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Students Design Explorations of Precast for an Extreme Climate

Guest blog by Doug Noble and Karen Kensek

2017 PCI Foundation Studio in the School of Architecture at the University of Southern California continued the tradition of examining precast concrete in the context of Joshua Tree National Park. 

Fourth-year undergraduate architecture students were asked to design an entrance gate to the national park along with a restroom facility and small exhibition spaces.  Joshua Tree National Park is about a two-hour drive from downtown Los Angeles, and the location presents the students with special opportunities to take advantage of precast concrete. 

Students were challenged to design for the extreme climate, the distant construction location, the fragile condition of the natural landscape, a high-risk seismic zone, and the lack of easy access to normal utilities such as water and power.  Students were forbidden to respond to the difficult climate with standard mechanical equipment.