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Showcasing the agency of today’s designers.

Thomas McCormack

Fall 2013

Acknowledgments: My Family Dad, Mom, Jonathan My Thesis Prep Professors Lora Kim and Michael Grogan My Friends Past and Present Residents of 731

ABSTRACT Material has long been limited by its attributes and thus linked to a formal language. Technology and construction techniques had gone without major change, leaving the interpretation of material use to abstraction of form while keeping it within a certain formal ethics. However now with the digital tools architects have, formal language has been to expanded to anything that can be imagined. Digital fabrication techniques have also allowed for rapid prototyping and mass customizable production, allowing for testing and construction of these designs. Increasingly architects are taking advantage of these tools to research materials processes to solve problems they see in our rapid changing world. The model of architecture has also changed in that these experiments are not just done in an academic setting but also by firms who are working on their own work and not simply waiting for a client driven project. This research is often never made public and shared with other designers. This knowledge has value and needs a place that can be showcased and act as inspiration to other architects. Providing a platform (both digital and physical) for showcasing this work will empower this do-it-yourself culture of architects and help advance the discipline by opening up this research for others to view, analyze, discuss, or build upon.


Intellectual work

seeking to progress a discipline.


The procedure and

method of work from start to finish.

Sharing Willingly helping those around you. Entrepreneur Opportunistically problem.




Having the

awareness to take control of ones environment and seek solutions.


Question 9 Essay 10 Hypothesis 15 Quotes 16

B Methodology

20 Mind Maps Sharing 25 Site 29 38 Design Probe (Program & Site)

C Conclusions + Future Work Evaluation 44 45 Future Intention

D Appendices

50 52

Appendix A / Annotated Bibliography Appendix B / Precedents

A Research


How can architects be empowered to experiment, produce, and showcase research work, thus promote collaboration and sharing ideas?




Architecture has, for a long time, placed the relation between form and material as a major topic of discourse. This relation has been held to ethical constraints because of material constraints, construction techniques, or available technologies. But with the use of computer aided design tools and digital fabrication becoming much more accessible, designers are working to free architecture from those previous constraints. Material processes are expanding the possibilities of material applications and ways in which they are combined. Architecture has also looked to outside disciplines for new materials and processes. And while research can spawn from the borrowing of ideas, techniques, or technologies from other disciplines, Howeler and Yoon Architects/ MYStudio begin to expand architectural pursuits into these outside fields themselves, developing projects in the world graphics, media design, and even fashion.1 They say their projects “engage the critical issues of our time. In our work, we investigate causes and effects, exploring issues that arise out of specific conditions of the contemporary, related to the body, technology, public space, human experience, and the built environment.”2 With all of this work being done there is a need for it to be shared amongst other designers, along with more collaboration and continuation of research.


talks about “the garage.” The garage he speaks of is the place where this research happens, the space where teams work together; researching, designing, making.3 In this space there is a freedom to challenge orthodoxies because you are working for yourself and do not have to worry about clients or other outside influences. He emphasizes the importance of making saying “matter, here and now, matters.”4 Physical construction is both a part of the research and design; research, design, and construction are all simultaneous and reactive to each other. An institute that acts as not only the ‘garage’ but also as a space for these explorations to be displayed creates a physical destination for this new methodology to manifest itself. This institute not only wants to provide a place for this research to be shown, but also it wants to promote others to do the same. The firm SHoP has used research and the implementation of the results as a part of their design process but also as a means of shifting the architects importance and control back to a central role in the project through its entirety. The new technologies have allowed them to realize their designs that may be difficult or impossible without the computer and digital fabrication, which allows for mass customization.5 This method of taking on the extra risk because of insisting on using non-modular or standard components has the reward of positioning them in a position of greater design control.6 While it acts as a storage facility for this research it also contributes to the discipline by expanding upon research. Facilities are provided to conduct research, similar to a lab setting. These facilities can be used by

Many designers today are doing work beyond just the client driven project. They are taking on questions that they find interesting or need answering and create solutions that may never find real world applications, 3 Borden, Gail Peter., and Michael Meredith. Matter: Material and thus never seen by most people. David Benjamin Processes in Architectural Production. New York: Routledge, 1 Yoon, J. Meejin, and Eric Höweler. Expanded Practice: Höweler Yoon Architecture / My Studio. New York, NY: Princeton Architectural, 2009. 7. 2 Ibid, 9.

