The Nonstandard Studio: Fabrications

ARCH 571 | Spring 2017
Assistant Professor Aaron Brakke 


The spring 2017 version of the Nonstandard Studio explored Fabrication (both definitions). On the one hand, alternative narratives for architecture were fabricated. In the words of architectural theorist Mark Rakatansky, students worked to “make real the imaginary, make up imaginary worlds in order that they can be constructed.” On the other hand, we fabricated, made, built and constructed prototypes and pieces of these worlds.

The first part of the semester was dedicated to studying regional issues that underscored the connections between local architecture and infrastructure with biology and agriculture. Moreover, students were exposed to UIUC’s contributions to the cybernetic discourse and to other research facilities that reside amidst the corn and soybeans. All of which position Champaign County as a peculiar node of world class techno-agro innovation and advancement. As this rich context was revealed, the capability of the existing built environment to embody the spirit and values of such a place was questioned. This speculative thought was manifested through a project that challenged the students to think of alternatives for the largest structures in the plains, the grain silos.

The second project developed required students to think about another vernacular structure - the log cabin. Tectonic details were studied and ‘part’ to ‘whole’ relationships discussed. The class was challenged to address the following questions: How can small scale interventions become place makers that heighten the awareness of the context in which they are constructed? How can urban acupuncture serve as an instrument to facilitate a critical discussion and promote speculation about the future? The class was tasked with designing and building screen structures that responded to the aforementioned questions. We worked closely with the city to develop projects that will enhance the public space when installed in downtown Urbana. Students gained exposure to a myriad of theoretical and practical issues throughout the semester. Important insight was gained into methods, materials and techniques used to imagine, conceive, develop, prototype and produce architecture.

Fabrication Coordinator Lowell Miller provided unique opportunities to learn about the lumber industry, details and construction. The Root to Roof initiative is proactively creating new opportunities for local and sustainable development through the use of local trees to create usable lumber.