Studio 5: Part I, Pedagogy

August 13, 2010

Studio 5, or Comprehensive Design Studio, is the final studio in the Undergraduate curriculum at Northeastern. As I write this, I am now, after many long and intense years, a diploma-holding graduate of the School of Architecture at Northeastern University. The work produced in this studio is the result of everything learned in the previous five years at Northeastern. Throughout this studio, we worked with a partner, and I was fortunate enough to work with my good friend, the one and only Jeffrey Montes. We were also lucky enough to be instructed by a professor and architect who was, for lack of better words, simply spectacular: Michael LeBlanc.

The thesis of this studio revolved around the idea of future/next-use and flexibility in architecture. The focus was to synthesis this thesis with the design and detailing of a fully worked-out project. To give some context, for precedents, we looked at old turn of the century brick mill buildings in the Boston area and Ando’s Mediatheque as examples of buildings that synthesized flexibility and future-use into systems and architecture. Our building needed to be responsive, sustainable, flexible, and long-use. The design needed to respond to site, to urban, climatic, and economic contexts, to spatial and programmatic needs, and to technical demands of material, structure, enclosure, energy management, ventilation (passive and active), lighting (natural and artificial), and construction, assembly, and future transformation and disassembly.

Pedagogically, the studio (similar to our Studio 4 housing studio with Tim) was reverse-engineered. That is to say, we designed prototypes of our systems (structural, enclosure, energy, circulation…) first, then aggregated, detailed, and refined it, and only then were we given our site, and finally our program during the last remaining weeks. Because of this time line, our buildings were inherently tested based on their future-use value. Much of the credit for the design of this studio goes to another Northeastern great, professor Peter Wiederspahn. The site was located at the dustbowl in the heart of Boston College’s campus, and our program was twofold – the building had to be able to individually house both an academic program with classrooms and offices and a student center program. By designing a building for two programs simultaneously, instead of just one, we were able to test just how flexible our project really was.

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