On the Seesaw of Design


As architecture students, it is important to research, understand, and design for the many different scales of a project. We need to zoom way out to understand how our project will impact the environment and community where it is placed, and also how it relates to other elements on the chosen site. Zoom in once and you begin to develop the overall form of the building. What does it look like from different view points? How much does the roof slope? What materials make up the exterior shape? One final zoom takes you to the development of details and construction methods that turn the building from an idea to a reality.

Without a balance of design development in any of these areas, you will be stuck on a seesaw, with your legs dangling in the air, or feet stuck in the mud. After desk crits on Friday, it became evident that most students are currently on a seesaw with unevenly distributed weight:


  • Half of the class has a strong focus on the conceptual side of the design. These students have an abundance of precedent studies to help develop the overall form and inspire material choices. Studies have also been conducted to design how the market stalls will relate to each other on the site and create unique spaces between them.

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  • The other half of the class has a strong focus on the technical side of design. Precedent studies show options for construction methods and these students have a good understanding of how the market stalls will be built, attached to the ground, moved, and/or converted to a new use. Many of these design ideas include options for shelving, walls that convert to roofs to provide shade, and connection details between columns and beams.


Our challenge over the weekend was to, like the Clemson Tigers against Texas A&M, tackle the hard questions and focus on elements of design that each student was previously avoiding. For studio today, it is important that all students get their individual designs to the same balanced level. What does the overall space look like? How much does the roof slope? What materials are being used and how do they inform details and construction methods? How can the space be moved and convert to be used in different ways in the future?

Once our seesaws have evenly distributed weight, we will have a beautiful balance and can teeter back and forth playfully as we begin to create presentation drawings and compose our boards for the review with our clients on Friday (as long as a hurricane doesn’t rain on our fun)!!!


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