2021 ACSA Teachers Conference, Curriculum for Climate Agency: Design in Action

Building on Material: Towards Circular Construction in the First Year Design Studio

Teachers Proceedings

Author(s): Felix Heisel & Val Warke

The construction industry requires a complete paradigm shift in the way we design, build, and manage our built environment: a shift from linear resource consumption to circular material usage. This paper describes the integration of the theory of circular construction into the curriculum of a first-year Bachelor of Architecture design studio at the Department of Architecture of Cornell University, as well as the teaching methodology developed to facilitate this paradigm shift. At the heart of the development of the syllabus is our conviction that circular design and construction requires detailed material knowledge at the earliest stage of the educational process, so that it can become an almost instinctive aspect of design consideration throughout the students’ education, and one that might be further developed through electives and more advanced studios. Consequently, over the course of the semester, each student was assigned two design parameters involving (1) a raw material and (2) a reversible joint typology. The significant steps of the process are illustrated through examples of student work from the Spring 2020 design studio.


Volume Editors
Jonathan A. Scelsa & Jørgen Johan Tandberg