of clay for economic survival. The neighborhood of Ciudad Bolivar, located in the southwestern locality of the same name, is the center of clay extraction in Bogotá. Meanwhile, the neighborhood of El Consuelo—located in the southwestern locality of Rafael Uribe Uribe, to the northeast of Ciudad Bolivar—is the center of brickmaking. (Image 07) The first phase of the process is the most physically exertive. Men, women, and children of at least twelve years of age extract clay from the earth with picks and shovels, lift the clay into pails and wheelbarrows, and transport the raw material to the chircales (brick factories) of El Consuelo. Boys and girls of at least fourteen years of age then begin the homogenization phase by grinding the clay and mixing it with water until it reaches the desired consistency. The adult men and women press the clay into steel molds and relocate the bricks to dry storage, where they remain for fifteen to twenty days. With the help of the older children, the adults load the bricks into a masonry oven for the preheating phase, an eight to ten day period which ensures total dryness of the bricks and utilizes carbon combustion to raise their temperature. Finally, the men, women, and children begin the cooking process, during which the bricks bake in a low fire for upwards of twenty days. The ladrilleros spend the following week carefully unloading the finished products from the oven and preparing them for shipment. Similar to the handicraftsmen, many traditional brickmakers consider their work to be the union of the four elements of the universe: earth, the origin of the clay; water, the liquid in which the clay is mixed; air, the wind that dries the

Image 06_Geography Ladrilleros


pressed bricks; and fire, the heat in which the bricks bake. Their craft not only enables them to earn a living but also to develop a spiritual relationship with their land. The neighborhoods of Ciudad Bolivar and El Consuelo both exist in estrato uno districts, a number which corresponds to Colombia’s lowest socioeconomic stratum. Those living in estrato uno conditions are the biggest beneficiaries of subsidies in public services—for example, sewerage, water, electricity, gas, and healthcare— but are also the biggest targets of social stigma. Yet, the product of the brickmakers’ industrious labor is visible throughout the entire city of Bogotá, from estrato uno to estrato seis. Clay brick is a standard yet diverse material with humble origins, one that Rogelio Salmona praised for “its technical, textural, color, and environmental qualities” and for “being readily available and inexpensive.” He believed that the future of Colombian architecture should come from within Colombia itself, from the bottom up, and he thought of no better source than his country’s clay and his city’s brickmakers. EL ARQUITECTO: THE ARCHITECT Rogelio Salmona was born in Paris in 1929. He and his family moved to the Teusaquillo locality of Bogotá in 1931. Located in the geographic center of the city but northwest of downtown, Teusaquillo is on the former site of Pueblo Viejo (Old Village), an indigenous Muisca reserve which existed until the area’s urbanization in the 1920s. Salmona lived his early years surrounded by bricklayers and their lowly interpretations of the English Victorian Style, “jumping between scaffolds, watching bricks get laid and boards get cut.” In 1947, Salmona graduated from Lycée Français Louis Pasteur, a private, uniquely secular Frenchlanguage school. That same year, he enrolled in the architecture program at Universidad

Nacional, a then ten year-old university in Teusaquillo led by German and Italian architects Leopoldo Rother and Bruno Violi, respectively. At the beginning of his studies he met Le Corbusier, the grand master of Modernism, who had flown to Bogotá to meet with government officials to push them toward a radical modernization of the city. Because Salmona was one of only three students in the architecture program who both understood and spoke French, he was often asked to accompany Le Corbusier to his meetings. In 1948, just after liberal leader and Colombian presidential candidate Jorge Eliécer Gaitán was assassinated, Salmona abandoned his studies and fled to Paris, where he was safe from the violent riots of the Bogotazo. For the next ten years, he worked as a draftsman in Le Corbusier’s atelier. Undoubtedly the most notable of Salmona’s assignments was the Maisons Jaoul (1954-6), a pair of houses in the northwest Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine. Despite their upmarket location and surroundings, the houses exhibit only the commonest and crudest of materials— unplastered brick, ordinary tile, rough concrete, and grass. The materials are inherently honest, sculptural, and anti-bourgeois in nature. The brick was especially familiar to Salmona, who, in an interview with Harold Alvarado Tenorio, stated of his preferred medium: Brick is the same element with which the poor build their houses, and this constitutes something notable. There is no reason for the city of the poor to be of brick and of the rich to be of imported marble... In addition, the brick is a material that Bogotano bricklayers use with munificence. They know how to employ it, and the bricklayers are the true weightlifters of cities. There is much to learn from the masons, to learn what they have known and experienced for years and years.

Image 08_ Plaza de Toros de Santamaría

In 1953, in the middle of his decade long internship with Le Corbusier, Salmona traveled to the south of Spain and to North Africa. He was profoundly influenced by “the humility of brick, in authentic artisan embroidery” in Granada and by the “visual drama and technical virtuosity of the most quintessential brick architecture” in the Algerian, Moroccan, and Tunisian cities. To Salmona, the Mudejar Style possessed an emotional profundity and a passionate intellectual interest that was characteristically absent from Le Corbusier’s Brutalist Style. The sophisticated built geometries that resulted from humble origins and assiduous manual labor—namely tile work, brickwork, wood carving, plaster carving, and ornamental metals—were similar to the woven geometries of Pre-Hispanic Colombia. The “extraordinary rational, lyrical content” of the patterns were physical manifestations of both the strengths and imperfections of man. While in Iberia and Africa, Salmona began to favor the hand over the

machine, authenticity over mass production, and place and context over an International Style. His path, he believed, was more economically and socially responsible; it was more humane. He soon realized that in order to reconcile his new discoveries with his own portfolio, he would have to leave Le Corbusier’s atelier and return to Latin America. “I like brick,” Salmona said, because “it is made with mud and it gives work to many people.” Upon returning to Bogotá, he exploited this lowly, clay-derived material in all but one of his projects. Salmona’s Torres del Parque (Park Towers, 1965-70), arguably his best work, exemplifies the architect’s affinity for brick. The residential towers overlook the Plaza de Toros de Santamaría (Santamaría Bullring, 1931) in the neighborhood of La Macarena, a once impoverished but now buzzing bohemian bourgeois alcove just north of downtown Bogotá. Salmona undoubtedly 54

admired the neighboring landmark’s Mudejarinspired surface relief (Image08) and sought to mimic the woven geometries in his own work. In his Torres del Parque Salmona primarily utilizes a zippering technique, in which two toothed tracks of bricks interlock to coax a series of straight walls into a single overarching curve. (Image) Furthermore, at the absolute corners of the towers, he increases the planar angle by a minute degree, thereby eliciting a subtle contrast between the obtuse angle of the wall and the inherent 90-degree angle of the brick. (Image 10) The result is a clever study in shadow composition and brick’s limitations. Of course, the architect does not simply stop there; he pursues the use of his preferred medium in every element of the project, from the floors of the courtyards to the handrails of the staircases.

Image 09_ Torres del Parque

Whereas Salmona’s Torres del Parque is largely a study of the brick wall, his Eje Ambiental de la Avenida Jiménez (Environmental Axis of Jiménez Avenue, 1998-2000) is an investigation of the brick path. The avenue runs atop the Muisca people’s Vicachá River, Bogotá’s original northern boundary. The pedestrian concourse extends from Monserrate westward to presentday Carrera 10, and it resurrects the history of the indigenous people’s river with a series of artificial pools and streams. (Image 11) The bricks which follow the “river” do not simply run parallel; they meander, forming structured waves and intricate patterns. Said brickwork echoes throughout several of Salmona’s downtown Bogotá projects, including the Archivo General de la Nación (National Archive, 1988-1994) and the Centro Cultural Gabriel García Márquez (Gabriel García Márquez Cultural Center, 20042008). (Image12) The Eje Ambiental, however, serves a more symbolic purpose; it is a tribute to both the first and future inhabitants of the city. It is a sinuous landmark within an otherwise rigid framework and an indigenous tradition within an otherwise Catholic society. Image 10_ Torres del Parque detail

Image 11_ Eje Ambiental de la Avenida JimĂŠnez


Image 12_Centro Cultural Gabriel García Márquez

Toward the end of his career, Salmona began to overlay his elaborate brick patterns onto rounded surfaces. His Biblioteca Virgilio Barco (Virgilio Barco Library, 1999-2001), for example, is quite literally a public palace, complete with an artificial moat and sturdy, columnar volumes. In the project Salmona utilizes many of his trademark brick techniques, such as the Torres del Parque’s interlocking zippers and the Eje Ambiental’s structured waves. (Image13) While in the Eje Ambiental he employs sinuous patterns to contrast with the bricks’ inherently rigid form, in the Biblioteca he employs rigid patterns to clash with the building’s rebellious rotundity. (Image14) Additionally, Salmona experiments with customdesigned cylindrical bricks to emphasize the library’s likewise cylindrical form. He leaves no surface of the building undetailed and no

instance of his chosen material unchallenged. Similarly, Salmona’s Edificio de Posgrados de Ciencias Humanas Universidad Nacional (National University Human Sciences Postgraduate Studies Building, 1995-2000)— a would-be palatial structure not unlike his Biblioteca—challenges the monolithicity of columnar form and the opacity of brick. (Image15) The architect again incorporates custom-designed cylindrical bricks, this time to create a curved lattice “window” in place of a solid wall. (Image 16) From the exterior of the building, the woven screen which surrounds the central meeting space appears singularly massive, but from the interior its many openings become increasingly apparent. The result is a light and airy courtyard, a void bounded by voids.

Image 13_Biblioteca Virgilio Barco


Image 14_Buoyant, Trellis

Salmona leaves no surface of the building undetailed and no instance of his chosen material unchallenged.�

60 Image 14_Biblioteca Virgilio Barco

Image 15_ Edificio de Posgrados de Ciencias Humanas

Image 16_ Edificio de Posgrados de Ciencias Humanas by Carrie

Brick instills in the architect, the brickmaker, and the craftsman alike a sense of pride in his or her work. Salmona learned enough from the ladrilleros to be able to design his own bricks, and thus “the details of brickwork were integral to his designs.” In turn, the brickmakers, most of whom are partial descendents of indigenous peoples, learned the principles of disciplined craft from their Arhuaco, Wayúu, Zenú, and Muisca ancestors. When the architect has a thorough knowledge of his medium, he likewise has a profound understanding of the history,

the people, and the context behind his work; therefore, his or her architecture is truly made by the people, for the people. In brick’s limitations, contradictions, and mistakes are generations of builders, a history entirely unto itself. The Bogotá brick building is a microcosm of the Colombian craftsman’s life on Earth, while Salmona’s architecture is the culmination of a larger tradition of Colombian craft.



1. Julio Marino Barragán, “La mochila arhuaca,” Semana, June 24, 2006, accessed February 2013,http://www.semana. com/especiales/articulo/la-mochilaarhuaca/79613-3. 2. Julio Marino Barragán, “La mochila arhuaca,” Semana, June 24, 2006, accessed February 2013, 3. la-mochila-arhuaca/79613-3. 4. Armando Aroca Araújo, “Una propuesta de enseñanza de geometría desde una perspectiva cultural: Caso de Estudio Comunidad Indígena Ika - Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta” (Master’s Thesis, Universidad del Valle, 2007). 5. Julio Marino Barragán, “La mochila arhuaca,” Semana, June 24, 2006, accessed February 2013,http://www.semana. com/especiales/articulo/la-mochilaarhuaca/79613-3. 6. “Wayúu Knitting: Crochet at its best,” Colombia Travel, accessed February 2013, wayuu-knitting. 7. “Wayúu Knitting: Crochet at its best,” Colombia Travel, accessed February 2013, wayuu-knitting. 8. “Wayúu Knitting: Crochet at its best,” Colombia Travel, accessed February 2013, wayuu-knitting. 9. Clemencia Plazas and Ana María Falchetti de Sáenz, “El Legendario Zenú,” in Boletín del Museo del Oro. Año 4, septiembre - diciembre 1981 (Bogotá: Subgerencia Cultural del Banco de la República, 1981). 10. “The Sombrero Vueltiao,” Colombia Travel, accessed February 2013,http://www.colombia. travel/en/international-tourist/sightseeingwhat-to-do/history-and-tradition/handicrafts/ colombian-textile-work/sombrero-vueltiao.

11. José Luis Garcés González, “El Sombrero Vueltiao,” Semana, June 24, 2006, accessed February 2013,http://www. 12. José Luis Garcés González, “El Sombrero Vueltiao,” Semana, June 24, 2006, accessed February 2013, http://www.semana. com/especiales/articulo/el-sombrerovueltiao/79645-3. 13. Helga Inés Díaz Carrillo, Coloreando El Chircal (Bogotá: Empresa Nacional Minera MINERCOL Ltda., 2002), 12. 14. Helga Inés Díaz Carrillo, Coloreando El Chircal (Bogotá: Empresa Nacional Minera MINERCOL Ltda., 2002), 19-20. 15. Helga Inés Díaz Carrillo, Coloreando El Chircal (Bogotá: Empresa Nacional Minera MINERCOL Ltda., 2002), 14- 16. 16. Germán Téllez, Rogelio Salmona: arquitectura y poética del lugar (Bogotá: Facultad de Arquitectura, Universidad de los Andes, 1991), 203. 17. “Locality 13: Teusaquillo, History and Tradition,” Bogotá Official City Site, accessed February 2013, portel/libreria/php/01.1804061301.html. 18. Germán Téllez, Rogelio Salmona: arquitectura y poética del lugar (Bogotá: Facultad de Arquitectura, Universidad de los Andes, 1991), 21-2. (Translated from Spanish.) 19. Harold Alvarado Tenorio, “Rogelio Salmona,” in Veinticinco conversaciones, ed. Harold Alvarado Tenorio (Medellín: L. Vieco e Hijas Ltda., 2011), 112. (Translated from Spanish.) 20. Germán Téllez, Rogelio Salmona: arquitectura y poética del lugar (Bogotá: Facultad de Arquitectura, Universidad de los Andes, 1991), 24. (Translated from Spanish.) 21. Germán Téllez, Rogelio Salmona: arquitectura y poética del lugar (Bogotá: Facultad de Arquitectura, Universidad de los Andes, 1991), 49. 22. Germán Téllez, Rogelio Salmona: arquitectura y poética del lugar (Bogotá: Facultad de Arquitectura, Universidad de los Andes, 1991), 49.

23. Harold Alvarado Tenorio, “Rogelio Salmona,” in Veinticinco conversaciones, ed. Harold Alvarado Tenorio (Medellín: L. Vieco e Hijas Ltda., 2011), 112. (Translated from Spanish.) 24. Philip Kennicott, “The Work of Colombian Architect Rogelio Salmona at the Art Museum of the Americas,” The Washington Post, August 1, 2009, accessed February 2013, http:// article/2009/07/31/AR2009073103842.html.

