The c u b e project at the College’s Research + Demonstration Facility has received the Design-Build Award in the Association of Collegiate School of Architecture’s 2015-16 Architectural Education Awards Program. The ACSA Design-Build Award honors best practices in school-based design-build projects.
The c u b e was designed and constructed by graduate thesis student Ryan Seavy (M.Arch. 2014) and students in the Building Materials and Construction course. Ryan’s thesis advisor, Prof. Patrick Doan, represented the School in receiving the award on Mar. 19th at the ACSA Annual Meeting in Seattle, WA.
The c u b e project was initiated in 2009 by students in Prof. William Galloway’s graduate-level Building Materials and Construction class, a required course in the professional M.Arch. program. Students in the 2009-10 course designed the original project scheme, prepared a set of drawings, and began construction, completing the footings and foundation wall. Over the next two years, students in the course poured the floor slab and constructed the lower portions of the primary walls. From 2010 to 2012, graduate architecture student Gabe Oliver (M.Arch. 2011), while supervising students working on the c u b e project, designed and built the adjacent CMU wall as his master’s thesis. In 2012, graduate architecture student Ryan Seavy proposed to redesign the c u b e, utilizing the existing foundations, slab, and lower portions of the walls, and to complete its construction as his master’s thesis. Ryan guided students in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 Building Materials & Construction classes in assisting with the construction of the c u b e, and, with the support of his thesis committee chair, Prof. Patrick Doan, and thesis committee members, Prof. William Galloway and Prof. Frank Weiner, Ryan completed the c u b e in 2014.
Over the course of its evolution, approx. 200 students participated in the c u b e project. In addition, a number of other A+D faculty members contributed to the project, including Prof. Steve Thompson, Prof. Hunter Pittman, Prof. Jim Jones, Prof. Mario Cortes, Prof. Elizabeth Grant, and Research Faculty member Chip Clark. CAUS Assoc. Dean Robert Schubert and Facilities Manager and Safety Coordinator Brian Squibb also provided support and assistance at the Research + Demonstration Facility. Project sponsors included Chandler Concrete, Griffith Lumber Company, Will’s Ridge Building Supply, P.E.R. Inc. Concrete Pumps, and Truesdell Engineering.
Initially conceived as a 12 ft. × 12 ft. × 12 ft. concrete cube, the c u b e project emerged as a way to situate and support design|build as an important and viable component within the education of the architect, providing a place and opportunity for students to be directly engaged with the constructive aspects of architecture, to inhabit their work through the construction site. The project evolved over a period of five years, involving approximately 200 students and eight faculty members, and culminated with a student redesigning the project and completing its construction as his master’s thesis. The cube stands 13’-8” × 13’-8” × 13’-8”, encloses a 96 sq. ft. room, and is composed of three cast-in-place concrete walls, each formed to yield unique characteristics. Within these concrete walls, four wood and steel fixtures are installed — a table, a door, a ceiling, and a screen.
From a pedagogical point-of-view, this work explores the question of what kinds of limits might be necessary and appropriate for design|build projects involving students of architecture. Project constraints included plan configuration, general building shape, material, and overall dimension. Students were free to focus on the way the form was articulated and to determine how the project would be built, considering to what degree the built consequence might tell the story of its construction. Important was the opportunity for students to learn from the act of building and for the knowledge acquired to then inform their design decisions. An iterative cycle between drawing and building was established. The final result was never entirely predetermined. As the work developed, students who became subsequently involved in the effort were constrained only by what the previous cohort(s) of students had actually physically completed, with one student in the group ultimately accepting full responsibility for the project as his master’s thesis. While the c u b e at this point is no longer a construction site, it has become a classroom for architectural students to study, inhabit, measure, and draw, taking on a new life within the school.
Virginia Tech Architecture alumni were also represented in this year’s ACSA Architectural Education Awards Program: Erin Carraher (B.Arch. 2002) received the New Faculty Teaching Award, and Troy Schaum (B.Arch. 1999) received the Creative Achievement Award.