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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Case Studies on Collaborative Practices, 2013

The Research Partner simultaneously embarked on eleven major modernization projects totaling in excess of $700 Million. The simultaneous start of multiple large-scale projects, operating with shared High Performance/Green Building goals, provided a unique opportunity to compare and contrast projects. The goal of this study was to identify factors that had strong positive or negative effects on the collaborative culture of the project teams. The comparison of design and construction projects is inherently complicated by circumstances unique to each project. Given the potentially endless number of factors that can impact project delivery, this report focuses on selected team-performance outcomes and highlights the presence or absence of "ingredients" that influenced those outcomes.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Var Vac + Hex Wall

Our design research explores the growth of surface complexity through careful attention to program and technical performance criteria. We contend that purposeful difference along the length of an architectural surface can offer locally fine-tuned solutions to the fluctuating situational needs of occupants. This approach is in direct opposition to conventional construction logic. Therefore, our materials research challenges traditional, static construction methods, replacing them with flexible techniques that produce inexpensive, differentiated surfaces. While this type of research is not new, our recent approach to building difference through dynamic mold making is.

Architects are taught that construction works best when it is premised on a strategy of economy and repetition. Construction units (bricks, sticks, sheets, and rolls) are produced and distributed as components that reduce in cost based on volume and standardization. Variation, whether in the form of cutting, specific placement, finishing, or any number of other modifications, will likely add to the expense of a project. This paradigm, "cost-reduction through standardization," dramatically limits the architect's ability to creatively respond to sophisticated sets of forces acting upon a building.

Fortunately, new technologies are challenging the limitations of late twentieth century construction techniques making the aggregation of repeatable variable units achievable at increasingly lower costs through subtractive fabrication technologies (CNC milling, laser cutting, water-jet cutting). Problematically, variation is still more difficult and costly to achieve through casting or forming fabrication technologies (concrete casting, injection molding, vacuum forming). This is because the formwork required for casting or forming a material into its final shape is not adaptable. Value still depends on limiting the number of dissimilar produced. If variation is desired, a new mold must be produced for each unique component. This is typically accomplished at great cost and negatively impacts the aggregate cost of the job. To shift the paradigm, our research explores vacuum forming as a method for producing low-cost, complex architectural surfaces. The research and design work presented in this document aims to develop increasingly sophisticated, minimal, and cost effective molds that allow for endless variation in a fabrication process where variation is typically impractical.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Current Architectural Projects

These images represent two projects designed for Xcel Energy and currently under construction: Hiawatha and Midtown. Both are located along the Greenway bike trail in Minneapolis. Though they differ in design, both walls are comprised of a lower security wall and an upper screen, partially concealing substation equipment beyond. Both walls will be lit at night with color-changeable LEDs.

At Hiawatha, the lower wall is black gabion. The upper wall is a folded, gold-anodized expanded aluminum mesh. At Midtown, the lower wall is comprised of progressively rotated cedar pickets. The upper wall is a folded, 3-tone silver-anodized expanded aluminum mesh. Both projects were designed to fit a slim budget and be constructible by low-tech fabricators and installers.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Preservation by Adaptation: Is it Sustainable?

The historic preservation field is aggressively promoting itself as ''green.'' Adaptive reuse of historic buildings is now widely considered a sustainable development practice. As with architecture in general, however, sustainability in preservation is too often narrowly framed around environmental issues such as the conservation of materials, energy, and water. Commonly accepted definitions of sustainability recognize two other components: economics and culture. Rarely does the preservation field consider sustainability as an entire system of interrelated environmental, economic, and social relationships, as envisioned by the Brundtland Report of 1987. This article offers several reasons for the preservation field to engage in the full spectrum of sustainability concerns, including economic and social issues.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Better Path to Licensure through Research Practices

Last June, the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) released data on a wide variety of topics across several decades related to internship, examination and licensure for architects. "NCARB By the Numbers" revealed that the mean time from graduation to completion of the Intern Development Program (IDP) is 6.4 years with an additional two years to complete the exam and achieve licensure. In real numbers that means the total amount of time from high school to licensure for architects in America is 14.5 years.

The knowledge loop between the architectural profession and academia has the potential to be a rich and interactive exchange leading to meaningful advancement of the discipline. One can imagine priorities developed by professionals would ensure the value of their expertise to clients on a day-to-day basis. While complementary research priorities collectively developed with academic researchers would address broad societal needs, advance building technology and reduce waste at many scales in the building industry. In the midst of this dynamic mix of professional experts and academic researchers, students could thrive, guided by both mentors and professors in individual research projects that connect to multi-year research goals. And if the students' role in these research efforts could be counted in their IDP, meaningful work would systematically lead to licensure, potentially upon graduation of an advanced post-professional degree.

The first steps towards this ideal world begins at the University of Minnesota with our first cohort of Masters of Science in Architecture, Research Practices concentration. Pending finalization of the MS and the Consortium, we expect our first cohort to enter in Fall 2013.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Does Food Systems Planning Have a History?

Greg Donofrio's 2007 article "Feeding the City" was republished in the "Best of Gastronomica," Spring 2013. Original abstract from 2007: The food system has, until recently, been conspicuously absent from city and regional planning practice, education, and research. Earlier in the twentieth century, food issues were a central concern of the nascent planning profession.

Keywords:urban planning, regional planning, city planning, food system planning, food distribution, history, Clarence Stein, Charles Mulford Robinson, George Ford, Lewis Mumford, public market, municipal market, terminal market, supermarket, food, agriculture, New York City, New York State, Greenmarket, farmers market, Regional Planning Association of American (RPAA), City Beautiful movement

Constructing the Significance of the Plymouth Buildling

Using primary and secondary research, Greg Donofrio and his colleagues Meghan Elliott and Ryan Salmon of Preservation Design Works, LLC argue that the Plymouth Building embodies advancements in several aspects of concrete engineering knowledge and building practice, including the concrete skeleton frame, use of deformed reinforcing steel, an integrated contractor-engineering delivery, and cold weather concreting. Use of a true reinforced concrete skeleton frame structural system made it possible to dramatically alter the fa├žade as building owners sought to adapt to changing architectural styles. Or, as a Minneapolis Tribune article published in 1910 put it: "The outside...can be redressed time and again; just husked like corn every century or two, and a new exterior added." The Plymouth Building represents an important step in the development of modern reinforced concrete engineering and design eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office and the National Park Service agreed.