Image Credits

Title Page_ Torres del Parque by Carrie Gammell Image 01 - Geography Arhuaco by Carrie Gammell Image 02_Mochila ArhuacaImage by Carrie Gammell Image 03_ Geography Wayúu by Carrie Gammell Image 04_ Tela Wayúu by Carrie Gammell Image 05_ Geography Zenú by Carrie Gammell Image 06_sombrero vueltiao Zenú by Carrie Gammell Image 07_ Geography Ladrilleros by Carrie Gammell Image 08_ Plaza de Toros de Santamaría by Carrie Gammell

Image 09_ Torres del Parque by Carrie Gammell Image 10_ Torres del Parque detail by Carrie Gammell Image 11_ Eje Ambiental de la Avenida Jiménez by Carrie Gammell Image 12_Centro Cultural Gabriel García Márquez by Carrie Gammell Image 13_Biblioteca Virgilio Barco by Carrie Gammell Image 14_Biblioteca Virgilio Barco by Carrie Gammell Image 15_ Edificio de Posgrados de Ciencias Humanas by Carrie Gammell Image 16_ Edificio de Posgrados de Ciencias Humanas by Carrie Gammell

Carrie Gammell Carrie Gammell CPNAA, LEED AP is a design architect at Rojas Iragorri Arquitectos Ltda. in Bogotá. A native Houstonian, she graduated from Rice University with her Bachelor of Architecture degree in 2011. While a student, she studied in Houston, Seattle, Philadelphia, New York, and Paris. Carrie is most captivated by issues of sustainability, world heritage, and the architecture of place. As Bogotá undergoes a dramatic new wave of construction, she looks forward to observing its effects on the city’s historic framework.



by Jeremy Chinnis

Image 01_Students inspect work at the Shiloh School in Notasulga, Alabama




Education forms the foundations of professional life. Architectural education is particularly complex, a craft in and of itself. Professors balance practice and theory, teaching building techniques alongside history and aesthetics. Students learn the fundamental components of creating space through an iterative exploration, testing and re-testing ideas. In recent years, technological advances have allowed students to think more broadly about spatial form-making and opened new possibilities both in form and in execution of concept. While this has advanced architectural theory, dependence on technology can create a disconnect between the design student and the built object. Like any tool, when implemented without holistic understanding, it can become a crutch rather than a means for advancement. Students can get so caught up in the forms generated by the touch of a button that they lose sight of how to create those forms. Rather than solely relying on technology to generate solutions, design students can realize great benefit by physically creating an environment. A return to the craft of physical form-making fundamentally strengthens a student’s understanding of the built environment. Experimentation can and should happen outside of the computer, and learning by doing through design-build methodologies offers a chance for that to occur. Through the process of designing and subsequently constructing those designs, students test ideas in full form. Students will advance the profession by testing, pushing, and redefining how things are

made when they directly take part in the act of making. Moreover, students experience the notion of “we� when constructing real objects for real people; they are removed from the hypothetical and placed in the real world with real constraints. Working with a team to realize a shared vision is the core strength of design-build as an educational tool and complements the tangible understanding of construction.

Education as Craft Education is a complex and nebulous undertaking. Learning begins early in life and the understanding of ideas and concepts constantly evolves. Each of us learns differently. Especially when considering the education of creative endeavors such as art, music, or design, how do we truly teach someone to be creative? In Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art, Stephen Nachmanovitch speaks of the nature of creative endeavors and moments of inspiration.

He shares a conversation with a physician, who explains that poor physicians think of every person as a “textbook case” with a generic list of symptoms and problems. Good physicians incorporate artistry. Artistic medicine treats every person uniquely, grounded in training but not intrinsically bound to it. “In this way you pass beyond competence to presence. To do anything artistically you have to acquire technique, but you create through your technique and not with it.”1 Improvisation is possible because foundational principles inform the ability to adapt and create. These foundations equip individuals to adjust when required to respond to adverse conditions. Educators must determine how to get students to make that leap. In architectural education, learning by doing adds dynamism to the ability to improvise. Taking a drawing and making it real directly challenges that ability to adapt. Something is created and requires a response. A new problem arises and a student must move beyond a general principle and determine a solution based on the given situation. Learning by doing takes the student beyond the fundamentals learned in design and pushes the ability to improvise and discover solutions to complex issues.

Critical Thinking The Delphi Report, produced by the American Philosophical Association and summarized by Dr. Peter A. Facione, defines critical thinking “to be purposeful, self-regulatory judgment which results in interpretation, analysis, evaluation, and inference, as well as explanation of the evidential, conceptual, methodological, criteriological, or contextual considerations upon which that judgment is based. CT is essential as a tool of inquiry. As such, CT is a liberating force in education and a powerful resource in one’s personal and civic life.” Facione adds that critical thinking goes beyond the initial inquiry and in evaluation. Critical thinking involves open-

minded and flexible thinking, reconsideration of ideas, and searching for results as precise as possible.2 John Quale speaks of the importance of the juxtaposition of critical and creative thinking and its benefits to design education in his book Sustainable Affordable Prefab: The ecoMOD project. While most design students are gifted creative thinkers, “(t)he important ability to use both intuition and reflective (or critical) thinking in a design is not always emphasized in the design or engineering curriculum.” He suggests that service learning projects are specifically “well suited to giving students a chance to expand their thought processes and hone their ability to rigorously sort through complex material.” 3

Service Learning The National Service-Learning Clearinghouse defines service learning as “a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities.” The core principle of service learning is that education extends beyond the act of service. Learning from the event distinguishes community service from service learning. Both are beneficial, but service learning has a built-in mutual benefit; the community gains a tangible result and students gain a deeper understanding of the task at hand. 4

By analyzing results after a project is complete, students have an opportunity to fully engage in the process of exploration. Finding tangible results and clear metrics for success is often difficult in a discipline such as design where aesthetics often play a role. Service learning can offer quantifiable results in success or failure of design intent. Working together with a project team to understand strengths and weaknesses provides guidelines for future opportunities. 68

Interdisciplinary Collaboration Interdisciplinary collaboration takes place when groups of people from different disciplines and professions unite around a common goal. Collaboration requires partnerships to be formed and mutual relationships to be considered. Each individual contributes to a greater understanding of a collective vision. Different skill sets are combined and knowledge bases are expanded when collaborating across disciplines. In professional lives, project teams always require collaborative efforts and the educational benefits are vast. Collaboration is a fundamental aspect of the successes of many design-build programs. John Quale posits that if the academic environment balanced traditional practices of the individual student working independently with collaborative efforts, students could realize a quicker maturation as designers. He also states, “(b)y applying themselves to projects that have a real client, site, and budget, by building their own architectural detailing, and by evaluating the built results, they can appreciate the full impact of their design decisions.” 5 Design-build programs exist in many forms across the nation. The Rural Studio at Auburn University informs and expands the notion of design-build as an educational tool while pushing the ideas of serving the underserved. Yale’s Building Project has been in existence since 1967 and is still shaping first-year graduate student work. Emily Pilloton and Matthew Miller have initiated Studio

H to extend these ideologies to the high school level. Each is founded on principles of critical thinking, service learning, and collaboration. The following case studies exemplify the benefits students receive from design-build education and learning by doing. They are drawn from my experience as a student at the Design Build Master’s Program at Auburn University and as a graduate student at the University of Virginia, as well as my experience as a designer with Ziger/ Snead Architects in Baltimore, Maryland. I have been inspired by each example and have been fortunate to have directly participated in several of them. Each case study identifies the qualities of what makes a design-build project successful. I have also offered some of my own investigations and thoughts on the future of architectural education through learning by doing. Beyond the tangible building trades learned, these projects exemplify the larger aspirations of learning by doing through shaping communities and creating meaningful partnerships.

Shaping Communities The design-build methodology teaches fundamentals of construction. Through the act of making on a job site, students learn various methods of detailing, craftsmanship, and the importance of accurately drawing intended results. Equally as significant, they learn intangibles of teamwork, communication, and problem solving. Through this process, students remove the individual and insert the collective. No one person can execute a project: it takes a community. A compelling vision requires the Image 02_Liz Sims looks on as students discuss new work


Image 03_Shiloh School prior to renovation

strength of many.

Case Study: Shiloh School From May 2008 until May 2009, I was one of twelve students at the Design Build Master’s Program at Auburn University under the direction of DK Ruth and Anthony Tindill.6 We worked on a number of projects during that year and the vision for our largest project came from Elizabeth Ware Sims, a member of the local congregation of Shiloh Baptist Church and alumnus of the neighboring Shiloh School. She wanted to unite the history of place with the equally important desire to provide resources to a community in need. Her vision to convert the old Julius Rosenwald School into a museum and technology center provided the impetus for an historic renovation. We participated in intense design sessions during the summer months, developing overall site strategies, evaluating existing conditions, collecting budget information and estimating costs, and working with the members of the community to address specific needs and desires. During the subsequent fall and spring, those plans were evaluated, revised, and executed. The lessons we learned on the job site surpassed tangible understandings of building construction. We learned how to rely on those around us and to identify weaknesses in our own understanding. We learned to think on our feet and adjust when we discovered new problems. We learned that the project was bigger than any one of us individually. The bonds we formed to one another and to the place will continue into the future. Of the many lessons learned, the power of restoration struck a chord. Rather than simply starting over, we chose to understand what makes a building successful, and perhaps more importantly, what caused problems. We discovered a deeper understanding of the fundamentals of construction. To evaluate and constantly identify new problems required adaptive responses and 72

Image 04_Shiloh School’s technology center upon completion in August of 2009


Image 05_Programmatic Diagram

pushed each of us to discover new solutions.

while restoring a neighborhood.

Ideas for the Future: Catalyst The lessons learned from the Shiloh School inspired my 2011 thesis project at the University of Virginia. The proposal centers on a curricular strategy for architectural education through restoration of the built environment. Insertion of a community design and educational center into an existing community would allow a student population of varying backgrounds to join together to learn about design and construction

Members of the community could come at any time and access a tool library, a workshop, and a resource library. Tools could be checked out for specific projects and the workshop would be open to anyone in need of space to create. A library would be accessible to research solutions to common household maintenance problems. The design studio would also be centrally located; the community center would serve as the hub of information and the meeting place to pursue

Image 06_Project Teams

ideas. Project teams composed of students at all levels will focus on the renovation and restoration of a single home in the surrounding community over the course of one term. The range of students would include: • A core group of ten to twelve graduatelevel students during a four-semester term focus on both learning and teaching.

• Undergraduate design students attending on a semester-long basis. • Semester-long classes in vocational trades for any participant. • Short-termseminarsfordesignprofessionals and community members focusing on specific topics of interest related to the building industry.


Image 07_Community Design Center

Not only would students learn design and construction, they would experience the principles that shape a community. Creating a partnership with a place, a reciprocal relationship is established between the students and the community. Each learns from the other, building a collective that strengthens the whole. Funding would be generated through a for-profit arm and a not-for-profit center. The for-profit arm would purchase homes in disrepair, to be restored and re-sold or used for student housing, using the profits from the resale to generate income for operational expenses. Students would pay tuition to supplement administrative functions and staff salary, and grant funding would be pursued to offset material costs. The community educational component would be a non-profit venture, funding a resource library and offering education to the general public.

Partnerships in Education

Learning by doing facilitates relationships that extend beyond the boundaries of academic walls; partnerships with community organizations, the design community, and the cities in which these projects are located offer numerous opportunities for student enrichment. These programs do not work in theory only; they are on the ground and have a positive impact on place. Reciprocal relationships are formed that benefit both the student organization and the community. Many of these projects would not succeed without the support of their partners. This reiterates a fundamental principle that all projects require a diverse team. A valuable and pragmatic lesson is learned for those entering the building industry: projects are not executed by designers alone, but rather by an interdisciplinary team working toward a common goal.

Case Study: Design Build Master’s Program Prior to working in Notasulga, Alabama, the Design Build Master’s Program engaged a community organization to partner in achieving their combined mission. The East Alabama Aids Outreach (EAOO), serving Chambers, Lee, Macon, Russell, andTallapoosa Counties, provides educational opportunities for the community and resources for those affected by HIV and AIDS. Over the span of four years, different groups of students completed a series of building projects, providing housing and community-centered needs for individuals in transition. The project began with the construction of a transitional men’s home, seen as a retreat and place for men to live for one to two years and understand how to return to society while coping with their disease. The second structure provides a place for social gathering and recreational space in a screened porch. Continuing a focus on gathering space, the third of four structures is a community center that was the first collaboration between Auburn University’s School of Architecture and Department of Building Science. The final building, completed in the summer of 2007, provides housing for women and children. All projects were completed with limited budgets and with the continuous engagement of EAOO. The extended partnership led to a cohesive campus that continues to provide for the needs of individuals and families coping with HIV/AIDS.7

Case Study: ecoMOD The University of Virginia offers a designbuild program called ecoMOD that focuses on residential construction. In order to ensure implementation of the core principles of modular, affordable, and sustainable housing, ecoMOD has formed partnerships with several organizations in Charlottesville, Virginia, including Habitat for

Humanity and the Piedmont Housing Alliance. These partners identify potential homeowners and offer a framework within which the students focus their design efforts. Students carefully monitor project costs to conform to the financial requirements of the affordable housing partners while offering environmentally responsible upgrades with clear cost/benefit analyses. Grants and gifts defray administrative costs, equipment, and strategic sustainable upgrades to individual units. From an educational standpoint, crossdisciplinary partnerships are central to ecoMOD. The UVA School of Architecture and the School of Engineering and Applied Science offer students the opportunity to participate in a variety of classes and also take part in construction. Engineering and architecture students work together during all phases of the project. Students engage in design seminars, study engineering benefits, and execute the built form as project teams. Students then follow these lessons by evaluating the successes and failures of finished products. Equally as important as initial design, environmental systems are monitored, building components are checked, and recommendations are made to the homeowners to maximize the impact of sustainable design strategies. The partnerships formed with the engineering school allow for more thorough and detailed analysis of the successes and failures of the final project.8

Ideas for the Future: Baltimore Design School The Baltimore Design School is a new charter school with a curriculum centered on design, providing a different learning opportunity for middle and high school students in Baltimore City Schools. BDS currently includes 6th-8th graders and will soon expand to a new facility offering shared space for both middle and high school students. While in middle school, 78

students will be introduced to a design-infused curriculum along with foundational principles of design. When entering high school, students will choose an area of focus in Architectural, Fashion, or Graphic Design and will engage in a studiobased learning experience. All programs offer internships with firms in the area. The school has reached out to the surrounding community and has formed many partnerships with professionals in the area to engage the students with the community around them.9 The architects of the new facility, Ziger/Snead Architects, propose to continue to partner with BDS by initiating a program for learning by doing called Workpoint. “In construction, a workpoint is a critical point of orientation; as an established benchmark, it is a point of reference that guides subsequent construction. As an educational experience, Workpoint will present design thinking as a common point of reference, bringing together students from various concentrations at BDS in collectively realizing a built project. This project will serve as a beginning, preparing young people for exciting futures as agents of cultural production.” 10 Students would work as part of an after-school club through an iterative design process focusing on the concepts of Consider, Compose, Construct, and Collect. Every year, a new set of parameters would be issued for the students to consider. Students would work in teams to develop design strategies, and subsequently shape a specific space within the school through fullscale construction. An environment of testing, challenging, and evaluating would be fostered with the assistance of design professionals and fabrication specialists. Workpoint would be open to any BDS student seeking to learn more about architecture and the built environment.

Where we go from here The architectural profession is evolving. Boundaries are shifting among disciplines and architects are taking on different roles in society. Social activism and designing for the underserved is becoming more commonplace even at the professional level. Infusing our educational system with this notion of service offers an additional tool for students and provides foundations in concrete principles of the built form. Learning by doing in education strengthens a community around a shared vision and enhances the understanding of techniques in construction. A contagious energy is prevalent in design schools, and we should harness that vigor to experiment, to push our field forward, and to create better buildings and better architects.

“Learning by doing facilitates relationships that extend beyond the boundaries of academic walls.


1. Stephen Nachmanovitch, Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art (New York: Putnam Inc., 1990), 21. 2. Dr. Peter A. Facione, Critical Thinking: A Statement of Expert Consensus for Purposes of Educational Assessment and Instruction, (The California Academic Press, 1990), 2. 3. John Quale, Sustainable Affordable Prefab: The ecoMOD Project, (University of Virginia Press, 2012), 48-9. 4. “Service Learning Clearinghouse” www. 5. Quale, Sustainable Affordable Prefab, 51. 6. Fellow Design Build Master’s Program participants are Tyler Broome, Phillip Fulgham, Cara Highfield, Kendal Kuneman, John Merrill, Evan Mott, Amanda Mosier Sargeant, Amanda Orr, Cody Pierce, Kenneth Rollins, and Dominique Witt-Bass. 7. DK Ruth, Conversations - On the nature of: Architectural Education, Service Learning, Design-Build and Context Based Learning, (, 2009). 8. Quale, Sustainable Affordable Prefab, 1-51. 9. “Baltimore Design School,” www. 10. “Ziger/Snead Current Work,” www.

