Abstract / Concrete: The Materiality and Logics of Construction
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The recent technological obsessions fueled by the perforation of sophisticated structural, environmental, and visual computer simulations have re-ignited the interest in the realm of building performance. However, without a critical understanding of the physical processes of making, these new technologies tend to limit its potential by merely re-affirming the old functionalist thinking: predicting the predictable. Similar in response to the typical construction technology courses, introduction of these digital technologies early in the design education tends to accentuate amongst the average architecture student the "Tech School Mentality." They are often too concerned with the technical correctness of employing various software, distancing themselves from the opportunities for empirical exploration of design and making. In the design studio, this manifests in a manner where students are eager to meet the minimum "external" requirements (code, program, function etc.) but resistant to creatively explore the "internal" (emotional, experiential) aspect of the design on their own. This paper contends that the key in evoking curiosity and encouraging the exploratory behavior in architecture students in the digital age is to introduce a material based exploration in a carefully coordinated educational setting. It also discusses the methodology and benefit of integrating the hands-on investigation of concrete into a standard construction technology lecture course and speculates the latent possibility as a mode of design education though the examples from a course taught by the author at College of Architecture, Texas Tech University in the Spring of 2007.