Understanding the intertwined relationships that constitute a “place” involves studying that place at a series of scales. This paper focuses on work completed during the Fall 2011 third semester undergraduate studio at the University of Massachusetts that employed making at a variety of scales to engage students in a close study of their local environment. One pedagogical goal of the third architectural studio is to move students from formal abstraction toward the expressive potential of actual architectural construction. This semester acts as a bridge between the more focused projects of first year studios and the independent projects of the final three semesters of UMass Amherst’s 4+2 program. In the studio featured in this paper, students progressively moved away from abstraction, starting with projects that foreground materials and advancing toward projects that contend with site in increasing specificity. In doing so, the studio explored how scale-jumping - from building to detail, from object to body, and from region to site - can deepen our understanding of place. In contrast with studios that begin with tactile exercises and lead up to full building designs, this studio’s culminating projects were design proposals for intimately-scaled, site-specific installations. However, since the installations themselves would not be built during the studio, we sought specific ways to impart architectural lessons during the arc of the semester. We first studied architectural details from contemporary built work to ground the studio exercises in a constructional logic. Next, to understand bodily relationships to space, material, and craft, students then crafted full-scale cardboard constructions. Subsequently, to root their work in a regional context, students researched responses to post-industrial riverine city issues including planning, ecology, transportation, art and culture, and proposed their own systemic responses to our region. Finally, students applied these lessons to designs of site-specific installations that sought to intensify a bodily engagement with place.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/caryn_brause/4/