Image Credits

Images provided by author unless noted otherwise Image 01: Kendal Kuneman Image 03: Evan Mott

Jeremy Chinnis Jeremy Chinnis is a designer at Ziger/Snead Architects in Baltimore, Maryland. Through his varied educational experiences, he has discovered an avid interest in the making of things. He has participated in design and construction at different scales, from a rocking chair to a school house, and values the craft of making. He graduated with a degree in Architecture from Clemson University, earned a Master’s in Design Build from Auburn University and completed his studies with a Master of Architecture degree from the University of Virginia. He seeks to learn how to better serve those around him through design.




by Chris Werner

The cusp between graduation and whatever comes next is likely a strange transition no matter what one studies. It is the time to simultaneously look back at the value of what has just been completed and forward to how this value might be applied. The winter of 2010 was my graduation from a master’s degree program in Architecture, which was quite a different education from the English degree I earned as an undergraduate. Following college, it was tempting to believe that I had arrived at a mastery of my discipline, having spent so many years invested in school. I continued to do a lot of reading and writing, and I loosely expected that one day I would make the transition from casual writer to novelist. I also worked for several years, first as a kayak guide, then as a carpenter. With these experiences — working full time, practicing writing as a hobby, and reflecting on my education — I came to see that I had not, in fact, left school as an expert. I had graduated with a framework and the basic skill set to become a writer, but it would still take years of development to truly excel. Although I never lost interest in my goal of becoming a writer, my career aspirations began to evolve with exposure to professional

work. Carpentry became my first extended job following college. Like English, it had appealed to me as a discipline for exploration and creation. My introduction to carpentry established my current path, led me to pursue architecture as a field of study and profession. It also set the stage for how I came to be inspired by craft. Prior to becoming a carpenter, or rather carpenter’s apprentice, I had never used power tools. I had never taken a high school shop class and I did not have a background in the trades. Some of my friends worked for a roofer growing up, but even they were just huffing shingles up and down ladders. It was while lying on the couch one day that it occurred to me that I had no idea what was behind the wall in the living room. I knew there was something called Sheetrock, but I did not know what it was or how it made a wall. I knew there were studs, but the pattern and frequency for laying them out, whether they were connected with nails or screws, how a stud-finder

could locate them – this was all foreign to me. In my early days working for a contractor, I was hauling wood, throwing away trash, sweeping and digging a lot. Time went on and the crew eventually taught me to use tools and I was allowed to build. I could make cuts and put together pieces, but as a novice my attention was so highly focused on these tasks that I rarely considered the larger scope of the project. People would ask my opinion of the design, and I would answer, “I don’t know…?” My knowledge base was so linear that I did not feel I had graduated to a level to have a valid opinion on the subject. I wanted to greatly accelerate my learning, but I did not even know what questions to ask in order to do this, and no one was offering the great secrets to advanced building and design. Architecture seemed like the necessary connection to bridge the fundamental skills I had acquired as a carpenter with the questions of what and why one builds.

they themselves were too far removed from viewing architectural education as an encrypted language or it was against their methodology, I did not know the questions to ask and no one was revealing this information directly. One assignment that sticks out in my memory was impossible for me to comprehend at the time. In my architecture theory class we were asked to draw plans and elevations of the Villa Savoye. Why? They were already drawn – could we just look at them, study them? I hunkered down and I drew. I concentrated on lineweights, I followed dimensions from books, checked that I had the right number of pilotis and windows. I blithely created plans and elevations, but I did not understand the value in re-drawing this building.

“I had always perceived academic architecture to be a professional degree shaped like a funnel, but I came to realize that the education was more likely I often say about architecture school, I wish I could have to prepare a student for begun the program knowing what I knew at the end of anything...” it, because it was only after a three-and-a-half year master’s program that I felt like I had the base to properly begin. The education was not the natural progression from a background in carpentry, as I thought it might be, but once again something esoteric and new. The theoretical background I had learned in English seemed relatable to architecture, but I did not fully grasp how it could be applied to this new visual medium. Once again, I was a beginner. As I had questioned previously, I had a sense that professors could share the advanced secrets of this discipline, greatly accelerate my learning, but whether

Only much later in my architecture education, when I put the assignment in the context of my English literature studies, did it truly make sense. I recalled a roadtrip from the east coast to the west coast when I was memorizing Edgar Allen Poe’s poem, The Raven, to pass the time through the long, repetitive I-states (Indiana, Illinois, Iowa) and the Dakotas. I had always liked this poem, but through memorization I came to know it thoroughly. I thought about how Poe had made the decision to use the word “tapping” in some instances and “rapping” in others, I labored on every word of the poem as Poe had, I wondered whether the poem would be any better or worse if he had substituted a “there” for a “here.” I thought about how memorizing Poe word-for-word was about as close as one could come to thinking 84

like Poe, because only in understanding every word could one begin to fathom how he began to make his creative decisions. I thought about this in the context of drawing the Villa Savoye and began to realize that if I had opened my mind in the right way I might have opened myself to thinking like Corbusier as he designed. Working in this way offers an opportunity to think like a master. Of course, to even have the insight to know what to look for in order to think like a master, certain building blocks must be in place, certain realizations must be had, and this evolution must be given its time. My other epiphany that seems especially important looking back on architecture school came as a result of my time spent with the 2009 Cornell University Solar Decathlon (CUSD) team on the design and construction of the Silo House. The Solar Decathlon is a design-build project held biennially in which twenty schools, selected by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), design and build solar-powered houses for competition. The project is inter-disciplinary and by the end of the two-year lifecycle we had students from every college on campus represented, but in the early days of development, it was quite the opposite. To get the project off the ground, architecture and engineering students represented 90% of the team and, as such, took on the crucial responsibilities of organizers, recruiters, fundraisers, accountants, marketers, graphic designers, web-designers, and countless other tasks in addition to designing the house. With a tricky circular design, we bounced between mentors – architects, structural and mechanical engineers, steel fabricator, and contractors. The logistics of building a house that was transportable from Ithaca, NY to Washington, DC was more daunting than the prospect of making it energy-efficient or net-zero. The budget, at three-quarters of a million dollars,

was constantly in question, especially with the poor economy in 2008. Finally, beginning in June, 2009 roughly 20 students, most of them architects, dedicated their summer to the final push, the frantic 10-week construction of the Silo House. In many ways we were reinventing the wheel through each of these steps, but it became clear that the skill set that one learns in architecture school, and particularly through an experiential learning project like this, is highly relevant across many fields. Architects must be artistic, creative, adaptable, detail-oriented, precise, public speakers, generalists and specialists, mechanical and whimsical, all of these things and more. I had always perceived academic architecture to be a professional degree shaped like a funnel, but I came to realize that the education was more likely to prepare a student for anything, and perhaps more importantly, these skills manifested themselves beyond the classroom. One day, watching an architecture student play chess, I became acutely aware of the deliberateness with which this player took each turn. On his move, he would raise a hand with reverence, clasp his chess piece with the familiarity of a drafting pen and make his move. The movement of elbow, to wrist, to fingers was similar to that of someone playing a musical instrument. This grace, in contrast to the other student, whose moves simply came down to repositioning alien objects on the board, gave me an early insight into how one develops craft and the value that comes when a beginner moves deeper into a skill set. When I finished architecture school in 2010, I began to update my resume and cover letter. I began to think about jobs. Of every word that appears on my one-page resume, the one that seems most important to me is craft. It is an indication of where I have come from and where I see myself to be. As I wrote my resume,

Image01_Cornell University Solar Decathlon team’s 2009 Silo House


Image02_BUILDlab, LLC’s 2,000 sf Midline House

I began to think of the document itself as the unsanctimonious embodiment of craft. Every single word is meticulously considered, the format is worked and re-worked, the document grows with the person over a lifetime and has a familiarity each time it is revisited. It reflects the most perfect, carefully constructed, professional representation of oneself. After graduation, a friend of mine who was just getting a new design-build firm off the ground asked me to finish out my lease in town and help him and his partner complete their first major commission, a 2,000 sq.ft., energy-efficient house, midway through design development. We spent several months finishing the design and one year building the house. We acted as framers, finish carpenters and cabinet makers. I was re-introduced to tools and materials with fresh eyes. I had familiarity with them from beginning in carpentry, going to architecture school, building the Solar Decathlon house, but I had understood them all very literally. Readdressing them for the fourth time in a new context allowed me to separate from the pure mechanics of design and building a more pure art that is gained through experience. In the case of a woodworker, a novice may take a block of pine and aim to cut it. He may satisfactorily cut the block into two without thinking, or any awareness for that matter, that

anything sits before him except two blocks of pine. The difference for the craftsman, for the experienced woodworker, is the countless number of subconscious considerations, the intuition and anticipation that goes into even this, the most simple of operations. It begins with a deeply engrained knowledge of wood: strength, density, grain, expansion and contraction with moisture, imperfections, texture. Assessment of how the material will respond to tools: blades, drills, cutting bits, chisels, cross-cuts or rips, tolerances for splitting, blowouts, and sanding. And then accessories: the behavior of wood with glue, fasteners, finishes. And lifecycle: the behavior of wood with time, environment, conditions of use. Put simply, craft begins when the body knows what to do without the mind having to consciously think about each of these elements. I do not presume to be an expert in English, design, building or woodworking, but I do have a clear sense of what I am working toward. Craft, it turns out, is the enriching reward for moving beyond a superficial interaction with one’s discipline into the fulfilling state of becoming skilled. Furthermore, craft can exist across many disciplines—gardening, cooking and design to name a few—and development in one of these areas can greatly enhance development in another. When I think about craft, I think about the guild system of progressing from apprentice,

to journeyman, to master. These three levels have a delicate circular interplay with one another. The apprentice does not have the building blocks in place to even understand how limited his/ her knowledge actually is. The journeyman may begin to understand what perfection is, but may not yet know how to achieve it. The master executes with superior ability and yet still strives to improve. After a lifetime of growth and refinement, does he/she remember with any great detail what it is to be a novice?

only be internalized through plodding, time, mistakes and reflection. Each person’s path is different, and as such, the experiences that hone a skill into craft become as unique as each individual’s story. I look back on my own path and remember clearly what it is to be a novice, but I also have a vision of the advanced levels I hope to achieve in the future, having come to learn about discipline, determination, precision, and focus, just a few of the qualities that help to develop craft.

Through each of my experiences, I have seen how difficult it is to achieve mastery. A good mentor may be able to teach many aspects of a discipline and even prepare a person conceptually for greater topics to come, but there is a certain amount of familiarity that can

Image Credits

Title image_Photo by author Image01_Photo by Viola Kosseda. Cornell University Solar Decathlon 2009 Silo House Image02_Photo by author. BUILDlab, LLC’s Midline House

Chris Werner Chris Werner graduated from Cornell University with a Master of Architecture degree in 2010. He served as project manager for the Cornell University Solar Decathlon team’s Silo House from 2007 - 2009. Prior to studying architecture, Chris studied English literature at Miami University, worked as a kayak guide in Washington state and Costa Rica, and a carpenter in and around Washington, DC. After architecture school he worked as a designer and builder at BUILDlab, LLC in Ithaca, NY. He now works at Landry Design Group in Los Angeles, CA.



Image01_Workshop of a tinsmith

Positioning ‘craft’ In her writing, Concepts of Craft, Juliette MacDonald positions craft in regards to its association with both fine art and design. Art, design, and craft are of the same lineage – the artist and/or designer was also a craftsman. As industrialization took hold, more goods were produced by machine, leaving the craftsman

marginalized in the process. Through a purposeful retreat and shunning of technology, craftsmen themselves began to sacrifice the stature of craft as they returned to their workshops to do it rather than talk about it. At the same time, proponents of craft attempted to position industrialization with the reduction of society’s core values and associated this trend with less choice and a loss of control. MacDonald asserts:

“Craft practice and theory appeared to be static, caught up in nostalgia and ideas of ruralism. Instead of keeping pace with developments in art or architecture, craft practice became the vehicle for a retreat from the present, a genre best thought of in terms of its adherence to local, vernacular, and historical traditions rather than to social and aesthetic innovativeness and originality.”¹ Definitions of craft have varied in the postindustrial era and are often highly indicative of the time they reflect. In the words of Paul Greenhalgh, “craft has always been a messy word”2 referring to its shifting associations and alliances with trades, industry, art, and design. He continues stating it as “a fluid set of practices, propositions and positions that shift and develop, sometimes rapidly.”3 Denis Diderot defined craft as “the name given to any profession that requires the use of the hands.”4 Juliette MacDonald traces

the term to Medieval times “where it suggested a combination of intelligence, skill, and strength.”5 Malcolm McCullough defines craft as “skilled work applied toward practical ends.”6 David Pye positions craftsmanship at the upper end of a spectrum of a more general term – workmanship.7 Juhanni Pallasmaa states that “craftsmanship arises from manual skill, training and experience – personal commitment as well as judgment.”8

In the latter half of the 20th century, craft had again been elevated to a place of stature through several theorists reconsidering its value in regards to art and design. Greenhalgh addresses this argument when he states that “while it is important not to fantasize or fetishize craft as a thing in itself, ultimately, it really doesn’t matter how it all came together; the point is, it is together.”9 These definitions possess a common characteristic where craft is a skill or quality in the act of making, not a noun describing the construct itself.

Deceit and Lies For full comprehension, it is essential to unpack the etymology of several words commonly used in the context of contemporary making. Fabrication, and its root word fabricate, has Latin origins relating to “make, construct, fashion, build.” Interestingly, it also has an offshoot at the end of the 19th century relating to “telling a lie.” Craft is defined as “skill or ability, especially in handiwork” but also as a “skill or ability used for bad purposes; cunning; deceit; guile.” It is not accidental that this root coincides with the time in which society separates making and the machine. McCullough, in his book Abstracting Craft, historically positions the term craft illustrating how industrialization continually created an adversarial condition between the hand and the means through which something is made. In essence, the machine either created more separation between hand and material, or completely removed the hand from the manipulation of material and thus the creation of works. McCullough continues to define this change by identifying craft as producing works (originals as compared to art) and industrialization creating products (mass production for consumption).10 Craft was seen as respectful to historical and cultural lineage whereas industrialization carried viewpoints embracing artificiality and fakery.

The connection and use of the word fabricate as deceitful might also be positioned with regards to the process of making in an architectural context from conception to construction. Architects use translations to communicate architectural intent and form. This often involves visual trickery through methods of seeing which do not exist in natural vision including orthographic projection, linear perspective, unrolled or developed surfaces, and fake rendered images. The obscuration and abstraction of the anticipated architectural project is inevitable in the context of architectural representation where suppression of the third dimension is required to create a set of drawings for construction. These fabricated images serve a purpose, but do it through visual manipulation and suggestive projection. While legibility is seen as the ultimate goal of architectural representation in the context of construction, the truth is architects often rely on a veil that exists within the translation. To protect the design professional from liability, this relation leaves means and methods to the contractor and distances the architect’s hand from the act of making. This haptic separation introduces a certain type of mystery to industrialized making where communication between maker and made is obscured. Within this gap is where potential distrust exists and causes critics to challenge the mechanized fabrication tool as a valid means of exhibiting craft.

Disciplinary Fissures A pair of fissures that began during the Renaissance and Industrial Revolution situated architects in regards to both their role in craft, and the role of the machine in a contemporary society. The institutionalization of the architectural profession necessitated that architects position 92

the discipline with a similar stature to that of the sciences and mathematics. This effort caused a continual drift of the architect away from the construction site into a role where he or she represented the act and product of construction at a distance from the materials. William Massie states, “prior to the industrial era, architects were the purveyors of the built. As a result of the industrial revolution, industry itself became the purveyor of the built.”11 Geometrical treatises and laws of physics were instrumental in the institutionalization of the architect proper, essentially assisting in their transition from the construction site. The development of drawings and drawing techniques described the processes in which craft could be achieved and their characteristics became more about the image of the building. This was an important step as the architect became, for the first time, at least one step removed from the act of building and the scene of craft. Parallel to this condition within both the profession and society at large, a polarity arose with regards to the role of machine making in modern life. Architects had a vested interest in the argument due to an obvious connection to the act of constructing architecture. At the core of this polemic was a view that anything produced by hand, bearing the traces of its making, possessed more value. Products made through industrial processes were viewed as impersonal and reflected a degradation of society and a lack of individuality. Juliette MacDonald states: “For them [craft advocates], the industrially produced objects represented the division of labour, the loss of creative freedom, and the suspension of mental processes, whereas crafts signified the culmination [of] individual production, independent creativity and even moral virtue.” 12 John Ruskin went as far as saying “for it is not the material, but the absence of the human labour,

which makes the thing worthless.”13 Additionally, industrialization represented another level of displacement after the removal of the architect from the construction site and further distanced the architect from material and the place in which craft would occur. Industrialization also established a revised role for the hand in the process of making where, for the first time, making was done without a haptic connection to the material – in effect ushering in making by proxy.

