Call for Projects


107th ACSA Annual Meeting  |  BLACK BOX: Articulating Architecture's Core in the Post-Digital Era
March 28-30, 2019  |  Pittsburgh, PA
Co-chairs:    Jeremy Ficca, Carnegie Mellon University
                     Amy Kulper, Rhode Island School of Design
                     Grace La, Harvard University
Host School: Carnegie Mellon University

Project Submission Deadline: OCTOBER 3, 2018 (extended)

ACSA invites project submissions under the following 15 thematic session topics + additional open sessions. Authors may submit only one project per topic. The same project may not be submitted to multiple topics. Projects should be submitted in relation to one of the following topic areas:


Ane Gonzalez Lara, Pratt Institute

Open architecture competitions are platforms that challenge the way we think about architecture. Accordingly, their usual short format also challenge and push the limits of representation techniques. La Villete, Sydney’s Opera House or the Vietnam Memorial (among others) are projects that have shaped our profession and that have enabled young architects to share their ideas internationally. Whereas winning a competition does not always grant a commission, sometimes, participating in such conversations is a great way to promote and test ideas. While winning a competition is usually conceived as the ultimate goal of participating in them, sometimes, the projects that are not selected are the ones that advance and impact our discipline most.

In Europe and South America, architecture competitions are a common way of generating and promoting new and young architecture firms. A large number of architecture offices in these regions have emerged after winning an open architecture competition and being commissioned with the design of the project afterwards. In the United States, however, open competitions without a prior RFQ are hardly found in the realm of our practice. This system favors the more senior offices with more staff and experience leaving almost no room for participation to younger offices.

While some offices and schools promote participation in design competitions, others argue that competitions are a way to produce free labor to the detriment of our profession. In 2014, the competition to propose a Guggenheim museum in Helsinki generated 1,715 entries on its first stage, ranking as the competition with the most entries of all time. This competition generated multiple opinions regarding the value of architectural competitions and their benefit to our profession. In the article published at The Avery Review titled The Guggenheim Helsinki Competition: What is the Value Proposition? (link), Peggy Deamer argued that “[i]t is not the particularly poor odds at work here but rather the fact that we subscribe to a savior myth that deflects us from dealing with our essential economic precarity, which prevents us architects from applying our valuable time to productive things. (…) In the case of the Helsinki competition, the value of the free-labor hours put in by all the entrants combined could be donated to, say, developing a new amphibious community to survive sea-level rise”.

While the chances of winning an open architecture competition are fairly low, there is still a large number of firms, sole practitioners and schools that defend this method of generating new projects, but are architectural competitions a positive tool that promotes the practice of architecture? Or are competitions working to the disservice of the profession? Does this mode of generating free labor provide any good service to architects? Should architectural competitions be promoted at architecture schools or be abandoned altogether?

This session invites proposals that examine the outcomes of participating in open architecture competitions, the use of architectural competitions in design studios, case studies, proposals and design-research that explore the opportunities and challenges of participating in open architectural competitions.

Material Frontiers

Gail Peter Borden, University of Houston

The role of materiality in architecture is paramount in contemporary discourse. The engagement of the physicality of matter with emergent processes of digital design and fabrication has bred a new architecture of effectual tactility. The essentialism of this engagement with material through new digital agendas has produced a new architectural methodology. This session topic seeks projects founded in the relationship between the virtuality of the digital and tactile effect of physical materiality. Confronting the role of meaning in making, the focus of this session is precedent based investigations [historical, pedagogical, theoretical, or built] that celebrate the inter-relationship of architecture and materials.

This introduction of materials into the design process not simply as a means of execution but as a collaborative partner in the design process has changed the significance of their presence in architectural thinking. Arguing for a "new materialism" the traditions of historical methods of construction as well as emerging material technologies is allowing for greater functional, physical and spatial capabilities.

The role of vernacular thinking, economics of production, conventions of construction and project delivery are all fertile territory for the rethinking of a material architecture. Beginning the conversation with the material itself, evolving to the development of the part [periodic form] and the systemization of this to the control and effect of systematized assembly to produce a collective effect [global form]: the relationship of the matter to the part, the part to the system, and the system to the whole become the primary scales of engagement.

