University of Wisconsin Milwaukee
The Spancrete Studio at University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee was the first precast studio and the inspiration for all the PCI Foundation grants that came after it.
In 2018, Spancrete opted to fold its program into the PCI Foundation programs
in order to take advantage of the national programming that the grants enjoy. Professor Gil Snyder, who has overseen the program almost since its beginning in 2006, used the excitement surrounding the development of FoxxConn coming to Milwaukee area to work with students on a new headquarters for the company that would include live/work space in downtown Milwaukee.
This studio is grounded in design exploration to a high level with the material concrete and specifically its application in precast/prestressed concrete assemblies. It took a traditional studio approach, with students working in collaborative teams for the semester. The studio experience is enriched by productive team work that closely models best practices in the profession today. The scale of the exercises and projects in this studio allow for ample individual expression within the context of a team project and all students are expected to contribute to a positive and productive dynamic within the team setting.
A sloped site in downtown Milwaukee provided students with challenges. Clinton Krell of Spancrete, who has been the chief Spancrete liaison to the studio, worked with the students on their designs throughout the semester, visiting for desk critics, touring students through the plant, and maintaining regular contact as questions arose. Other architects and engineers also provided assistance during the mid-term and final reviews.
Another focus this year was looking at how building technology was changing precast concrete design. “Advances in Building Information Modeling have blurred the boundaries between the role of the architect and the role of the contractor,” says Gil Snyder. We were able to use robotic equipment at early stages of the design process to physically prototype ideas to a high level of detail. An underpinning of this Studio is to gain a familiarity and competence with these new digital equipment advances.”