Manufacture manufacture -noun (1560s) “something made by hand,” from L. manu, ablative of manus “hand” + factura “a working,” from pp. stem of facere “to perform.” As the definition suggests, the term ‘manufacture’ was originally associated with the making of artifacts with the one’s hands. At the heart of the position held by craftsman and their supporters was a desire for the connection between the maker and the made as if the material could speak and communicate its desires and properties to the artisan. Juhanni Pallasmaa states, “The work of the craftsman implies collaboration with his material.”14 Instead of imposing a preconceived idea or shape, he needs to listen to his material.“ Louis Kahn famously asked the brick what it would like to be, receiving an answer that it would like to be an arch. While obviously the material itself cannot verbally communicate, there are ways in which a material might impart its preference through a sort of resistance to certain operative procedures. For example, any woodworker knows that wood performs differently based on the direction of its grain with regards to the manipulation. This communication is typically in relation to certain material properties that reflect preferences in tooling and joinery. A material’s aversion to certain techniques or methods is established through a haptic connection through the tool – a connection that is denied through the machine.

If a required component of craft is, as Diderot explained, the use of the hand as a means to manipulate material, it was most often done through the use of tools. Pallasmaa writes about the connection of the hand and the tool as essentially one apparatus where the tool in the hand become one – the tool as an extension of the hand and the hand as an extension of the tool.15 Craftsmen’s allegiance to the hand as an essential component in the act of making, and subsequent denial of the potential of machine in the making of products, eventually isolated the artisan to niche markets. McCullough elaborates on the perception stating “at best, craft was the mere execution of preconceived ends; more often it was a mere hobby. Art – which was the true search – became increasingly independent of technique.” 16

generation of a strong economic environment. In a lecture from 1901, Frank Lloyd Wright referred to the machine as “the great forerunner of democracy.”17 This is exhibited through the vast number of inventions and developments that took place on American soil through the late 19th and early 20th centuries; cotton gin, telegraph, sewing machine, airplane, and the assembly line to name a few. The machine was seen as a partner in this new identity and was critical to establishing independence.

“Pallasmaa writes about the connection of the hand and the tool as essentially one apparatus where the tool in the hand become one – the tool as an extension of the hand and the hand as an extension of the tool.”¹5

The Role of the Machine In the advancement of society, technology often plays an essential role in the tilling of new fertile ground in which change can take place. It is not without this partnership with the craftsman that this advancement becomes more meaningful and relative to society at large. Culture and society are human experiments and cannot take place outside of human interaction. The American experiment largely embraced industrialization, seeing it as a way to create a new world where the machine was claimed as a partner in its identity and significant in the

Making by Proxy

Making of certain constructs in the pre-industrial era, architecture, furniture, products, etc., constituted a simpler relationship between maker and material, typically separated only through a tool. The separation has continually been expanded with the gap being filled by translations including drawings and models, and eventually digital software and input devices such as tablets and mice. The digital revolution produces models and vector files output to print drawings that are translated again by a builder. By the end of the 20th century, the architect’s separation from material manipulation had become even greater to the extent that, by and large, architects lost intimate connection with the making process. This condition was eventually elevated to a point where architects realized that this separation had somewhat hurt the profession in regards to its involvement in the realization of ideas. It had also significantly removed material studies and prototypes from the design process, eliminating the opportunity for material feedback. 94

However, digital fabrication offers the potential for the maker, in this case the architect, to reestablish a connection to material and making processes. David Pye’s definition of craftsmanship as “worksmanship 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.”18 He labels this as the workmanship of risk where the quality of the end result embraces the potential of risk contrasting this with the workmanship of certainty where risk is averted. He does not position craft with regards to hand versus machine, but rather risk versus certainty stating that the latter would be “all but meaningless.”19 Neri Oxman defines craft in a contemporary context as “a guiding instruction-set, a formalism, which merges knowledge of application with an

instrumentality of material organization.”20 Both authors encourage the maker to embrace the opportunity of a conversation between not the maker and the made, but rather the maker and the process of making. Within a contemporary fabrication context, the rapid prototyping machine is not merely an extension of its ancestor whereby its role is simply an unintelligent extension of the designer. As Pye suggests, it is not as much the question of hand or machine, but how the tool is being engaged into the process as an informant of the possibilities that might reside within the constraints. Computer aided manufacturing (CAM) is the use of digital software and tools in the process of making. This article is foregrounding the use of the term ‘manufacture’ in digital fabrication suggesting

Image02_Digitally fabricated installation

that the hand, while further removed in actual proximity, is still quite connected to the architects’ representations as well as the movements of the fabrication tool. This connection enhances a contemporary practice situation that includes many translations, characters, and technologies existing between the conception of the architect and the made construct. Making by proxy attempts to tap into the history of the craftsman’s making process where the mystery is lessened and architectural representation is not used as

a veil but a communicator of information and intent. The degree of involvement varies with each application. In some cases, the hand is involved only to the extent that clarity of intention is maintained within the control and manipulation of the machine’s operations. In this case, the hand is physically distanced through the software interface but the movements of the hand projecting intentional movements of the machine are clearly

Image03_Variable casting bed

present. This can be seen through a large number of fabrication projects where the comprehension of the machine’s abilities are coupled with the designer’s intentionality to produce finely crafted precision objects. (Image 2) In other cases, where technology such as parametric software and servo motors are involved, one might allow for actual movements of the hand translated through the software to effect change in the made construct. An example of this can be seen in a casting bed made by MIT architecture graduate student Neil Legband. This project uses software-controlled motors that adjust a flexible casting bed, in turn offering the ability to develop a large quantity of surface variations. (Image 3) This project allows a one-to-one connection of maker to made, and offers the visual feedback that the traditional craftsman relied upon.

no doubt that the traditional craftsman is able to create artifacts that are not only beautiful, but also speak to the process of making. Digital fabrication and its tools are within the same lineage and offer the opportunity for architects to again be one step closer to the material and its manipulation through movements of the hand which are translated through a machine. This new manufacturing , made by hand, engages a process that sees the machine as a partner in the future trajectory of craft within the discipline of architecture. Once again, craft can take its place as a valued component to the architect’s process and not just something we hope for through a series of instructional representations.

In each of these cases, the deceit of representation as a veil between maker and made is significantly lessened and an intentional connection is reestablished between hand and tool. According to Pye and Oxman’s definitions of craft, making by proxy offers a contemporary version of manufacturing – or making by hand. There is 96

“Digital fabrication and its tools are within the same lineage and offer the opportunity for architects to again be one step closer to the material and its manipulation...


1. Juliette MacDonald, “Concepts of Craft” in Exploring Visual Culture: Definitions, Concepts, Contexts edited by Matthew Rampley (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press Ltd., 2005), 39. 2. Paul Greenhalgh, The Persistence of Craft: The Applied Arts Today (London: A&C Black, 2002), 1. 3. Greenhalgh, Persistence, 1. 4. Denis Diderot, Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers (France: 1765) 5. MacDonald, Concepts, 34. 6. Malcolm McCullough, Abstracting Craft (Boston: The MIT Press, 1998), 22. 7. David Pye, The Nature and Art of Workmanship (London: A&C Black, 2007), 20. 8. Juhanni Pallasmaa, “The Working Hand” in The Thinking Hand: The Existential and Embodied Wisdom in Architecture (New York: Wiley, 2009) 51. 9. Greenhalgh, Persistence, 1. 10. McCullough, Abstracting, 16.

11. William Massie, “Remaking In A Postprocessed Culture” in Fabricating Architecture: Selected Readings In Digital Design and Manufacturing edited by Robert Corser (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2010), 102. 12. Macdonald, Concepts, 38. 13. John Ruskin, The Seven Lamps of Architecture (New York: John Wiley, 1849) 14. Pallasmaa, Working, 54. 15. Pallasmaa, Working, 47. 16. McCullough, Abstracting, 15. 17. Frank Lloyd Wright, “The Art and Craft of the Machine” in The Industrial Design Reader, edited by Carma Gorman, (New York: Allworth Press, 2003), 55. 18. Pye, Workmanship, 20. 19. Pye, Workmanship, 25. 20. Neri Oxman, “Digital Craft: Fabrication Based Design in the Age of Digital Production” in Workshop Proceedings for Ubicomp 2007: International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing. (Innsbruck, Austria: 2007), 535.

Image Credits

Image01_ Image from Diderot’s Encyclopedie, ou dictionnaire raisonne des sciences, des arts et des metiers, 1765 Image02_Image and design by author Image03_Image and design by Neil Legband with permission

Brian M. Kelly Brian M. Kelly is a licensed architect in the State of Nebraska and an Assistant Professor at the UNL College of Architecture. His previous teaching experience includes Drury University’s Hammons School of Architecture in Springfield, MO and California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo. Prior to joining the faculty at UNL, Brian served as lead designer in the office of Randy Brown Architects, designing several award-winning projects of various types and scales. In addition to teaching, he is a partner with AToM, a design office that focuses on smaller scale architectural projects, objects, and graphics. Brian’s teaching focus is in the areas of beginning design, architectural representation theory, and the threshold between making and marking.


Thinking + Making by C. A. Debelius

Image 01_Design Study by Hunter Smith_Visual Literacy I_Appalachian State University_Spring 2012


On a late summer afternoon more than twenty years ago, first year architecture students at UNC/ Charlotte were asked to design and construct a wooden bench over a span of a few days. No power tools could be used in the construction and hand tools were limited to a hammer and a saw. Nails, rather than glue or screws, were required for all connections and nailing into endgrain or toenailing was not permitted. Most importantly, each student was restricted to a single size of off-theshelf lumber for all bench components: the assigned lumber sizes ranged from diminutive1 x 2’s to hefty 2 x 8’s.

tion sequencing, design and construction priorities, precision, the details of connections, and the quality of craftsmanship. The project began with a series of large-scale freehand sketches before moving into the construction phase. The initial construction experiments led to unexpected results: within hours, many in the class realized that design proposals that seemed promising in freehand sketches or chipboard models had to be jettisoned or required major modifications before they could be constructed. Furthermore, it was quickly evident that strategies that worked reasonably well for one size of lumber (e.g., 2 x 2’s) worked poorly—or not at all—for other lumber sizes (e.g., 1 x 2’s and 2 x 8’s). In the end, the most successful projects were those that relied on an informed trial-anderror method: design alternatives were studied in sketches, small scale models, or prototypes and rejected or adopted based on those two and three-dimensional studies. In the best hours of that memorable design studio, at least every third sentence seemed to begin with the phrase “What if—?”

In the best hours of that memorable design studio, at least every third sentence seemed to begin with the phrase “What if—?”

The simplicity of the project requirements, especially the functional requirements (“a bench for two adults”), belies the elegance and complexity of the assignment. The project, the very first studio assignment of the first semester of design studio, asked the class to consider topics ranging from composition, clarity, unity and variety, balance, proportional relationships, the use of a module, formal and spatial relationships, intentionality, and aesthetics to materiality, tectonics, construc-

A challenge for every member of the studio was the design of the connection between the bench top and the bench supports. Not only did the connection between the top and the legs require an intermediate member (due to the restrictions on nailing into endgrain and toenailing), but the bench structure had to have some means of resisting lateral loads. Diagonal bracing? Secondary members connecting the lower legs of the bench? Heavily reinforced connections between bench top and supports? Again, the most successful design investigations relied on an iterative process where design alternatives were drawn or constructed and then critiqued. New critical comments suggested ideas and points of view that had not been previously considered and pointed to design alternatives that merited new studies. The dilemma was not what to investigate, but which of a number of appealing questions should I choose to investigate. Some intriguing design options had to be rejected because they could not be executed with the tools or fasteners at hand or in the time available. Other design alternatives were rejected because they seemed incompatible with the lumber size or because

those alternatives were not consistent with other parts of the proposed design. Provocative questions bubbled to the surface. Could the inherent heaviness of a 2 x 8 bench be mitigated by a bench top that appeared to float above the supports and defy gravity? By what means could a 2 x 6 bench replicate the airiness and lightness of bamboo scaffolding? Could the design for a 2 x 2 bench be based on a student’s interpretation of Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five”? And how might a bench made of 1 x 2’s present itself as substantial and permanent rather than fragile and ephemeral? The most successful projects were those that discovered opportunities, rather than problems, in the repetitive use of a single lumber size.

Could the design for a 2 x 2 bench be based on a student’s interpretation of Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five”?

Images 02 through 07_fold bend wrap_2nd Year Studio_Spring 2008_University of Tennessee College of Architecture and Design_Studies, from left to right, by A. Pirtle, L. McClure, D. Markee, A. Pittman, S. Townsend, and J. Dugger.


Annie Dillard’s remarkable book The Writing Life opens with the following sentences: When you write, you lay out a line of words. The line of words is a miner’s pick, a woodcarver’s gouge, a surgeon’s probe. You wield it, and it digs a path you follow. Soon you find yourself deep in new territory. Is it a dead end, or have you located the real subject? You will know tomorrow, or this time next year. 1

Dillard’s insightful commentary on the nature of writing, the tenuous nature of the work, and the underlying uncertainty of the writer’s journey brings to light the potential for dead ends as well as discoveries. One understands the similarities between the writing process and the design process; a long and exhaustive investigation may not lead to new and fruitful revelations. One must maintain the ability to look critically at his or her work, must be persistent, must remain open to new possibilities and alternatives for developing a project, and must think creatively, abstractly, intuitively and synthetically as well as analytically and rationally. Perhaps the design instructor’s biggest challenge is to promote a design methodology, or methodologies, that underscore the investigatory—and non-linear— nature of the design process.

Stephen Kieran and James Timberlake’s monograph MANUAL is an extended rumination on an open-ended design process and, as such, is a critique of those professional and academic models of design process where the outcome is preconceived. In his introduction, Alberto Pèrez-Gòmez describes the important distinction between the Aristotelian approach adopted by Kieran and Timberlake where “appropriate categories are discovered empirically and evolve from the bottom up” and a Platonic approach “dominated by preconceived ideas.” 2 On reading MANUAL, one is struck by, on the one hand, the rigor of the book’s organization and the consistency of the presentation of material in support of the authors’ thesis and, on the other hand, by the beauty and expressiveness of the projects themselves, a quality that contradicts the formulaic implications of the monograph’s title. These works are neither the result of a set of instructions in the tradition of recipes or pattern books or technical specifications, nor the banal end-products of a formula for a normative “successful design practice.” These are projects that are poetic, expressive, conceptually dense, and multivalent. Building technology and assembly (“composition”), from the small scale of construction details to the much larger scale of site and context, progress in concert with both work (“artifacts”) and reflection on the work.

