4.112 | Fall 2012 | Undergraduate

Architecture Design Fundamentals I: Nano-Machines


Course Meeting Times

Studio: 2 sessions / week, 3 hours / session

Studio Overview

This studio aims to develop and further our understanding of architecture through the lens of nano-scale machines, technologies and phenomena. The Nano-Machine will become an apparatus, a device, a system and an architecture for understanding inputs, processes and outputs that can lead to the creation of space. Three primary engines of drawing, making and spatial investigations will be employed to elaborate on that theme. Different connotations of the “machine” such as an analogy, a system of working, and a device for decision making literally and conceptually throughout each project will be explored. This course is specifically designed to play off of the students’ non-architectural undergraduate classes by introducing a domain of investigation through which a dialogue can be created to span multiple backgrounds and applications. This studio will investigate the notion of self-assembly/self-replication/self-repair/self-reconfiguration and other such phenomena present at the nano-scale and explore contemporary spatial design possibilities through new developments in nano-robotics, DNA origami, synthetic biology, medical devices etc.

We will investigate the Nano-Machine with three projects:

  1. Critically investigating the act of drawing by developing processes and templates that will allow students to reveal the internal logic of the subjects they study—i.e., “The Drawing Machine.”
  2. Investigating the drawings as devices capable of shaping 3-dimensional physical objects and systems. The students will cast a series of constructs employing additive, subtractive and combinatorial operations—i.e., “The Making Machine.”
  3. Creating space by examining notions of the solid and the void, inside, outside, scale, context—i.e., “The Architecture Machine.”

Detailed descriptions, schedules, and deliverables for each of the projects are available under Assignments. Samples of student work from the Fall 2012 studio are available under Projects.

Students should also be able to engage with an increasing level of design research through iterative studies and move fluidly between different modes and scales of operation. Conventions of architectural representation and communication through drawing and modeling should be engaged with clarity and intention. Students will need to demonstrate basic application of design skills, understanding of architectural conventions, and ability to sustain an increasing level of research in the projects over the semester. Completion of each of the exercises, rigor in process and clarity in representation, as well as the overall progress of the semester will be fundamental factors in the final evaluation.

Required Resources

A variety of tools and software are available for the design process, which includes form exploration, modeling, and producing drawings. For Project 1, students will be asked to use Processing, an open source programming language, to develop digital generative drawings. Over the course of the studio, students are encouraged to develop their abilities in modeling their designs as well as producing representations and drawings using Rhinoceros®.

Evaluation Criteria

The following criteria will be used for the evaluation of your work, both in terms of helping your progress and in final grading.

  1. Thesis: How clearly are you articulating your conceptual intentions?
  2. Translation of Thesis: How well are you using your thesis to develop a spatial and architectural response to given problems?
  3. Representation Appropriateness: How well-matched is your choice of representational means to your intentions?
  4. Representation Quality: How accomplished are you with drawing, modeling, digital representation, etc.? To what degree do your representations convey what they ought to?
  5. Oral Presentation Skills: How clearly are you presenting your ideas orally, whether at your desk, in class discussions, or to a more formal jury?
  6. Participation in Discussions: How actively and how constructively are you involved in class discussions, both formally and informally?
  7. Response to Criticism: How do you effectively take advantage of criticism from instructors, your classmates and outside jurors?
  8. Auto-Critical Skills: To what extent are you able to critique your own work regularly and effectively?
  9. Attendance: Attendance for the full duration of each studio is mandatory. The studio is an exceptional learning environment that requires your physical presence as well as your intellectual presence. You are allowed three excused absences for the semester. Absences beyond the three allotted will result in a decrease in your final grade. If you miss six or more studio classes, you will be asked to drop the subject or receive a failing grade.


Project grades will be assigned according to the following:

  1. Excellent—Project surpasses expectations in terms of inventiveness, appropriateness, verbal and visual ability, conceptual rigor, craft, and personal development. Student pursues concepts and techniques above and beyond what is discussed in class.
  2. Above Average—Project is thorough, well researched, diligently pursued, and successfully completed. Student pursues ideas and suggestions presented in class and puts in effort to resolve required projects. Project is complete on all levels and demonstrates potential for excellence.
  3. Average—Project meets the minimum requirements. Suggestions made in class are not pursued with dedication or rigor. Project is incomplete in one or more areas.
  4. Poor—Project is incomplete. Basic skills including graphic skills, model-making skills, verbal clarity or logic of presentation are not level-appropriate. Student does not demonstrate the required design skill and knowledge base.
  5. Failure—Project is unresolved. Minimum objectives are not met. Performance is not acceptable. This grade will be assigned when you have excessive unexcused absences.

Studio Culture

Work in the studio will build sequentially. Therefore, commitment to incremental development on a daily basis is of paramount importance. Charrettes before reviews will not suffice. The demanding nature and pace of studio courses necessitates regular attendance and requires that deadlines be consistently met. In addition to lowering your grade, late work will prevent you from following the overall structure of the course. It is important that you take advantage of the studio environment. Magnification of your development as a designer is made possible by the collective nature of the studio. Working in studio, instead of at home, will allow you to participate in the dialogue of the studio setting. Group reviews are collective for a reason, as each student has something to gain from peer students.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2012
Learning Resource Types
Demonstration Videos
Projects with Examples
Design Assignments with Examples
Media Assignments with Examples