Spring 2022 Technical Methods 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.

ARC 544 Technical Methods- Material Culture- Maher

Topic: Collecting the City

This course utilizes direct experience---the reality of tacit physical encounter—to collect and interpret material fragments of the city, exploring a variety of preservation-related themes, including the protection, reconstruction, and safeguarding of physical artifacts, as well as memories. Through field work, drawing, photography, and hands-on material experiments, we will engage in a direct, hands-on way with architectural residua and speculate ways of stewarding their traces, while interpreting and communicating their stories.  

ARC 544 Technical Methods- Material Culture- Fernando

As our profession collectively evolves to react to an ever-changing social, cultural, and environmental climate, we are challenged to explore and criticize the ways in which we currently practice, research, and speculate on the current state of architecture. This class explores the integration of topics that hybridize processes of material prototyping, environmental analysis, and digital simulation technologies. Students will utilize sustainable material explorations as an avenue to advance the process of design. Incorporating elements of material data analysis, advanced visualization techniques, Arduino climate sensors, and neurological/haptic feedback. The material exercise will yield a built design prototype that can be run through a series of performance metrics (force analysis, thermal analysis, fire resistance, acoustic properties, and etc.)  and be translated into creative applications of visualization. The course includes lectures, discussions, potential site visits, and fabrication-based investigations. 

What if we could generate structures made of mycelium, self-healing concrete, or recycled waste materials? Through academic inquiries we find ourselves opening up new paths and imagining new possibilities where these trajectories don’t often seem viable until they are put into action. Perhaps this is the time to be bold? 


ARC 546 Technical Methods- Ecological Practices- Drozdz

The Act of Mapping in a State of Emergency 

Since 2020 nearly 400 American architecture firms have become signatories of Architects. Declare, which is organizing around the declaration of a climate, justice, and biodiversity crisis. In this course we will develop methods by which we can reckon with the impacts of our work as architects and our responsibility to design for life rather than against it. We will ask how geospatial drawing can be utilized to study and address these crises. Mapping is never neutral. It is an act of design: design by spotlight/focus/filtering, design by inclusion/omission, design by delineation/partition/naming, design by declaration of authority. This course will introduce the fundamental skills of accessing geospatial data, assessing its quality and relevance to the question at hand in terms of bias, precision, and scope, and representing it. We will learn to use GIS, RHINO & Grasshopper, and the Adobe Suite to make dynamic and compelling mappings and visualizations. We will use mapping to develop understanding, to initiate generative and speculative inquiries, and to tell compelling and critical stories.  

ARC 551 Technical Methods- Urban Design- Delaney

Course Title: Drawing through the Lens of Ethnography

As a technical methods course in the Urban Design Graduate Research Group, this class will focus its attention on architectural drawing as a form of ethnographic study. Building on what Momoyo Kaijima, Laurent Stalder, and Yu Iseki (the curators of the Japan Pavilion at the 16th Venice Biennale of Architecture of 2018) identified as “Architectural Ethnography,” students will concentrate their efforts on drawing as a method of cultural observation that supersedes the conventional practices of architectural representation and documentation.

Through this lens, architectural drawing is elevated as a discursive practice, capturing the minutiae of human inhabitation and the everyday use of buildings and spaces in the city of Niagara Falls, New York; the various rhythms, time cycles, and histories that buildings reveal, support, and withstand; the socio-economic conditions of place; the forces of age and weather, and the various human responses to these factors; the precise placement of fixtures, furnishings, objects, décor, and detritus at any given point in time; and all that might otherwise be overlooked as impermanent, unintentional, or ephemeral. Thus, the goal of the course is to test architectural drawing as a method of close observation, toward the production of a more-honest reflection of past and present in the post-occupational lives of buildings and spaces—revealing something of the human condition and the particularities of a given place and its resolution in relation to its architecture, landscape, and urbanism.

ARC 619 Technical Methods- Situated Technologies- Bruscia

The influence of the technical arts on traditional forms of architecture has carried through to present day, reinvented by the accessibility of advanced digital tools and manufacturing equipment. With technical expertise comes material and structural innovation, and it is essential that architectural research transcend the traditional borders of our discipline to creatively address an increasingly unpredictable environment.  With this in mind, a primary course objective is to introduce students to a variety of computational modeling and simulation techniques that heavily leverage architectural geometry in the design-to-construction workflow.  The course will take a pseudo architectural engineering approach to guide small design-build projects that demonstrate a close coordination between digital form finding and form conversion/optimization with material and manufacturing constraints.  

Students enrolled in this course will have access to the newly acquired Global Vacuum Presses GTP-S-2512 vacuum press located in the SMART Fabrication Factory. This machine enables custom laminations of both sheet and volumetric materials to create custom tailored composites. Student projects may result in prototypes with specific spatial, structural, and aesthetic criteria, inspired by a research phase on the functional and aesthetic history of threads, bands, lacquering and seams in cultural artifacts from different cultures and eras. Coursework will be equal parts digital and manual, rational and experimental, applied and abstract.   

No previous software experience is required - all technical subject matter will be covered through in-class workshops and software tutorials.


ARC 621 Technical Methods- Inclusive Design- 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.

Class Schedule

For more specific information on courses including scheduled times, days, modality and restrictions, please see the class schedule.