Fall 2021 Technical Methods and Intellectual Domain Seminars

Technical Methods seminars explore strategies for conducting research in different focus areas of architecture, from visualization techniques, skill-building in the use of tools, and developing specific methods for technically-driven inquiry.

Intellectual Domain seminars explore the theoretical and historical knowledge-bases of various focus areas of architecture, with an emphasis on pursuing intellectual inquiry.

It is highly encouraged that students register for the technical methods seminar and intellectual domain seminar that is in the same graduate research group as their research studio. 

Technical Methods Seminars

ARC 543 Technical Methods- Material Culture- Chris Romano

Course Title: Logging

This course will examine material origins and the ethics of material consumption as it pertains to wood construction.  Wood has been one of the most popular building materials, alongside clay and stone, for thousands of years.  As a natural material, it is the perfect expression of our intimate connection with the world in which we live.  In fact, no other plant species is as dear to humanity as the tree.  To that end, students will enact the process of how a tree, a perennial plant with an elongated stem, becomes a log, a part of the trunk of a tree that has fallen, and finally becomes timber, wood prepared for use in building or carpentry.  If we examine history, most, if not all of the technological innovations surrounding the logging industry have been attempts to standardize and homogeneous the material.  That is, to kill the plant so it will behave and perform in a predictable and consistent manner – to strip it of its ‘wood-ness’.  As a counterpoint to this historical trend, the course will aim to embrace the living, unpredictable, and irregular features inherent to all trees and design experiments will attempt to capitalize on these bizarre and eccentric qualities.  Through deep experiential and hands-on learning, this course will attempt to rekindle the omnipresent relationship between people and wood. 

ARC 545 Technical Methods- Ecological Practices- Zuzanna Drodz

Instructor Email: zuz.drozdz@gmail.com

Course Title: Parametric Design for Multi-species Thriving

This graduate level seminar will introduce methods for parametric planting design for horizontal and vertical surfaces. We will use computational tools to conduct environmental analysis of our sites, introduce the fundamental concepts of functional ecology, and critically examine the aesthetics of what we perceive as natural/classical/neat/messy in landscapes that move us (or don't!). Students will define their community of intended users and define functional design parameters to develop a plant palette and site design that will best serve those users. They will also develop an aesthetic thesis with which they will inflect their functional design parameters. We will implement these skills in the design of a "green" horizontal or vertical space, and will conclude the semester with research into the upcoming technologies for building and maintaining complex plant matrices that nurture and nourish more-than-human communities.

ARC 547 Technical Methods- Urban Design- Hiro Hata

Course Title: Understanding Urban Form 

Speaking of how cities can create enormous economic wealth, Edward Glaeser, an economist, characterized cities as our species’ greatest invention. (Glaeser)* While there is no question about assets of cities, they also tend to be messy and often chaotic: for example, there is a right thing but at a wrong place, downtowns are overrun by traffic with parking lots and narrow sidewalks -- you see few pedestrians on the street. And, you see disinvested inner cities near prosperous city cores.

Urban Design is primarily concerned with making the public realm functional, just, and beautiful. Born as a hybrid model to bridge the gap, it addresses issues neither architecture, nor urban planning alone cannot. While borrowing the strengths from both, urban design’s major goal is to synthesize a set of multiple issues including physical, spatial, socio-economic, infrastructure, and sustainability, all at once. History and recent research have confirmed that good urban form is a key to improving not only cities’ economic vitality but also public health, sustainability, and resilience. More research is being done if it is also true to improving public happiness.

Weaving between a complex web of the architecture, social, environmental and land use planning, sustainability, infrastructure, and landscape architecture, urban design seeks to establish the art of “place-making” with a sense of order, connectivity, and legibility to the often chaotic urban fabric. Through faculty lectures, course readings, site visits, the intent of the course is to provide students with an overview of current roles and best practices of urban design including learning from great precedents; understanding a set of principles of making good urbanism; and making the public realm robust, legible, equitable, and rich in human experience. Students will have opportunities to learn from stakeholders from the community.

The course is structured to build students’ skillsets around four major themes:

1. An understanding of visual and spatial structure of cities:

Visualizing, representing, and map-making skillsets.

2. An understanding of the intersection of infrastructure/transportation planning and urban design. Building skillsets for the making of innovative streetscapes.