The evolution of visualization, simulation, parametric design and fabrication has elicited a response from materials. The translation from the digital to the physical through fabrication and construction requires a new dialogue with materials - one founded in testing and experimentation. The material response to form and function has accelerated to meet the challenges of digital systemization and performance. The physical practicalities and issues emerging from this translation are of paramount importance in the ability of the translation. Concerned with the development of both the conversion from the conceptual to the applied and the digital to the material [projects could include either or both] the conversation is rooted firmly in the resulting impact on the tactile, phenomenological, spatial and experiential. This session will focus on this new lens through which to view architecture.

This topic seeks projects that are intrinsically engaging the potential of material. Encouraged methods / projects for discussion will include: historical material precedents, economies of from and fabrication, design build fabrications, translations from digital to physical, material investigations, and any projects that celebrate digital, matter and material processes in architectural production.

Being Versus Becoming the Core of Architecture

David Fannon, Michelle Laboy, & Peter H. Wiederspahn, Northeastern University

“The problematization of time entails a challenge to the primacy of the role of space, and the reintroduction of the classical problem of becoming in opposition to that of Being.”
—Sanford Kwinter Architectures of Time

While superficially a discipline concerned with the shaping of space, the core of architecture lies in design of time, particularly seeking to reify a desired future through the means of the physical environment. We think of buildings as permanent, as establishing the world, as constructing reality. Architecture assumes not only the idealism of creating a different world, but that the cultural and practical actions of making will inscribe a permanent mark, a territorial transformation, that creates a new world. Yet the world we seek to change was itself created, the process of building is itself change, and even durable buildings are never static. Stewart Brand described a building as something started but never finished, and indeed, there is no key moment when a building can be described as complete as they evolve forever, fitfully. The act of building is in fact only the beginning of a process of persistent transformation. This tension is the core of architecture: to stand amidst the already-present, to imaging the not-yet, and to seek to mold the yet-to-be. Architecture often assumes that changes, once made, will be permanent and eternal, when in fact the only permanent thing is inexorable change itself. Absent from both architectural pedagogy and practice is an explicit response to buildings over time and the inevitable transformations of use, technologies, cultural and economic demands. What role can design research play in this problem of being versus becoming? How does it expand the possibilities of that imagined future, or incorporate its changefulness? What methods are appropriate for and unique to these questions of time and space, change and constancy?

We welcome a range of research approaches and results that interrogate architecture’s core of being and becoming from theoretical, practical, or instructional directions. Projects and project that addresses the tension between being and becoming and/or anticipate or participate in change over time are particularly welcome.

Computer Composition: Design After Machine Learning

James D. Macgillivray & Wei-Han Vivian Lee, University of Toronto

In his wide ranging study Composition and Non-Composition, Jacques Lucan describes how essential composition has been to the discipline and practice of architecture but also how it has changed and evolved. His definition has it that “In architecture, to compose is to conceive a building following principles or rules that certain architects have attempted to set forth.” Symmetry, balance, the grid and type, even non-composition--the principles change over time, evolve or are completely discarded. These provisional rules differentiate the field within which the architect can act with certain constraints. Later the same principles become the criteria by which the design of the building are evaluated.

With the ascendance of data in design methodologies of the academy and practice, the architect’s field of action is similarly prefigured, albeit at the behest of automated processes of data visualization. Similarly the evaluation of the architect’s design can be accomplished through the use of building information modeling. Even if the reality is far more human than the current rhetoric claims they are, the message is clear: what was once the purview of human principles and rules is now far too complex and would be better accomplished by automated means.

Needless to say, these concerns for complexity--the speed with which computer automation can dispatch problems of firmitas and utilitas--are eclipsed by the fact that venustas appears to be within the reach of the robot as well. That is to say that the act of composition, this act that is the stubbornly human part of architecture’s core, is ultimately only a matter of laws which can be easily learned by artificial intelligence. Many architects write code for a parametric system that results in many iterations from which they choose the final form. This act of choice, something Amazon’s mechanical turk utility would call a “Human Intelligence Task” is tantamount to a kind of composition. The fact that we can’t program the last step seems to safeguard and accentuate its essentially human nature, but also more clearly delineates it as the quarry of machine learning’s slow but inevitable conquest.

This session is looking for projects that explore how automated processes, be they parametric, based in information modeling or artificial intelligence, have affected the process of composition. If your design method has integrated the use of automated processes, when does it do so and under what conditions? Do you give the robot full control and discretion to make decisions on the appearance or arrangement of a project or is it actually controlled and circumscribed by a human author? Where do you draw the line between low level tasks (eg: the automated scripting of window aperture size relative to desired daylighting targets) and high level tasks (eg: the overall appearance of the building or its spatial sequence)? Through an honest discussion of design methods this session aims to determine whether the composition of architecture is at some level still the work of humans or if our own design agency is ultimately more ornamental than we thought.

