Design and Make (Tectonics Studio Projects)


Outdoor Pavilion Project

The Spring 2009 Tectonics Studio was the first course that Professor Curry taught at Tsinghua University. He was teaching as a visiting professor at the invitation of Prof. ZHU Wenyi. The course was conceived of as more of a construction and/or design/build studio. The difference is subtle but significant. It has to do with how we understand what the teaching objectives are. The construction studio has as its objective, to teach students how buildings are made. The design/build studio has as its goal to provide students with the opportunity to design something then face the challenges of how it can be built by doing it themselves. The tectonics studio has as its goal to challenge students to emphasize the characteristics and properties of materials as a primary form generator.

The studio was truly a success. All of the students faced the problem of having a concept and a vision for what their design should look like (mostly from a Sketch-up model), and then dealing with the properties and characteristics of real materials that often do not “want” to do what they wanted them to do. The entered into a dialogue with the materials, sometimes forcing the materials to behave, and sometimes adjusting their design. By the end of the studio, there were the beginings of a new enthusiasm for making stuff emerging in the school.

‍Transformer workstation

The Spring 2012 Tectonics Studio was organized as a design competition sponsored by the German Hardware company, Hafele Corporation. Hafele provided hardware, technical assistance, funding to purchase materials, and a cash prize for the winning project. Professor Curry called Hafele China in November 2011 to ask if they would be interested in sponsoring the studio. After some negotiation, they agreed. The challenge with corporate sponsorship of a studio is that there are sometimes competing objectives: university-set learning objectives, and corporate marketing or R&D objectives. Both need to be satisfied, but never to the detriment of the student’s education. Hafele proved to be a cooperative and helpful partner, making a 3 year commitment to sponsoring the tectonics studio.

Out of 5 studio options, and 100 students, 88 students chose the Tectonics studio as their first choice. Our original cap was 16 students, but finally agreed to accept 24 students who were divided evenly over 4 groups. The project was divided into several phases: research into ergonomic and technical requirements, functionality and adaptability; ideation (conceiving how to approach the problem), modeling, at 1:10 scale; refining the design and modeling to 1:2 scale; getting technical advice from Hafele and refining the design further; finally fabrication and assembly. The 4 groups took distinctly different approaches.

Panel Wall

The Tectonics Studio 2010 Panel Wall group provides an excellent example for how the project works. The 5 member group first proposed that a wall is more than a divider, that the wall can perform other functions, storage, seating, a place to rest, etc. As they explored these possibilities the question emerged: at what point does the wall cease being a wall and become a piece of furniture; and/or at what point does the furniture cease being a piece of furniture and become a wall? The question is more than a tautology. It gets to the core of the creative process: to think differently about a problem. Often the biggest barrier to creative insight is our tendency to limit how to perceive the problem, and to approach the problem with preconceived solutions. In this case the question of “wallness” was challenged. And by challenging what is meant by “wall” these students began a discovery process that lead to a place they had never been before.

Pop-Up Shop

The Pop-Up Shop project is the 2nd project sponsored by the Hafele Corporation. Life on the street is ever-changing, ever-evolving, always adapting. New opportunities present themselves continuously throughout the day, from season to season, from location to location: tourists, holiday celebrations, convenience shops, magazines, books, knick-knacks, handicrafts, and snacks. A small business person needs to see an opportunity, be able to move fast, find a location, set-up a shop and start doing business before the opportunity disappears. This is the purpose of a “pop-up” shop.

Pop-Up Shop: Group 1

The design emerges from the concept of a “self-contained pop-up shop”. The shop consists of three panels organized with customized hinge joint. During transportation, the shop is self-contained as a “box” with strong mobility, while in use the three panels unfold and stand up as a space defining interface. Panel 1 functions as display system, Panel 2 keeps the removable roof panels when mobile, Panel 3 provides a desk for dealing. To gain extra flexibility and mobility, the solid boards with composite panels are replaced. The panels are made from pine wood frame structure, insulation infill, plywood surface, canvas covering, and aluminum edging, showing an elegance in craftsmanship.

Pop-Up Shop: Group 2

The function of this pop-up shop is to sell T-shirts that are packed in Coke cans. The basic idea for this shop is to develop a ‘panel system’, so that the shop may have better adaptability and mobility. To achieve that, the panels are designed to fit into four possible forms- 3 forms for selling in spaces of different sizes and 1 form for moving the shop. The shop could carry more than 200 T-shirt in cans and could be moved and assembled by one single person.

Pop-Up Shop: Group 3

Pop-up shops could turn up under any appropriate conditions in a minute. When it comes to the trial, a concept that all transforming processes can be achieved in quite an interesting way——PULLING and PUSHING.

Space and Form

This was the 6th studio over 6 years which explored the properties and characteristics of materials as the primary generator of form. The project brief was to design an object, 2.4 x 2.4 x 2.4 meters maximum, making use of at least 3 distinct materials, they needed to identify 2 adjectives that described the inside experience and the outside experience and they needed to provide for 5 adults to sit comfortably inside. Students worked in 3 teams of 6 students. They were allowed to spend a maximum of 5000RMB per group (about $800). The objective of these requirements was to encourage the students to engage with the materials as a means for generating the form. As the project was sponsored by the Hafele Corporation, they also needed to integrate their hardware into the solution as well.

Space and Form: GROUP 1

Space and Form: GROUP 2

Space and Form: GROUP 3