• Responsive Robotic Architecture 
Instructors: Philip Beesley, Richard Sarrach 
Students: 9 
Schedule: M, Th, 2-6; F, Seminar

    Credit: Mark Mahaney

    Responsive Robotic Architecture
    Instructors: Philip Beesley, Richard Sarrach
    Students: 9
    Schedule: M, Th, 2-6; F, Seminar

Who knew a bagel shop delivered to studio? It's 9:30 on a Friday morning, and nine sleepy fourth- and fifth-year students at the Pratt Institute School of Architecture are preparing to present their research when a cell phone chirps and one person makes a break for the door. "Is she coming back?" asks visiting professor Philip Beesley, down for a biweekly visit from the University of Waterloo in Ontario. The student returns, bagel in hand, and the conversation resumes as each student presents information on architectural theory, ranging from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's noosphere to Eric Owen Moss' efforts to, as Beesley puts it, "build [James Joyce's] Finnegans Wake in Culver City."

This is a typical seminar day in "Responsive Robotic Architecture," the studio Beesley teaches with Richard Sarrach. The goals are to examine the idea of performative architecture through concepts such as robotics and mechtronics (the commingling of mechanical and electrical engineering). The first day of studio, students were thrown in headfirst. Asked to put together a mechanized mesh system designed by Beesley's Toronto office, they were required to assemble the plastic mesh, solder the circuit board, and wire the system so that the mesh expands or contracts based on signals from integrated motion sensors. The mesh now hangs limp in the second-floor studio space, having been cannibalized for student projects. On the other side of the table, a tentacle is suspended from the ceiling; it curls up when it senses motion—"We wanted to make it a little bit like an animal," designers Xuedi Chen and Shawn Sims explain—and it could be applied as a divider in a flexible space. The most promising designs at the end of the semester will tour the country in an exhibition.

2008 Education Issue

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    Marywood University, in Scranton, Pa., has announced a new school of architecture, the state's seventh. The school, which will begin enrolling students for the fall 2009 semester, will feature a strong focus on sustainable design.

  • The Mentor: R. Steven Lewis

    Reversing the low number of minority architects, says NOMA's new president, requires addressing future generations through nationwide community efforts and institutional partnerships.

  • A Higher Education

    Architecture education is often criticized for different reasons by different practitioners, but its strength is the breadth of what is taught today.

  • Studio: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    Weijen Wang's 11 architecture students are getting a lesson in real-world school design that's not quite what they signed on for (just ask them). Not least because the clients are in China—in Sichuan Province's Beichuan County, which suffered a devastating earthquake last May.

  • Old School, New School: University of Virginia

    To redesign Campbell Hall, U.Va. architecture dean Karen Van Lengen hired her own faculty.