A private company and a college team up for a new type of curriculum for architecture students that will enable them to think more creatively and become “makers.”

A private company and a college team up for a new type of curriculum for architecture students that will enable them to think more creatively and become “makers.”Design/bid/build is the framework we’re accustomed to in the beginning of a new project. But there seems to be a lot of missing parts. Architecture students are being turned into design geniuses, only to graduate into the cog of ill-functionality while lacking the basics of developing an articulated project from conception through construction. My company, A-INDUSTRIAL Design-Build, in conjunction with the Department of Architecture at Mt. San Antonio College, are providing a new type of curriculum for architecture students that will enable them to think and become “makers.” Makers are individuals who think and develop designs behind their set of fl oor plans. They have the mentality to understand complex components, assemblies, moving parts, constructibility and all prototyping behind just architectural design and model-making.

These resources are essential building blocks to get the future architects of today building their designs into construction tomorrow. By taking academia a step further into the world of design/build in conjunction with the existing realm of architecture, students are exposed to a streamlined “concept-to-construction” process while cutting out unnecessary cost expenditures typically found in traditional building processes, and at the same time, fl eshing out imagined designs to a “T.”

Our design/build studio at Mt. San Antonio College is a fastpaced crash course to articulated construction and fabrication of architectural components in a typical design/build “project delivery” method approach.

We aim to streamline the design and construction process, including unique design and custom fabrication with the challenge of completing a light sculpture. Students will have to utilize different construction trades and applications taken directly from the AEC industry building practice. Relative to a typical building, the students are exposed to the fundamentals of constructing a building from the foundation up.

We introduce concepts similar to a constructions class in any architecture program, but apply those methodologies to a semester course art sculpture. We create wooden formwork to cast a base of concrete for the sculpture (i.e. foundation); create plates and anchors to weld a stem (i.e. anchors plates, steel welding and post structure); and integrate a lighting element housed in a wooden structure (i.e. rough and fi nished carpentry and electrical). Each component includes a lecture topic and an in-depth case study presentation of one of our built projects, with an open Q&A with the students.

The in-depth class framework is as follows:

Design/Build Process

Introduction exercises start with tool safety and preliminary design. The class begins the design process for the project sculpture by creating conceptual, schematic plans and shop drawings. The sculpture will be composed of integrated building materials and built from industry-standard, construction-related trades. This exercise focuses on basic design tools (i.e. sketches, diagrams, CAD, drafting, 3-D modeling and rapid prototyping).

Building Foundation: Concrete

Next, the class reviews the design and sculpture on the basis of concrete components designed to hold the weight, balance and/or cantilever and then create the extension of the sculpture including the light integration. Concrete mixtures will be poured in casts/ molds to produce design forms with voids, with extrusions based on student produced schematics.

Foundation to Wall: Metal

We introduce students to metal working for plate preparation with metal base plates for posts. The lesson focuses on understanding the anchor systems and epoxies used in foundation systems. Then the students prep the concrete base for the metal base plate integration and post leveling. Students will provide details and sketches of proposed sculpture connections to be used as shop drawings for fabrication.

Beams and Post Connections: Welding

We cut, grind and weld the metal. The post/stem of the sculpture will be designed and built into a metal welding workshop where students will cut metal tubing that will be prepped, deburred and grinded for welding. Sanding and the angle-grinder will be primary cleanup tools working for this week.

Rough Carpentry: Wood

The class discussion and exercises focus on rough and fi nished level carpentry lessons, from rough 2-by-4-foot framing to seal coat on sanded hardwood. We introduce students to wood grades; differences in solid and plywood laminated wood; proper wood selection; identifying species and grain for fi nish use; plywood types; and different ways to fasten lumber, including but not limited to screwing, nailing, gluing, adhering and joining.

Students will gain basic knowledge in woodworking for sculpture integration in the form of the “head.”

Carpentry and Completion

The semester ends with the exploration into the various methods and techniques of fi nishing wood and metal. We review painting methods on different building material, spray, roll and powder-coating solutions. Prepping, sanding, cleaning, staining, coating and sealers will be introduced in this week’s wood fi nishing tasks. The class is then introduced to faux finishing with plaster and cementitious based products. We finish
the course with the completion and full integration of the entire light sculpture.

We explore potential composites and additional cladding/ components relating to the projects architectural language and design aesthetic. Students will prepare fi nal “as-built” drawings, sketchbooks and accumulated process drawings for fi nal course submittal. The last lecture will focus on similarities to real-world applications in substantial construction completion, punch list items and post-occupancy scenarios.

After successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

• Understand basic components of the architectural design process;

• Translate between 2-D drawings/sketches and 3-D models, forms and spaces;

• Demonstrate a basic knowledge of modeling and drawing presentations, including shop drawings used for fabrication;

• Synthesize design processes into a built object;

• Basic safe use and understanding of power tools used in today’s construction industry;

• Machining and milling techniques used in fabrication (subtractive and additive processes);

• Understanding of woodworking and metalworking techniques including carpentry (rough and finish) and basic welding lessons;

• Providing architectural students and future architects with maker know-how and building mentalities; and

• Basic understanding of the design/build process and execution.

Most students in today’s academia will not be exposed to many of these design/build hybrid elements. Overall, the course’s objectives are to enable future architects with the building know-how and maker mentality.

ANDREW HERNANDEZ is the co-founder of A-INDUSTRIAL Design-Build, a downtown Los Angeles-based firm specializing in commercial, retail and resident projects. For more information, call 213-290-0091, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or visit www.a-ind.com.