big and tall finals


Dueling Pianos

A rousing end to the semester with good independent projects (more later) and a host of analytic studies for Big and Tall.  No shortage of interpretations on various monuments from the last 3000 years, and seeing them presented in sequence left a nice panorama of building sciences and arts…Hagia Sophia, meet Tjiabou Cultural Center.  (And, about that: year after year this project gets the most interest from students.  Three separate analyses this time around, as you can see, all with slightly different takes on it–construction using local and imported materials, structure relying on shell principles in laminated timber, and ventilation…awesome).

Sears Tower(Yifeng Guo,HanWei Fan)

Yifeng Guo and Hanwei Fan

The idea behind the analytics is to delve deeply into the principles of assembly and performance for one significant structure.  I provide a long list of possibilities, and students pick from that and go to work.  The one rule is that the final presentations have to be all their own drawings or models–they can’t rely on anything downloaded from the internet or scanned (although these days even a scanner seems like a prehistoric piece of equipment).  So the results are often approximations, sometimes with details that are worked out rather than copied, and that’s when the projects are at their most interesting.  For Sears, these two students relied on construction photos to figure out the configuration of the shop-welded steel components that make up the nine tubes of the tower’s structure, e.g.


Samprati Jain and Ayo Iyanalu

There were a couple of awe-inspiring performance pieces, as well.  Taking the course’s general philosophy that the actions of building are as meaningful as their outcomes, one group demonstrated the inflation-based assembly of Grimshaw’s Eden Project, and managed to not pass out.  And a similarly anthropomorphic demonstration showed how air actually moves through those spaces at Tjiabou.  These, folks, are state university budget versions of some awesome digital CFD work.

zoet 1

Lana Zoet

And, of course, there are always one or two of these that seem incredibly self-indulgent.  Any student who comes to me and asks for suggestions is very likely to end up working on a current project.  In this case, I have always wondered what Nervi and Belluschi’s original design for St. Mary’s Cathedral–before the seismic calculations made it clear that the whole roof could shear off in a big earthquake.  And here it is, sans travertine-clad shear walls…

NewCaledoniaCulturalCenter Pacheco ViegasA rogue’s gallery of great buildings, thoughfully studied and presented.  This class was an absolute blast to teach, and I couldn’t be more grateful for such an enthusiastic (and forgiving!) bunch of students for its test run.  If all the stars align, Big and Tall will return next Spring…

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