Thesis or Moonshot? Breaking the Traditional Portfolio to Practice Pipeline

Matthew Claudel & Anthony P. Vanky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

For many, the portfolio is a rite of passage. But some notable figures in the discipline of architecture – Philip Johnson, Moshe Safdie and Thomas Heatherwick among them – have short-circuited the traditional path to practice. Building their theses vaulted them into the architecture profession, and launched their careers. With some mixture of luck and skill and tenacity, they “hacked” architectural pedagogy. They didn’t make a portfolio – they made the entrepreneurial moonshots that would lay foundations for a career.

We observe, polemically that these audacious young architects are the exception. Why has the architectural education system done so little to give more agency to students in practice?

Now is the moment to critically examine the question of education’s “deliverable;” what students walk away with, in addition to a diploma. Architectural practice is tumbling through a dizzying kaleidoscope of change. Tools like rapid prototyping and digital production are enabling experimentation and fabrication at a low cost. The path from concept to execution is shrinking; the distance between design proposition and product (or practice) is trivial. The MIT Media Lab has tracked (or, perhaps, driven) this shift in its wry twist on “Publish or Perish”: students are encouraged to “Deploy or Die.” Meanwhile, a tide of entrepreneurship centers, hackathons and venture resources is rising, especially on university campuses. There is an embarrassment of riches at the fingertips of students who have bold ideas. If the role of architects (even architecture itself) is being redefined, how can our schools respond? How can they empower students and expand opportunities?

This session will explore institutional programs at the overlap of learning and practice. It invites projects and approaches that examine how pedagogy has responded to technological, social, spatial, and political opportunities for deployment, and how programs have engaged the path to practice (or at least blurred the boundary between them). This session invites projects, case studies, and proposals that explore mechanisms for implementation across an architectural curriculum and/or within a design pedagogy. It questions whether the path that Philip Johnson, Moshe Safdie and Thomas Heatherwick followed was the right one at all. Deploy or die… folly or critical path 1?

1 R. Buckminster Fuller. Critical Path. St. Martin's Press, 1981.

Delirious Data

McLain Clutter, University of Michigan

The briskly paced decades since data emerged as a prominent subject in architecture and urbanism have witnessed sufficient discourse around the topic for predictable patterns to emerge. One side of the ideological spectrum argues that data-enabled algorithms will usher forth a techno-utopian future of smart cities, expanded access, sustainability, efficient governance, and highly performative architecture. Our built environments will sense, predict our needs, and integrate feedback into an optimized total system draped in a polite left-of-center Macintosh-modernist aesthetic. At the same time, the opposite of the ideological spectrum routinely cautions that data collection and instrumentalization practices are conspicuously intertwined with corporate interests, that they threaten the privacy of urban residents, that they flirt with authoritarianism in their means of spatial control, and that they impose a narrow epistemological regime – privileging extant quantitative variation over latent qualitative difference. Such arguments seek to find agency in the outrage of their audiences. Somewhere in-between, data is simply held up as yet another tool for ostensibly autonomous formal generation amongst a set habitually averse to politics in their aesthetics.

Even while the above silos of thought become conventionalized, the proliferation of data production by our buildings, cities, and publics – as well as corporate and governmental data mining, cutting, aggregating, buying, and selling – grows evermore vast. The ground truth of such rapid expansion renders conventional ideological proclivities toothless. We do live in a near-seamless total system of data production, aggregation, and predictive analytics. And yet this system is optimized to send you a push notification for a dollar-off coupon for a Frappuccino when within a quarter mile of your local Starbucks, not to usher in a techno-utopian future. And while data production and instrumentalization practices are indeed complexly intertwined with corporate interests, the general public is not outraged. They enjoy the Frappuccino. Meanwhile, the impact of architecture’s digital and parametric formalists pales in comparison to that of the everyday data manipulation in architectural practice in the form of Building Information Management softwares and their performance simulation extensions. Indeed, data is everywhere in architectural practice and urban space. Not foregrounded as topic and technique, but ever present in the background as a ubiquitous and pervasive context.