2012. 143-144. 4 Ibid, 144. 5 Holden, Kimberly J. SHoP: Out of Practice. [New York]: Monacelli, 2012. 387-395. 6 Ibid, 179-187.

outside collaborations that come in to do specific research, with the institute providing brief guidelines but allowing for the conclusions to come out of the investigations and its organic development. Research is not meant to find simply properties but provide possibilities.


This research will often lead to an end product that becomes a project in a real world, this is what we, the public, will see. We only usually see an end not the process that led to that end; the decisions made, the prototypes made, the sketches, the successes, the failures. However when architects talk about projects, research, and experiments they have done, process comes up and documentation of this process is a part of that. Documentation helps track a process, to reflect on where you were before compared to now, to make sure you are not treading on ideas or processes already covered or if they have been covered, reassessing their application and feasibility in the project at the new moment. This phase of cataloging is done at the end of the architect and done during the process of research. Howeler and Yoon take a familiarly scientific breakdown in how they will discuss a project; hypothesis, procedure, materials, results, conclusions.7 This model could be used to create the standardized system for assessment of the work being done. After there has been a body of work assembled and it has been sent to the institute a system of cataloging this research for viewing and sharing must be implemented. The cataloging of the research must be a system that can work both in the digital realm when searching on the website as well as in the physical locations where material research is stored. Tagging, similar to that used in blogs and other websites, allows a system that is familiar to the 7 Borden, Gail Peter., and Michael Meredith. Matter: Material Processes in Architectural Production. New York: Routledge, 2012. 124-125.

current generation. Keywords are used to help categorize, with combinations used to help develop a more concise search. This can also allow for much broader searches; say for instance, if someone were interested in searching for different structural research or research done with concrete. This tagging method can be applied to how the research is also stored in physical locations. Research can begin to be organized in large groups, starting with the material that the research focused on (i.e. glass, concrete, steel, etc.). Next the building element (structure, façade, ornament, etc.) that was researched can yield subgroups. This method seeks to be a system that works to integrate with our digitally driven society and be intuitive by using familiar terms to users of the system. The terms of searching are meant to allow discovery into new material processes and applications.


The sharing of this research happens both in the digital realm with a website and allows for exposure to the research physically through the storage system. These means give designers a place to showcase the work they are doing and also gives a platform to collaborate and view the work of others. The website allows for the rapid searching of research by other designers to either find inspiration or information about work they may be interested in. The ability to showcase work, share information, and build upon work that has already been done fits within the current generation ideology. Sharing has been increasingly apart of their experiences, from music, movies, or just the internet’s general ability to share knowledge. Knowledge is now an asset, a commodity that many people keep to themselves or for monetary gain. This institute’s focus is to promote architects creative interests in research and share that information



as a means to progress the discipline as a whole. It seeks to empower the profession as a whole with architects as the controlling force rather then being limited by other disciplines that are normally apart of the process. This model is similar to that of the former restaurant elBulli. It was a restaurant that was not concerned with orthodoxies or preconceptions of cuisine because spectacle and experience were most important.8 Ingredients were be combined into a dish, just as an architect will use multiple materials to construct a project. They themselves used six months out of the year to research food to create these combinations that would eventually become their menu.9 ElBulli has since closed, but has begun its development of the BulliFoundation, which includes Bullipedia. Bullipedia is a website that contains the research and documentation of the experiements they have done on food over many years and will continue to be expanded by the test kitchens within the Bullifoundation.

the ability for others to have access to the work done in different regions as the system operates similarly to that of a library where there is sharing between all locations. The specific spaces needed should be flexible and act more as a shell for the program be placed within. Reuse of vacant warehouses, department stores, and malls fit this criteria and are also prevalent because of the volatility of the retail industry. These spaces allow for a scalable building program to be applied to the space and give it meaning rather then trying to transform a building that already has a strong historical architectural value. When looking in certain regions the needs can be determined and then a space chosen, this can be helped by data relating to average sizes of shopping centers and warehouses to expedite the process.10 Secondary locations would also be proposed that could act as exhibition spaces that could pop up in different neighborhoods of the hub cities or even be allowed to move out into the suburbs, expanding the physical presence and influence of the institute.