Kieran and Timberlake, in a counterpoint to Robert McCarter’s 1991 essay “A Question of Things,” remind the reader that “Architecture is formed with materials; ideas are formed with words.”3 The authors describe an iterative design process alternating between making and reflection, an exchange where each new work prompts a set of questions and each new question is investigated by developing new proposals. This is far more difficult than it sounds—after all, the formulation of substantive questions and thoughtful responses is no easy task—and requires the ability to think critically as well as creatively. The authors set forth three propositions that frame the discussion of Thinking and Making: • First, the abstract model of architecture described by the authors is a synthesis of Albertian (i.e., material and design ideas are “mediated by the skilled craftsman” 4 ) and Corbusian (an architecture based on assembly, composition, and principles, an architecture to be savored and experienced) models. Kieran and Timberlake’s description of the essential nature of architecture and the process of design reverberates with echoes of those two familiar strains, the first emphasizing the relationship between architecture as a physical presence shaped by ideas and the second calling attention to architecture as an ordered arrangement to be experienced

emotionally and spiritually as well as intellectually. • Second, the design process is best understood as “an incomplete, open-ended venture.” 5 The particular nature of investigation in the discipline of architecture simultaneously illustrates architecture’s affinities with the arts and sciences while distinguishing architecture from related fields. • Third, Kieran and Timberlake offer a compelling description of a model of architecture where physical artifacts are inseparable from ideas and intent. The authors write, “To make an artifact requires conscious choice, and no artifact is formed without some degree of both aesthetic and technical intent.” 6 The act of thoughtful Making as part of the larger design process—an act that requires aesthetic as well as technical knowledge, awareness, and conscious choices—reveals new knowledge and suggests new ideas;. Finally, “an intense alertness is demanded in order to identify the spark that can be elaborated as a poetic strategy.” 7

Images 08 through 013_fold bend wrap_2nd Year Studio_Spring 2008_University of Tennessee College of Architecture and Design_Studies, from left to right, by J. Bradshaw, J. Lowery, K. Dike, J. Jorgensen, D. Markee, and K. O’Brien.


Each of the three propositions affirms, either implicitly or explicitly, the belief that design is intentional rather than arbitrary and, furthermore, that every designed object is not only an expression of an idea but an idea itself. Good Making is informed, thoughtful, intentional and poetic. Good Thinking, exceptional thinking, is insightful as well as critical; it can lead to a consideration of refinements, new tests, new studies, and new discoveries. The design studies and experiments undertaken in the bench project established a foundation for future design inquiries. Other studies, model studies executed in paper, painted chipboard, or basswood, have been the subject of long discussions, analyses, and another round of “What if—?” questions.

Over the years the bench experiments and its brethren have yielded two valuable dividends: final products that are richer—more thoughtful, more refined, and more ambitious—and a greater appreciation of design process as an iterative process, a process of investigation that relies on intuition as well as reason. In design education, we err if we focus only on final products: a less than satisfactory product at the end of a thoughtful and intensive design process is preferable to refined final products in a process that takes few risks and explores little new territory.

Images 14 through 19_proun studies_3rdYear Studio_Spring 1997_Kansas State University


1. Dillard, Annie, The Writing Life (New York: HarperPerennial, 1990), 3. 2. Pèrez-Gòmez, Alberto, “Introduction” to MANUAL: The Architecture of KieranTimberlake by Stephen Kieran and James Timberlake (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2002), 7. 3. Kieran, Stephen and Timberlake, James, “Foreward” to MANUAL: The Architecture of KieranTimberlake by Kieran and James Timberlake (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2002), 7. 4. Leon Battista Alberti, On the Art of Building in Ten Books (Cambridge, the MIT Press, 1988), p. 422423. 5. MANUAL, 10. 6. MANUAL, 10. 7. Alberto Pèrez-Gòmez, “Introduction,” MANUAL, 7.

Image credits All images are the property of the author.

C. A. Debelius

C. A. Debelius, AIA, LEED AP, is an associate professor at Appalachian State University where he teaches undergraduate design studios and structures courses in the Building Science program. He has taught previously at the University of Arkansas, UNC/Charlotte, Kansas State University, and the University of Tennessee. Professor Debelius is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. His most recent paper [w/ Chad Everhart and James Russell], “Prefabricating Charles Moore: Reinterpreted Saddlebags and Aediculae,” was presented at and published in the proceedings of 2012 ACSA Fall Conference at Temple University. In 2007, Debelius’s design work was the subject of a solo exhibition at The Knoxville Museum of Art.


The craftsman, as he had been known prior to the rise of industrial production, was dying.�

Crafty by Marc Manack & Frank Jacobus “A craftsman knows what he’s going to make and an artist doesn’t know what he’s going to make, or what the finished product is going to look like.” 1

Since Leon Battista Alberti declared that “to make something convenient for use and that can no doubt be afforded and built as projected, is the job not of the architect so much as the workman,” 2 architects have struggled to deal with craft as the field and profession have changed. This struggle has been born out of opposition and resistance to industrialization, digitalization, and virtualization as architects fought against relinquishing the title of master builder. Given the ever increasing complexity of building construction, and the imminent virtualization of collaborative design and project delivery models, architects are more than ever positioned as the designer of dynamic processes rather than static things, leaving the monolithic notion of the master builder in a precarious if not outmoded position. So where does that leave craft? In the design of processes, the command of architectural skill shifts from craft to “crafty,” moving from refinement toward a means to interject imagination and experimentation into the otherwise mechanized determination that process driven architecture can imply. Freed from craft’s exclusive entanglement with building material, craftiness has the capacity to operate as part of “mutually interdependent material networks composed of neurons, trees, electricity, trees, finance, et cetera, all together”3

that architecture engages in its creation and evolution. Modern industrialization fundamentally altered the architect’s relationship to craft. Richard Sennett, in his book “The Craftsman” refers to Thorstein Veblen’s impressions of Chicago’s 1893 Great Exposition which “…seemed to mark the craftsman’s passing; most of the craftwork on display came from places and peoples Veblen called – with a sense of the irony involved – “primitive” or “undeveloped”. 4 The craftsman, as he had been known prior to the rise of industrial production, was dying. Sennett has the following to say about this demise in relation to architecture’s historic relationship with materiality: “Troubles with materiality have a long pedigree in architecture. Few large-scale building projects before the industrial era had detailed working drawings of the precise sort CAD can produce today; Pope Sixtus V remade the Piazza del Popolo in Rome at the end of the sixteenth century by describing in conversation the buildings and public spaces he envisioned, a verbal instruction that left much room for the mason, glazier, and engineer to work freely and adaptively on the ground.” 5 108

The modernist notion of craft is perceived as removed or disassociated from the design process, relegated exclusively to the purview of the craftsman. Through this process, handicraft was replaced by standardized machine production; architectural compositions could no longer be considered monolithically, but instead had to be developed systematically. The new modes of production were changing the way products and buildings were made and conceived, while simultaneously providing the language for these new conceptions, profoundly influencing the architect’s relationship to the building process. In The Automated Architect, Nigel Cross directly relates the contemporary role of the modern architect to the process of industrialization, pointing out that the “hallmark of the industrialized production system is the fragmentation of tasks and the division of labor”. 6 For Cross, the “separation of designing from making” and the use of drawings as an “abstract consideration of form” are both derivatives of the process of industrialization.7 The components that constitute built form also radically changed during this period. New materials born of the industrial revolution meant new ways of making and the necessary new knowledge that goes along with it.8 As a result of these cultural evolutions, the architect became a designer of processes rather than a static form giver.

and history leads to more precise and beautiful results than the scientific methods that had been developed by that time.” 11 In fact, Gottfried Semper’s search for meaning in generative process rather than stylistic adaptation grew out of his opposition to the idea that “architectural invention involves the choice of preexisting styles or motives.”12 In other words, when one abandons eclecticism, there is a need to develop a system by which one can create meaningful form. To do so, one has to arrive at an understanding of some sort of original basis for form and some understanding as to the variables that make up a work of art or architecture. In his London lecture of 1853 Semper states that “the more we advance in civilization and science the more it seems that … instinctive feeling … loses its strength”.13 Semper perceived his search for the abstract and methodological, if not cosmological, underpinnings of design as a demonstration of a loss of engagement with architecture’s haptic aspects--with craft.

“The crafting of process becomes as important as the crafting of form.”

It is not surprising then, as industrialization proliferates, the pre-conception of architectural form is challenged by the search for generative processes. In the 1850’s Gottfried Semper attempted to explain the work of art as “a mathematical function.”9 Semper attempts to give “architecture a scientific foundation through methods of systematic comparison and classification.”10 Ultimately, Semper believed that the variables of a work of art were too complex to be truly understood mathematically but that “an artistic feeling educated by science

This also paints a picture of new attitudes that see the creation of architecture as a definable and repeatable process; in which case the crafting of process becomes at least as important as the crafting of form. Semper was not deterministic or materialistic in terms of the equations he was formulating, but the very act of developing equations and thinking of architecture in these terms was an initial step in the evolution of developing a general theory of architectural process. Semper was clear in his writings that he did not believe that a totalizing theory of architecture was a possibility, but the motivation to develop a clear formula for the process of making a work of art was a profound moment in the evolution of the conceptualization of craft in art and architecture as an intellectual, as opposed to material, argument.14

But craft remains irreconcilable with process as long as it remains exclusively in the domain of abstraction. Thus in order to understand the role of craft in process we must understand what process is made of: information. James Gleick describes in his book “The Information” the process wherein elements once considered immaterial abstractions are given concrete form. The establishment of information measurement, in the form of “bits” for instance, is a process of giving material presence to the immaterial “as though there were such a thing, measurable and quantifiable, as information.”15 When one determines to measure information by defining it as consisting of “bits”, the information itself takes on the nature of a physical entity that now can be stored, retrieved and crafted. James Gleick describes this as the “mathematicizing” of ideas in that it gives an abstract notion a measurable quality. The word “energy”, which once meant vigor or intensity was “mathematicized, giving energy its fundamental place in the physicist’s view of nature.” 16 Energy is now viewed as a measurable entity and because of this can be manipulated, reformed, and controlled. This measurable quality can be seen as a form of physicalizing what is in actuality an abstract immateriality. Through this physicalizing, abstractions can be transformed and reshaped (crafted) by human beings, much like physical objects have been crafted throughout human history.17 Information is what directs matter, gives it shape, allows for communications, and determines relationships. Time is another abstraction lent a material manifestation. In Technics and Civilization, Lewis Mumford describes this process as follows: “Abstract time became the new medium of existence. Organic functions themselves were regulated by it: one ate, not upon feeling hungry, but when prompted by the clock: one slept, not when one was tired, but when the clock sanctioned it.” 18

Information and material can be seen as inextricably linked, if not interchangeable within a consolidated reality, and thus craft can now be re-conceptualized. Scott Marble writes: “For craft to function as a useful concept today, especially in the context of digital design and production, it might be best rethought as a process of mediating not only between tools and the objects that are produced but also between design as a process of imagination and production as a process of technique.” 19 For Marble, craft is affiliated with the process of developing techniques that translate imagination into production. These techniques are not predetermined, just as imagination is not predetermined, they are experimental, subversive, agile, and nimble; they are “crafty.” Craft, in the conventional sense is understood as mitigating risk, a process of continual refinement: “Craftsmanship…simply means workmanship using any kind of technique or apparatus, in which the quality of the result is not predetermined, but depends on judgment, dexterity, and care which the maker exercises as he works. The idea is that the result is continually at risk during the process of making.” 20 “Crafty”, on the other hand, sees risks as the potential to generate new possibilities. While “crafty” instrumentalizes visions for what architecture could be, craft can only answer what something wants to be. In other words, craft is fundamentally reactionary, while “crafty” is speculative. Herein lies the potential for a rethinking of craft within architecture. The technology and materials that architects design with and deploy will persistently be in a constant evolution. For craft to remain relevant we must see it as quintessential to experimental design processes, regardless of the design medium. 110

Marc Manack

Assistant Professor (Architecture) University of Arkansas Fay Jones School of Architecture

Marc Manack, AIA is an Assistant Professor in the Fay Jones School of Architecture at the University of Arkansas, and is founding principal of the architecture and design firm SILO AR+D, which is currently based in Cleveland, Ohio with offices in Chicago and Fayetteville, Arkansas. Manack frequently collaborates with Robert Maschke Architects, with whom he has been responsible for the design and realization of numerous award-winning projects. Manack’s current research interests are in repositioning computation’s disciplinary agenda, including the reciprocity between compositional and computational design methodologies and techniques. Manack has taught previously at the Kent State University College of Architecture and Environmental Design and at Ohio State University’s Austin E. Knowlton School of Architecture. Fundamentally, Manack’s ambition is to explore architectural projects with an approach that is experimental without being ostentatious.

Frank Jacobus

Assistant Professor (Architecture) University of Arkansas Fay Jones School of Architecture

Frank Jacobus is a licensed architect and Assistant Professor in the Fay Jones School of Architecture at the University of Arkansas. He has a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art and a post-professional MArch II from the University of Texas at Austin. His thesis research at the University of Texas focused on the effects of emerging technologies and media on the discipline of architecture and was selected by the architecture faculty as the “Outstanding Masters Design Study”. While in Austin he was an invited member to a project titled “Resilient Foundations: The Gulf Coast after Katrina”, which was exhibited at the 10th annual architecture show at the Venice Biennale. Frank’s research while at the University of Arkansas has primarily centered on our evolving perceptions of the built environment and the effects of emerging media and technology on the conceptualization of that environment. Frank believes deeply in the educational value of continually testing architectural projects through physical making. His work has been published widely in conference proceedings and journals. Frank resides in Fayetteville, Arkansas with his wife Emilie and his two sons, Topher and Benny.

References 1. Barron, Stephanie, and Price, Kenneth. , Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective. New York, NY: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Nasher Sculpture Center, & Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012. 2. Rykwert, Joseph, Neil Leach, and Robert Tavernor, eds. On the Art of Building in Ten Books. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1988. 3. Borden, Gail Peter, and Michael Meredith, eds. Matter: Material Processes in Architectural Production. New York, NY: Routledge, 2012. 4. Sennett, Richard. The Craftsman. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008. 5. Sennett, Richard. The Craftsman. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008, 41. 6. Nigel Cross, The Automated Architect, Viking Penguin, New York, 1977. 7. Nigel Cross, The Automated Architect, Viking Penguin, New York, 1977. 8. Edith Cherry, Programming for Design, John Wiley and Sons, New York, 1999. 9. Poerschke, Ute. “Architecture as a Mathematical Function: Reflections on Gottfried Semper.” Nexus Network Journal 14, no. 1 (March 2012): 119-34. 10. Poerschke, Ute. “Architecture as a Mathematical Function: Reflections on Gottfried Semper.” Nexus Network Journal 14, no. 1 (March 2012): 119-34. 11. Poerschke, Ute. “Architecture as a Mathematical Function: Reflections on

Architecture, Text, Textile.” Shidai Jian Zhu, no. 2 (March 1, 2010): 124-27. 13. Poerschke, Ute. “Architecture as a Mathematical Function: Reflections on Gottfried Semper.” Nexus Network Journal 14, no. 1 (March 2012): 119-34. 14. Poerschke, Ute. “Architecture as a Mathematical Function: Reflections on Gottfried Semper.” Nexus Network Journal 14, no. 1 (March 2012): 119-34. 15. Gleick, James. The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood. New York, NY: Vintage Books, a Division of Random House, 2011, 4. 16. Gleick, James. The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood. New York, NY: Vintage Books, a Division of Random House, 2011. 17. Gleick, James. The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood. New York, NY: Vintage Books, a Division of Random House, 2011, 7. 18. Mumford, Lewis. Technics and Civilization. 4th ed. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1934. 19. Marble, Scott. “Imagining Risk.” In Building in the Future: Recasting Labor in Architecture, edited by Peggy Deamer and Phillip G. Bernstein. New York, NY: Princeton Architectural Press, 2010, 39. 20. Pye, David. The Nature and Art of Workmanship. Cambridge, England: University Press, 1968, 2.