This session seeks projects that articulate alternative trajectories for data in architecture and urbanism – novel approaches to our present data-density that might reformat present disciplinary discourse. The session is less interested in how to make architecture with algorithms that in how to make architecture in a contexts where algorithms make everything. What are architecture’s statistical imaginaries? What might constitute a data-based critical contextualism? What aesthetic regimes might emerge from the ubiquity of data in the architectural and urban spheres? How can we hack the system and to what effect? What would it mean if data management were at the core of our discipline? If the new metropolitan type is the data-blasé, what’s at stake for the architecture of the city?

Draw(in)g to a (W)hole

Nathan Hume, University of Pennsylvania

Remember when the digital revolution made drawing obsolete, absolutely killed the drawing once and for all? Orthographic projection left the field, plan obliques were never heard from again, and sections became a quaint idea from the past. Rich centuries long traditions of skill, convention, and expertise upended. The traditional academic sequence of moving from hand sketching to drafting plans, expanding to paraline drawings and then constructing perspectives was obliterated. The history of representation no longer needed and therefore replaced by software tutorials and digital fabrication courses. A new path for the production of architecture clearly laid open. Except strangely a bunch of architects wouldn't let go, especially the younger ones. They concerned themselves with history and even the politics of representation. Their students started drawing isometrics again and they even forgot that collage had died. Titles of recent events and essays confirm the confusion over the apparent death and then refusal to let drawing go gently into the night – Is Drawing Dead, Drawings' Conclusions, Post Digital Drawing, Drawing Futures, The Drawing Show!

Some of these tendencies are a reaction against the wave of digital imagery from the last two decades. The backlash produces a certain amount of concern about this being a regressive phase. After all, the prefix 're' has been thrown around a lot lately in the field – resist, return, retreat, recycle, redux, repeat, revival. But even in the most nostalgic examples the techniques and processes are completely overhauled through new technology and platforms. If the teaching of drawing now includes augmented reality and information modeling alongside pastel isometrics, what are the potentials for representation as a fundamental aspect of the discipline? Drawings and pictures have become more synonymous. The same pixels which form today's photos, videos, and graphics also construct those isometrics. This overlap is apparent in the ways photos, drawings, and videos coexist on the same platforms of virtual dissemination and consumption, a condition which seems to be giving drawings an audience as large as ever. The current reappraisal of representation and absorption of new tools into the field present a ripe moment for questioning drawing and its role at the core of architecture.

Robin Evans's statement that “Architects don't make buildings; they make drawings of building”1 still holds true although his diagram can now be expanded beyond the traditional projection methods to include these new realms of visualization. There are many questions to attack in this session. What territory can representation operate on and how can that potential be expanded? In a culture awash with images how do we productively operate and instigate? What are the politics of drawing, the image, and representation? How do we engage a generation of students with the power of drawing and image making? What lessons from our powerful history of representation are resonant right now? How has the drawing been changed by technology and culture in the past two decades? How can the teaching of it reflect more intensely those changes?

Architecture, Engineering and the Multiplicity of the Creative Process

Brett Schneider, Rhode Island School of Design

Architecture is not simply the work of architects. It requires an orchestra of designers including architects, engineers (of many types), and many other specialists. The interplay between these participants can become an active and positive influence on the overall design process. For instance, why is it that Louis Kahn’s best work resulted from his collaboration with the structural engineer August Kommendant? In part, the answer is that strong creative voices in aligned fields can have a complementary effect where the end result is greater than the sum of the contributing parts.

For the purpose of this discussion, we can model the design process as simply the translation of an idea into an output. There are a series of Banham’s black boxes – one for each discipline. The creative process which lies in each is not easily decoded but the interaction between them does perhaps provide important clues to their contents. Like a star orbiting a black hole it is the interaction that provides evidence of the black hole that cannot be directly observed. How can we consider interaction between these processes of related disciplines in the same way as the star and the black hole?

In a case like Kahn and Kommendant, the base idea for the work is a shared one, but it is translated differently within each of these black boxes. It is through this shared basis in an idea (or model) that these processes are entwined and to which they must return. Note that this requires an engagement not guaranteed in conventional practice where design processes may seek independence for efficiency or other reasons.

Schools of architecture in particular are filled not just with architects, but also engineers, coders, drawers, writers, theorists, artists, etc. How do we affect each other? This session seeks participants from both architecture and related disciplines/fields to discuss this interaction through examples of collaboration – conventional and unconventional. How do the tools of each field react to the limits imposed by others? How does the perspective of each designer change based on interaction with others? The hypothesis is that separate disciplines are enriched by this interaction and that this interaction can be identified, interrogated, and built upon as we develop.

