Semester Learning Portfolio

A self evaluation of my progress in both ARCH 462 and ARCH 464. Here I go over the concepts and topics from each of these classes and organize it into a portfolio where I demonstrate what I have learned and am capable of producing. It is a important part of the learning process, where I reflect on what I have learned, how I learned it, and how I know that these concepts are now a part of how I think and design. 

Introduction

This semester I took both ARCH 462 and 464, introductory classes, looking at Materials and Methods of Building Construction and also Building Structure. The coursework covered in these classes are closely tied to a personal project of mine which helped me reiterate concepts that I learned from an intensive design build studio experience I had over the summer.

KaTO Arch Community Center Design - Concrete and Brick Cavity Wall System with passive sustainability solutions to minimize heat, increase natural day light and collect water.

Physical Model and Section Cut of the Community Center

During the past summer, I worked at KaTO ARCH, a design build studio that seeks to use architecture as a catalyst to promote education, placemaking and healthcare in developing areas. Lead by CEO, Kyle Murphy, we embarked on an adventure to Mexico to build a community center for a low income, social housing project. The project quickly expanded and we are now designing various other buildings to tie the community together.  As part of the studio and parallel to our project, we were taught about materials, building assemblies and architectural structure. It’s because of this experience that I got a new appreciation for physical modeling and architectural materiality. Coming back from the summer I was able to score a joint sponsorship with Arckit, an architectural modeling company based in Ireland.

Starting September 1st 2016, I launched a personal physical modeling portfolio where I am building one model a week for 52 weeks. All of these models are video documented and blogged on www.RikySongSu.com and YouTube. When building each model, the ideas of actual constructability and sustainable practices will be a huge influence on the design. In both ARCH 462 and 464, I really saw the important of "smart designs" whether in building materiality or in truss design. After the  first few models I was a bit lost in where to proceed but, the key concepts taught in both classes have helped me understand physical modeling more clearly even though we didn’t do any physical modeling. Understanding structure and the general mechanics of materials has made me think critically about the feasibility of each of my models. I now have the understanding of simple support systems and would be able to detail overhangs, cantilevers and simple post and lintel frames. I feel that the most important concept I learned in each of these classes was that every aspect of a building's Architecture needs to be interconnected. Both the form and structure informs the materiality. When both of these concepts are in equilibrium, the building is not only delicately balanced but sustainable. Understanding materiality is not reflected physically in my models yet, but it has had an influence on my decision making and incorporating passive systems to be hyper efficient with material usage. Watching the entirety of the Linda tutorials on Revit has made a huge impact on my computer modeling skills. Now that Arckit has a Revit extension, I feel confident in a program that I was struggling with over the summer. Now that I have a general understanding of Revit, I would like to move forward and learn more about the MEP incorporation into my design. For my physical modeling project, I feel that it would be really powerful to be able to display how all of the different systems cooperate with one another in a hyper efficient design.

 Sample High Rise In Revit, were I play with different screen and curtain wall assemblies to provide a balance between positive and negative light as well as acoustics.

Sample High Rise In Revit, were I play with different screen and curtain wall assemblies to provide a balance between positive and negative light as well as acoustics.

 Sample Apartment Building In Revit with a Central Core, Stair Case Assembly, Elevator Shaft, Interstitial floors for MEP equipment and Curtain Wall Assembly using brick and CMU construction.

Sample Apartment Building In Revit with a Central Core, Stair Case Assembly, Elevator Shaft, Interstitial floors for MEP equipment and Curtain Wall Assembly using brick and CMU construction.

In my personal project, I use Arckit (www.arckit.com), a physical modeling kit that conforms to modern sustainable design. I needed a tool that would enable me to quickly and effortlessly build up my ideas to see what works and doesn't. Many times I see that students continue with an idea because it would take more work to change or fix. Unlike traditional modeling with chipboard, wood and glue, Arckit uses re-useable plastics allowing for consistent reiterations and retrofits. To draw a diagram or see a computer generated model is one thing but, to actually hold it in the palm of your hand and touch it is an unparalleled experience. Though I wish there was the inclusion of physical modeling in both of these classes, my own project was sufficient enough in transferring what I learned in both of these classes to a physical platform.

 Arckit Model 10 - Residential Green Home

Arckit Model 10 - Residential Green Home

 Arckit Model 11 - Residential Green Home

Arckit Model 11 - Residential Green Home

The three basic principles that I got out of these two classes that I don't want to lose.

