The Whither Installation conference was held today at Taubman College at the University of Michigan.  The conference focused on the affects installations by architects have had on both pedagogy and on practice.  Eric Hulman, Katie Balliet, and Chris Romano all presented during the pedagogy portion of this session.  Chris Romano presented his “Living Wall”  studio project.  This entailed groups of six to eight students designing a inhabitable installation that required both sitting and sleeping spaces.  It required students to understand basic structures, detailing, waterproofing, transportation, and material quantities; seems like a perfect integration between architecture, engineering, and construction.

Kristy Balliet presented a talk called “Dog sized models,” which required students to build 3 to 6 foot models.  Her particular projects were interesting in that they focused on topics germane to my own research, that of weightlessness and column architecture.  Her students particular projects involved creating a space station, in which the ground floor and the walls became intertwined in a radial plan (gravity no longer vertical).  Another project was a terminal, which required the use of columns to  provide wayfinding and orientation.   Kristy particularly focused on teaching students to be “explicit;”  a reaction, I believe, to the proliferation of new ways of making and the lack of surety in what projects architects are to focus on.  There is no longer an over arching mission of method, as there had existed in modernism.

Eric Hulman’s projects touched on a few of my own concerns, particularly how the architectural installation manifests it in architecture work.  He was particularly adamant about not “becoming installation specialists.

Installations do have many benefits to the profession, but there particular focus on material affect, rather than structure, which indeed is the backbone and essence of architecture, is particularly troubling; architects continue to surrender true building to the contractor and construction manager; only when architects learn again how to build will they be able to regain their influence in actual building, and not simply the installation.

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