After the Flow - Architectural Urbanism(s) in the Post-digital Era

Martin Haettasch, University of Texas at Austin

In recent years – maybe as a reaction to the boundless expansion of the field of architecture into territories, flows, and networks – there has been a renewed interest in (re)defining architecture’s disciplinary core. Yet, this expansion of the discipline from the 1990’s onward also enabled a rich and diverse set of practices and research to integrate urbanism, infrastructure, landscape, and architecture by blurring boundaries between architecture and urbanism, object and city, organization and form.

In light of a debate refocused on architecture’s (disciplinary) core, the question inevitably arises how this new focus will impact architects’ thinking about the city. Maintaining that there is an intrinsic link between architecture and the city, this session proposes to interrogate possible natures of the relationship between architecture and urbanism beyond the digital paradigm and its focus on networks, informality, “softness”, and parametric strategies.

The current debate echoes – to an extent – a paradigm shift that took place in the 1960’s, when a systemic thinking about the city (exemplified, for example, by Team 10’s seamless integration of the architectural and the urban scale, or Reyner Banham’s systems-driven approach to a holistic habitat) gave way to rethinking the discrete architectural object in the city through the lens of morphology typology, or monumentality, in the work of a new generation of architects such as Aldo Rossi or O.M. Ungers. Coupled with an increased focus on what Ungers called “architectural problems” this shift opened up a new perspective on the postmodern city as a multilayered, dialectic, and often fragmented entity.

Is today’s shift (back) towards architecture’s core equally indicative of a paradigm shift regarding architecture’s role in the city? If so, can we still learn from past strategies, or do we have to invent new ones? And most importantly, what can a (re)articulation of architecture’s core teach us about the city today?

This session seeks to collect and disseminate strategies, projects, and research that address the question of architecture’s agency in the city from within architecture’s core. The tentative framework of an “architectural urbanism” may include questions of the agency of the formally finite object in the city, monumentalities, urban acupuncture or other strategies at a scale between architecture and urbanism. Speculations on the architectural object in the city are as welcome as speculations on the city as architectural object. We are particularly interested in research that draws upon architecture’s core competencies and/or methods (including, but not limited to form, space, and representation) in order to enable new ways of engaging with the city that may not typically be considered traditional instruments of urbanism.

Geometry, the Metrics of Space and Its Architectural Instruments

Joel Lamere, University of Miami

It is tempting to cast the discipline of geometry as a co-conspirator in the excesses of the digital project. The digital turn was accompanied, after all, by breathless proclamations of the promise of “digital formalism,” and “topological space.” The prominent discourse of that moment, as exemplified in Greg Lynn’s Animate Form from 1999, spuriously argued that digital processes, and particularly the capacity of computers to handle complex calculus-based curvature, completely liberated architectural form from its earlier constraints. In this framework, newly-describable geometries are directly responsible for shedding many criteria that previously conditioned architecture.

The consequences are clear: prolific output, through parametric and computational methods that champion endless variation and indeterminacy. As such, the problem of critiquing, characterizing and qualifying these myriad manifestations of digital prowess still looms large over our generation. The discipline is left in need of a richer framework for closely reading and critically assessing this immense output. The post-digital response, as an antidote to the formal exuberance and unrelenting techno-optimism of the digital project, has revitalized debates around representation, reference, symbolism and narrative. Though fashionable, these pre-occupations are also deliberately regressive.

But it was the rhetorical misuse of geometry, not geometry considered more carefully, that contributed to our predicament. Running counter to the prevailing posture of the digitalists, Bernard Cache offered:

“Willingly or not, architects measure things, and this implies a metric. To be sure, we may want to remind ourselves of the formless topological background common to all saturated geometries, Euclidian or otherwise. But this reminder demands accurate work on curvature. Only by mastering the metrics can we make people forget Euclid.” (Cache, Projectiles, “Plea for Euclid,” p.40)

With these sentiments, this session agrees. Rather than as an alibi for eroding constraints or formal autonomy, the better characterization of geometry: an intrinsic discipline at architecture’s core. So long as measure matters - as it relates both to the space of human occupation and to the description of objects - geometry is a central concern. We ignore the specific characteristics of objects at architecture's peril. Taken further, all of the design tools that permit the fluid formal outcomes which make our digital moment so overwhelming emulate, at their core, spatial geometry. A deep understanding of that geometric basis cedes less to the instruments themselves. Geometry, understood deeply, is neither regressive nor uncritical; it internalizes recent advancements, but with the flavor of much longer histories.

