2008 Teachers Seminar

June 19-22, 2008 | Cranbrook Academy of Art
Co-chairs: Stephen Kieran, Kieran Timberlake Associates, James Timberlake, Kieran Timberlake Associates, and Max Underwood, Arizona State University


Architects tend to see most acts of design as unique – a flywheel of initial input uninformed by past results marginally informed by performative information. Site and program together give rise to circumstance. Circumstance inspires intention. Design organizes intention into instruction. Builders construct from what we instruct. And we all move on to the next set of circumstances and program, none the wiser. Architecture exists in a world where all we ever do is design and build prototypes, with little real reflection and informed improvement from one act of design to the next. The flywheel begins anew with different information, leading to different results but little change.

As educators of architects, we focus nearly all our efforts on the planning side of this flywheel. The bulk of our curriculum remains embedded in the nineteenth century design studio where we plan, and then we plan again, with little real growth in the quality and productivity of what we do, either artistically or technically. While an ever increasing number of schools have included the second part of the flywheel – constructing – in the curriculum, few schools of architecture teach research skills and fewer yet insist upon critical reflection and learning based upon research findings. And even fewer define, expect, furnish and share deep results from architectural research. This affects our students as they become practitioners into a rapidly changing professional world, where cross-disciplinary collaboration, deep inquiry, integration, visualization and reflective making are the new norm.
Design innovation has become the Holy Grail in architecture: but how do we define innovation? How do we define research that supports innovation? What are the characteristics of innovation and what deep knowledge and information informs it? In modifying the flywheel, how do we embed reflection and learning into the process of making our architecture? How do we learn to ask the right questions and collect the measurable data that can improve our architecture? How do we provide architectural researchers with the deep skill set necessary to support performative architecture? What is that deep skill set? How do we make the leap from research in the academy to research in our professional offices? What is the economic model for affording deep architectural research in professional practice? How do we go about funding such research in the academy and in practice?
Deep Matter intends to delve deeply into this topic with the intention of developing research approaches, research models that the academy will begin to frame education around. Presentations of papers will inform breakout sessions of workshops to help develop a blueprint for deeply embedding research into our everyday lives as teachers and practitioners.

The themes around which Deep Matter will be organized are as follows:
1. Defining Architectural Research in the Academy and Practice. What is interesting and why?
2. The Emerging Methods of Research Innovation. What are the networks, collaborations, visualization opportunities, strategies and tactics?
3. Case Studies of Bleeding Edge and Innovative Applied Research. What are the acknowledged in depth current case studies of projects or groups which are redefining the integration of research into practice and education?
4. Open Submissions. What areas of research innovation outside of architecture might inform the way forward? What arenas within architecture might the first three categories not capture?

Keynote Lecturers

Brent Segal, PhD
Co-founder of Nantero, Inc., a leading nanotechnology company that is using carbon nanotubes for the development of next-generation semiconductor devices. Segal has written over 100 patent applications, of which over 10 have already been granted.

Thomas Daniel, PhD
Chair of the Biology Department at University of Washington, where his research focuses on the application of physical principles towards understanding the design of biological systems and specifically the principles that govern the movement and morphology of animals.

Jack Keebler
Director of GM's vehicle concepts and development in the global product planning division.  Before joining GM, Keebler was Motor Trend magazine's senior editor, conducting instrumented vehicle tests and multi-model comparisons around the globe, exploring pre-production and concept vehicles, and writing about design, engineering, emissions and safety.