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design/buildLAB

Virginia Tech School of Architecture + Design

  • And then there was one.

    Over the past month, we have been coming up with bridge designs for phase 2 of the Masonic Amphitheater project.

    Everyone started out by making their own bridge. As designs progressed, people teamed up to collaborate. Seventeen groups became eleven, eleven became six, six became three. And on Monday, three became one.

    Before spring break, we met with the "so called jury" (Keith and Marie's Thesis students), who helped us decide on some criteria that our bridge designs should have. The Friday before spring break, the three groups presented their bridge ideas and strengths were pulled from each- the railing from one, the path from another, and the "hub" from a third. This past monday, we spent the day brainstorming and combining ideas, ultimately coming up with one idea for our bridge.

    Now it's time to begin drawing!


  • Spring Break visit to Beeks Elementary

    Last week, we all stepped away from our bridge designs to enjoy Spring Break. Some of us went home, some went on service projects, and some of us stayed here in Blacksburg to enjoy a week of peace and quiet. During Spring Break, some of us who were here in Blacksburg went with Keith and Marie to...


  • Cultural Immersion Weekend- Sunday

    On the last day of our cultural immersion weekend, we presented our autism school designs to the Shenandoah Autism Center and the town of Clifton Forge. The lovely ladies at the Clifton Forge Art School let us pin up our drawings and present our models in their facility. We spent the morning...


  • Cultural Immersion Weekend- Friday and Saturday

    On Friday, we packed up for a day of driving, adventuring, and getting to know the area.    Our first stop for the day was the Humpback Bridge. It is the oldest bridge (and the state bridge!) in Virginia. It's curved profile is supported by an incredible network of trusses inside the...


  • Cultural Immersion Weekend- Thursday

    Last week, we all loaded up our cars with models, drawings, cardboard stands, and a t-shirt or two and headed to Clifton Forge for a weekend of cultural immersion. We spent Thursday, Friday, and Saturday getting to know the town where we'll be working this spring (and getting to know each other...


  • Tackling the wood pile

    We went back to ESL today to continue working. This week, we've been cleaning up and taking inventory, since most of the tools and materials haven't been used since last year's design/buildLAB finished the amphitheater. We organized our tools and all of the leftover Alpolic panels on Monday, and...

    design/buildLAB does the Harlem Shake



  • First day of Work

    On Monday, the design/buildLAB laced up their steel toed boots and ventured out to ESL for a day of work. A group of us took inventory of all of our tools and supplies- from saws to drills to screws, everything was counted and organized. A group went and picked up the leftover Alpolic panels that...


  • Masonic Amphitheater Project wins Building of the Year 2012

    We are proud to announce that the Masonic Amphitheater Project, designed and built by last year's design/buildLab, has won the American-Architects Building of the Year award!   Photo: Jeff Goldberg/Esto This award humbles us and excites us for our own project this year. The 2012/2013 crew...


  • An Afternoon with the design/buildLAB

    Join us at the Clifton Forge School of the Arts on Sunday, February 24! We will be sharing our design ideas for a new facility for the Shenandoah Autism Center. 


  • Welcome back, and thank you!

    Thank you, readers, for making our blog the second most viewed blog on Archinect! We appreciate your interest in the Masonic Amphitheater Project and are excited to share our journey with the School for Autism with so many readers!    The spring semester has begun and we are all back in...


  • Noses to the Grindstone

    The semester has been incredibly busy, and we've all been working very hard on our Autism School designs. We had our final pin up for the semester on Wednesday, where we presented technical detail drawings and basswood models to Keith and Marie and their thesis students.  We've been working...


  • Advising Session with Chris Henry

                As we move along through the design process and case studies for our School for Autism, we have interacted with professors, parents, professionals, and people involved with autism.  Recently, professors Keith and Marie Zawistowski invited Chris...


  • Interviews at the Shenandoah Autism Center

    On October 3rd, the studio returned to Clifton Forge to conduct interviews at the Shenandoah Autism Center. Board Members, teachers, administrators, and even parents gathered at the school to meet with us and talk about the school. Everyone had positive experiences, as well.  We gained...


