Design and Make (Graduation Thesis Projects)


Under the guidance of Professor Curry from Tsinghua University's Architecture Department, fifth-year students collaborate in groups to accomplish their graduation thesis projects. These projects go beyond exploring and pushing the boundaries of architectural concepts and delve into hands-on construction, incorporating diverse materials and technologies.

Dougong Cube

The Dougong Cube Meeting Room is the work of three 5th year students worked together with Professor Curry over 11 months, starting August 2014 through July 2015. It is a research driven design porject where students indentified a project through which they could explore their research, found funding, conceptualized, refined, and tested a design solution; then fabricated, assembled and installed their design. From August through October students participated in a weekly seminar during which they presented their research. In November they identified a project. In January students proposed a design concept and sought permission from the school to build it. In January permission was granted, after which the students refined and tested their design, and began seeking funding. Funding was secured in February, allowing the student to begin the fabricating parts and preparing the site for installation. Installation began in May and was completed in July.

The students’ research topics included: (WU Chaoyun) the relationship between tools and fabrication; (HE Shen) the properties of wood, wood products and wood joints; (CHENG Kun) prefabrication and assembly systems. These topics provided the lens through which they framed their project. The final design included over 2400 individual bracket, 216 different profiles, traditionally joined door panels, customed design hardware, an intergrated electrical, light and audio/visual system, as well as sliding glass doors. All of the design, shop drawings, fabrication, finishing and installation was completed by the students. The fabrication process included refining the design. The complexity of the assembly did not allow for much tolerance. To compensate for this, the students made over 100 jigs to insure the necessary level of accuracy. To retain the cleanness of the form, and the clear expression of the bracket sets, it was necessary to anticipate where the conduit would run, how the glass doors would be hung, the location of electrical outlets, switches, light fixtures, etc. as these all needed to be integrated into the promary elements.

Magazine Wall and Discussion Space

The three students, Yuhai, Jizhou and XU Chen, worked together to complete this project while each had special interests. Yuhai wanted to explore how to define space. Jizhou wanted to explore the use and fabrication of curved surfaces. XU Chen (a late comer) wanted to explore prefabricated panelized systems. They could have each done their own project. But, they decided that they wanted to work together, each of them taking their own approach to a common project.

The students decided on a concrete panel wall, a glass display box with PDF readers mounted on custom designed adjustable arms, a bent plywood canopy, a laminated wood table and a metal “pin-up board. The concrete wall required over 60 custom make molds, all individually fabricated by the students from MDF using the CNC and using a heat press to laminate a polycarbonate liner. They experimented with numerous concrete mixes and add-mixtures to formulated the right color, surface finish and tensile strength. A custom wood press was build to bend and laminate the curved plywood canopy. A structure on which concrete panels are supported is designed with hardware for the glass box. The students sculpted the table and inserted a LED’s so that it could function as a light table to which the existing electrical and heating systems is intergrated.

Material Library

Student WANG Yunzhu wanted to expand her knowledge, familiarity and understanding of materials. Her proposal was to research and collect a cross section of materials used in architecture design, study them and then build a system to display them. Yunzhu observed that in fact the school had many materials samples, but that they were unaccessible. Not because anyone wanted to limit access to them. But because they were not organized, categorized, or centralized. Her proposal was to build a “materials library” that would allow students to have access to new materials and learn something about their properties and characteristics.

Her process was one of exploration: starting from posing an architectural question, to testing ideas, to adapting her emerging concept to a particular site, to making a proposal to the school administration for funding, to refining her idea, to building a mock-up, to finding suppliers for materials she wanted to use, to learning to use a CNC, to machining and fabricating parts, to ordering a complex piece of glass and supervising its installation, to sculpting a complex form from laminated plywood, to figuring out how to install the parts, to getting friends to help, to designing the display panels, to mounting the materials, to getting the final project professionally photographed.