MArch to the beat

Points of interest from the Master of Architecture program at the California College of the Arts

  • Faulders Studio's The Crystalline World: SUBHEDRAL

    Last summer a small group of CCA graduate students assisted professor Thom Faulders in assembling a project called The Crystalline World: SUBHEDRAL, a collaboration with CCA professor Lynn Marie Kirby, for theElectronic Pacific exhibition at SOMArts. This provided an opportunity to speculate about the unique (and prosaic) aspects of installation construction. Is a project influenced by it’s diffuse method of assembly? And what kinds of micro-utopian characteristics arise in the making of a piece of art as opposed to it’s consumption?

    Micro-utopias, or relational aesthetics, can be described as a participatory artistic process. It is an art that expresses itself in creating relationships between viewers, not with the piece. For The Crystalline World, the organizational structure was rhizomatic: each worker had input in the construction methodology. The only top-down (possibly even fascist) element of the project was our utter subservience to the 3D model. The assembly process began with a daunting number of 6″ x 6″ x 6″ foam cubes (with some 12″ and 18″ extrusions thrown in to keep us on our toes) which needed to be glued together into smaller chunks before the larger conglomerating could take place. This individualized work was akin to Steven Johnson’s “demons shouting up the chain” where smaller, dumber actors (my classmates and I) performed operations based on simple instructions—here, arranging cubes into strips of five or six according to full-scale printouts—that upper level demons would eventually coalesce into a larger demonstration, though this was not emergence in that there was clearly an overarching dictator: the Rhino model. This process doesn't differentiate itself from typical building construction where there is complete reliance on the construction documents but in this project’s type of labor workers didn't require any formal skills, though one person in every three person group did need to know how to take measurements of a Rhino model; not a low entry requirement. Similarly, in community built architectural projects there can be a large number of unskilled volunteers but there is still the necessity for people with construction know-how to organize, explain, and quality-check.

    Could this project have been built any other way? Could state of the art technologies have streamlined this process, removing the communal qualities of it’s erection? Robots and drones would have been been unable to innovate in the gluing processes, as we had to many times, and on the fly. They also would not have been able to handle the manufacturing imperfections that had output cubes inexact by fractions of inches. It’s also hard to imagine the 3D printing process for this project. A large amount of support material would have been needed in all of the openings and an intense amount to print the roof. And depending on resolution, it’s hard to know how long current 3D printing technology would have taken to produce a project this size. The Huffington Post speculates that current household 3D printers would take 220 years to print an entire house. This would have put us past the project deadline, mos def.

    No, in the end this project required humans and computers and machines to negotiate a productive truce. In the final assembly we had been placing so much faith in the 3D model that it felt sacrilegious to “throw it away” and force pieces together as we saw fit (pun totally intended). And perhaps it is this communal aspect, seen clearly in the finger prints, creases, and glue stains, that mark the charm of all artisanal efforts.  Is it as easy to appreciate the quirks of computerized manufacturing processes? Will we one day marvel at the quaint imperfections of early 3D printed objects? Surely we don’t constantly marvel at the human craftsmanship that went into our modern homes? But once all of our built surroundings are put together by robots and printers and drones we will likely long for a human touch, some trace of aura, some imprint of the hands that pieced our world together.

    (cover photo courtesy of Brendan Williams, others by me)

    Making of Faulders Studio's The Crystalline World: SUBHEDRAL

  • CCA+AIR (Audi Innovation Research) Fellowship: Beyond Mobility

    Audi AG's innovation research office in San Francisco has teamed up with CCA for a two week intensive workshop, an interdisciplinary collaboration geared towards exploring the car as a key intersection in a broader network of interconnected devices. Spearheaded on the AIR side by Markus Auerbach...

  • Creative Architecture Machines Final Review

    Our advanced options studio this semester at CCA has been focused on engineering and constructing Grasshopper/Firefly/Arduino-controlled three-dimensional object producing machines, our own 3D printer prototypes, built from scratch. The final review will be this Saturday, December 7th, and it...

  • CCA Graduate Architecture Programs Info Night

    It's difficult to judge a visiting lecturer's enjoyability potential because they are an unknown quantity, which will NOT be the issue next Monday night, November 4th, as some of the most compelling professors teaching here at CCA will come together to present the graduate architecture offerings...

  • An Olfactory Archive: 1738-1969 (Test Sites Symposium Exhibition)

    If you walked into CCA's nave this week you would have been greeted by what appears to be a primitive laboratory experiment, hard metal rods lightly supporting odd flasks and stoppers. But if you got too close to a particular few of them you would have gotten a face full of rank so heinous it...

  • The Future Of Architecture Is In Robotic Hands

    This semester I have the great fortune of being enrolled in Jason Kelly Johnson's (co-founder of Future Cities Lab) Creative Architecture Machines advanced options studio here at CCA. Co-taught with Michael Shiloh, a community manager with Arduino, this studio's focus is on operational...

    The Future Of Architecture Is In Robotic Hands - Polydexter 1.0

  • CCA 2013 Warm-Up Design Charette Competition

    Studio is put off for a few days in the first week of every fall for CCA Architecture and Interior Design Department's Warm-Up Design Charette Competition and this year saw all of the bachelors and masters and interior design students get thrown into teams of eight to ten members to essentially...

  • CCA Fall 2013 Lecture Series

    The California College of the Arts will host an amazing lecture series this semester, featuring a pretty great panel in mid-October under the topic Test Sites: Experiments in the History of Space, including a return to CCA by Keller Easterling who lectured here last fall. A highlight for me will...

  • Radical Representation (All Tomorrow's Parties) Spring 2013

    Architecture is consumed through it’s representation. Some say it’s representation is the only true architecture. Radical Representation was an advanced course, taught by Greg Hurcomb with software tutorials by Flori Kryethi, that explored innovative methods of architectural...

    Jeff Maeshiro Midterm Presentation

    Jeff Maeshiro Final Presentation

  • Major Changes at the California College of the Arts Architecture Program

    There will be major changes for the architecture program at CCA this year as Ila Berman, Director of Architecture from 2008 to 2013, will be leaving to take the position of director of the School of Architecture at Waterloo University in Ontario, Canada. Her partner, Mona El Khafif, will also be...

  • Business Insider Ranks CCA #18 Design School in the World

    Business Insider conducted a survey of design professionals and compiled a ranking of the top design schools in the world, in which CCA came in at #18!  RISD and MIT were numbers one and two respectively.


    Our graduate architecture seminar—led by our indefatigable professor Irene Cheng—recently put together an exhibition of our individual research projects, in-depth explorations of a particular historic or contemporary utopian venture, in an effort to bring a bit of architectural...

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