AD Architecture School Guide: The Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia

AD Architecture School Guide: The Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia

MATAERIAL (shown in the video above) is "the result of the collaborative research between Petr Novikov, Saša Jokić from the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC) and Joris Laarman Studio. IAAC tutors representing the Open Thesis Fabrication Program provided their advice and professional expertise."

Most architecture programs focus on traditional degrees, ranging from practice-based Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees to the more theoretical Doctorate. But, until recently, there has been a void in postgraduate training that actually teaches fresh graduates and experienced professionals new technological skills. The Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (or IAAC) has taken an important step towards filling this gap with two programs: the Open Thesis Fabrication (OTF) program and the Fab Academy.

OTF, which began initially as an entry to the 2010 Solar Decathlon, explores the possibilities of creating structures entirely through digital fabrication. In response to that initial success, IAAC created a 16-week intensive program that occurs every year between September through December. 

Structured like an intensive architecture studio, it provides students with a forum to explore how design and architecture can be enhanced and advanced through digital fabrication. The results range from designing and creating entire spaces to full-scale wall systems. Project development is facilitated by desk crits and workshops with permanent faculty and invited guests. 

What’s more, because of its non-profit partnership with companies and individual professionals, students are able to work closely with a wide range of industry, design, and architectural professionals. At the end, students receive a diploma, but more importantly, they acquire skills that allow them to create not just inanimate objects, but interactive structures that can significantly improve the way architecture is practiced. And for those students and professionals new to digital fabrication, there is a week-long introduction. 

IAAC is also a member of the global Fab Lab/Fab Academy network, a program that originated at MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms in 2001. It is a 5-month, part-time diploma program that aims to train students from all professions to use digital fabrication. 

Each class introduces new equipment, which becomes the basis for a weekly project. For example, one week, students will learn to control an output device such as LED’s, speakers, videos, or motors. Building upon that, students subsequently learn how to make devices that talk to each other using USB, radio, or infrared communication protocols.

To supplement students’ hands-on training, they also watch MIT lectures remotely as well as lectures provided by instructors at IAAC and other members of the global Fab Academy network. Even better, student progress is evaluated not on class units or time, but rather on the skill acquisition demonstrated via the weekly projects (the projects also create a portfolio documenting their technical accomplishments). By the end of the program, students will possess the skills to not only produce inanimate spatial objects, but machines that can function independently.

All of this training takes place in IAAC’s Fab Lab BCN, a warehouse-sized laboratory that accommodates several different digital manufacturing machines. Specifically, the lab has several different 3D printers including the MakerBot, Mendel’s RepRap, and the Zcorp Z510. Its 3-axis milling machines include ones by Shop Bot, Modela, and Precix. In addition, there are two laser cutters, a vinyl cutter, and other equipment including an oscilloscope and welders. Even more impressive, students in the Fab Academy and OTF fabricate large-scale structures entirely within the lab. 

The Fab Academy occurs from January to May while OTF occurs between September to December, so that there is no overcrowding in the Fab Lab BCN.

Applications for the Fab Academy are vetted centrally, but each individual lab determines scholarship availability. Because the Fab Academy and its global sites originated with MIT and is still run by it, tuition is $5,000 USD which is exchanged into local currency. Individual certificates are an additional $500 USD. The OTF program is run solely by IAAC and thus applications are dealt with by the school itself. Standard elements, including a Personal Statement, Portfolio, CV and 2 letters of recommendation, must accompany the application. Tuition for OTF is 5,400€ and must be made by bank transfer.

Sherin Wing is the writer of ArchDaily’s Architecture School Guides. She received her Ph.D. in the Humanities at UCLA and resides in Southern California. You can follow Sherin on Twitter (and send her tips) @SherinWing.

About this author
Cite: Sherin Wing. "AD Architecture School Guide: The Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia" 14 Dec 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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