Hypernatural Studio

Hypernatural addresses the changing relationship between the designed environment and the natural world—as well as the opportunities that arise from this transformation. Today, many fields of human industry are infused with a growing enthusiasm and reverence for nature. Scientists craft photosynthetic cells made from trees, engineers encapsulate stratified clouds within buildings, architects design structures that simulate the phototropic behavior of plants, and artists grow rooms made of mineral crystals. In both academia and practice, the conviction that nature holds the keys to the advancement of technology and design is now a primary motivator. Moreover, endeavors guided by a sophisticated knowledge of natural systems have the potential to counteract the increasing fragility and degradation of the natural environment.

In this 4-credit design module, we interrogate architecture’s new relationship with nature. Students start by researching a natural system—either biological or non-biological. Design proposals unfold from this initial exploration. Throughout, students alternate between two modalities—design synthesis and natural systems research—to develop an architectural construct that evolves from the combined input of the designer and the authorial will of a natural system. The course examines how a partnership with nature might yield unexpected, novel solutions to difficult architectural problems; a scenario in which the designer takes on the role of project strategist, relinquishing a degree of control over his/her work.

ARCH 5250: Topics in Design—Hypernatural. Co-taught with Marc Swackhamer. Graduate design studio (4 credits). University of Minnesota School of Architecture.

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