Gottfried Semper.” Nexus Network Journal 14, no. 1 (March 2012): 119-34. 12. Leatherbarrow, David. “Gottfried Semper: 112


by Timothy D


D. Dolan & R. Chadwick Everhart

Image 01_Stitched Mountain Panorama

Upon arriving in the Appalachian Mountains of the eastern United States, early pioneers were greeted with rugged terrain and an abundance of virgin timber. The necessity of shelter coupled with available resources and limited construction methods set a precedent for a prominent regional housing typology: the mountain cabin. Current building trends still identify, somewhat, with the underlying characteristics developed as foundational tenants of the cabin; however, the mountain cabin aesthetic, found throughout much of the United States, has triumphed over the original intentions of the southern Appalachian cabin typology. With so few original examples remaining and a perpetual dilution of the cabin’s original crafting through unauthentic replications, a question to consider is: In modern times, what should a cabin be? Origins When considering the prospect of the southern Appalachian cabin typology in our current culture, it is critical to understand its origins. In an era when pioneers were determined to escape the confinement and regulations of organized communities, the isolation of the Appalachian frontier was appealing. The untamed forested areas of the Blue Ridge Mountains along with the possibility of self-sufficiency required an intuitive yet minimal approach towards land development and the creation of buildings. “The relative self-sufficiency of the pioneer generations is illustrated by simple log cabins that (now) survive scattered among the hollows and mountainsides.”(Image 01)

“Early houses were constructed using wood in the form of logs. A popular method was to build by stacking the logs so that they overlapped at their corners, making a solid wall.” (Image 02) While the abundance of timber generally dictated both structure and finish in the stacked log cabin, the individuality of these early forms and spaces is directly linked to craft, but a basic craft by unskilled family members who served as the workforce. Combining minimal woodworking skills using extremely rough materials, these early builders developed a typology that has become a ubiquitous icon.The pioneers’ unsophisticated craft has served to define the log cabin typology and illicit a clear connection between form and function.

Image 02_Original Blue Ridge Mountain Cabin

With limitations resultant of workable and manageable timber sizes as well as the act of hand hewing with primitive tools, the art of building log cabins required patience and precision, especially through detailing in areas such as the typical woven corner connections. Although many might consider the original log cabins crude, the building context and its restrictions suggest otherwise. The buildings were “beautiful in their simplicity and as strong as the virgin American wood from which they were made.” (Image 03) The simple forms and detailing of the log cabin – regularly remembered and duplicated – are nostalgic to many of today’s residents and wealthy visitors to the Blue Ridge Mountains; however, the original southern Appalachian log cabins were also a derivative of economy. The log cabin was the affordable housing type of the time. To reproduce an authentic, hand-hewn log cabin from virgin timbers in today’s times is not only a virtual impossibility because of available materials and building traditions, but a costly endeavor.

A Changing Tradition As the United States developed as an agrarian society in its formative years and changed dramatically with new construction technologies resulting from the Industrial Revolution, the southern Appalachian cabin evolved. “Those farmers who managed to produce surpluses could afford to erect frame farmhouses, together with churches, mills, country stores, and a host of domestic and agricultural outbuildings.”¹ Wood framed buildings, clad with siding, replaced the iconic log cabin as the image of housing in the Blue Ridge Mountain region. The advent of the machine-made wire nail coupled with smaller dimensional lumber from water-powered sawmills required less material, provided flexibility in house designs, was easier to handle, and was relatively less inexpensive. (Image 04) Roof forms became somewhat more complex and the detailing of structure, such as rafter tails and columns, was more pronounced. The concept of cladding became a new phenomenon during this time as well. Although simple 116

craft using available yet unrefined resources was required for framing of modest farmhouses and cabins in southern Appalachia, the decorative layering of materials that was now possible, even leaked into the much poorer and simple region. The house became a status symbol and ultimately the most refined building on a homestead; however, the working buildings – although many were wood framed – continued the spirit of the original log structures. In his introduction to Barns, Charles Leikwrites that the working buildings were“a reflection of the people and history of the region. Few of us can determine the age of a barn or its specific purpose at a glance, but we admire the classical proportions, the honest design and sturdy construction, and the use of native materials.” (Image 05) In the isolated region, the landowner worked as a relatively self-sufficient farmer as well as the overall carpenter of the homestead buildings.

Image 03_Post Civil War Homestead

With steady population growth and more accessibility to the area via locomotive and better roadways for carriages, residents became more connected to one another as well as the outside world. While some materials were imported, most still came from the site and were cut at a nearby sawmill. Neighboring homesteaders worked together frequently. All of them toiled not only as farmers, but untrained, modest craftsmen of buildings as well.

A Break in the Vernacular With the dawn of the modern movement and its resulting effect on culture, art, and architecture, there was rebirth of the structure as finish concept. The modernist masters embraced their minimalistic craft holistically – similar to the early pioneers – yet employed more sophisticated techniques using higher quality materials and machinery. Discussing the development of

Image 04_Mountain Ranch House

the Bauhaus, Feininger writes: “the complete building is the final aim of the visual arts. Their noblest function was once the decoration of buildings. Today they exist in isolation, from which they can be rescued only through the conscious, co-operative effort of all craftsmen.� (Image 06) While the Blue Ridge Mountain region remained more isolated from the rest of society, the crafting of modest housing became more of a collaborative effort. With more experienced carpenters now available, the common landowner was no longer the chief carpenter. The typical landowner had also changed from a homesteader to tradesman or industry worker who no longer had the time to erect a modest house for his family. It was during this time that the art of log construction was greatly minimized. In the southern Appalachian Mountains, the old and often derelict log cabins served less as housing and more

as relics of a bygone era. Affordable housing in the region changed like most of the United States. While Modern architecture embraced a more minimalistic approach to form, structure, and finish, it also enabled the overlooking of regional building contexts. In general, affordable housing became more universal through the use of manufactured, modular materials that were readily available and southern Appalachia followed suit.

The Post-Modern Mountain Cabin Aesthetic As culture and architecture moved into the postModern realm, the imagery of the mountain cabin reemerged. The nostalgia of cabins was most prevalent with the new vacationers and second home owners that began infiltrating the Appalachian Mountains during this time. Although they were “joined in recent decades 118

Image 05_Unseen, Planting plan – flora and technology.

by a growing number of resort and retirement complexes,” local residents most often preferred more common suburban housing; however, the new demographic of outsiders that occupied the resort communities yearned for a more authentic mountain house: the log cabin. While many of the vacationers and retirees attempted – and still attempt – to simulate the

sentiment of the original log structures, cabins were more often an aesthetic replication of an image. The aesthetic became manifest in more clean-lined solid log structures as well as through the overlay of log siding to stick-built houses. Unfortunately, the original southern Appalachian log cabins were not the only imagery employed in the region. The new obsession with cabins also brought imported forms, materials, structural

Image 06_Unseen, Cameras filming growth.

systems, and details from the Adirondacks as well as the Rocky Mountains. Roof lines became more complex, details more elaborate, and house sizes much larger. Cabins of the new southern Appalachia were no longer simpleor contextually relevant. The log cabin aesthetic even migrated to modular and manufactured homes. The still popular “park model” houses – 400 square foot mobile homes – employ contemporary log construction as well as simulated log cladding. With their narrow widths, long lengths, and shallow pitched gable roofs, the park models create a disproportioned affordable house. This new type of log cabin has rarely seen the hands of a human, much less a craftsman. The construction of a cabin, ubiquitous to hand-work, is all but eliminated due to the nature of modern manufacturing using a kit of computer-milled parts. 120

Image 07_Novotny Cabin

A Modern and Contextual Approach to Cabins Craft seems to have lost its primary definition to the common mentality of a hobby or in the broadest sense, a mere vocation centered on an affinity. However, many of today’s designers view craft through a lens that provides for continued development of a process that elevates

materiality, structure, and form into an artistic expression founded in history and integrity. The cabin typology has been reinterpreted by many contemporary architects in a variety of regions using artisan techniques and local materials. In the Pacific Northwest, several notable architects have created contextually modern cabins. Miller|Hull’s Novotny Cabin is one example of a cabin the not only merges with its coastal site through materials and colors, but reinforces local

Image 08_Tye River Cabin

building traditions. “Exposed, simply detailed connections provide both visual interest and structural clarity to the cabin’s interior.”(Image 07)Tom Kundig’sTye River Cabin, employs a minimalistic approach to a forested site while also incorporating reclaimed materials. “The wood used for construction – for rafters, flooring, window frames, and doors – was salvaged from an old warehouse slated for demolition.” (Image 08) This same spirit of modern contextualism has found expression in various regions of eastern North America as well. One of the most prominent architects to design a new approach to cabins is Peter Bohlin. While much of Bohlin’s work pays homage to the simplicity of early pioneer cabins of the mid-Atlantic and northeastern United States, one of his first projects, the Forest House,was the genesis of his work with the cabin typology. According to Oscar Ojeda while discussing the Forest House, “there is great pleasure in modest means.”(Image 09) Brian Mackay-Lyons of Nova Scotia has many projects, such as the Rubadoux House, that “have

Image 09_Forest House


Image 10_Roubadoux House

Image 11_View Approaching House

benefited from being small and inexpensive. They have necessitated pragmatism in order to be built.” Mackay-Lyons continues his discourse by describing his early works as coming “closer to the zero-aesthetic of the vernacular buildings” he admires. (Image 10)

Re-crafting the Appalachian Cabin As a return to the spirit of the original Appalachian cabins, the Modernist Cabin – with architecture by Chad Everhart and interior design by Tim Dolan – attempts to revisit the cabin typology using modern means, but with a contextual response. Situated on a very small lot in a neighborhood with prescriptive standards that mandate rustic, cabin-like characteristics, the Modernist Cabin reinterprets the stereotype inherent to Blue Ridge mountain cabins – an homage to both execution of craft through material as well as an exploration of craft for the designers.Created for interior design professor Dolan, the cabin blends his large collection of mid-century modern furnishings and a prefer-

ence for austere aesthetics with vernacular elements to create a simple, modern design. Only 650 heated square feet of space, the shedroofed cabin stands as a model of affordable design and construction through its minimal footprint, use of indigenous materials, maximization of volume, and multi-use components. As an application of craft, the Modernist Cabin explores this dynamic as both noun and verb. The structure regards craft, as initially experienced, as a master-craftsman regards his medium; exploring the inherent qualities of a raw material and considering its final context as something greater than the sum of its parts. Following the tenents of modernism, so firmly rooted in the Bauhaus’ philosophy and pragmatism, form and function are intertwined into an effort seamlessly connected to the site and context, yet uniquely distinguished through employment of material. In an effort to provide a design that could be constructed by the owner – similar to the homeowner/builder process of the pioneer era – the structure was planned as a kit of parts, 124

Image 12_Exterior View

using off-the-shelf components, minimal cuts, and simple connections. When approaching the site, the familiar shed roof is visible in the distance, echoing the simplicity and functional minimalism of the bygone log cabins; however, as one moves closer, the initial comfort of the box-like mass is broken up by carved areas, one that serves as a stoop and another as a porch. The subtractions within the slatted wood box are contrasted using museum white paint over salvaged siding and allow entry to the cabin as well as natural light to the interior. The minimal footprint respects the site and natural resources. The concrete slab floor serves as

the structure, but it is left exposed with a light polish to provide both thermal mass and raw aesthetic. A mini-split HVAC system heats and cools the energy efficient house. Spray foam insulation and low-E windows and doors are installed to ensure thermal comfort. Galvalume corrugated metal roofing provides a robust finish and reflects unnecessary heat gain in the summer. Locally harvested and milled lumber include unfinished Eastern Hemlock for the exterior cladding, Southern Yellow Pine for framing, and White Pine for all interior trim, floor joists, floor decking, and stair treads. The extremely tight budget inspired the shed roof and the shed roof, in turn, drove the design – everything occurs under one roof. (Image 11)

Image 13_Plan and Section


While the footprint is limited, the interior is volumetrically deceptive: with the space feeling much larger than it is. Under the shed roof is a kitchen, laundry, and bath area to the rear of the cabin, with a loft bedroom overlooking the first floor living area. The raw-finished interior has white-washed walls to highlight the owner’s furniture and art collection. True to the space’s modernist heritage, the structure is left exposed in many areas – all the floor joists and floor decking of the loft are exposed and the concrete slab floor is lightly polished. The stair, composed of 4x12 white pine beams cut into 48 inch lengths, follows the roofline upward and includes off-the-shelf chain link fencing for a railing. The spartan interior palette is punctuated with limited, but profound, uses of color not unlike those of the mid-century practitioners. Interior finishes and materials were selected for their clarity of form, simplicity, and integrity. Structure as finish found in the interior employs craft both through conscious design consideration and employment of material. The absence of unnecessary ornamentation allows the authenticity of material to transcend structure and subtly define the aesthetic.

Image 14_View of Living Area


Image 15_View of Sleeping Area

On the exterior, the light, wood-framed structure uses an Eastern Hemlock rainscreen over a rolled asphalt backer to acknowledge the historic context of log construction and address the neighborhood standards that mandatea rustic, log aesthetic. The rainscreen even continues over a sliding glass door that overlooks the woods to create a balcony without the cost of added structure. The detailed slatting of the rainscreen is at once comforting in its materiality, while formal and progressive in its interpretation of the cabin typology.

Image 16_Detail of Rainscreen

For practitioners, the understanding and application of craft must consider sustainability, both environmentally and economically, in today’s built environment. The modernist founders as well as the southern Appalachian pioneers embraced efficiency of material as

not only necessity, but also as integrity of craft. The Modernist Cabin’s minimalistic approach, coupled with the Blue Ridge Mountain vernacular, interprets sustainability by looking back and also moving forward; it is a return to simple, modest design through modern means.

Image 17_Blue Ridge Mountain Exterior

“Perpetual modernness is the measure of merit in every work of art. - Emerson 130

Image 18_Exterior View



1. Watauga County Historical Society. The Architectural History of Watauga County North Carolina. [ed.] J. Daniel Pezzoni. Durham : BW&A Books, Inc., 2009. 2. Carter, Thomas and Cromley, Elizabeth Collins.Invitation to Vernacular Architecture: A Guide to the Study of Ordinary Buildings and Landscapes. Knoxville, TN : The University of Knoxville Press, 2005. 3. Sloane, Eric.A Reverence for Wood. Mineola, NY : Dover Publications, Inc., 1965. 4. Allen, Edward and Thalon, Rob. Fundamentals of Residential Construction. Hoboken, NJ : John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2006. 5. MetroBooks. Barns. [ed.] Emily Zelner. New York : Michael Friedman Publishing Group, Inc., 2001. 6. Benevolo, Leonardo. History of modern architecture. Cambridge : The M.I.T. Press, 1992, Vol. 2, p. 414. 7. Ojeda, Oscar R.Ten Houses: Miller/Hull Partnership. Gloucester, MA : Rockport Publishers, Inc., 1999. 8. Princeton Architectural Press.Tom Kundig: Houses 2. New York, NY : Princeton Architectural Press, 2011. 9. Ojeda, Oscar.Arcadian Architecture: Bohlin Cywinski Jackson. San Raphael, CA : ORO editions, 2005. 10. Tuns Press.Documents in Canadian Architecture: Brian Mackay-Lyons. Halifax, Nova Scotia : Tuns Press, 1998. 11. Welton, J. Michael. In Boone, N.C., a Modernist Cabin. Architects + Artisans. November 11, 2011.

Image Credits

Title Page_ photograph by Chad Everhart Image 01_image by Chad Everhart Image 02_photograph by Chad Everhart Image 03_photograph by Chad Everhart Image 04_photograph by Chad Everhart Image 05_photograph by Chad Everhart Image 06_collage by Chad Everhart Image 07_sketch by Chad Everhart Image 08_sketch by Chad Everhart Image 09_sketch by Chad Everhart Image 10_sketch by Chad Everhart Image 11_photograph by Chad Everhart Image 12_photograph by Chad Everhart Image 13_photograph by Chad Everhart Image 14_photograph by Chad Everhart Image 15_photograph by Chad Everhart Image 16_photograph by Chad Everhart Image 17_photograph by Chad Everhart Image 18_photograph by Chad Everhart

Timothy D. Dolan, NCIDQ With an eye for detail and a love of the unique, Tim brings over fifteen years of design experience to projects, clients and students. NCIDQ certified [National Council for Interior Design Qualification] and a Registered Interior Designer in the State of Tennessee, his background ranges from stage and set design, to textile printing, graphic design, and commercial development. Currently, he serves as an Associate Professor at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, and maintains a multi-discipline design consultancy. He has had multiple article publications and lectured both domestically and internationally.