- Hands on learning in small groups and collaboration.

- Critical thinking and design with intent.

- Self Learning.

Each one of these Ideas was not only emphasized at KaTO, but in ARCH 462 and 464 as well. I really enjoyed the frequent small group projects that pushed for collaboration and research. Whether it was building a gumdrop tower, looking at concrete structural defects or researching the California Academy of Sciences, I increased my capabilities of being a team oriented individual. With both classes taught by Professor Ming Hu, I was inspired by her passion for architecture. She continually stressed the importance of critical thinking. In ARCH 462, it was through materiality and understanding how the properties of each building material dictate its use. In ARCH 464, it was through building structure where form has an influence on design. With the information taught in these classes, it is only just the beginning! I feel motivated to continue my education and also the will to learn more. With inspiration from both Kyle Murphy and Ming Hu, I am on the road to creating my own student group where I am opening up my project to students of all majors, teaching them about structure and design in architecture.

Right now, I have about 5 dedicated students of several majors. They currently meet with me at least twice a month for 3 hours each session. For the first hour, I present to them a combined lesson plan touching on topics from KaTO, ARCH 462 and 464. I have it set up so that after 12 meetings with me (36 hours), one will have the general knowledge of everything it takes to build a small house. For the second two hours of each session, we use Arckit to model a structure. The designs are mostly lead by the students and I check them on constructability and sustainable design. For the first few sessions, I let them get a sense of the kit and explore without limitations. When we construct these models piece by piece, they really get to understand materiality, constructability and the passive systems employed. They get a visual demonstration of a “smart design.” All in all, these two classes have re-iterated much of the key concepts I’ve learned at KaTO but, have also acted as a leap pad for me to develop connections and push my own personal project further. As a visual learner, I was able to use my project to help me visualize and solidify my understanding of both structure and materiality. 

Above is a Case Study Model of the Tiburon Bay House In California. The concepts covered in both ARCH 462 and 464 helped me when I broke down this house piece by piece to represent with Arckit. I was able to understand how the earth was removed to create the foundation as well as the placement of structural walls to allow the glass to be set in locations where direct sunlight could be avoided.

Above is a Case Study Model of the Casa Incubo in Costa Rica. From the concepts learned in both of the classes I was able to understand the structure behind the seemingly floating roof that creates an areas to combine 8, 40 foot shipping containers to make the dream home for a photographer.

While it is probably clear that much of my class work doesn’t reflect too much of my knowledge, it is clear that I’ve gone above and beyond in learning the material which can be seen in the many extracurricular projects I’ve picked up over the last semester.

Above are links to my physical model portfolio and blog where I showcase each of the 16 models I built this semester. They are In order by date of completion. With every iteration of model and blog, there is an added complexity and understanding of material and structural systems.


 ARCH 462 and 464 

Building Materials and Methods and Structural Concepts 

The major concepts that were taught this semester in 462 were Building Codes and Regulations, Technical Documentation, Envelopes, Materials and Assemblies. Through a few guest lectures we touched on the Financial Considerations involved in not only the construction phases but, the design process.

The major concepts taught in 464 during the semester were based in structural systems. I learned about different forces that building’s experience, material properties in relation to structure and also structural frames. While I have already taken several physics courses, It’s been a while since I’ve taken a math course. This class definitely helped me refresh my problem solving skills on the technical level and solidifying my knowledge about tension, compression, moments, shears, and formulations of structural frames.

ARCH 300 Final Assignment - I took a very structural approach to the assignment incorporating materiality and structural support systems. One is able to see the variety of materials that goes into creating a building which is reflected in the broken down cavity wall system on the left of the image.

At the KaTO Studio we learned about all of these categories and ARCH 462 and 464 were great refresher courses that re enforced these topics with a different way of teaching. At KaTO we learned about these topics both through instruction and hands-on learning. While I understand that It wouldn’t be possible to get the entire class involved in a real project, Professor Hu definitely did a great job breaking down the lessons and incorporating a computer design activity or a group project to add a relatively hands on approach rather than just textbook learning. Computer modeling or technical documentation was definitely my weaker topic but, through the several Revit homework assignments and completing the Linda Tutorial, I feel confident that I’ve learned the material. Its hard to teach computer modeling in a way that everyone will understand but, the Linda tutorials definitely worked very well for me. I will be working in a firm over winter break and I feel that my new technical expertise and my ability to articulate my ideas with the appropriate jargon will lend itself well. I’ve noticed that when I am teaching my students, I feel confident in the material I am teaching and I am able to answer their questions. My construction vocabulary has definitely increased. I feel that if you are able to teach the material without hesitation, you’ve learned it well. I am also taking ARCH 300, a Design Media and Representation class which in our final project I emphasized a structural take on an abstract assignment. ARCH 300, 462, 464 and KaTO have solidified my interest in architecture and I have looked at buildings around campus and in Washington DC and have tried to break them down in their materiality. I’ve done a lot of self-research on building assemblies and because of the information that I learned in class, I am able to see why these systems work both in their inherent materiality and their structure.