3. An understanding of the intersection of regulatory framework and urban design. Skillsets for creating urban design guidelines and strategies for building good urban form.

4. Taking a brief look at the recent history of implementation strategies in urban design to create better and healthier cities.

ARC 547 Technical Methods- Urban Design- TBD

Course description pending. 

ARC 617 Technical Methods- Situated Technology- Albert Chao

In this technical methods seminar, we will be exploring issues of ecology, material extraction, production, distribution, and labor through code. Combined with readings, projects, and discussions, the class will begin with intensive research into everyday objects within the built environment. The research will engage with spatial, political, and social dimensions of the everyday. A series of foundational workshops will then introduce methods to assess, collect, and create data, and also to draw and build representational models with code. We will collaboratively experiment with multiple methods of visualizing information and data. As we trace the lineage and production of everyday objects, how can these tools and techniques expand our conception of the map? As designers, what is our agency in drawing relationships between physical, digital, and social spaces? This is an introductory course. No prior experience in computing is required, though curiosity about how things work is a must.

ARC 620 Technical Methods- Inclusive Design- Adam Thibodeaux

Course Title: Empathy and Difference 

The relationship between designer and user is inevitably marked by difference; in most cases, the designer’s lived identity and experiences are different than those of the user for which they design. These differences may be the direct or indirect result of language, race, sex, ability and physiology, among other factors. This difference is unavoidable, but should not seen as restrictive. Inclusive design requires difference to be acknowledged, understood and bridged. The seminar uses its participants as its case studies: throughout the semester, students alternatively assume both the roles of user and designer, to understand difference and action empathy among the group. We first learn to understand and articulate our own differences and how they impact our relationships to space. Through introspection, vulnerability, and ultimately empathy, students work in pairs to assimilate these differences and design with them in mind.

Intellectual Domain Seminars

ARC 623 Intellectual Domain- Inclusive Design- Jordana Maisel

Course Title: Designing Inclusive Environments

This course provides an overview and working knowledge of the Inclusive Design paradigm. It introduces principles and knowledge bases, the concept of evidence based practice, methods of criticism and evaluation, and best practice examples. Methods of evaluation include: required readings and lectures, quizzes, class discussions, and a research and design project.

ARC 625 Intellectual Domain- Situated Technology- Hadas Steiner

Course description pending. 

ARC 627 Intellectual Domain- Ecological Practices-Martha Bohm

This graduate seminar will take a critical education approach to the development of the broader intellectual grounding needed to co-create productive anti-racist spaces.  Specifically, it will examine theories about collaborative design, co-production of knowledge and design, and anti-oppressive design approaches.  Topically, the class will examine and critique examples urban agricultural interventions against these theories.  Together, the class and instructor will construct the foundation of understanding upon which the subsequent Ecological Practices studio will build.  (The follow-on studio in spring 2022, taught by the same instructor, will bring about a co-produced design intervention with Black urban farmers in the city of Buffalo.  Students are encouraged, but not required, to take both classes.)  This course and the subsequent studio are supported by a 5-year funded project to build capacity among urban growers of color, in collaboration with community partners in Buffalo and Minneapolis, as well as the UB Food Lab, University of Minnesota, and Johns Hopkins University.

ARC 629 Intellectual Domain- Urban Design- Brian Carter


The seminar will focus on infrastructures and institutions in global cities. Students will be invited to research and study cultural, physical and social infrastructures and document their potential to shape cities.

ARC 632 Intellectual Domain- Materials Culture- Dennis Maher

Course Title: Real Imaginary Architecture

This course explores the continuous feedback loop between the built environment and the imagination while considering real and imaginary models that architects, designers, artists, planners, and others have created in order to represent their surrounding worlds.  Rather than consider the architectural model as a static, self-contained thing, this course focuses on ways that models act as dynamic systems of associated symbolizations, and how such systems function cosmographically to create visions for place, time, and society.  We will examine theoretical texts by scholars of the imagination, as well as buildings, proposals for buildings, and artworks, in order to read constellations of objects, images and places as aspirations for the collective imagination.

Class Schedule

For more specific information on courses including scheduled times, days, modality and restrictions, please see the class schedule. Instructors contact information can be found in the UB Directory