Course #: DES-03454


Wed 10:00-1:00 Gund 505


Toshiko Mori

Course Description

See below for information on prerequisites and pre-selection process for a limited number of students.

Light Structure
The seminar is a one yearlong study of Light Structure spanning two semesters, fall 2014 and spring 2015. The students can choose to take either or both courses.

The fall semester will focus on analysis, survey, inquiries of history, theory and technology of light structures. We will also question conventional building typologies to see how one can transform them into light structure to shift and create new paradigm for building typology. During the spring semester, it becomes a series of workshops to work on models, prototypes, detail studies and a mock up. In particular we will focus on membrane and textile based structures because our seminar has a sponsorship and a collaborative partner, Taiyo Kogyo, one of the largest membrane manufacturers in the world, based in Japan with whom we can test concepts, techniques and prototype fabrication. Their expertise includes deployment, assembly and reassembly transportation logistics.

Lightness is an attribute that spans structure, performance, materiality, assembly and transportation as well as an experience and perception of built environment. It also relates to social conditions and programming based on its use and potential of sharing thus lessening burden on economy of places. The seminar considers impact of buildings, infrastructures and systems on its environment from many different angles and perspectives. For example, from the stand point of structures, one would study weight of buildings. From environmental view point, we will look at its impact on energy consumption and carbon foot print. We will also look at how resources and its deployment may affect its lightness through studies of materials, fabrication and assembly.
The concept of lightness, how that is perceived and experienced and its meaning in various cultural contexts is studied through literature and film to address its meaning and value.

We will also question building typology to see how and what building types can be portable, nomadic, temporal and mobile. We will look at typology such as housing, concert hall, library, museum, visitor centers, and schools, to see if mobility, temporality and nomadic programming may produce a new paradigm which may encourage seasonal or shared use.

Light structure also deals with perception of transparency and weightlessness. Technique of design that deals with incorporating light and creating the sense of suspension free of gravity is also an area of exploration. When light structure is considered, economy of means and efficiency becomes an issue. How minimally the material can be deployed and how intelligently it is used and how multiple tasks can be handled by fewer elements, techniques, engineering and design therefore one can contribute toward innovation in lightness.

Light Structure II
In the spring of 2015, Light Structure II will focus on building prototypes and mock ups.

Based on the research done in the fall or a proposal brought new to the seminar, we will work on making models, developing details, research on materials and deployment logistics. Each seminar is on a workshop format to look at various models and configurations for the study of Lightness defined by various criteria. It is a speculative and experimental workshop. Based on analytical and systematic work done in the fall, each student will follow through with potential of one idea which will inevitably lead to rich and diverse variations.

We will see relationships between material, shape and process of fabrication as well as its life span, portability and assembly procedures. We will study its functionality balancing between optimization of singular purpose versus flexibility of multipurpose solutions. We will study the atmospheric effect and cultural effect of these structures. We will look at possibilities for aggregation, multiplication and scalability of each project. A study of context for this structure becomes an interesting challenge: is it a universal structure applicable to all locations and climates or does the specificity of place and climate makes it more optimum and therefore light structure? We will also analyze economic impact of each structure, tracing through the manner of fabrication and procurement of materials in diverse economies in places from underserved communities of scarcity to highly developed technological metropolis. We will look at the implication of fabrication methods from handmade, machine made to digital fabrication processes. The final project will consist of preliminary models, prototype iterations and a mockup of a part of a whole of Light Structure.

Enrollment process and Prerequisites:
The students enrolled in this seminar must have an equivalent of architectural background of masters of architecture program GSD fifth semester, core program plus an option studio. At the same time, someone with the background of structural engineering undergraduate degree is acceptable background. The students should have an ability to have proficiency in digital modelling ability and fine and sophisticated skills in manual, mechanical and digital fabrication techniques. The workshop is a hands on course where one is expected to work on models, mockups and prototypes of various scales from details to large frame work to the process of assembly, transportation and disassembly. Each student should bring a proposal for a project that demonstrates basic understanding and definition of “Light Structure” for the first class meeting.

The course is a limited enrollment and preference is given to the students who demonstrate strong interest in material research, fabrication techniques, comprehensive understanding of performance in terms of environmental and social impact. Students interested in applying for the three pre-designated spots should email their resume and a brief summary of their reason and proposal for the course to Professor Toshiko Mori at by 5pm on January 22nd. Please note that ALL students must select this course in the limited enrollment course lottery.

Academics: Courses: Light Structures II /Spring 2015

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