8 Ruy, David. “Lessons from Molecular Gastronomy.� In Log 17. S.I. : Anyone Corp, 2009. 36-37. 9 El Bulli: Cooking in Progress. Dir. Gereon Wetzel. Perf. Ferran Adria. Alive Mind, 2011.

10 Dunham-Jones, Ellen, and June Williamson. Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2009. 61.

The importance of sharing of knowledge places an emphasis on choosing physical locations in and around major cities and areas with a strong academic institution presence. These locations would serve not just its immediate city but also a larger region, the Federal Reserve’s regionalized structure of serving the United States was may serve as an example. Beyond the importance of population and institutional presence, environmental factors might also be analyzed to create regions. These factors were meant to create regions that could house and showcase research and material that are specifically relevant to that region. This will not limit

Architectural research allows architects to expand their possibilities and increase control over design creativity as well as increase their influence on issues they desire to address and help. Developing a platform to help showcase this research in a curated manner is meant to promote this work among more architects and for those doing research to share their knowledge. It can act to inspire and create platforms for new routes of research from what has been done, rather than working in areas that have already been explored. While the internet can share information rapidly and to billions of people, the physical nature of material and the research being done is important and will further the experience of architectural

research beyond just reading about process or viewing images. As Billie Tsien wrote “As architects we are united in our love of the physical world. We like to touch and make real things.”11


Borden, Gail Peter., and Michael Meredith. Matter: Material Processes in Architectural Production. New York: Routledge, 2012. Dunham-Jones, Ellen, and June Williamson. Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2009. 61. El Bulli: Cooking in Progress. Film. Directed by Gereon Wetzel. Collingwood, Vic.: Distributed by Madman Entertainment, 2012. Rieselbach, Anne, and Billie Tsien. Young Architects 4: Material Process. New York: Princeton Architectural, 2003. Ruy, David. “Lessons from Molecular Gastronomy.” In Log 17. S.I. : Anyone Corp, 2009. Yoon, J. Meejin, and Eric Höweler. Expanded Practice: Höweler Yoon Architecture / My Studio. New York, NY: Princeton Architectural, 2009.

11 Rieselbach, Anne, and Billie Tsien. Young Architects 4: Material Process. New York: Princeton Architectural, 2003. 9.



The crowd has more power than the “elite” few.

Architectural research provides the opportunity for iterative prototyping of constructions to deal with rapidly changing world conditions. Documenting and cataloging research can be curated to an open source website and in physical locations to allow for research to be continued by others, spawning many distinct projects.



“...each Flash Research project is a beginning rather than an end. The goal is not to produce a single refined design, but instead to record new experiments and identify paths for future research.”

“Prototyping and testing are the heart of Flash Research. Material processes are the meat. Matter, here and now, matters.”

“...matter drove the research, but again we looked for opportunity beyond the technical aspects of material processes.”

David Benjamin

“Contemporary practices are working in an expanded mode to realize works that engage broader audiences with more diverse means. Accessibility of new fabrication technologies has transformed the process of making. Craft has evolved into digital craft. Mass custimization allows every instance to be unique and every component to be custom - and yet - with the new tools come new economics, and a renewed demand for strategic intelligences to direct them towards particular outcomes.”

