Spring Studio Explores Materials and Boundaries Through Wooden Cages

Miguel Guitart and students hold up wooden structure during final review.

Miguel Guitart (third from left, standing) and his students hold up one of the wooden designs during the studio's final review in May. Photo: Miguel Guitart

Published July 19, 2018 This content is archived.

In a spring  2018 Material Culture Graduate Research Group Design Studio, titled “Cages,” students were given the opportunity to study architecture through material exploration and manipulation—specifically, through wooden cages.


The studio, headed by Miguel Guitart, clinical associate professor of architecture, focused on the design of material boundaries. Students were invited to consider the relationship between environment and inhabitant. Entryways became a point of focus as the pivotal point between inside and outside, as well as how permeable the structures would be. The balance between internal and external factors, such as vision and light, was closely considered during design processes.

Why wood? The classic material was chosen for the studio as it has a long-standing reputation in North American building tradition, but still retains a global presence. Naturally found everywhere around us, wooden structures remind us of our roots in nature—linking artificial structures to natural ones. Additionally, wood is a hardy and diverse material, allowing students to explore assemblage, joinery and lightness while still permitting expressions of mass, continuity and weight.

"Cages," organized by Miguel Guitart, will be on display August 27-September 27 in the Hayes Hall Atrium.

 The exploration of wood as a material was conducted under three scales: structure (large scale), facture (medium scale), and texture (small scale). Starting with structure—defined a summation of all parts completing the whole design—students worked down through the details as they studied how joints fit, how elements balanced each other, and how the material felt. The system encouraged students to be precise with their thought and design processes, always being in tune with the nature and direction of their design.

The graduate architectural research group in Material Culture explores materials, fabrication, and perception as to unveil new pathways for research and production of contemporary architecture. For Miguel Guitart, Material Culture brings an understanding of matter and perception through the memory of the hands that produce. According to Guitart, the Material Culture research group brings the opportunity to strengthen the exploration of the corporeal experience of space incorporating the ambiguity of the evocative into the precision of the scientific.

Critic and UB architecture professor Nicholas Bruscia (left) discusses a student's work during final reviews. Photo: Miguel Guitart