This session seeks submissions that address the enduring role of geometry in pedagogy and practice. It welcomes speculation on post-orthographic projection, non-computational description, pre-rationalized form, geometric syntax, and many other unfashionable topics.

Architecture of Attunement and Planetary Ecology

Dana Cupkova, Carnegie Mellon University

“Since a thing can't be known directly or totally, one can only attune to it, with greater or lesser degrees of intimacy. Nor is this attunement a “merely” aesthetic approach to a basically blank extensional substance. Since appearance can't be peeled decisively from the reality of a thing, attunement is a living, dynamic relation with another being.”

Timothy Morton (Ecology without Nature, 2014)

The current discourse appears to promote a shift away from context and move again towards autonomy of an architectural object. This effort that tends to return to binary disciplinary dialectics of center and periphery is not new. Architecture as a form of creative knowledge has always emerged from twinned poles of art and science, producing acute ambivalence between the determinacy of the known and ineffability of the sublime. However, it is within this gap that the history of architectural education has found the most effective and creative way of design thinking.

The ambition of this panel is to examine architectures that inquire into energy and matter as a primary inspiration, while re-examining the role of context as a descriptive force. Performative models for design have now exhausted their breath and fidelity largely by reducing context to a fixed information set, queried through measured simulation sets in a singular moment in time and space. Promoting a shift away from the data-driven rationales of performative models the desire of this panel is to tap into architectural sensorial subjectivity as part of the aesthetic and ecological experience. Are there new emerging descriptions of the context that allows us to attune design of architectural object? What is the role of context in this framework relative to aspirations of architecture? What are the current or alternative descriptions of context that deviate from pragmatics of environmentalism?

The hope of this panel is to unpack design thinking and move toward what Timothy Morton describes as “the underlying connectedness of all things”. Ultimately, this panel hopes to examine the possible conditions of “attunement”, with a curiosity to reexamine the role of context in creation of architectural objects. Rather than tuning architectures into a context, the space between context and architectures could be open to design.

Centered around a belief that architecture is fundamentally a part of larger planetary ecology, this panel is in search of submissions and design contributions that seek productive ways of discussing the design process that engage the issue of contextual attunement beyond the environmentalist paradigm, questioning the implication of binary logic of object versus social responsibility. Engaging at multiple scales and material productions, the focus is on exploring a productive tension between the disciplinary fringe and the center, between architecture and its socio-ecological realities or fictional contingencies that seek to reposition the aspects of scientific notions qualitative to the design of architecture.

Drawing's Tacit Practices

Paul F. Emmons & Ezgi Isbilen, Virginia Tech

While Reyner Banham recognizes the unique yet unexplained place of drawing in the formation of tacit knowledge in the “Black Box: The Secret Profession of Architecture,” the importance of drawing for architecture certainly pre-dates Banham’s 1990 essay. Vitruvius describes an encyclopedic range of knowledge necessary to practice architecture in De architectura, but he positions drawing as the one requirement with which architects must be “skillful.”

Architectural drawing is largely tacit knowledge that is known through the body as much as through the mind as ways of thinking embedded in ways of operating. Tacit knowledge is, as Michael Polanyi (The Tacit Dimension) explained, how “we know more than we can tell” and can be difficult to articulate, even upon reflection. Most of our knowledge is tacit; it is the well of experience we build up from childhood to which we add a smaller subset of rational knowledge. Some tacit knowledge cannot be made explicit. We can recognize the face of a friend, but it is nearly impossible to explain how we actually identify another human face. The tacit knowledge of drawing practices is usually unspoken but often can be made explicit. A skill can be acquired, even if it can’t be put into words. Polanyi wrote that “the tacit is the ineffable domain of skillful knowing.” This session moves beyond the dichotomy of tacit/explicit, to examine the variety of forms of tacit knowledge, including that which is ineffable, that which is usually not uttered but can be articulated, and that which is once inarticulate but at another time is brought to light.