With the above images, one can see that I took into account of structural dynamics in laying out the floor plan to my final project. The building has an understanding of shear walls as well as the idea that a fully glass extrusion needs structural columns to support it from behind.

To see the final project blog post visit the link above.

With the four detailed building assembly drawings shown below, I draw out step by step the assemblies we learned in class beginning with the building foundations to walls and them roofs.

Architectural Design Skills

Building Foundation Building Assembly Detail

 As I mentioned in the paragraph above, I am able to communicate my knowledge to my students and I feel that I would be above average in professional terminology when working over this winter break. I will be working part-time for two different projects at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and I feel that I got these position because of my knowledge from these classes during the interviews. I was confident in the material that I learned and was able to show my skills visually through my physical modeling project. In one of the projects we are about 40% into the design stage for a public learning center in the NIH campus. We are beginning to discuss the materiality of the structure and I’ve been able to use my knowledge from ARCH 462 to provide insight into using a brick and concrete cavity wall system. This system would be able to provide the structure needed while also limiting the vibrations of medical equipment and lowering the cost due to the abundance of brick in the area. As for ARCH 464, I feel that when we are further along in the design stage and communicating with engineers on the structural specifications of the project, I will be able to keep up. At the moment, because of ARCH 464, I feel like the design that we come up with will take into account the concepts I learned and the structure will not only make sense but, will be material efficient.

Architectural Structures Skills

Green Roof Building Assembly Detail

Unlike my strengthened abilities in ARCH 462, In ARCH 464, I feel that I still am struggling in the calculations. I feel confident in the general concepts but, when I come to the hands on calculations, I still am a bit lost. It’s weird that I have the intuition of why certain structures work and how to make them but, I cannot prove it mathematically. I have a natural understanding to make thinks stay up but I cannot back it up physically. It naturally makes sense to me. I have noticed that my designs may be overly structured and for the purposes of limiting material, I really need to improve upon my math abilities. This is an ability that I definitely need to continue working on and so far I haven’t found an easy solution.

Learning Abilities

Curtain Wall Building Assembly Detail

In taking these classes over the semester, I’ve learned that I still am a very visual learner which needs hands on activities and real world projects to learn. I cannot learn from just a textbook and I can see myself taking concepts from class a working them out physically in my modeling project. In both classes, I really enjoyed the guest lectures which helped me see the topics we learned in a real life setting. The presentations about the Material ConnecXion library, the James A. Clark Hall efficiency, Hurricane and Tornado tracking for wind loads on buildings and the inspiring speech on melding architecture with nature are all concepts that I hope are reflected in my physical models. My abilities to work effectively in a group have increased and I've seen this through my abilities to both be a follower and a leader. While Iwill back up my own idea, I value the ideas of other and will listen to them with my full attention. Architecture is a combination of ideas and through this semester I've learned that one person cannot do it all.

Problem Solving Abilities

Wall Building Assembly and Water Roof Drainage Detail

I’ve always been a dedicated problem solver where I will persevere through difficult tasks till I find an answer. I have a very strong 3D oriented mind and this class has shown me that I need to work more on my mathematical abilities. While I still struggle in math and computations, I will try to see if I can incorporate this in my physical modeling project. By creating diagrams of interior spaces and trying to calculate different loading conditions and tracing loads for structural analysis, I feel that I will have a better understanding applying these concepts to a real model rather than just a theoretical case on paper.


Conclusion

All in all, the concepts in these two classes have heavily influenced my modeling project. As I am creating these models, I am noticing my progress become increasing faster. Not only is it motivating to see so many people back up my project through donations, YouTube subscribers and peer input, it is a reminder of why I switched over to architecture. I chose Architecture to build quality spaces that not only reflect sustainable values but create and environment that pushes toward, health and productivity.