Building Science + Technology Sequence

Phillip Anzalone, director

The Building Science and Technologies (BST) curriculum is based on the belief that architects benefit from having a knowledge of building physics and technical systems, not only as utilitarian ends in themselves, but also as a means to help develop a building’s spaces, forms and expression. Building science and technology in the GSAPP teaching has been enhanced by a number of initiatives that introduce greater integration with the studio and history/theory classes. Teams of engineers are brought into Core Studios to offer feedback on student projects through the Roving Engineer program. The engagement with technology has become one of the central strengths of the studio program and a major source of inspiration to the wider initiatives at the School. All aspects of construction and building technology have become vital to both the school’s core curriculum and its research culture.

The six-course BST required sequence begins with three core courses (Architectural Technology 1,2 and 3) that outline the structural, environmental and material conditions to which habitable spaces respond, describing physical determinants of technical building systems. Next, individual building systems—including structure, building enclosure, environmental conditioning and information management—are explored in depth. For each system studied, various design strategies, materials, fabrication techniques and didactic built works are explored. Field trips, laboratory demonstrations and short design problems are used to augment in-class study. As both a qualitative and a basic quantitative understanding of elementary systems are mastered, the curriculum shifts its focus onto increasingly complex systems serving entire buildings. The sequences’ next two courses (Architectural Technology 4 and 5) help students develop an understanding of how technical-utilitarian systems are resolved, how they are integrated with other systems and how they inform a building’s spaces and formal expression—first through in-depth case studies of an entire building and then by the preliminary design of a industrial-loft block. In both courses, students work in teams with structural, mechanical and building-envelope experts. The sequence’s final course (Architectural Technology 6) is composed of an elective chosen by the student from a selection of classes taught by world-renowned experts in their field where students research a specific topic in-depth. The goals of the electives are threefold: to explore the potential of technological systems to impact design; to understand historical relationships among technology, philosophy, politics and architecture; and to take advantage of New York’s professional practitioners working with state of the art technology. The diversity of views regarding architectural science and technology represented by the school’s design and technology faculty is reflected in the elective offerings. Throughout the Building Science and Technologies sequences, students are encouraged to apply their growing knowledge to design problems posed in studio.