“Material and phenomena are inseperable components of the projects; the materialization of the tangible components simultaneously enhances the possibilities of the tangible components in the production of varied effects.” Eric Howeler and J. Meejin Yoon


B Project Methodology

Education Mindmap / 9.18.13 Cooperative Working

Independent Working


Students Act as Teachers



Teacher Leads the Class

Social Skills

Teachers Spectrum

Micro Units Equipment

Multiple Uses




Needs? Space

Responsive and Reflexive



Program: Group Work Reading Testing Lecturing Play Crafts


Social Engagement





Color K-12

Increased Productivity

elBulli Mindmap / 9.18.13 1.Initial idea 2.Use of one of the creative methods known 3.Tests 4.Analysis and reflection (wisdom and previous knowledge) 5.Finish and last tests 6.Prototype 7.Customer始s feedback 8.Last changes 9.Finished and cataloged dish

Chefs Cloud9



Waiters Reservations

Multi discipline collaboration

ElBulliFoundation Bullipedia





Herve This




El Bulli

Molecular Gastronomy


Multimodal a subdiscipline of food science that seeks to investigate, explain and make practical use of the physical and chemical transformations of ingredients that occur while cooking, as well as the social, artistic and technical components of culinary and gastronomic phenomena in general


Knowledge as an asset




1. Diversity of opinion 2. Independence of members from one another 3. Decentralization 4. A good method for aggregating opinions


Crowd Sourcing Mindmap / 9.18.13





Crowds collective intelligence to out produce that of small group of experts







Crowd Sourced

Feedback Community

Crowd Funding




Small Contributions


Support Artists

From Many

Start Ups Infrastructure



Challenging Convention

Disaster Relief





Product Ideas

Multi discipline collaboration



Cooperative Working

El Bulli

Students Act as Teachers


Social Skills



Technology Best when sublimated

1.Initial idea 2.Use of one of the creative methods known 3.Tests 4.Analysis and reflection (wisdom and previous knowledge) 5.Finish and last tests 6.Prototype 7.Customer始s feedback 8.Last changes 9.Finished and cataloged dish





Molecular Gastronomy

Technique Spectrum



Multiple Uses


Responsive and Reflexive

Challenging Convention






Needs? Space

University & College

Materials Organization

Knowledge as an asset



Social Engagement

Color Increased Productivity

Internet Crowds collective intelligence to out produce that of small group of experts

Crowd Sourced

Peer Involvement


Smell Vision

Feedback 1. Diversity of opinion 2. Independence of members from one another 3. Decentralization 4. A good method for aggregating opinions


Design Studio Ideas


Open-Ended Rapid Iterations


Connection Small Contributions


Multimodal Touch Auditory

Critique Multiple Media

From Many

Combined Mindmap / 10.1.13



Combined Mindmap / 10.16.13



wikiLAB A website documenting architectural experiements. Includes the hypothesis, materials used, procedures, results, and conclusions of the experiment. Can provide research for other projects to branch off, spawning many distinct projects based on the initial research posted. The web of influence can be tracked to see how projects are influencing further research.



Website influences others research and further expands possibilities.


Research Designers send in research and documentation to be curated, organized, and shared by institute.

Independent material research done outside of institute.

Digital and Physical Sharing This map tries to graphically display the potential system of research being done by architects then the path it can potentially take through the institute and its ways of being further explored or shared with other architects.


Research mate


Further modify and potentials of ma

Research & Experimentation Can use new materials and experiments as starting points for their own interests.

Institute & Collection

Scholars Debate and further research experiments recieved.

Research materials start the process of being curated into collection.

Help organize collection of experiments and how to label process, effect, material, etc.


Material Sharing


Materials and experiments can be shared with designers outside of institute.

d research aterial.




Site Finding locations to place the physical locations of the material research warehouses uses information relating to environmental regions, architectural schools, and population. From this metropolitan hubs can serve regions of the United States similar to the system established by the Federal Reserve. These major metropolitan hubs will inclube cities such as; New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Seattle.


Federal Reserve Regions


US Population Distribution


Average Temperature


Climate Zones


Architecture Schools


Regionalizing of US


Metropolitan Hubs


Physical Sharing Connections




Focused Themes

Website Physical Research


Warehouse Scholars

Curate Collection Research Materials


Machine Room Wood Shop Metal Shop


CNC Milling Laser Cutting


Rapid Prototyping Ceramics Lab Electronics







(Design Probe)

The program seeks to be a scalable system to allow for application in many different locations without changing the functionality of the system. The physical elements of the gallery, lab, warehouse, and institute are the main program that will occupy the space with the website a connecting element of all the locations.



