Semester Learning Portfolio

Introduction

This is a self evaluation of my progress in ARCH 465. 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. 

This semester I took ARCH 465, the second class of a Architectural Structures curriculum. This course highlighted popular building construction processes and material behavior. The coursework covered in this class was closely tied to my recent new Job at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and a personal project of mine using ARCKIT which helped me reiterate concepts that I've been learning from hands on experience in the field. As a very hands on a kinetic learner, I've had to take the knowledge I've learned from ARCH 465 and apply it to something more tangible. This semester, I was really excited that there where more hand-on projects in ARCH 465 (Structures 2) compared to ARCH 464 (Structures 1). Put into groups and over the course of the semester we built a spaghetti bridge, and origami tower and a cardboard swing couch!

Background

Last summer, I worked at KaTO ARCH, a design build studio seeking 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 in exposing structural components. Coming back from the summer I was able to score a personal sponsorship with Arckit, an architectural modeling company based in Ireland which really got me motivated to learn more about the possibilities of modular construction. This sponsorship jump started a 52-week personal project where I have been creating a physical model every week. Because of my experiences from KaTO, Arckit and Structures 1, being able to build, model and understand construction feasibility, I was offered a job at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as a Space and Design Intern which I accepted back in January. So, over the semester I've been commuting to Bethesda three times a week to work on site surveying for spaces that need to be retrofitted. I will also be creating detailed physical models to show principal invesigators various floor plan to choose from. While I was exposed to most of the content taught in ARCH 465 through KATO, It was a great refresher course to really lock down and bring back the concepts of what I learned last summer and apply it on NIH campus.

In ARCH 465, I really saw the importance of "smart designs" in building materiality. The key concepts taught especially in ARCH 465 have helped me understand physical modeling more clearly even though we didn’t do much 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 detailing material sizing depending on building and use requirements. 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. Learning about the Stuttgart Airport, I see tremendous value in exposing structure to enhance the experience of a space. Both the form and structure informs the materiality.

When both of these concepts are in equilibrium, the building is not only delicately balanced but can be sustainable. Understanding materiality and is not yet reflected physically in my models, but it has had an influence on my decision making and incorporating passive systems to be hyper efficient with material usage. 

The three basic principles that I got out of this that I wouldn't want to lose are...

- Hands on learning in small groups and collaboration.

- Critical thinking and design with intent.

- Self Learning.

Each one of these Ideas was emphasized in ARCH 465. I really enjoyed the frequent small group projects that pushed for collaboration and research. Whether it was looking for bio mimicry examples, building a spaghetti bridge, looking at case studies, designing an origami tower or cardboard swing couch, I increased my capabilities of being a team oriented individual.

 Joint detailing for our Cardboard Swing Couch. After creating a few versions of the couch and messing up, we finally decided to produce a simple yet effective design that was comprised of three, "L" shaped supports connected by three beams. Knowing that the couch was going to be exposed to more tension forces than compression, I made sure that we were putting material only where it needed to be. What was important structurally was that the beam sizing would be correct. Making the beams ellipses rather than circles allowed the beams to be exposed to more forced in the vertical direction.

Joint detailing for our Cardboard Swing Couch. After creating a few versions of the couch and messing up, we finally decided to produce a simple yet effective design that was comprised of three, "L" shaped supports connected by three beams. Knowing that the couch was going to be exposed to more tension forces than compression, I made sure that we were putting material only where it needed to be. What was important structurally was that the beam sizing would be correct. Making the beams ellipses rather than circles allowed the beams to be exposed to more forced in the vertical direction.

 For the spaghetti bridge, I informed the group that the noodles would act better in tension than compression, therefore building an inverted truss would expose most of our main beams to tensile forces. We focused our resources on areas of compression and again only put materials where it was needed. Even though we ran out of time and were only able to complete one truss, the bridge did very well because I applied my knowledge of structure and material strentgh.

For the spaghetti bridge, I informed the group that the noodles would act better in tension than compression, therefore building an inverted truss would expose most of our main beams to tensile forces. We focused our resources on areas of compression and again only put materials where it was needed. Even though we ran out of time and were only able to complete one truss, the bridge did very well because I applied my knowledge of structure and material strentgh.

Structural Concepts

 Green Roof Building Assembly Detail

Green Roof Building Assembly Detail

The major concepts taught in 465 during the semester were based in structural systems. I learned about different forces that building’s experience, material properties in relation to structure/structural framing and a bit of technical documentation. While I have already taken several physics courses, It’s still been a while since I’ve taken a math course. So like with Structures 1, though I struggle with calculations, 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.

Working in the NIH Architecture Firm this past semester, I feel that my new technical expertise and my ability to articulate my ideas with the appropriate jargon has lent itself well. I've been doing a lot of site surveying for remodeling a retrofits of medical spaces and knowing the terms that go along with building assemblies is extremely helpful when communicating with professionals. For example, being able to state the classifications for different steel beams and supports has impressed the people I work with. Its a great feeling when you feel can apply what you have learned in class into actual use. We spend so much time in school taking classes on topics that we won't really be exposed to and its refreshing to finally take a course that has some real world value. This new confidence has inspired me to continue my education outside of the classroom and I’ve done a lot of self-research on building assemblies. I am able to see why these systems work both in their inherent materiality and their structure. I love breaking down part of a building's structure and see how different assemblies are connected.

 Wall Building Assembly and Water Roof Drainage Detail

Wall Building Assembly and Water Roof Drainage Detail

Structural Skills

 Curtain Wall Building Assembly Detail

Curtain Wall Building Assembly Detail

Unlike my strengthened abilities in design the terminology, I still 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 still 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. I really appreciate need based design like putting material only where it is needed, and for that purpose I need to strengthen my mathematical abilities.

Problem Solving Abilities

 Building Foundation Building Assembly Detail

Building Foundation Building Assembly 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 and even my job at NIH. 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.

Learning Abilities

In taking this class 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. I appreciate the three main group projects were we designed a spaghetti bridge, an origami tower and a card board couch. 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 I will 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.

 Physical Model recreation of a wall section showing beams on two way floor slab systems. The left side of the image represents the final product while the right side represents the shoring needed for the site cast concrete. Do models like this that represent the concepts we go over in class help me visualize the concepts that are in play.

Physical Model recreation of a wall section showing beams on two way floor slab systems. The left side of the image represents the final product while the right side represents the shoring needed for the site cast concrete. Do models like this that represent the concepts we go over in class help me visualize the concepts that are in play.