An Integrated and Collaborative Approach: Integrating Technology in Beginning Design

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Wetzel, Catherine
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Derived from IIT's historic model of integrating structures and construction in the design studio, the graduate degree in architecture's first year investigates relationships between material properties, structural typologies and space definition. The intention of the studio is to imbed integrated design methodologies in early learning experiences in order to prepare students for innovative and collaborative practices. Partnering with a guest structural engineer, students engage in a project-driven professional relationship. Students study prototypical structures through small-scale dynamic force models. The resulting project is an extensive design and construction problem. A number of projects are chosen for large-scale execution. Projects are chosen for construction based on their ability to test structural applications, variations of material exploration, design merit and construction viability. Beyond integrating structural and construction practices, the goal is to raise the students' awareness to opportunities in the complexity of contemporary practice, to provide leadership through research and informative collaboration, and to establish their role as a catalyst for innovation in the process. This partnership demystifies the separation of professional roles and situates the integration of architectural practice and material investigations within the beginning design experience. The studio appreciates the opportunity to lead the curriculum not necessarily with advanced problems but through early recognition of complexities in architectural thinking. Considering beginning design studios as something greater than a foundation has the potential of situating early learning in a larger context. When beginning design studios engage in issues of collaboration and technologically intelligent work, students are given the tools to advance their own education and the profession.
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