Miami Site

(Design Probe)

This is a potential site for the Miami location to house the storage of material research, lab, and gallery. It is located on Dodge Island and proposes the take over of an old industrial building that would provide the flexibility for the program and also is a location near to the downtown area and has proximity to infrastructure.

C Conclusions + Future Work



This research has looked to a shifting architectural practice, that is changing the model of traditional client driven projects done by firms and the work done at academic institutions. With increasing research and collaboration a new platform must emerge to encourage and display this work. While blogs can allow sharing in the digital realm, materials are a physical experience and thus a physical system of sharing must be introduced to help expand material processes and the discipline of architecture.


The entrepreneurial spirit of our generation and the desire for more control in architectural design has led architects today to seek a change to traditional working models. Technology has been a major tool and influence on the research being done because of the rapid prototyping capabilities and formal complexities allowed. In addition to this, sharing of information afforded by the Internet has opened new paths for collaboration and inspiration for new work.

FUTURE INTENTIONS Design Speculation

This thesis hopes to not only be a work that is solely an exploration done by myself but hopes to also include the work of fellow students within the studio that is based on a lab setting but also possibly expand to the larger architecture department. It hopes to raise questions relating to how education is conducted and how we may give students, professors, and practitioners alike a sense of power and control to explore issues on their own and share this with the architecture world.

Evaluation Criteria

Has the project provided for a unique method of discovering new material processes for use in architectural projects? Does the institute provide the platform for all designers to showcase their research, not just those with big names? Is the program provided for the three main systems inherent in this thesis (lab research, cataloging of experiments, and showcasing of these physical constructs) capable of enhancing this methodology? Do the physical sites provide for proper coverage of the United States and its distinct regions? Do the digital and physical systems of sharing work in unison to most effectively spread knowledge?



Objectives and Timeline

Develop a new methodology to search and share architectural research. Create a web based system for sharing that uses an intuitive tag based searching system Create a program that is adaptable to flexible spaces Contribute to the knowledge base of architects by empowering those who experiment and seek answers to problems in our changing world


Fall Semester Ends

Winter Break



Refine Specific Sites Reading Research Begin New Portfolio


Site Analysis

New Design Probe


Design Website

Thesis Studio

Develop mode of representation Collaborate with other students within studio Refine digital and physical interaction

Spring Break

Finalize Portfolio Apply for jobs


Design Work and Production of Representation

Final Review


Thesis Research Site Program Design

D Appendices

Appendix A


Alexander, Christopher, Sara Ishikawa, and Murray Silverstein. A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction. New York: Oxford UP, 1977.

Dunham-Jones, Ellen, and June Williamson. Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2009. 61, 219-229.

Christopher Alexander’s book, A Pattern Language (1977), argues that the design of buildings and towns are based not only on a designers intention but equally based on repeated patterns. A Pattern Language follows The Timeless Way of Building which sets the base for which Alexander can begin to establish a “language” of building. Alexander uses the book as the culmination of common patterns in buildings in order to shift an architects thinking about design from a grandiose idea to that of patterns that can be arranged in a variety of ways. A Pattern Language gives a vast amount of patterns and presents them in a way that can useful to not only architects and planners but also to those simply interested in the built environment we live in.

The book presents data, case studies, and ideas about ways to reuse old developments in suburban environments. It talks about the re-skinning of these buildings and changing use to provide opportunities for sustainable developments. These examples go beyond just skin and use and also provide thoughts and examples of how these redevelopments can regenerate whole neighborhoods and provide opportunities and greater connectivity. It is a work that is not only for architects but also planners, developers, and even politicians, whom seek to act and promote redevelopment of neglected areas.

