Making the Invisible Visible

Course Description


Dave Miller/Claire Shigekawa Rennhack/Scott Wolf

Course Description

The studio objective is to expose students to Infrastructure as Architecture. This Arch 508, Research Studio is a design laboratory investigating the architectural potential of critical infrastructure projects. Infrastructure facilities – waste disposal, transfer stations, water treatment plants, energy facilities, transportation hubs – are too often regarded as utility complexes without architectural merit. In reality, they are architectural problems with tremendous design upside. Historically, large scale infrastructure projects have been approached with a segregated, three-step process – they are first designed by engineers to efficiently and effectively meet performance criteria, then” wrapped” by architects in a cost-effective manner, and lastly hidden from public view by landscape architects. In this typical model the design process is focused almost solely on solving the engineering problem with limited focus on design or how the facility relates to the context in which it is placed, resulting in
projects that miss significant opportunities to positively contribute to their surrounding built environments.

This studio will explore the potential of a more integrated approach with strong design concepts that frame infrastructure as public architecture. Students will explore issues of urban context, site analysis, urban design, state-of-the -art infrastructure technologies and the architectural design of an infrastructural facility including the development of professional communication skills in architecture. While challenging the students to envision what the infrastructure problem might become, this course also requires students to design buildings that fulfill the functional requirements of a diversity of occupants, while addressing life safety, structural and tectonic issues.