A group of faculty and staff from the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design recently published their book, The Making of Things: Modeling Processes & Effects in Architecture.
A group of faculty and staff at the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design wanted to help students become better designers and better design thinkers by providing a compendium of language and tools. So they wrote the book The Making of Things: Modeling of Processes and Effects in Architecture.
They realized they could create something that was a combination of showing how to physically make things and understanding why someone might make something a certain way.
“As an educator, I think part of where our students really need to grow is in developing intentionality and figuring out why they want to do something and how to get the effects they want,” said Frank Jacobus, a staff professor of Architecture.
Jacobus collaborated on this book with Angela Carpenter, fabrication lab manager and high school graduate; Rachel Smith Loerts, visiting professor of architecture and graduate school; Justin Tucker, woodworking specialist and high school graduate; and Randal Dickinson, digital fabrication specialist. They began work on the book in 2018 and will publish their 298-page volume through Routledge in fall 2021.
The ideas were rooted in the work Carpenter and Smith Loerts had done in the school’s fabrication labs to familiarize students with common manufacturing processes and also to help them explore the possibilities of using CNC routers, 3D printers, laser cutters, and learn about other manufacturing equipment.
“We tried to provide a resource that they could look at and better understand the processes and implications,” said Smith Loerts.
Jacobus said this work is an unusual mix of theory and process – as most of the work clearly focuses on but does not connect to one or the other. “But it’s a necessary hybrid. If they really invest in both, I think it will empower a young person in terms of their design sensibility. So I hope that happens.”
The authors drew on existing research on embodied cognition and visual dynamics and combined it with their collective knowledge of manufacturing methods and design fundamentals to develop a comprehensive theory based on what they wanted to convey to students. They created a taxonomy – based on architectural theory, design language and construction – that illustrates relationships and connections between architectural elements. In addition, they presented a comprehensive range of tools used in model making.
The book explores architecture—the architecture-specific way parts and parts fit together—and provides plenty of visual examples and illustrations.
Although it could be read cover to cover, this is essentially a resource book that teaches about different tools, the appropriate use of tools, processes, and the decisions designers might make that could impact a project.
“We assume that architecture consists mainly, if not entirely, of frames, surfaces or bodies, each of which contains an inherent language of form and construction possibilities. The book visually plays out these possible variants,” said Jacobus.
As they explored these ideas, they realized they needed to create their own original content and objects for the book and then reference existing examples. They ended up creating 650 or more objects for the book — with another 100 or so that didn’t make it. They hand-sketched most of their ideas, and then several dedicated design students translated all of these into a digital format.
They wanted to show the students what these objects might look like as a built work – that these could not only be ideas for making models, but also concepts that architects design and build. So they spent many hours searching online for existing examples of these objects. Under each object, they noted the name of an example work and its designer in italics.
For each of the objects, they described them through a list of multiple properties or effects. Under each object, they also noted the equipment and materials used in its construction.
For example, a pyramid-shaped frame object is described with these effects: strength, regularity, stasis, structure, sameness, boundary, crescendo, order, and rationality. The example of built work is the Louvre Pyramid by IM Pei. The primary method of construction is the use of woodworking tools and wood or plastic; The secondary method is using a laser cutter with wood or plastic.
Carpenter said the book covers all of the tools available in the Fay Jones School’s labs and helps students understand what tools they might use and why. For example, instead of always defaulting to the laser cutter, other options are explained along with the effects or results each can achieve. It helps students align their actions with their goals.
“Because a laser cutter will give you a different effect on the edges than if you CNC milled the same piece,” Carpenter said.
Modeling is a tool students use to better understand shape, space, and gravity. Students at the Fay Jones School begin fabrication in their first year in the design studio to practice assembling the parts of a building.
“I think part of the process of a good design school is having students go from 2D thinking to 3D thinking and back and forth,” said Smith Loerts. “Every time a model is created, some dissolution begins.”
Jacobus said that each model – through its materials and manufacturing process – already suggests ideas and intentions, although students may not realize it. You may be simply trying to physically express a concept.
“Experienced architects become good at reading intentions into an object and know that it matters what tools you use to make it, what lines it contains, what material it is made of, what shape it is, etc. Everything what counts,” said Jacobus. “So that’s what the book is primarily about: How do you make these decisions on purpose; how do you know what the thing you just did means, what impact it has, what types of experiences it might contribute to, etc.?”