Borden, Gail Peter., and Michael Meredith. Matter: Material Processes in Architectural Production. New York: Routledge, 2012. This source collects essays from architects dealing with research and fabrication in architecture. The book provides insight into the process of research from creating hypothesis, researching a topic, documenting experiments, and results coming from the research. Articles reference built projects as an example of the importance actual making and prototyping of ideas has on research. Projects are shown in the raw stages of experimentation, with description of criteria for which a project is judged to be successful. The project that spawns from that research is then shown giving insight of how a line of thought can change as new criteria are introduced.

Holden, Kimberly J. SHoP: Out of Practice. [New York]: Monacelli, 2012. This is a book of not only the work of SHoP Architects and also presents their ideas about how architects can begin repositioning themselves back at the center of operation to have control from design process to built structure. There are 5 essays about relevant topics in architectural culture today (practice, politics, finance, technology, and sustainability). These give insight into SHoP’s thinking and why the position themselves at a position with more risk. There is a need to shift architects from their now separate position from the economics and at times construction process. SHoP takes on these increased risks, but in return are able to achieve greater design control and thus the ability to further innovate. Rieselbach, Anne, and Billie Tsien. Young Architects 4: Material Process. New York: Princeton Architectural, 2003.

Young Architects is a book bringing together the ideas of young practitioners working under the umbrella of a similar theme. This edition is presented as “Material Processes,” with ideas about about the exploration of new materials and methods of implementing them. Material research and fabrication are giving these architects a new palette to build with while these architects are taking traditional materials and finding new applications for their use. Methodology of space forming is being challenged by these new architects. These material processes have allowed for new ways of forming and reading of space. These new architects were chosen as winners of the annual Young Architects competition by The Architectural League of New York. Ruy, David. “Lessons from Molecular Gastronomy.” In Log 17. S.I. : Anyone Corp, 2009. 27-40. Log is an architectural publication the is produced seasonally and curated with a specific theme focused on the current state of “architecture and the contemporary city.” The essay by Ruy presents the work of el Bulli and their influence on the culinary world and what architecture can learn about their process and methodology. He relates el Bulli’s use of molecular gastronomy and the unconventional technology it introduces into the culinary world as a parallel to “digital designers.” Techniques can be shared across disciplines and collaboration outside of the profession can open new routes of experience. The writing attempts to have architects challenge traditional conventions of process and methodology for an architecture that begins to work a true multimodal experience. El Bulli: Cooking in Progress. Film. Directed by Gereon Wetzel. Collingwood, Vic.: Distributed by

Madman Entertainment, 2012. El Bulli: Cooking in Progress is a film presenting the process of creating a menu at the once Barcelona based restaurant elBulli. It starts showing the process of experimentation and documentation at their test kitchen. For six months they would research and develop a new menu for the remaining six months of the year. While they do what seems to be infinite tests just to try anything they are always developing a theme and slowly start to concentrate how they experiment and with what ingredients. They are presented with ingredients and find new and innovative ways to no only modify them but also pair them in ways that can change an experience. This process parallels that of architects working with new technologies, materials, and fabrication techniques. When elBulli closed in 2011 they had 3 Michelin Stars and had been voted the #1 restaurant in the world a record 5 consecutive years by Restaurant Magazine.


Appendix B


elBulli A restaurant that incorporates technology and research to enhance experience and expand the discipline. They approach an ingredient si-milar to how an architect could see a material and they then begin to try many combinations and document these experiments so they can be used later to create dishes for the next seasons menu.


BulliPedia Documentation of experiments done with food in the test kitchens of el Bulli. Will continue to be added to by the test kitchens at elBulliFoundation. Documentation and catalog of experiments will be opened to public and allow for searching through most ingredients the world has to offer.


Flash Research

(Better, Cheaper, Faster)

Research project testing the use of quarter-inch plywood and CNC-routing and how it might be used to make a strong structural system. Allowing the use of a cheap material to make structure, with the hope of “bridging ‘experimental architecture’ and ‘bottom-line real estate developers.’”


Living Light A pavilion in Seoul that spawned from the research done in Better, Cheaper, Faster. The installation uses metal instead of wood but uses similar structural techniques. The pavilion glows and blinks depending on air quality and public interaction in the environment.

Thesis Prospectus | Tom McCormack  
Thesis Prospectus | Tom McCormack