The Tectonic Model
A storm has just passed through Seattle leaving nearly 50 large-scale tectonic models in its wake.
Over the past eight weeks, ARCH 501 graduate students have developed conceptual ideas for farmer’s markets, mixed-use timber high-rises, and urban waterway research facilities. Inspired by Jim Nicholls’ Design Development course, our conceptual ideas strengthened and the designs
came one step closer to reality when we built large-scale sections of our projects.
We transformed our raw materials of cardboard, chipboard, basswood, cork, acrylic, and foam core into dynamic spaces where every connection was a composition based on structural necessity, material authenticity, concept enforcement, and human interaction. A column could
no longer sit passively on the ground but had to engage with it. Solutions ranged from pin joints cupping tapered wood columns to hidden steel plates bypassing glulam members. Exterior siding became more than just a rainscreen, it became a surface to shrink the building to the human
scale. Some integrated seating into an articulated exterior surface, others used warm materials to indicate points of touch.
Working at the large-scale forced us to confront real-life structural and environmental issues such as gravity and lateral loads, material connections, construction process, water runoff, and daylighting. The designs were not simply routine answers to these challenges but expressive solutions that furthered conceptual intention within a framework for human habitation.
Now, the laser cutters are resting, local art store stock is returning to the shelves, and we are finally caught up on sleep (and showers). I am pleased to report that we have not only survived the storm but have benefited from it. As we head into final reviews next week, we look at our
tectonic models not just as objets d’art but design tools that were a critical step in our design process.
The mammoth timber high rises of the “Timber in the City” studio soar above the smaller programs. Working in studio teams of three, individuals built portions of the shared design. Lissa Goetz, Corbin Jones, and Erica Witcher’s team built models that locked together to articulate a larger portion of the building (left group of three). Many “Timber in the City” studio teams experimented with Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) panels including Amanda Bosse, Kyle Kinney, and Stella Watson who pushed the limits of their expressive intent and structural integrity (right group of three).
The models were studies of tectonic development and compositions themselves. Roy McGarrah connects shore with sky through a water-level measuring device and lookout perch while Kyle Boyd’s roof drapes over the structure and cantilevers past the wood base. Justine Loong modeled the conditioned space by extending it past the polycarbonate wrapper of the unconditioned market hall.
Ben Ahearn, Kristin Karlsson, and Carey Moran tackle the timber highrise with intricate connections including suspended wood beams held with steel plates and cables and concrete column bases supporting wood columns.
Matt Kikosicki embraces the “slot” detail in his University District Farmer’s Market Hall. Matt used the tectonic model to develop moments for human use. Column bases become seating and siding turns to warm wood near building entrances.
A view inside April Kelley’s University District Farmer’s Market Hall reveals the playful structure of angled glulam columns.
Written by April Kelley