Architectural Design, Level II: Material Essence: The Glass House

Course Info

Course Number/Code: 4.131 (Fall 2003)
Course Title: Architectural Design, Level II: Material Essence: The Glass House
Course Level: Graduate
Offered By: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
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Department: Architecture
Course Instructor(s): Prof. Andrew Scott
Course Introduction:
Syllabus The theme that unites level 2 studios in the fall semester is a focus upon the 'making of architecture and built form' as a tectonic, technical and materially driven endeavor. It is a design investigation that is rooted in a larger culture of materiality and the associated phenomena -- but a study of the language and production of built form as an integrated response to the conceptual proposition of the project. The studio will look to works of architecture where the material tectonic and its resultant technology or fabrication become instrumental to the realization of the ideas, in whatever form they may take. This becomes the 'art of technology' -- suggesting a level of innovation and creative manipulation as part of the design process to transform material into a composition of beauty and poetry as well as environmental control. In this regard the studio will look to the works and design processes of a number of architects including Shigeru Ban, Peter Zumthor, Herzog and deMeuron, Kazuyo Sejima, Richard Horden, Rick Joy and Glenn Murcutt among others.

The studio will develop 2 projects:

The first project will be a collaborative design that will engage all three of the level 2 studios. It is conceived as a preliminary exercise that sets the scene for the second project through the development of a number of thematic ideas that are central to the studios. The project calls for the design and partial fabrication of an installation on Thompson Island, located in Boston Harbor. The installations will be responses to a variety of physical and phenomenological conditions that are determined and driven by the site, in conjunction with critical issues such as mobility, transformation and assembly. They will engage you in making places for shelter, view, transition, passage and so forth and each design will call for an innovation in the design and material language. The project calls for an understanding of the local ecology, the tides, climate and the constraints of building on an island. Within the 4 week schedule design teams will conceive, design, research, test and partially fabricate their design propositions.The second and major project will be a Botanical Research Center. The project (of about 12,000 square feet) is centered around the notion of the 'Glass-House'. The location will be the campus of Wellesley College and within this mature and physically variable landscape, students will work with locations appropriate to their emerging architectural ideas and conceptual propositions, either as an addition to the existing botanical facility or as a new site. The major formal part of the program, the contemporary 'glasshouse', will be served by and interwoven with smaller programmatic elements and will call for an re-examination of the poetic and technical possibilities inherent in scales of transparency and light within this setting.

The 'glasshouse' as a temperate space is a intriguing typology: the development of the building type in the early 19th century was an precursor to a material and assembly innovation that was several decades ahead of its time and led to significant advancements in the development and assembly of glass and cast iron -- and in a contemporary sense that opportunity exists today with new materials and technologies. The spatial volume of the project creates the opportunity to research how materials and the tectonic palette can control light and mass to fulfill various environmental objectives -- light, heat, air and other microclimatic forces naturally and without resource to excessive inputs of energy.

The studio will study develop ideas that look closely at working with the landscape: looking at the means of building in it, on it, above it, through it? Thinking about the relationship of nature to the nature of the architecture, looking at the changing form of the place -- seasonally, the sun, the wind, the light. We will also study and develop notions about form processes: generation of form from notions of folding of the land, space and enclosure to study variations of forms of shelter and microclimate.

The studio will have various supporting critics and consultants including a landscape architect, environmental and structural engineers. It is also possible that the studio may make a weekend visit, possibly to Cranbrook Academy in Michigan. In addition the 3 studios will collaborate over a series of seminars or field trips by or to architects or local fabricators of interest.