7:00PM – 7:00PM
Beyond Boundaries on display at the National Building Museum as Center for Design Research collaboration showcased in MASS Design Group’s Justice is Beauty exhibit.
The opening of the exhibition Justice is Beauty: The work of MASS Design Group at the National Building Museum highlights Beyond Boundaries initiatives through industry and academia collaboration. The exhibition, which opened on April 9th, was curated by Susan Piedmont-Palladino, professor of architecture and Director of Virginia Tech’s Washington Alexandria Architecture Center (WAAC) who has served as a consulting curator at the Museum since 2003. Planned to mark ten years of work by MASS, the exhibition will be on view until September of 2022 and includes the installation of the Gun Violence Memorial Project, a collaboration between MASS and conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas along with gun violence prevention organizations Purpose Over Pain and Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund.
The Center for Design Research (CDR) at Virginia Tech and MASS Design Group have collaborated on various projects that advance a vision where design is a catalyst for positive systemic change. The first collaboration was the transfer of an advanced digital workflow and enclosure system created as part of the CDR’s LumenHAUS, an international award winning Solar Decathlon project. The technology was contextualized for MASS Design Group’s Gheskio Cholera Treatment Center in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Through this project the merger of high tech and high craft emerges and the results can be seen in the exhibition through physical prototypes and photographs of the building.
The CDR and MASS also collaborated on the design and fabrication of a pavilion for the Boston Biennial entitled Lo-Fab. This project was inspired by MASS Design Group’s work on a remote conservation school in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The pavilion demonstrates how an advanced structural typology could be adopted in resource-limited settings to create a longspan enclosure using short spanning structural members made from readily available timber. In April 2020, students and faculty from the CDR and the WAAC convened in the great hall at the NBM to install a section of the pavilion. This pavilion was built using the robotic fabrication process developed at Virginia Tech and is made of reclaimed white-oak timber taken largely from a demolished barn. By utilizing short structural members the team was able to use wood that otherwise would have been relegated to scrap.
“These projects are examples of how collaboration between organizations and sectors can yield outcomes that exceed what one may have done alone. From the perspective of academia, it’s an opportunity to create student opportunities and elevate research and development to practice. For Industry, it’s a chance to enhance impact while testing new ways of working without risk. Both possible through sustained relationships between people and organizations willing to act on ideas” said Nathan King, a former Director at MASS Design and current co-director of the Center for Design Research at Virginia Tech.
In 2016, faculty, staff and students from the Virginia Tech School of Architecture + Design worked with MASS Design Group and a group of Rwandan students and craftspeople to design and produce furniture for the African Design Centre (ADC) studios and classrooms. This work aligned with the core principles of the ADC, focusing on local context and the building process as an opportunity to invest in local craftsmanship and expand knowledge of design and construction practices. During production of the furniture, a team from Virginia Tech’s CDR, including Mark Leach, Jonathan Rugh and Nathan King, joined Rwandan designer Aziza Cyamani of MASS Design Group and wood production expert Kalisa Emmanuel of the Kigali-based Kalka and Partners in Kigali for four weeks. A group of six carpentry students from a local trade school joined the project as a part of their training. As a result of that engagement, Sarah Ahart (2017- Industrial Design), travelled to Rwanda to consider the local fabrication of user-centered furniture specific to school children. By working with MASS Design Group in Kigali, she was able to engage stakeholders from regional schools (both teachers and students) and connect with experienced furniture manufacturers in Kigali’s manufacturing district. In order to begging to create lasting impact, a team from Virginia Tech, including former Director of Industrial Design Ed Dorsa, IDSA, and program veterans Mark Leach and Jonathan Rugh, returned to Kigali to teach an ADC module that included curriculum focused on design thinking, human factors, and materials and processes.
The CDR has a long history of promoting grassroots projects, research, and pedagogy that seek to expand design’s potential to address social issues. By integrating research and practice in a university setting, the CDR enables students, researchers, designers and academics to produce work that is unique, practical and imaginative. Beyond the university, the CDR cultivates industry collaborations that inform the focus of and expand the impact of its work. To meet its objectives, the CDR “Partners with professionals in academia, industry and design practice… according to Robert Dunay, FAIA…each brings diverse skills and knowledge to its projects and is rooted in real-world conditions.” In this way, the CDR positions its work to contribute to innovation and broader shifts in industry and practice that have the potential to influence larger global systems.
The Lo-Fab pavilion project teams included: Adam Allard, Alan Ricks, Alexander Russo, Alonzo Colon Ashleigh Otto, Blake Massie, Brendan Kellogg, Chip Clark, Cole Smith, Conor Byrne, Dan Reynolds, David Barrett, David Scurry, Ed Coe, Eliot Davis, Fabian Ortiz, Giorgia Cannici, Gustav Fagerstrom, Jason Zawitkowski, Jeff Snyder, Jonatan Anders, Jonathan Rugh, Justin Lavallee, Kyle Barker, Lucas Kretzing, Mark Leach, Martin Philipp Angst, Michael Murphy, Mike Steehler, Nathan King, Nathan Melenbrink, Nick Cote, Nikki King, Paul King, Robert Dunay, Steve Bickley, and Victoria Smith. Mike Dewberry, Matt Jezyk, Ian Keough and others who contributed to the development of the Dynamo-to-robot workﬂow. Portions of this work were made possible by the Autodesk Foundation and an Autodesk Technology Centers Grant.