Architectural drawing practices define shared professional knowledge and encompass its evolving ways of operating. Anthropologist and philosopher Pierre Bourdieu (The Logic of Practice) explains that the habitus of a profession is the network of dispositions toward doing things in a certain way. Unlike the common idea of habit as unthinking repetition, a habitus is continually adapted and improvised in new situations. A well-mastered habitus of architectural drawing practices allows an architect to draw while focusing attention not on making representations, but rather on the particularities of the design itself. As Le Corbusier explained, in designing ideas often travel from the hand to the head.

While studies of architectural drawing tend to focus either on connoisseurship of the beautiful or on technologies of production, this session looks to explore the habitus of architectural drawing practices in the inter-relation between the tacit and the explicit. How are architectural drawing practices cultural, historical and, as Banham suggested, ritualized? How do drawing practices relate to architectural design? How are architecture’s tacit practice skills related to its explicit theorization? This session explores specific drawing practices, whether drawing types, drawing marks and lines, drawing media and instruments, or drawing techniques to explore the roll of tacit knowledge in architectural practices.

Design-Build: Pedagogy, Practice, Production

Thomas Gardner, Maryland Institute College of Art & Desmond Delanty, China Academy of Art

No matter how its boundaries are re-defined, architecture still provides shelter, erects structures, organizes movement as well as ideas, stimulates perception and engages culture. Yet, how do we proceed? As architects, what are we supposed to do? And how do we learn to speculate creatively, in a conjectural way?

To be an architect traditionally implied being a builder; that is, explaining to others how to build. The invention of form was also the invention of its construction. One implied the other. But architecture should be concerned with more than the form, more than the end result. Construction work is not only a means to an end. When we engage construction we engage society.

Architecture is many things - but perhaps most of all, it is cumbersome. The design-build studio is tasked with confronting this directly, while also tackling ideation, iteration, modeling, construction, testing, and remaking. The design-build studio is encumbered, for both the educator who plans and executes the curriculum and the student, who experiences what it takes to realize built work. Working at full scale – at one-to-one – immediately confronts us with the importance of practical limitations on our creativity. Being able to do anything, having no resistance, is not helpful for us. Limitations make us recognize that materials have value and that the labor involved in building has value. The one-to-one seeks to cultivate invention, improvisation and idiosyncrasy directed at the heart of the real without capitulation to the conventional: material without being crude, moving without being pushy, clear without being simple. That said, we tend to forget that difficulty, labor, destruction and contingency are always involved in the act of creation. We must confront these challenges and limitations as practical experience within the realm of academia to explore the embedded and projected value beyond an end result.

Design-build is a typology of study, a typology of practice and a typology of production. The scope of design-build is as much research as it is designing and building. Design-build is not practiced ad-hocism, nor is it unmediated production. Pedagogy is not antecedent to or preparatory for practice, but implicated in it, particularly where practices take on public, community-based or collaborative form, or when the work is understood as open, incomplete, performative…contingent and worldly.

Students are capable makers and builders. Design-build relieves the obligation to arrive at a point when design is completed and construction begins, as the two coexist, fail and thrive together. Within western education, we learn that thinking precedes action, but action itself can be utilized as another way of thinking, asking us to question how we are to proceed with doubt. Design-build is necessary to remove the safety net of abstraction as we are tasked to physically confront the forces before us. Working at one-to-one is inherently relational, and offers an ethic that connects us to material, to ourselves and to one another.

The Planetary and the Quotidian

Neyran Turan, University of California, Berkeley

Consider two depictions. First is a scene from the remote Henderson Island located in the Pacific Ocean, which sits at the western side of the South Pacific Garbage Patch. The island was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988 for its exceptional “ecology that has been practically untouched by human presence.” When examined in 2015, however, researchers found more than 55,000 pieces of trash, largely made of plastic deposited by ocean currents and currently tons of debris existent in the island, the peak density of plastic debris recorded anywhere in the world. The image of an immense collection of a wide array of plastic objects depicted in an “untouched” remote island point to a puzzling fact. Similar to a plastic straw from a dinner table ending as debris on this remote island, the trash scene at the Henderson Island depicts the quotidian and the planetary as the very same category.

Second image is the 3D Warehouse, an online open source digital library in which more than two million 3D models of all kinds of objects including buildings, natural features, toys, tools, machinery, etc. are accumulated. Some with high and some with lousy detail and articulation, some truthfully built as perfect replicas for a specific project while others disregarded, these digital readymades are the material ruins and debris of media accumulation. Similar to Hito Steyerl’s articulation of “poor images” that carry the formal residues of their digital circulation such as low-resolution or degradation, these models are equally “poor.” Since they are disposable and mutable, they complicate their own originality. They are the very residue of the digital.

