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Hands-On Learning in a Pandemic The New Context for Teaching and Learning

The 2021 Precast Studio at Carleton University began in January 2021. University students jumped at the opportunity to work with Ultra High Strength Precast Concrete (UHPC) in the Precast Studio, led by Associate Professor Sheryl Boyle and Assistant Professor Jerry Hacker. The studio was predicated on making as a way of knowing, even if it meant doing table top sketches, kitchen sink models and backyard casting in the middle of winter.

Support by Research led by Sinan Husic

The Mitacs CPCI Intern for 2020/21, Sinan Husic, is developing a rich graduate thesis on the concept of digital and manual craft using UHPC. He also served as the Research Assistant and “hands on the ground” in the lab at Carleton. Research work dependent on lab activities was permitted to continue on campus which allowed Sinan to keep working with the casting and 3D printing concrete facility for the semester and was able to convey his tacit knowledge of concrete to the other students. Husic received 2021/22 Studio Teaching Fellow position where he will continue to teach studios for the school in the coming year. Collaborative Learning The architecture students worked in teams along with engineering students who volunteered to work with them on the CPCI Wellness Bench Design Competition. Husic assisted with helping the two groups find a “software language” which they could share and the groups enjoyed the experience of working in teams, even virtually. Three teams from Carleton University submitted their bench designs for the Wellness Bench Competition and one of the teams won the second prize.

Concept: Lightness

To challenge the typical understanding of concrete as a material that is both literally heavy, and also perceived as heavy and solid, the studio decided to focus on the underlying theme of “lightness”. By investigating the sense of lightness (the full sensory experience and not just vision) the studio aimed to open avenues for students to employ new design processes, drawing methods and fabrication techniques deeply rooted in material explorations. How does the architect position matter to create an aura of lightness? And finally, how do we manufacture these spaces embracing both traditional and liminal technologies?

Experiential Learning: Material First

In addition to the poetic trajectory of the project, students were simultaneously engaged in a deep experiential learning process working with their hands to mix, cast, print and explore UHPC. From the material knowledge they acquire, they then begin to address both the program of the work, the materiality of lightness and the fabrication techniques they invent in a united process of learning and

exploring to create a set of technical drawings for each project.

  • The students participated in CPCI’s first-ever Wellness Bench Design Competition and had the opportunity to design a precast concrete bench as part of the Studio program

  • The students were engaged in a deep experiential learning process working with their hands to mix, cast, print and explore UHPC

  • Close collaboration with the precast concrete industry via plant tours, demos and presentations

  • The studio used a skid of UHPC from precast concrete producer Spring Valley Corp.



Sheryl Boyle, PhD

Associate Professor

Jerry Hacker, MArch

Assistant Professor

Industry Partners

Canadian Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute


Spring Valley Corporation

Sika Canada

Student Statistics
  • A full group of 12 fourth year students selected this studio as their first choice

  • 92 students have been associated with the Precast Studios at Carleton since its inception

  • Sinan Husic received the Maxwell Taylor award for research into building technologies, and the OAA Guild Award for his work. His thesis research into 3D printing UHPC was recognized, and he was put forth as one of three students representing Carleton Architecture for the 2021 Canadian Architect Student Award.


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