Feb '10 - Sep '10
The School of Architecture at the University of Florida has begun the search for two new faculty members. Out of over 100 applicants, the choices have been narrowed down to eight individuals. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, each will visit the school, tour the studios and seminars, participate in critiques, be interviewed by both students and faculty, and deliver a presentation about the work in which they have been engaged and deliver their personal design philosophy.
The first of these presentations was delivered by Lee-Su Huang. He graduated from Feng-Chai University in Taiwan in 1999, and he received a Master’s in Architecture from Harvard University in 2009. Huang’s expertise falls under the general categories of digital technologies and sustainability. Huang worked with Farshid Moussavi in the production of The Function of Form and provided many of the analytical drawings contain therein. In professional practice, Huang has worked with Preston Scott Cohen, Zavonic Designs, Style Design Group, and is currently working with Lassa Architects.
In Huang’s presentation, titled “Systems for Inclusion”, he discussed his interests in the modes and outputs of integrating data into the design workflow. Huang presented five endeavors he worked on while in school and in the professional realm. Each project supported his claim on exacting a clear-mind and creative use of computing in generating unique architectural solutions.
Huang presented work he participated in producing for a competition submission for Terminal 3 at Shenzhen Airport [I believe Shenzhen is the right airport Please correct me if I am wrong; I wrote it down phonetically and then had some trouble looking it up afterwards]. In the proposal, they opted for the use of an overall Y-shape, as oppose to T-shape, as a method of reducing “dead-pockets” [zones in which airplanes cannot pull up to the building because there is no room to maneuver]. This simple decision is a great example of form following function, and it allowed them the opportunity to accommodate 8 more planes in the same area allotted. They employed a module, the basic shape of which could be described, and was described, as a “pie-slice”. These pie-slices plug-in and can be arranged in a myriad of ways to generate varying forms, allowing for greater flexibility and presumes a method for future expansion. Among other concerns, these modules were further developed according to program and lighting, and a marriage of the two to create a subtle, but still easy to see, system of way-finding. If I have the name of the airport right [If I don’t, please disregard the first and last sentence of this paragraph], Fuksas won this competition, but the proposal Huang contributed to does seem like quite a contender, and in my humble opinion, an innovative airport design that might have presented a better solution of interface/interspace between traveler and plane.
Huang also presented a research project called Osnap!, which was investigation into digital fabrication that he conducted with Greg Spaw. Using vacuum-formed plastic and employing snap connections akin to that used for to-go containers used by restaurants, they developed a system to create interesting skins/surfaces. This is a more well-documented and accessible project, so I will just direct you here [page 313 to 316] to see the product of this work. It may be that this project could be more accurately placed in the arena of industrial design or packaging science. However, I would be reticent to commit to that critique since one could also argue that architecture is a product that is a container. I think the application of it toward the interior is obvious, and the uses of the guiding principles were scaled up and at work in the above terminal design. Osnap! is a very neat project. I think there has been some suggestion that if Huang began to teach here, there might be some digital fabrication studio developed to utilize his expertise. That would be an interesting class, and one that UF: SoA needs very much.
Any reservations I might have about Lee-Su Huang’s inclusion into the faculty at UF: SoA would come from my own suspicions of a reliance on computing as a method for design. I think that technology paired with economy has produced a great number of great solutions, but has yet to satisfy both meanings of the term “sensible”. Until some humanity can be injected into Grasshopper definitions, I would just rather stay clear [I keep hoping to see written a book called Away From a New Architecture]. At the same time, I know I shouldn’t [it is the future now, right? Le Corb, version 2.12 – “A Computer for Dwelling”]. I read somewhere [and I wish I could remember where] that historically the proliferation of new technologies give rise to a crystallization of nostalgia; as culture moves forward, its constituents retreat. It is an interesting paradox that I know I am caught up in.
Huang could be a good faculty member here, and would surely be a significant player in keeping our curriculum moving forward and engaging novel techniques and technologies.