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December 21, 2022

Parsons Architecture + Design Students: the next generation of healthier materials advocates

Impressive work came out of Parsons Design Studios in Fall 2022. A few studios in particular caught our eye.

Juniors in the BFA Architectural Design Studio 3 worked on a project titled “A house is a Thermal Machine” led by architecture faculty Martina Kohler and Andreas Benzing. The students tackled a host of complicated thermal and embodied carbon issues and incorporated healthier materials into their projects. We have included two projects from the final review on sites in Blue Diamond, Nevada. Sophia and Marco created a space for environmental scientists to research the local flora and fauna. Alexia and Sandro designed a new center to explore healthy materials.

Project 1: Material Health Center

Students: Alexia Hernando and Sandro Tahhan

Alexia and Sandro worked on a research center sited in Blue Diamond, Nevada. The program is dedicated to studying sustainable housing using healthy, locally sourced materials. Its brick skeleton has a high thermal mass, which helps to keep the interior cool by reflecting heat outward and protecting the cool air inside.

Project 2: Environmental Science Center

Students: Marco Signor and Sophia Zaita

In this project, Marco and Sophia created spaces for environmental scientists to be able to study and research the local flora and fauna of Blue Diamond, Nevada. The scientists’ findings will eventually be provided to the public within the building through a series of experiences to help promote awareness and appreciation of the hot and arid climate and how these biological creatures are able to survive in such harsh conditions. The students used adobe blocks, a timber space frame to support the roof and an open wood lattice system as their primary building materials.

Second-year students in the Master of Architecture course, Construction Technology 2, studied how architecture can be regenerative and circular in its design by analyzing structure and building materials. Professors David Leven and Matthew Burgermeister prompted them to investigate how buildings can be a “responsible actor in terms of energy, carbon and health and a vital cultural operation at the same time.”

Students analyzed past, present, and future case studies, learning from high and low technologies that challenge waste, carbon intensity, and extractive colonialism through modeling with actual materials. Students worked in teams studying drawings and images to examine the structural systems that have been constructed. Then they recreated scaled models of the buildings using earth based materials (clay, earth, wood, stone, hemp, etc.) to understand both technological and design approaches. Some extraordinary models included the production of scaled bricks made from these materials.

In Materials + Performance course, 1st year MFA Interior Design students spent the semester researching and experimenting with fundamental materials used for design. Led by faculty Catherine Murphy and Jonsara Ruth, students researched raw material ingredients to understand their environmental, economic, health, socio-political, and other impacts on the planet, humans, and all living beings.

Students experimented with and manipulated materials engaging a method of play and discovery and an iterative approach which resulted in some fascinating discoveries.

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