This past weekend TCAUP was home to both Whither Architecture: A symposium intended on investigating "installations" as a framework for architecture; and the presentation and gallery opening of this years' Research Through Making projects. Needless to say, it was a very exciting weekend.
Research Through Making is a program initiated by our Dean, Monica Ponce de Leon in 2009 to promote making, and is now in its third year at TCAUP. The program awards research grants in the form of $20,000 to faculty members for the production of a project predicated on MAKING. It is by far the coolest thing going right now, in the whole state of Michigan.
Listed below are this years' 5 recipients and their projects:
Starting from ground and working skyward, Dirty Work takes up colloquial earth as both building material and recalibrated “promised land.” Kaolin – a dense, white, hard-working mineral, becomes host to the architectural inquiry in which the perceptual alignment of dirt with mass, density, dankness, and mute weight is challenged in favor of the light, thin, and fleshy. To make manifest these questions, we worked dirty. That is: with tacitly informed understanding, relative tolerance and literal material slip as assets to discovery instead of a more exacting, clean and arguably remote conceptual practice. Giving figure to form in this way – with surface, line and dimension – produces a material anxiety that squares us between informed hunch and all-out faith.
(Geoff Thun, Kathy Velikov and Wes McGee)
Resonant Chamber is an interior envelope system that deploys the principles of rigid origami to transform the acoustic environment through dynamic spatial, material and electro-acoustic technologies. Our aim is to develop a sound-sphere able to adjust its properties in response to changing sonic conditions, altering the sound of a space during performance and creating an instrument at the scale of architecture, so flexible and nimble that it might be capable of being played. The project is developed through three streams of iterative research and development in both computational testing and full-scale prototype installation: Dynamic Surface Geometrics; Performance Material Systems; and Variable Actuation and Response.
(Steven Mankouche, Josh Bard, Matthew Schulte)
Morphfaux revisits the virtually lost craft of plaster to explore its potential for producing thickened architectural environments through the use of contemporary digital technology. The research challenges the flatness of modern, standardized dry wall construction; and explores plaster’s malleability as a material that can be thick and thin, smooth and textured and tooled in various states of plasticity. If the invention of industrialized modern building products such as drywall led to the demise of the plasterer as a trades-person, our research seeks alliances between the abilities of the human hand and those of automation. By transforming historic methods using new robotic tools morphfaux has broadened the possibilities of architectural plaster. While our research has produced forms not possible by human skill alone, it also clearly illustrates a symbiotic relationship between the human body and the digital arm where human dexterity and robotic precision are choreographed in the production of innovative plastering techniques. In a time where organized labor is in the political limelight morphfaux epitomizes postindustrial, mid-western culture by underscoring the role of human labor in relation to globalized robotic manufacturing.
(Catie Newell and Wes McGee)
Glass Cast is a series of research trajectories that manipulate this ubiquitous and fragile material through the investigation of two methods of working; hot glass blowing and warm glass slumping. The design process and its tools, including custom manual forming tools and a reconfigurable slumping kiln, are as significant to the work as the resultant glass components, Diffuse Globes and Distort Windows. Casting techniques and the limited range of material available to work at the high temperatures necessary to form glass are the basis of the research. Such tools construct environments to control the thermal performance through time-based processes, choreographing the work and physical mediations.
Ruralopolitan Maneuvers: House 50
(Mary-Ann Ray and Robert Mangurian)
Today, one in every ten people in the world lives in a rural Chinese village, the most endangered human habitat on the face of the earth. Architecture has largely focused on, and been fascinated by the city and urbanism. This project turns its attention toward the rural village and is part of a larger project that looks at what we call “Ruralopolitan Space” – a space that is neither purely urban nor rural, but is a new hybrid and continuum between the two. Preservation: yes and no; bringing the rural village into the 21st century socially, economically and architecturally: yes.
For Research Through Making, we focused on the making of several intimate pieces at the scale of the house as well as on one village/township scaled infrastructure. Each project needed to be acutely aware of cost and availability of materials close at hand as it is operating in an environment in which the average yearly household income is $560 USD.
I am a graduate student and an entrepreneur at the University of Michigan Taubman College where my studies are focused on leveraging design ideas across multiple scales and platforms. Meeting at the intersection between design, tectonics and fabrication, I am continually exploring how a design idea can navigate complex material and production systems and evolve into fully realized architectural artifacts.