R. Chadwick Everhart, AIA Chad Everhart, associate professor and program coordinator of Building Science in the Department of Technology and Environmental Design at Appalachian State University, has a Master of Architecture degree and a Bachelor of Environmental Design in Architecture degree from the College of Design at North Carolina State University. As a Masters candidate, he received the AIA Henry Adams Medal, the Kamphoefner Honor Fellowship and the Academic Achievement Award for the highest grade point average as well as received the Architecture Faculty Award for Design Achievement for both his MArch and BEDA degrees. His current practice focuses on creating a contextual architecture, one that merges with physical and cultural landscape unique to each project.






by Gregory Marinic and Meg Jackson


The highly publicized and successful 2010 SukkahCity New York competition initiated a worldwide trend. Since that time, several international Jewish organizations have begun promoting contemporary Jewish tradition through sukkah design-build competitions. These competitions re-imagine the traditional sukkah--an ephemeral shelter which commemorates the temporary structures built by the Israelites during their exodus from Egypt.

During the Sukkot holiday harvest festival, the sukkah is erected to provide space for gathering, dining, celebrating, and reflecting. While remaining functional, the sukkah represents universal ideas of transience and permanence as expressed by shelter, offering a place to reconnect with a shared agricultural past. Historically, sukkahs are built in accordance with precise biblical parameters based on Jewish law. As the SukkahCity New York brief outlines: “the paradoxical effect of these constraints is to produce a building that is at once new and old, timely and timeless, mobile and stable, open and enclosed, homey and uncanny, comfortable and critical.� The competition directs entrants to radically reconsider the sukkah, combined with traditional design constraints, and to use emerging architectural methods of material practice, performance and parametric design.

In the summer 2012, members of the Advanced Spatial Design (ASD) research group at the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture at the University of Houston submitted multiple proposals to three competitions. Five submissions won design-build awards from three international sukkah competitions. ASD teams, comprised of independent faculty design practices, engaged with student interns participated in learning Jewish traditions of the sukkah and Sukkot, as well as corresponding regional, cultural, environmental, and universal social issues. All of our entries explored contemporary building techniques, as well as issues of notions of Jewish identity relative to contemporary design. Five proposals were built and displayed during September 2012 in Toronto, Ann Arbor, and Austin. This essay illustrates the design-research and building processes of five winning entries and one competition proposal as case studies, while simultaneously examining underlying opportunities of the sukkah competitions as outreach endeavors offered by the Jewish community.

AIA Forward: What was the intention of the sukkah competition? Nancy Singer

Executive Director, Kehilla, Toronto

“As a Toronto-based non-profit housing agency, Kehilla is using the sukkah as a symbol of temporary housing to create awareness of the need for permanent affordable housing. This is not just another design competition; it’s about cutting edge solutions and being creative in an area where governments and the private sector are unresponsive to the need. “ Andrew Hauptman President, AIA Huron Valley, Ann Arbor

“We had the following goals for the Sukkah Arbor Competition Project: (1) To bring 21st century design-build techniques and materials to a biblical observance. (2) To incorporate a representative Jewish symbol into a universal communal statement on shelter, environment and sustainability. (3) To unite the Jewish and wider communities in a participatory project that is educational, artistic and fun. (4) To raise awareness of and educate about Sukkot, sustainability and ecology.” AIA Forward: What were your general impressions of what was received? How was the work similar or different than expected? Ed Applebaum

Co-Chair, Kehilla Design Committee, Toronto

“What has been something of a revelation for me has been the universality of many of the Sukkot themes. Last year it was so incredible to find out that none of the finalists were actually Jewish. It got me thinking about the potency of the Sukkot themes of dislocation, estrangement, wandering--and finally, the resulting need to create a sense of home. The very personal nature which means home for every individual, Jewish or non-Jewish, was able to find expression in these very small, singular creations. Even the

theme of re-invention, also emerging from the Biblical root story, seemed embedded in many of the submissions. The fact that these ancient themes were picked up on by so many designers and interpreted in modern ways was very gratifying for me and spoke to the depth & continuing relevance of our rich cultural tradition. It feels great to share a tiny part of our Jewish identity with the wider world and receive such an incredibly positive response in return.” Marilyn Lazar

Chair, Kehilla Communication Committee, Toronto

“What struck me were the contradictions: how we were using the symbol of something so flimsy to inculcate the importance of something permanent and secure; how one specific religious festival has appealed to so many, how an event conceived to raise funds for and awareness of a specific organization has united several agencies, with individual egos falling by the wayside; how something so ancient and traditional could be so contemporary and relevant; and how an event in one city attracted participants from around the world.” Andrew Hauptman

President, AIA Huron Valley, Ann Arbor

“I was happily surprised by the diversity of the entries. The intense and passionate debate that the jury had over many of the designs was a testament to their quality and diversity.” AIA Forward: What are your thoughts on an interfaith understanding of the relevance of Sukkot and the sukkah? Rabbi Edward Elkin

Keynote Speaker, Sukkahville, Toronto

“The harvest theme is certainly applicable across every culture—hospitality, the importance of shelter, gratitude, thanksgiving, vulnerability, and sukkat shalom—the theme of peace.” Andrew Hauptman

President, AIA Huron Valley, Ann Arbor


“Religiously, the sukkah is meant to commemorate the fragile huts lived in by the Israelites after being freed from Egypt and a symbol of God’s protection wherever you may dwell. The sukkah also stands as a symbol for the impermanence and transience of life and shelter. The venue for the build event will serve in part to reinforce this later meaning; Liberty Plaza in Ann Arbor is a very common hangout for the city’s (and in fact, most of the county’s) homeless population.” AIA Forward: From your perspective, how has this competition and its submissions inspired discussions of issues related to the Sukkot holiday? Jewish culture? Jewish identity? Local issues? Marilyn Lazar Chair, Kehilla Communications Committee, Toronto

“The broad and universal response from the design community has in turn made it easier to pitch to non-Jewish media. There were multiple issues with the city, but I’m proud that we’re holding fast to our idea of actually feeding social service clients under the roof of a sukkah, as Sukkot is not only a celebration of bountiful harvest but a reminder from biblical times to “open our tent to a stranger”. The submissions blew me away with interpretations I couldn’t imagine in my wildest dreams - truly not our zayda’s (grandfather’s) sukkah. The designs, like all good design, managed to remain within the imposed constraints and yet offered solutions bursting with creativity. What a perfect echo of what Kehilla is striving to achieve: within the constraints - lack of government funding, competition for charitable dollars, rising cost of housing in the city and growing numbers on the waiting list - forging ahead and finding creative solutions for affordable housing.” Andrew Hauptman President, AIA Huron Valley, Ann Arbor

“There was a wonderful debate and tension between the rabbis and the designers on the jury regarding the relevance of the minutia versus the larger philosophical meaning and relevance

of the Sukkah. Most of us on the committee (and probably within the community at large) understood the holiday on a very superficial level: as either a commemoration of the Jews’ 40 years in the desert or as a celebration of the harvest. Our involvement in this event has given us a deeper understanding and appreciation of the philosophical and spiritual relevance of the event. This has been a unique and wonderful experience and opportunity to discuss the origin and development of the holiday and all of the rules/laws that have been debated throughout Jewish history and has raised our awareness and appreciation of the holiday’s connection between local Jewish issues and larger community issues such as hunger and homelessness; for me, the holiday is about awareness: awareness of our place in nature, community and even the universe. With the build event quickly approaching, we cannot say yet how successful the public turnout will be, but we are hopeful that the spectacle will draw a large, diverse and curious crowd that will pick up the discussion about homelessness and community.” AIA Forward: How has participating in the Sukkah competition evolved your own definition of Jewish identity? Ion Popian “Architecture is a profession that gives you the opportunity to explore all nuances of human life, no matter the nation, the culture, belief systems, or political view, architecture is a profession of philosophy, pragmatic construction, and aesthetic sensibility all symbiotically working together. As an architect, you have to be humble and optimistic about the possibility of your work, working outside your own cultural dogmas and adopting other views as your own. This Sukkah installation has introduced to me tradition that I have passed by many times but never had the chance to understand or study its significance. The rules of its construction, the stories, and the Jewish symbolic references and metaphors of the sukkah, all played a major role in my design of this competition.”


CASE STUDY: Coastal Harvest

Gregory Marinic, Meg Jackson, Kevin Pham

Sukkah Arbor Design-Build Award The Sukkah is a temporary structure and symbolic place of gathering that is deeply rooted in the history and tradition of the Jewish people. Bringing together family and friends, this structure is erected to provide space for communities to reconnect with each other and their natural environment. This 21st century interpretation, Coastal Harvest, reconsiders formal and performance generators of the traditional sukkah as its basis. It proposes a structure whose shape, form, and use are embedded with historical information of the Jewish people and ecological information of a Michigan context. The Erie Canal was constructed in 1825 and established a new ‘species pathway’ from the Atlantic Ocean and the St. Lawrence River into Lake Ontario. Niagara Falls initially acted as a barrier that kept invasive species from entering Lake Erie and the upper Great Lakes. In 1959, the St. Lawrence Seaway opened, thus creating a direct route allowing invasive species from around the globe to enter the protected Great Lakes ecosystem. In additional to global migrations, invasive plants and animals have entered the Great Lakes through the release of aquarium pets, aquaculture operations, and bait bucket releases, as well as by intentional fish releases like the non-native common carp.

threatening the ecological health of wetlands and the Great Lakes coastal shorelines of Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair. Invasive phragmites create tall, dense stands which degrade wetlands and coastal areas. Common Reed crowds out native plants and animals, blocks shoreline views, reduces recreational access, and creates fire hazards due to its dryness and density. Phragmites can be controlled with integrated invasive management techniques including organic herbicide, mechanical removal, and annual maintenance. This proposal for the AIA Huron Sukkah Arbor competition was awarded a Design-Build Award and envisions the sukkah as a site-specific and site-relevant construct responding to a mid-continental American context in the vicinity of Ann Arbor, Michigan. It assumes that the sukkah can act as an agent by bringing people together in the annual act of harvesting, and thus, mobilizing to control the threat of the invasive Common Reed. Coastal Harvest hybridizes the ancient tradition of the sukkah with a 21st century universal ecological cause specific to the Great Lakes region. Builders of the sukkah participate in annually removing this non-native invasive species from the environment.

“...the sukkah can act as an agent by bringing people together in the annual act of harvesting...”

Phragmites australis, also known as Common Reed, is a perennial, wetland grass that can grow to 15 feet in height. This invasive, non-native, variety of phragmites is becoming widespread -

Coastal Harvest offers a spatial environment that allows diverse communities to engage with each other and learn about the history of Judaism and regional ecologies. An intimate communal space offers an opportunity to express spiritual and regional culture for gathering, rituals, and contemplation. Coastal Harvest emphasizes passive communication and didactic engagement. Its volumetric, seed-like shape is generated by individual rings of ecologically-sustainable bentwood frame in the Great Lakes region. Structural, transparent, monolithic, and ephemeral qualities



Michael Gonzales, Meg Jackson

Sukkah Arbor Design-Build Award The holiday of Sukkot is a joyous reflection of our traditions and beginnings. The Sukkah is a place for reflecting on the transience of the human condition and for celebrating and reconnecting with what is most important. In addition, the symbols of the Sukkot are a metaphor for the binding together of members of the larger community. Our concept of a woven enclosure, one of the earliest methods of crafting shelter, is a conscious return to the process of making. Weave, made possible with contemporary building methods, is inspired by the Michigan and the Native American tradition of black ash splint weaving. Black ash weaving is often associated with utilitarian baskets used as vessels for storing, carrying and harvesting. This beautiful art form is currently under threat in Michigan because of an invasive species called the Emerald Ash Borer which is drastically reducing the population of black ash trees. While raising awareness about this traditional craft and helping to promote the education of how to prevent the spread of the invasive species, we are using 21st century construction techniques to fabricate and craft a panel system which is inspired by the hand woven techniques of splint weaving.

the material similar to the skilled manipulation of material done by artisan weavers. The design process and the resultant assembly are complex and rigorous while preserving constructability. The laminate wood panels will be bent and twisted using foam models, vacuum forming and clamp molding to mimic the delicate woven patterns of the black ash baskets. Like shingles, the individual components can be fabricated offsite, stacked for transport, woven to the bamboo onsite and connected to each other with fasteners using basic construction tools. The aggregated components create the building envelope: a tactile, woven surface representing a return to the tradition and tectonics of weaving. In addition, our thin wood laminate surface offers a translucent quality which reacts to various lighting conditions. The result is a tactile, sensorial, natural structure made with contemporary methods but inspired by traditional means.

“Our concept of a woven enclosure, one of the earliest methods of crafting shelter, is a conscious return to the process of making.”

Weave is made of natural materials – 2-ply wood laminate to imitate ash splints and bamboo. Although we are using an advanced method of fabrication, we must rely on the performance of wood and we must work in collaboration with

Surfaces were produced and fabricated based on algorithmic scripting which will economize material and cost. The basic layout and skin system was tested prior to construction in Ann Arbor. This Sukkah design represents a desire to return to the handmade -- to the notion of craft, simplicity, and authenticity. It optimistically celebrates an enthusiasm for the physical, intellectual satisfaction of craft, and engagement with the power of making. The wood panels represent tectonic memories of Michigan’s tradition of black ash weaving. While our process is a contemporary translation of traditional weaving, Weave serves as a reminder of the importance of preserving our traditions, our arts, and our environment.

Foam Mold + Ply wood laminate

Vacuum Form

Final Panel

Panel 01 Qty: xx

Panel 02 (Edge) dge) e) Qty: xx

Panel 03 Qty: xx

Panel 01 attaches to bamboo structure

Base Plate + Tension Ring

Rear panels bolt behind Panel 01

Bamboo Columns

Panel 03 bolts onto Panel 01

Panels 01 and 02 attached

Panel 03 bolts onto Panel 01


CASE STUDY: Sound Cloud

Meg Jackson, Michael Gonzales

Sukkah Austin Design-Build Award The sukkah is a place for reflection on shelter, family, self, nature and our impermanence. It is also a celebration of the harvest and represents a return to our agricultural past. Traditionally, Sukkahs were constructed by collecting natural materials. ‘Sound Cloud’ is an assembly of natural material – where the relationship of the parts creates a more inspired and complex whole. Our sukkah design is inspired by the ritual of the gathering of the four species, each of which embodies a diverse group or individual. Presented together, they represent the collective bond of the Jewish community symbolizing that the bond of togetherness is far greater than that of individuals. Sound Cloud is a made from an aggregation of Arundo donox stems. The dynamic skin system is composed of interweaving elemental components into a generative, integrative system whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The result is a non-linear system which is parametrically calculated yet remains unpredictable. The aggregation of the continuously replicated module creates porosity variation which will create various lighting conditions. The randomness of the stem collection creates a phenomenological space – dynamic, ephemeral and intangible. Sound Cloud will be a tactile, sensorial shelter made with contemporary methods but inspired by natural materials. In homage to the musical Arundo, Sound Cloud is a wind powered instrument. The form and orientation of the components is designed to maximize winds to create a natural performance. The tone of each stem is dependent on its length. The chorus of stems will use the wind energy to produce a natural, harmonic symphony. The Arundo donax [Giant Reed] is considered one of the most invasive plants in Texas. Many efforts

have been undertaken to manage and remove it. In riparian areas, the plant chokes shorelines, interferes with flood control, replaces native plants, reduces wildlife habitats, and increases fire potential. Common along streams and road beds in Texas, it is listed as one of the state’s most noxious weeds. Texas’s most noxious weed is also imagined as a valuable and promising source of bio-power and bio-fuel and is often successfully grown for bio-mediation purposes. The Arundo donax plant has been commercially grown on plantations as an agricultural crop and has been cultivated throughout Asia, southern Europe, northern Africa, and the Middle East for thousands of years. Most interestingly, the Arundo donax is the principal source material for reeds for woodwind instruments. Giant reeds have been used to make flutes and other wind instruments for over 5,000 years. It is man’s paradoxical relationship to Arundo that drew us to it as a material for a sukkah in Austin. While it is a problematic invasive plant, it also has a unique musical responsibility. It is this conflict that inspired our design. Sound Cloud is constructed with CNC-milled Arundo stems to create the interior and exterior building envelope. The design process and the resultant assembly are complex and rigorous while preserving ease of constructability. Sound Cloud takes its cue from natural processes that generate versatile systems and patterns. These self-organizing processes exist within and generate natural phenomena. In nature, networks of highly ordered relationships are made up of a matrix of parts which generate the dynamic whole. Through parametric studies and pattern generation, Sound Cloud’s design process explored the reciprocal relationship between elemental components, growth, and form. The result is a complex three-dimensional structure generated through the emergent, transformative and organizing properties of an integrated assembly.


