March 17, 2015

The Revered Tectonic Model

Every winter quarter, there is a spectacular showcase of the craft that we, as architecture students, put into our work in the form of quarter inch scale tectonic models for Jim Nicholls’ Design Development course (Arch 570). The level of detailing, which sometimes isn’t achieved in studio projects, becomes fully realized in the every student’s model. We pour our hearts and souls into these projects not only for the fact that this is our creation over the course of a ten week studio, but also because it contributes so much more to the richness of our craft-oriented education here in the College of Built Environments.

Tectonic definition varied from studio to studio because of the nature of the projects themselves. For this quarter, the variety of studios encompassed many different ways to define tectonic, whether it be through a steel competition project, an emphasis on preservation, or a project with Seattle’s history at its foot. The program itself didn’t seemingly transcend the idea of tectonics, but rather the students’ design decisions that conveyed the tectonics in the final product. It is reinforced by the variety of different projects and viewpoints that people have taken, and every project is unique in the conveyance of structure and detailing. Everybody pulled out techniques from their entire tool kit – plaster casting, laser cutting many components, and hand building many details – all successful in the very end of it.

In an ideal world, we would have endless amounts of time to define all constraints of the project at hand, but time is always of the essence and while you try to explain to your friends and family that you have about a week to build these, they never fully comprehend that a full week includes countless late nights and early mornings until that deadline is reached. During the week when all of us dive in head first, I continually reiterated to myself that everything would go swimmingly. I had double-checked and triple checked my plans and lists, mostly for reassurance that I was correctly estimating my time to completion. I kept saying that building this model is somewhat like a drawing – you don’t see how much you have really put into it until that last 10% left to go.

However, it is in that last 10% that you walk around the studio and really see everybody’s model coming to fruition. The finished models displayed in Gould Court left many visitors gazing for quite a while, getting into almost every model to see the spaces that us students have created. I feel that this is the final payoff of the intense work and craft that all of us put in. It is in this department and this program that many of us have free range to go and design something that won’t necessarily become realized in the grand scheme of things, but at least becomes realized in a larger scale sense like these models.


Chris Morris’ tectonic model


Process photo


Process photo


Chris Morris’ tectonic model


Tectonic models on display in Gould Court


Michelle Yates’ tectonic model


Jesse Chapman’s tectonic model