When positioned next to one another, the coupling of plastic pile accumulating on the Henderson Island and the digital models piling within the 3D Warehouse not only present an important dilemma in relation to the accumulative nature of our post-digital and post-natural moment, but also suggest a collision of hierarchies and categories in one’s understanding of the planetary vs the quotidian. Can we think of architecture’s future architectural pedagogies through such collisions in which the planetary and the quotidian are one and of the same category? Can we re-boost architecture’s geo-cosmic effect by collapsing the presumed centers and peripheries of our discipline, by colliding its very outside with its very core interior? What questions of representation, materiality, and media would be relevant for such unexpected collisions?

This session welcomes methodologies of teaching and practice that radically collapse the disciplinary insides of architecture with its extreme outsides. Its main premise is to investigate alternative forms of environmental imagination within architecture through a renewed focus on questions of architectural specificity.


ACSA will offers an open sessions for projects that do not fit under Topic Sessions, but is consistent with the general theme of the conference, The Black Box: Articulating Architecture's Core in the Post-Digital Era. We encourage the submission of well-crafted projects on topics that explore a range of issues within architectural education and practice. The selected projects will be grouped according to overarching themes that emerge from the open call.



All authors submitting projects must be faculty or staff at an ACSA member schools; Individual Members; Student Members or become supporting ACSA members at the time of project submission. Join ACSA.

Authors are required to submit a 500-word abstract and poster (20” x 30” portrait orientation, PDF only). Abstracts and posters must be formatted for blind peer review (no names or affiliations). 


The deadline for submitting a project to a session for the Annual Meeting is September 26, 2018. Authors will submit projects through the ACSA online interface. Follow the steps below to being your submission. The web interface will then guide you through the steps to complete your submission. 

  1. Log in using your ACSA username and password. Click here if you forgot your password.
  2. Click the Submit Now button.  
  3. Select Paper or Project from the dropdown menu and click Create New Submission.
  4. You now have the opportunity to add other authors. Fill out the search fields for your co-author and click Search. Select the radio button next to their name and click Add New Author and Continue. When you are done, click Finished Adding Authors at the bottom of the page.
  5. On the next page, fill in the text boxes for title and abstract. Below these fields there is box labeled Browse. Click here to select your full paper file. Once you have chosen the correct file, click Upload.
  6. If you would like to add images, you can attach them by clicking Browse, similar to the previous page. If not, simply click Upload No Files at the Time.
  7. Select the session topic you wish to submit to from the dropdown list. Click Save & Continue with Submission.
  8. On the Proofread page you have the opportunity to review you work before finalizing your submission. You can preview your submission or download it for your record on this page. If you see an error, click Update My Submission to correct it before proceeding. When everything looks good click Proceed to Next Step.
  9. Click Complete My Submission. You have completed your submission and should receive a confirmation email for verification.
All submissions will be reviewed carefully by at least three reviewers. The session topic chairs make official acceptance decisions. Selection is based on innovation, clarity, contribution to the discipline of architecture, and relevance to the session topic. All authors will be notified of the status of their project and will receive comments from their reviewers. 


Accepted authors will be required to complete a copyright transfer form and agree to present the project at the Annual Meeting before it is published in the Proceedings. It is ACSA policy that accepted authors must pay full conference registration for the Annual Meeting in order to be included in the conference presentation and Proceedings.

Each session will have a moderator, normally the topic chair(s). Session moderators will notify authors in advance of session guidelines as well as the general expectations for the session. Moderators reserve the right to withhold a project from the program if the author has refused to comply with those guidelines. Failure to comply with the conference deadlines or with a moderator’s request for materials in advance may result in an author being dropped from the program, even though his or her name may appear in the program book. In the event of insufficient participation regarding a particular session topic, the conference co-chairs reserve the right to revise the conference schedule accordingly.



May 2018
  Call for Projects announced  
August 31, 2018
  Project submission site opens 
September 26, 2018
Project submission DEADLINE
November 2018
  Notifications sent to authors  
December 2018
  Final revised projects and copyright forms due  
January 2018
  Conference registration deadline for presenters 



For questions please contact: 

Eric Wayne Ellis
Allison Smith
Director of Operations and Programs
Programs Manager