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CU Denver starts new precast/prestressed program

The University of Colorado Denver program will is to engage architecture student with precast prestressed industry partners in a meaningful and productive way. Allowing the students to experience first-hand the manufacturing and construction process of the system and to be exposed to the body of knowledge associated with it. There will be four primary components to the PCI Foundation studios at CU Denver.


Studio work will be the primary component through which students will develop project in consultation with industry partners and will give the students a thorough understanding of the precast prestressed construction system. Through the course of the studios students will visit manufacturing facilities and job sites to observe production and installation of precast prestressed concrete buildings.



Through collaborative teaching with the newly formed Construction Engineering Management (CEM) program at the University of Colorado Denver the studio would be able to leverage the expertise of the faculty from CEM. The CEM faculty would work with the design studio students on issues of project delivery, coordination and documentation in the design studio setting—an environment in which they rarely teach, while delivering content rarely integrated into design studios.


Special guest lecturers who do significant work with the precast prestressed concrete systems will be invited to speak at the College of Architecture and Planning. This will allow for the work of the precast prestressed industry and their contribution to the architectural field reach a wider audience.


At the end of every semester the work of the studio will be collected and curated in a final publication. The publication will function as a format to critically assess the work of the students and the pedagogical process used in the studio. The intent of the publication is to disseminate the work of the studio and to insure continual improvement in its instruction.


Over the course of the three academic years the studios will be organized similarly around research, design exploration and development and fabrication.


Students will spend a significant portion of the beginning of the semester researching the body of knowledge of prestressed concrete construction. The students will learn about the construction system, casting, delivery, and installation processes from site visits to precast plants, presentation by industry partners and through PCI design manuals. Students will investigate these processes to understand the limitations of the system and to identify design opportunities.


Students will spend a significant portion of the semester investigating and developing their design proposals. Through an iterative process the students will develop their design proposals at two scales: that of the architectural object as a whole and the scale of the precast component(s) that are being developed in the design. These precast components may be structural, architectural or integrated components. The developments of these components will be aided and informed by reviews and desk critiques from industry partners.


As a set of studios addressing a specific construction material and system, fabrication will be the culminating phase of the studio. In consultation with industry partners students will investigate multiple casting procedures and will determine the best casting process for their components. The students will learn how to document the component for fabrication and will cast it at multiple scales.


PCI Foundation Studio Themes

The studios will investigate a several architectural themes over the course of three academic years: Tectonic ExpressionProgrammatic Specificity and Spatial Quality. These themes maybe investigated separately or in conjunction with one another and maybe investigated as enclosure systems (facades), structural systems, and as integrated systems (structural enclosure systems).

Tectonically the studio will focus on the design opportunities latent in the concrete particularly the joints that are inherent in the construction system. There is much time, energy and materials spent concealing the joints of the precast prestressed construction system in many built structures. This studio will take an inverse approach to these joints and will investigate them as primary elements and opportunities for architectural expression.

Programmatic Specificity is the idea that the architectural element/object plays a primary role in the definition of how the space that it produces and organized is used. In studios addressing this theme students will investigate how to leverage the precision and controlled prefabrication of the precast prestressed construction system to design and develop an architectural object in which program is directly related to the construction system, thus going beyond the understanding of precast prestressed concrete as merely as structure or shell.

Spatial Quality is the third theme that will be investigated in the studios. The plasticity and precision of the controlled casting environment of precast prestressed construction system will allow to students to investigate and design architectural objects that produce and effect the spatial quality of a space through texture and the modulation of light. Such architectural objects could be vertical (walls and screens), horizontal (canopies or ceilings) or a combination in a self-supporting system.

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