final exam

May 6, 2015 § Leave a comment

The semester’s winding down, and the “Big and Tall” take home final’s due tomorrow…It won’t surprise anyone that I’m not a big slide identification fan.  Instead, two essay questions, and two weeks to think about them.  I’ll post some of the better answers once I’ve digested and graded them, but in the meantime, for general consumption, here they are.  ArchFarm regulars are encouraged to submit their answers, but be forewarned that I can only change grades for seven years after they were originally given, so any alums seeking extra credit ought to do some quick math first.  Bonus point if you can identify the source of the quote in question 2; it ought to sound familiar to one regular subscriber in particular.


Big and Tall: Construction History from the Pyramids to the Burj


Due 5PM Thursday, 7 May via Blackboard.

Answer BOTH questions:

1) Given the patterns and examples of the past that we’ve studied in class, provide ‘lecture notes’ for a ‘Big and Tall’ class to be given in 2050. The subject is “New Challenges, New Tools: How Design Transformed in the 2020s.” What problems did this generation face and what were its most pressing social, environmental, and economic issues? What tools did it have that its predecessors did not? And were these tools enough to meet the challenges? Include at least four sketches of new construction techniques, materials, building systems, cladding, or anything else that you think was relevant in this critical decade.

2) “The question any researcher must answer in their conclusion is this: so what?

The thesis of this course has been that the technology designers have to hand—whether that’s stone and axes, aluminum and extrusion presses, or digital software and custom-fabricated materials—influences the form and appearance of what we build, and that this connection between what we construct and how we construct it is worth studying.

Well, is it? Does building technology influence aesthetics in ways that mean something? Surely there are plenty of buildings that do their job well, that people like, but that don’t have the pretensions toward structural or tectonic ‘honesty’ that we’ve highlighted in the course. Does it matter if our designs express the forces that shape them, and/or the forces they resist or work with? Give examples of designs or structures that support and challenge the course’s premises—that are structurally or constructionally ‘honest’ but that don’t move you or compel you, and buildings that do not adhere as closely to the rigors of statics or assembly but that still strike you as compelling and logical. Why do you think this is?


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