CASE STUDY: Celebrate>Mitigate

Gregory Marinic, Nicholas Herrera, Kevin Pham, Dina Salem

Sukkah Austin Design-Build Award Phragmites australis, also known as Common Reed, is a perennial, wetland grass that can grow to 15 feet in height. This invasive variety of phragmites is becoming widespread--threatening the ecological health of wetlands within the Texas Hill Country and shorelines of rivers and lakes in Austin and throughout Texas. Invasive phragmites create tall, dense stands which degrade wetlands and coastal areas--crowding out native Hill Country plants and animals, blocks waterfront views, reducing river access, and creating wildfires.

This winning Design-Build Award submission for the AIA Austin Sukkah competition, envisions a simple and primitive, site-specific and site-relevant construct responding to Texas Hill Country. It assumes that the sukkah can respond to an invasive threat, offering an annual act of harvesting, and thus, mobilization that controls the threat of the invasive Common Reed. Celebrate>Mitigate hybridizes the ancient tradition of the sukkah with a 21st century universal ecological cause specific to the Austin region. Builders of the sukkah participate in annually removing this non-native invasive species from their local environment.

“Celebrate>Mitigate is intentionally low-tech and low-cost, offering ease of construction to builders of various capacities and minimal embodied energy. Built entirely of natural, repurposable, and renewable materials, much like the Sukkot festival itself, the sukkah represents a return to ecology and simplicity.�





Phragmites Australis, or Common Reed, has aggressively entered the North American ecosystem and it is currently threatening the bio-diversity of the Texas Hill Country. Annual eīorts to miƟgate the eīects of this aggressive invasive species can help support balance in the Texas environment. The Sukkah can acƟvate an annual ritual of building this sacred and temporal structure using harvested Phragmites Australis. The harvest serves the dual purpose of ‘architecture’ and ‘miƟgaƟon’, while serving an ancient fesƟval embedded in Jewish history.

converged layers over time

seedling types


seedling types

An Ecologically-Performative Sukkah for Texas

common reed tessellation study pattern studies

Let’s mitigate....let’s make a sukkah!

Phragmites Autralis, or Common Reed, oīered an opportunity for generaƟve formal emergence of this concept. The adjacent diagramming studies provided didacƟc opportunites to develop the basic Sukkah form. PaƩerns for gathered skins made from Common Reed were realized through paƩernmaking studies relevant to Jewish tradiƟon and regional ecologies. A simple yet performaƟve communal structure is the end result.

plan diagram



CASE STUDY: Sukkanoe

Michelangelo Sabatino, Gregory Marinic, Nicholas Herrera

Sukkahville Toronto Design-Build Award The sukkah is a temporary structure and symbolic place of gathering that is deeply rooted in the history and tradition of the Jewish people. Bringing together family and friends, this temporal structure is assembled to provide space for communities to connect with each other and the natural environment. This proposal for Sukkaville envisions the sukkah as a site-specific and site-relevant construct responding to a Canadian context within the vicinity of North York. It assumes that the sukkah can act as an ‘agent’ that brings diverse people together for a communal act, and thus, establishes a hybrid identity for the itself. Sukkanoe blends the ancient tradition of the sukkah with a building tradition specific to Canada. Builders of the sukkah participate in a journey that reflects upon the experiences of the Jewish, First Nations, and Canadian people. Hybridizing First Nations, Jewish, & Canadian traditions, this Design-Build Award winning submission for the Sukkahville Toronto 2012 competition, Sukkanoe (sukkah + canoe), provides a shelter-vessel designed for Mel Lastman Square in North York, Ontario, Canada. It offers a ‘hybrid’ sukkah design that draws from and combines Jewish, First Nations, and Canadian traditions, both past and present. Sukkanoe transforms the iconic birch-bark canoe. The shape and materials used for this concept are meant to recall the innovation and self-reliance of First Nations peoples, the challenges of European voyageur explorations, and the transience of the Sukkot holiday and Jewish migration to Canada.

Native Materials

Sukkanoe revisits ancient building techniques. A frugal and ‘sustainable’ tool for human-powered travel, the handcrafted birch-bark canoe was historically made from organic materials

and designed to float. This vessel helped First Nations inhabitants, as well as European voyageurs, navigate and populate the waterways and landscapes of the Canadian wilderness. During portage, canoes served as temporary dwellings for users, providing a lightweight shelter from the elements.

Canadian Context

Sukkanoe appropriates construction principles of the traditional Canadian canoe, including its ‘skeleton’ (springer and ribs) and ‘skin’ (cladding), in order to create an open yet intimate sukkah. By introducing birch-bark cladding and maintaining exposed structural transparency, this proposal attempts to provide an open yet protected environment for the context of Mel Lastman Square. Sukkanoere thinks the meaning of the ‘sukkah’ as a temporal vessel-space for North York.

Jewish Culture

Sukkanoe responds as a temporary structure associated with the festival of Sukkot. A sukkah symbolizes protection and perseverance, and so, Sukkanoe seeks to evoke a similar mobility, yet temporal ‘permanence’. By transforming the prototypical canoe placed firmly on the ground, it recalls both the journey of Jewish immigrants to the New World, as well as the identity of subsequent generations who were born in Canada. Sukkanoe reflects this new, hybrid Canadian identity.

Shared Journeys

Sukkanoe negotiates three different traditions: Jewish, First Nations, and Canadian. Thus, the conceptual and material qualities of its design are meant to remind adult and children visitors of the challenges that faith and identity pose to our shared journey of coexistence. As a temporal structure embedded with significant spiritual meaning, the sukkah can bridge cultures by offering a common ground to reflect upon space, place, tradition, and spirituality.




CASE STUDY: Tessellation Cloud

Meg Jackson, Michael Gonzales

Sukkahville Toronto Competition Submisssion The Sukkah represents the protective Clouds of Glory and is a place for reflecting on the transience of the human condition and for celebrating and reconnecting with what is most important. The Sukkah, a return to the primitive, natural, timeless, and genuine, is the only Mitzvah in which we are completely surrounded by the Mitzvah itself -- enveloped in the divine presence. Tessellation Cloud is a three dimensional mandala: a place to provoke reflection on shelter, family, self and the divine and designed in commemoration and awareness of God‘s protection. For the holiday of Sukkot, we remove ourselves from the hurried pace of everyday life and our constant digital connectivity and step into the Sukkah to focus on our traditions, beginnings, and blessings. Inside the Sukkah, one is to feel connected to the greater cosmos. Inspired by the idea of a mandala, commonly found in many religions, our tessellated pattern is a metaphor for the cosmos. The form and forced perspective of this Sukkot is based on the biblical rules, our paneling geometries, and our desire to frame the view and focus the occupants’ experience towards the sky. The innovative skin system combines symbolic geometries with new technologies in a re-imagining of the traditional Sukkah. Tessellation Cloud is based on geometric, tessellated patterns which take their language from Jewish geometries but are realized with 21st century construction techniques of digital fabrication. There are three panel typologies and each behaves in a unique manner based on its scale and position relative to the overall form. The complex skin system of aggregated panels relies on basic tessellation, rotation, reflection, and symmetry to create tectonic memories of Jewish traditional symbols.

Tessellation Cloud is constructed with natural, thin birch veneer. Although we are using an advanced method of fabrication, we must rely on the performance of wood and work in collaboration with the material similar to the way in which Sukkah’s were traditionally built. The design process and the resultant assembly are complex and rigorous while preserving ease of constructability. Tessellation Cloud has been designed as a temporary structure that will be a kit-of-parts and easy to assemble. A metaphor for the Clouds of Glory, Tessellation Cloud has a light, porous surface that creates an atmospheric effect. The thin wood laminate surface will have a translucent quality which will react to various lighting conditions. The result will be a tactile, ephemeral, sensorial, protective, temporary shelter made with contemporary methods but inspired by traditional geometries. The sukkah design competitions offer an opportunity for experimental concepts to be built, as well as the potential for diverse communities to engage in collaborative cultural exchange. The increasing popularity of the sukkah competitions suggests that these, as well as other design-build events, will continue to draw significant interest from both the design community, sponsoring organizations, and the public-atlarge. The commitment to building the sukkahs is a resource-intensive undertaking from both sides of the operation. On the one hand, the competition sponsors invest significant funding, support resources, and labor. On the other, the design-builders commit countless hours and personal resources to ultimately build the sukkahs. Thus, as with most design-build competitions, participation tends to require design-builders to invest significant additional finances to cover cost overruns, shipping, transportation, and accommodations. This is the distinction between design-build competitions when compared to

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contract-based professional design commissions. Therefore, designers should carefully consider whether desire to assume the Sukkah design competitions offer an opportunity for experimental architecture to be built, as well as the potential for diverse communities to engage in collaborative cultural exchange. The increasing popularity of the sukkah competitions suggests that these, as well as other design-build events, will continue to draw significant interest from the design community, sponsoring organizations, and the public-at-large. The commitment to building the sukkahs is a resource-intensive undertaking from both sides of the operation. On the one hand, the competition sponsors invest significant funding, support resources, and labor. On the other hand, the design-builders commit countless hours and personal resources to ultimately build the sukkahs. Thus, as with most design-build competitions, participation tends to require design-builders to invest considerable additional finances to cover cost overruns, shipping, transportation, and accommodations. This is the distinction between design-build competitions when compared to contract-based professional design commissions. Therefore, designers should carefully consider whether they


are willing and prepared to assume the investment of considerable pro bono time, financial resources, and personal risk when participating in design-build competitions. From the perspective of cultural exchange, the sukkah design competitions offered our teams the valuable opportunity to learn about an ancient sacred tradition. Comprised of designers raised in various Christian and Muslim traditions, we engaged the notion of Jewish identity through a non-Jewish filter. Thus, we re-imagined religious observance through a decidedly universal lens. In doing so, we discerned the interfaith and secular relevance of the Jewish Sukkot, as well as the timeless and temporal resonance of the sukkah in relation to issues of sustainability. Environmental considerations have radically transformed the way that architects blend natural ecologies with architecture. As a sacred construct with universal appeal, the sukkah offers a means to rethink technical aspects of sustainability through culture, tradition, and identity. In doing so, sustainability and performance are transformed through an inherently humanist lens.

The authors would like to extend their sincere appreciation to the various organizations that supported the 2012 sukkah design-build competitions, inluding Kehilla Toronto, Sukkahville Toronto, AIA Huron Valley, Sukkah Arbor, JCC of Ann Arbor, Sukkah Austin, and JCC of Austin. We would also like to thank the following individuals whose sponsorship and support made the the sukkah design-build competitions possible: Ed Applebaum, Rabbi Edward Elkin, Andrew Hauptman, Marilyn Lazar, Aliza Orent, Marla Rotsztain, Nancy Singer, and Rabbi Seth Winberg

Image credits

All images provided by authors.

Gregory Marinic

Assistant Professor, Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture, University of Houston, Houston, TX USA Gregory Marinic is Director of Interior Architecture and Assistant Professor of Architecture in the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture at the University of Houston. His previous teaching experience includes undergraduate/ graduate design studios and directed research at Pratt Institute, City University of New York, and Universidad de Monterrey. Gregory is principal of Archipelago, a New Yorkand Houston-based architectural practice engaged in design, research, teaching, and speculation which has been awarded by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, Socio-Design Foundation, IJRAA, AIA, and ACSA. Prior to independent practice, Gregory worked in the New York and London offices of Rafael ViĂąoly Architects and his portfolio includes AIA and RIBA award-winning work undertaken at various firms. Gregory is director and co-founder of d3, a New Yorkbased art/architecture/design stewardship organization. He holds a Master of Architecture degree from the University of Maryland, a Bachelor of Science degree in Geography/Urban Planning from Ohio University. Gregory is currently pursuing a PhD in Architecture at Texas A&M University where his research focuses on utopianism and diasporas.

Meg Jackson

Lecturer, Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture, University of Houston, Houston, TX USA Meg Jackson holds a Master of Architecture degree from Columbia University GSAPP and a Bachelor of Arts degree in History of Art and Architecture from Middlebury College. Meg Jackson is the research coordinator of the Advanced Spatial Design (ASD) Research Group, a new research initiative at the University of Houston. The goal of the ASD is to participate in design-research and teaching activities that bridge the disciplines of interior architecture, furniture design, digital fabrication, and emerging technologies. Meg is also a founder and co-editor of the International Journal of Interior Architecture and Spatial Design (ii). ii is a peer�review scholarly journal that acts as a source of stewardship for advanced interior environmental research, teaching, design, emerging technologies, and digital fabrication.




Olivia Graf Doyle, Director Olivia Graf Doyle, Assoc. AIA, is a Project Designer at Cannon Design in Los Angeles. She graduated with degrees in architecture and advertising from the University of Southern California. Olivia has worked on a variety of projects that range from medical to K-12 and university to interior architecture. Outside of work, Olivia is actively involved with the local design community; she was an Associate Director on the board of AIA Northern Nevada, started chapters of the Young Designer’s Networking Group in Reno and Sacramento, and has been published in several architecture history textbooks.

C.A. Debelius, Assistant Director C. A. Debelius, AIA, LEED AP, is an associate professor at Appalachian State University where he teaches undergraduate design studios and structures courses in the Building Science program. He has taught previously at the University of Arkansas, UNC/Charlotte, Kansas State University, and the University of Tennessee. Professor Debelius is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. His most recent paper [w/ Chad Everhart and James Russell], “Prefabricating Charles Moore: Reinterpreted Saddlebags and Aediculae,” was presented at and published in the proceedings of 2012 ACSA Fall Conference at Temple University. In 2007, Debelius’s design work was the subject of a solo exhibition at The Knoxville Museum of Art.

Chris Werner, Assistant Director Chris Werner, Assoc. AIA, graduated from Cornell University with a Master of Architecture degree in 2010. He served as project manager for the Cornell University Solar Decathlon team’s Silo House from 2007 - 2009. Prior to studying architecture, Chris studied English literature at Miami University, worked as a kayak guide in Washington state and Costa Rica, and a carpenter in and around Washington, DC. After architecture school he worked as a designer and builder at BUILDlab, LLC in Ithaca, NY. He now works at Landry Design Group in Los Angeles, CA.

Cindy Louie, Assistant Director Cindy Louie, Assoc. AIA, is a recent graduate of the Masters of Architecture Program at Arizona State University. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Interior Design from Arizona State University with concurrent studies in Graphic Design. Cindy Louie is currently a designer at Durkin + Durkin architects and serves on the membership development committee for the Phoenix Metro chapter of AIA, as well as a graphic/web editor for the AIA Forward Journal.

Janice Christine Ninan, Assistant Director Janice Ninan, Assoc. AIA, is an ‘artrepreneur.’ She started her own company, J-Space Studio, Inc in March 2012, offering architecture related design services. She graduated with a Masters in Architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago in August 2011 with a focus on highrise and long span structures. Janice earned her Bachelors in Architecture from M.S. Ramaiah Institute of Technology, Bangalore, India. Her professional portfolio covers a wide gamut of projects - residential, hospitality, tourism related government projects, residential and commercial interiors and conservation work. Currently, Janice works at FGM Architects, Chicago.



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