  • Shenandoah Autism Center

    This fall, the design/buildLAB studio is designing a school for autistic children. Specifically, the students are coming up with schematic designs for the Shenandoah Autism Center in Clifton Forge. Students visited the Learning Spring School in New York City to do research, but knew that...


  • New York Trip

            After long bus rides, angry Tennesseans, good pizza, and beautiful design, we have returned fromNew York City!  In mid September the design/build LAB traveled to NYC for four days to research and study architecture to guide our Fall and Spring projects.  The...


  • The New Crew

    Last year's design/buildLAB crew has moved on to Fourth Year,and a new crew has stepped up to answer the call. This year, a team of 18 students will be working on two projects in Clifton Forge, VA- programming and schematic design for the Shenandoah Autism Center, and Phase 2 of the Masonic...


  • Construction Time Lapse



  • Finished!

    After eight months, design/buildLAB students have finished the Masonic Amphitheatre.  Students worked through the night, putting the project's last screw in place shortly after sunrise the morning of the opening concert.  The day's events drew over 500 spectators who had the chance to...


  • Grand Opening Poster


  • Dedication Ceremony

    Despite not yet being finished, a dedication ceremony was held on site.  Representatives of The Historic Masonic Preservation Foundation, the Town of Clifton Forge, the Virginia Tech College of Architecture and Urban Studies and donors spoke of the influence the students' work will have on...


  • Volunteer Day

    There were some new faces on site last Thursday for our first volunteer day.  Around twenty people showed up throughout the day to help rake dirt and lay sod for the overflow seating lawn.  We are very grateful for their support which allowed us to get a large portion of work out of the...


  • Construction

    With the academic year in Blacksburg over, we moved into Clifton Forge last week to begin assembling the prefabricated portions we built over the past couple months.  We began by transporting all the preassembled modules by truck to the site.  Smitty's Welding has been operating a crane...


  • Alpolic

    The interior of the Masonic Amphitheatre will be clad with four different natural metals.  We will be using a montage of aluminum, stainless steel, titanium and zinc panels of Alpolic.  The materials and drill bits to cut them were generously donated to the project.  We are...



  • GRAND OPENING!

    Join us June 23rd for our grand opening of the Masonic Amphitheatre.  


  • Pouring Foundations

    As we continue to deck at ESL, contractors have poured foundations and constructed the retaining walls that define each terrace.  The decked forestage will be the first prefabricated part to be shipped to Clifton Forge early next week.  The rest of the pieces will make their way to the...


  • Progress Update

    We are continuing to deck the endless frames we've spent the past weeks constructing.  We have finally gone vertical, erecting a wall for the sound/projection booth as well as cladding the gentle curve created by the trusses that are the structural support for the walls of the bandshell...


  • Open House

    Our open house at ESL was a success.  Around 80 curious Clifton Forgers, friends, and faculty showed up to see our progress.  We gave tours, cooked a BBQ lunch, and had a steam bending demonstration. Visitors examine one of the benches A group of faculty hear about our project A student...


  • All Hands on Deck!

    The white oak decking was delivered to the Environmental Systems Laboratory.  We have begun the tedious task of cladding the framing we constructed over the past few weeks.  Because of the density of the wood, each screw must be countersunk.  This involves using a fragile drill bit...


  • Hydro-Stop

    A contingent of our studio has been feverishly applying Hydro-Stop, a waterproofing coating, to the panels that will become the amphitheatre's roof.  Four coats of the paint-on substance are required for each panel.  Hydro-Stop generously donated all the material, a huge relief to our...



  • Open House at Virginia Tech's Environmental Systems Laboratory

    Come see our progress, get a tour of the facilities and socialize with the crew!  


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About this Blog

The Virginia Tech design/buildLAB is a Project Based Experiential Learning program focused on the research, development and implementation of innovative construction methods and architectural designs. Students collaborate with local communities and industry experts to conceive and realize built architecture projects that are both educational and charitable in nature. The blog is run by design/buildLAB students who are designing and building a fieldhouse for the Clifton Forge Little League.

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