Architecture Program News

This week I am excited to highlight the M. Arch Design Research Studios (DRs). M. Arch students enrolled in the 2-year and 3-year curriculum paths can take four DRs or two DRs and one year-long thesis. This fall, the DRs provide M. Arch students the ability to address advanced disciplinary topics ranging from mega-cities (Newton), design/build (Day), representational theory and authorship (Kelly) and sustainable urbanism (Hoistad). The DRs often collaborate with external communities and partners to produce new topic-related knowledge. The outcomes of these studios regularly gain regional, national and international recognition. I hope the below descriptions provide you a glimpse into the advanced critical and creative practices occurring in the M. Arch program.

Jeffrey L Day, FACT DRs

This fall, FACT DRs has partnered with History Nebraska and six community development organizations to design and promote new approaches to the affordable home for communities in Nebraska. The project is inspired by Evicted, a traveling exhibition highlighting the eviction crisis across America. This semester, and for the first time, FACT students are collaborating with students in the Community & Regional Planning Graduate Studio led by instructor Frank Ordia.

As established, FACT and Plain alternate design/build studios by calendar year, providing continual opportunities for College of Architecture students to explore different approaches to design/build pedagogy through various project types and different external partners. The work from the studio will be exhibited at the Nebraska History Museum next spring. The NEw Attainable House project grew out of Box House One, designed by FACT with Neighborworks-Lincoln in 2016 and this earlier project will be featured in the exhibition along with those designed in fall 2020.

Follow studio progress at

Mark Hoistad, Sustainable Urbanism, 15 Minute City

Existing forms of urbanism, born largely in modernism, are proving to be inefficient, wasteful and a significant part of the carbon problem on the planet. Their segregated development patterns and dispersed density have created gridlock in our transportation systems and polluted our environment. The neglect of the connection between human settlement and natural ecologies has led to the deterioration of plant and animal life including the human species. Our consumptive and wasteful use of land and resources is threatening the very sources that sustain our existence. Add to this the fact, these development patterns have failed to accommodate the needs of the broad economic spectrum of those wishing to live in the city. The agenda for the Sustainable Urbanism Studio is to explore how humanity can establish a more balanced, denser development pattern in the context of the current challenges and in contrast to those that put us in this predicament.

The question of space in the city has become a significant issue in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Rather than using the need for distancing as an excuse for the unsustainable, land consumptive patterns of suburbia, it is a call for greater integration of open space into the city and a greater emphasis on pedestrian space.  The closure of streets in cities across the world, in an effort to limit mobility as a preventative strategy in combating virus spread, has also awakened awareness into what the city could be if the pedestrian was given equal consideration to that of vehicles.  This has led to the awakening of a new strategy called the ‘15 minute city’.  In this model, cities would create loosely defined districts where its residents would be able to access the majority of daily activities within a 15 minute walk or bike ride from their home.  This semester’s studio is exploring how we could convert the traditional business center of Lincoln into a ‘15 minute city’ through the addition of housing, open space and other strategic programs.

Brain Kelly, Copy Right Studio

Adaptive Reuse: Architectural Appropriation
Research Topics:
Appropriated Space: The past five months have shaken contemporary society to its core and caused us to question all that we thought we knew. These changes have had an impact on the built environment and, as a result, architecture is being either abandoned or hyper-programmed like never before. Leased spaces are temporarily left empty except for furniture and equipment as office employees transition to a remote working arrangement. Restaurants and entertainment venues are suffering as people avoid crowds for the possibility of being in proximity to a stranger infected with the COVID-19 virus. And retail spaces are feeling the crunch as more people opt for online shopping than brick and mortar stores. Conversely, the domestic realm has been infused with more activity than it likely planned for as it now accommodates work and school activities in an online format - each with their own space and acoustical requirements. Although we are in an unprecedented time, we will use history to understand ways we might address a possible future. In doing so, Kelly’s studio will build upon the technique-based trajectory of previous versions of Studio Copy Right.

Appropriated Content: The copy has been part of architecture ever since there were precedents to copy. A staple component of the classical architect’s training was the memorization and subsequent copying of ornament and proportion. Today, the copy can be seen unequivocally through the use of the prototype - literal copying of a building design, or more obscurely through the sampling of precedent - copying of portions of existing designs. We are living in a time when the access to content has never been easier through online and social media sources. The use of precedent in architecture is well established. We study and document existing designs to harvest what they offer in regards to siting, form, program, material and detail. This analysis is mixed with other precedents as the designer teases out the most applicable traits combining and concealing references to a point where they are unrecognizable. This effort to obscure is most often for the sake of reaching for novelty as a designer. But originality is a naive illusion, and the copy is not a sign of inferiority but rather a posture which celebrates an act of evolutionary, disciplinary practice. The existence of a duplicate is unavoidable in contemporary culture where digital images and files are shared ubiquitously. Acceptance of this condition will serve as a point of departure for this studio’s approach to technique.

David Newton, Spatial Informatics Studio

Developments in artificial intelligence in recent years has brought a revolution in the analysis and generation of data, transforming fields as diverse as finance and astronomy. The Spatial Informatics Studio at UNL explores artificial intelligence technologies and their application to a spectrum of design problems currently confronting architectural practice. Specifically, the studio has partnered with HDR’s computational design group to develop a body of research exploring generative design processes, in which computation is explored for its ability to create designs in autonomous and semi-autonomous roles. The studio also features lectures by renowned computational design-based practices such as UN Studio and Aranda & Lasch.

If you are an undergraduate student, I highly encourage you to ask your GTA or GLA about their experiences in a DRs.

Have a great week!

-David Karle