Architecture Studio: Building in Landscapes

Course Info

Course Number/Code: 4.125A (Fall 2005)
Course Title: Architecture Studio: Building in Landscapes
Course Level: Undergraduate
Offered By: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
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Department: Architecture
Course Instructor(s): Prof. Alan Joslin
Course Introduction:
Syllabus "Roots and Wings"

Students will engage architecture that is constructed within and between the landscape elements of earth, water and the sky for the sake of supporting fundamental human needs and aspirations. And as such will develop in their work, places with "deep roots and strong wings". The "roots" being the material and formal conditions that gives sustenance, security and support to an inhabitants immediate functions and activities, making meaningful connections to setting, climate, human scale, patterns of inhabitation and historical precedent. The "wings" are the elaborations and inventions that inspire the flight of imagination towards liberation of thought and creativity for the betterment of humanity.

This thinking will be applied in the following areas:

Formal articulation that celebrates the uniqueness of a setting and the values of its inhabitantsShaped spaces that vividly and fully engage individuals and communities in the rituals and tasks that define their identityRichly varied conditions for inhabitation that offer a balance of connection and separation between people with one another and with the environment in which they residePrudent and artful assemblies that celebrate the variety, beauty, and meaning of materials and their structural characteristicsResponsible allocations of resources in a manner that parallel defined priorities

The four projects of the semester will take place in strong landscapes that offer exciting choices for inhabitation and expression. The first two projects will be the same for both sections (Jan Wampler and Alan Joslin), who will work together as one. For the last two projects both studios will share the theme of "building for individual and community", however each will use different sites and programs. Throughout the semester, both sections will share lectures, information, and field trips, as well as access to consultants and instructors.

Project #1: A Performance Venue in a Quarry: Will let students explore the dialogue between place and culture, how one brings their ideas of community gathering to effect a place, and how the character of a setting in turn effects their shaping of place.

Project #2: A Homeless Shelter from Salvaged Materials: Will give students hands on experience with the fundamentals of architecture and building; crafting an edifice sensitive to the demands of program, structure, construction, climate control, and human dignity. The project, of short duration, will be designed in groups of between four and five students who will then build their design in a public area of MIT from recycled and/or inexpensive materials. Chris Dewart and members of Cambridge City Agencies and homeless individuals will provide input.

Project #3: Global Think Tank in a Local Setting (Part 1): On a dramatic constructed landscape of steel bridges spanning the Charles River, students will design a Retreat for visiting scientists and scholars from around the world to research and discuss issues regarding the challenges of Globalization. Part 1 will involve the design of a private Live/Work environment for a visiting scholar sited on the abandoned railroad trestle below the BU Bridge. Each student will be given a unique site on the bridge in proximity to each other, and the parameters that will link each to the whole. The unusual spatial richness of the site will allow for inventive building organizations that address the basic living and study needs of the scholar in an environment that celebrates its spectacular setting and inspires creative reflection.

Project #4: Global Think Tank in a Local Setting (Part 2): Set within/above/below the BU Bridge, in a location of the student's choosing, each student will design their version of the common facilities for the Retreat, where the visiting scholars come together to share their work amongst themselves and build collegial relationships, i.e. places for meetings, lectures, video conferencing, dining, relaxation and entertainment. This will include the vertical connection between the territory of the private live/work neighborhood, and the Common Building. The very visible site will provide spectacular vantage points of the city, the river and its institutions, while also presenting a very visible icon that can represent the Retreat's mission.

Because architecture is fundamentally a four dimensional experience, we will rely heavily on the use of study models for structural and spatial organization, three dimensional perspective drawings for the visual experience of procession, and plans/sections/diagrams used to illustrate the underlying dimensional, geometric, proportional and use patterns within the design.

This class was taught concurrently with 4.125B. Some of the assignments are the same, some are different, and the sites for the final project are different. But since they were taught in tandem, it would be useful to look at both together.