Structures in the Summer Sep03


Related Posts

Share This

Structures in the Summer

This summer a few ambitious students took part in ARCH521: Structural System Design.  In the relaxed, cavernous summer atmosphere of Gould Hall, our small class was able to embark on a wide-ranging investigation of the technical and creative aspects of structure in architecture.  Our course was divided into three separate projects: Examined Structure, Designed Structure and Explored Structure.

In “Examined Structure,” each student took a set of structural documents for an existing building on the UW campus students, and extracted/ interpreted the structural system in place.  By addressing buildings of a variety of ages, our class examined changes in structural technology over time, and the many different of methods for resisting gravity and lateral loads.  Students also examined how the structural system supported (or contrasted) the architectural concept.  The post-tensioned concrete of the late modern Brutalism of Kane Hall provided a stark contrast to the light, steel framing of the new Paccar Hall.  Verifying calculations (a comparison of capacity and demand) enriched this understanding with a technical component as well.

In “Designed Structure”, students took an earlier studio project (developed to the schematic state) and designed a complimentary structural system.  While some projects were driven by minimalism and refinement (Maki Schmidt), others explored the contrast of hard and soft spaces (Anton Blewett).  Still others focused on bottom-line economics (Paul Weyant), the creation of interstitial, “tensioned” spaces (Bennett Sapin) and making solid vs. open facades (Alireza Hashemloo).  Each student selected their structural system to reinforce their established concept – negotiating the demands of gravity framing (beam depths, bay sizes) and lateral resistance (placement of shear walls, braced frames, or other).  Again, structural calculations were made integral with the decision making process – connecting the load demands of program with the structural proportions and capacities.  We discussed the rise of 5-over-2 construction (five stories of wood over two stories of concrete), the shortcomings of the widely used post-tension slab (embedding large forces within a static building), and the latent potential of heavy timber (both sustainability and flexibility).  Our discussions frequently drifted to the issue of connection design, and the need to design connections with both an intentional, thoughtful aesthetic and adequate transfer of loads (shear, moment).

In our final project, “Explored Structure”, students took their knowledge of structural principles into the experimental realm.  With an eye towards a potential application in architecture, students investigated topics of bio-mimicry, vernacular and earth-filled bag construction methods, monocoque systems (load-bearing structural skin) and the seismic renovation of multiple buildings through an urban infrastructure approach.

Our guest speaker Cale Ash, from Degenkolb Engineers supplemented these projects – discussing the damage and lessons learned from the devastating Christchurch, NZ earthquake.  The nearby demolition of Lander Hall dormitory (a monolithic reinforced concrete structure) sparked numerous conversations about the potential for reuse of existing structures.  Additional lectures on thin-shell concrete, tension architecture and hyperbolic paraboloids rounded out the course.

Throughout the summer, our course approached structure as a flexible, expressive medium of architecture.  By understanding the requirements and potentials of structure (both computationally and on a systems-basis), the students obtained a solid foundation (a pun!) for design possibilities to come.

Written by Tyler S. Sprague, P.E., LEED AP., is an Acting Assistant Professor in the Department of Architecture.


Steel Framing of Paccar Hall (Anton Blewett)

 Concrete Walls and Beams of Kane Hall (Maki Schmidt)

First Floor Framing of the Original Connibear Shell House (Bennett Sapin)

Framing and Connection Details for Waterfront Gallery (Maki Schmidt)

Earth Bag construction details for Single Family Home (Alireza Hashemloo)

Conceptual Adaptation and Strengthening of Iranian Yakchal (Paul Weyant)

 “Synchro” – an urban infrastructure approach to seismic retrofit (Maki Schmidt)

Monocoque construction – an old and new structural technology (Anton Blewett)

Exercise in combining the different flexibilities of steel and wood element to create adaptive structural forms (Bennett Sapin)

pixelstats trackingpixel