Capstone in Digital Technologies: Investigations in Precast Concrete

The latest university to join the PCI Foundation program is the University of Michigan which will begin offering a precast concrete program during the winter 2016 semester. The school will work with Kerkstra Precast and International Precast Solutions. 

This capstone studio is the culmination of the 2.5 semester Masters of Science in Digital Technologies degree and proposes an intensive team-based research project under the direction of the capstone faculty. The project is intended relate to the research of the faculty as a means to investigate innovative aspects for the application of digital technologies. This work will be executed collaboratively in a format defined by the scope and demands of the project. With a specific focus on precast technologies the course will have three main components: studio work including research and field trips, guest lectures and critiques, from precasters and guest designers, and publication of the students work in academic papers, industry conferences, and a final report.


The program will focus on several themes to teach precast concrete design, manufacturing and construction techniques:


Variation

Standardization in production was the hallmark of the industrial revolution. The ability to mechanically reproduce identical building components efficiently and quickly had a profound impact on how designers conceive and produce architecture, the effects of which surround us daily. Rather than denounce mechanical production and standardization of the modern project and lament the loss of hand craft, this course will explore how that it is through the mechanical means of standardization that the possibilities of digital variation are born.


Stereotomy

Students will explore the history of cutting shapes and forms from solids and how it has influenced design in various periods. Once the history is established, they will explore the ornamental and structural potentials of sterotomic techniques through the use of robotically controlled hotwire cutting and 3 and 5 axis CNC milling of EPS form and other model and part materials. These materials will be used to develop formwork for casting concrete elements for assembly. Additionally, students will explore the direct manipulation of concrete, following casting, through milling or water-jet cutting.



This studio will use the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan to explore how the two architects embraced new mechanical means of production while also highlighting ornamental expression that was both decidedly American and completely expressive of a new age. This studio will mine the work of Wright and Sullivan exploring the ornamental and structural potentials of precast concrete panels and assembly systems when paired with digital design and manufacture. In addition to formal design generation of ornamental effects, we will also consider the role tooling and the mark of the tool might play in the process.


This studio will mine the work of Wright and Sullivan exploring the ornamental and structural potentials of precast concrete panels and assembly systems when paired with digital design and manufacture. In addition to formal design generation of ornamental effects, we will also consider the role tooling and the mark of the tool might play in the process.


Techniques

Understanding and implementation of fabrication techniques and production methods in the development of the precast elements will be key to each studio. One of the intriguing potentials of the studio is the fact that precast touches upon a breadth of technologies and fabrication methods. 

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