School of Architecture College of Design

ARCH 3250: MODULAR VARIATIONS: Computational Approaches to Molding, Casting, Tiling

MODULAR VARIATIONS: Computational Approaches to Molding, Casting, Tiling


Adam Marcus

Course Description:
This full-semester, 4 credit design workshop will investigate the impact of digital technologies on material practices of molding, casting, and tiling. The focus will be on the tension between standardization and variation that is architects must frequently address in translating design intent to construction. We will foreground this dialog and, using parametric design and digital fabrication tools, seek opportunities to introduce variation within processes of forming and casting, which typically generate systems that rely upon standardized repetition.

The course is a design- and fabrication-driven studio, intended for students committed to making as a primary means of learning, experimentation, and exploration of architectural ideas. Exercises will emphasize several aspects of the molding and casting process: opportunities for ornamental and decorative innovation, structural performance, material efficiencies, and driving variation with functional or performance-based criteria, such as light transmission or view angles.

Particular emphasis will be placed on developing workflows that balance both analog and digital modes of designing, as well as seamless transitions between 2D and 3D. We will utilize the Rhino 3D software package and its Grasshopper plug-in, which provides an intuitive, graphic interface for creating dynamic, parametric models from simple relationships between objects within the three-dimensional Rhino environment.

Students should expect frequent and intensive use of the workshop and Digifablab; the laser cutter will be our primary tool, but students may also utilize the CNC router, vacuum former, and 3D printer, as well as the full array of conventional tools available in the shop. Material possibilities include plaster, concrete, and plastic resins, as well as formed plastic sheet stock.

As a complement to the primary design component, the course will also seek to foster a broad, critical understanding of contemporary approaches to computation in architecture. There will be periodic assigned readings and discussion sessions. Each student will be responsible for presenting one assigned reading throughout the semester, as well as researching and presenting one case study of a relevant contemporary project. Students will also be expected to contribute regularly to the collective class blog.

Design exercises will be conducted both individually and in teams. The final project will be a collective effort that will synthesize techniques and potentials from earlier execises in the design and fabrication of a full-scale wall prototype to be displayed in the School of Architecture.

School of Architecture
145 Rapson Hall
89 Church Street
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Fax: 612-624-5743


Contact Information

College of Design

Saint Paul Offices

32 McNeal Hall, 1985 Buford Ave, St. Paul, MN 55108

P: 612-626-9068 | F: 612-625-1922

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Minneapolis Offices

101 Rapson Hall, 89 Church St SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455

P: 612-626-9068 | F: 612-625-7525

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