The “act of making” introduces a critical set of constraints to any design project. Real objects are subject to gravity, weather, and abuse. Additionally, the realities of material handling, expense, tooling and assembly must be considered. When making, process is as much a component of design as idea. Our final Installation project was an opportunity to consider these constraints and explore the tectonic implications of digitally fabricated components at a full-scale. To devise a tactical response—critical making—to a problem.
In my opinion, the first step in any architectural design process is problem definition; the identification of an environmental issue that is to be explored, considered and addressed. My problem was the circulation condition in the first floor corridor at the connection between old and new architecture buildings. This high traffic area had limited sight lines from down the corridor and a door to the student organizations’ offices hidden around a corner. This awkward layout causes chaotic patterns in the circulation flow and an occasional unintended collision between passers-by.
My goal was to design a visual attractor and flow modulator which introduced a subtle, but directive order to the circulation pattern of the corridor. My strategy to accomplish this goal was to create an articulated wall surface / screen / storefront that would physically and visually direct traffic while creating a stronger presence for the student organization offices. Building on my Modulation project I developed the Installation design using similar slotted joints and a frame with cladding construction methodology. Tactically, this allowed me to benefit from the knowledge gained on the Modulation project. The simple slotted joints were proven. They allowed for quick, accurate assembly that I could perform by myself and they required no additional hardware – further reducing cost and time.
The frame design allowed an efficient means of locating the cladding at specific angles in order to focus views through the screen, it also allowed for the Installation to be completely freestanding. This was significant both strategically and tactically for the project. Since the Installations needed to be approved by the Dean of Facilities, the best strategy was to make the Installation removable without damage to building structure or finish. Tactically, by choosing a freestanding design there was no need for specialty hardware, tools, or additional time to make a physical connection to the building structure.
Utilizing tactics and making strategic decisions that support design goals is critical to effective making. Tactics, strategies and goals do not in themselves make a design wonderful, but thinking about them assists in the translation from virtual design to concrete making.
By Jason M. Colón