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There is a slide I like to show at the beginning of the architecture courses I teach that provides an overview of the last hundred years or so in design and technology. In the left column, a car from the beginning of the 20th Century (a Ford Model T) is poised over a contemporary car (a Tesla). The middle column contains a similar juxtaposition, showing a WWI-era biplane and a modern-day stealth fighter (an F-117A). In the right column, Walter Gropius’s 1926 Bauhaus Dessau building is seen next to an up-to-date urban mixed-use building. The punch line, of course, is that the two buildings—separated by roughly 100 years—look basically the same, whereas the cars and planes separated by the same timespan seem worlds apart. What is the reason for this? Of course, a lot has changed in architecture in the last century, but many of those changes have happened at the material or technological level. In the close to two decades I’ve been practicing and studying architecture, I’ve had the fortune to work on many different types of buildings using many different types of material. I’ve worked with rammed earth at Rick Joy’s Tucson, Arizona, office, mass timber at LEVER Architecture in Portland, Oregon, and even built a museum in Los Angeles and a house in the Hamptons using FRP composites while at Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Each of these experiences—spanning different building typologies in different locations—has given me some perspective into the use of non-conventional materials in architecture, and about innovation in architecture in general. They have also shown that “material” and “technology” cannot be easily prised apart; even BIM is fundamentally a technology about managing materials and only secondarily about coordination and documentation. (In the following text, I will use them interchangeably.) View more View full description
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