ARCH 4405/6605
Exploring the Building Envelope

a square shape composed of cropped color and black-and-white architectural drawings, photos from magazines, and book illustrations

Charles Eisen's frontispiece for Marc-Antoine Laugier's Essai sur l’Architecture and various wall sections from Detail magazine.

  • Instructor:
  • Time: T 10:10 a.m.–12:05 p.m.
  • Location: 142 E. Sibley Hall
  • Credits: 3
  • Territory of Investigation: Architecture and Ecology

"The Primitive Hut" has been a foundational topic in Architectural discourse since Marc-Antoine Laugier published Essai sur l'Architecture with Charles Eisen's famous illustration. Laugier sought to describe an anthropological relationship between humankind and nature through the act of building. While Laugier divided Architecture into elements like column, entablature, and pediment, 20th- and 21st-century tectonics and building science have produced the paradigm of the layered "building envelope." While architectural theory continues to prioritize "space," symbol, reference, etc., what about the "stuff" that fundamentally defines the duality of interior and exterior? Modern building envelopes draw a multitude of boundaries: thermal, air, vapor, sound, light, and more. While some materials take on multiple functions, others are layered as a composite response to a set of conditions. Perhaps even more critically, what does this mean in this current era of climate change?

In this course, we will trace this conceptual boundary: instead of seeing Architecture only through the lenses form and space, we will explore the enclosure of volume and the separation of environmental conditions. We will explore together the building envelope in physics, in current practice, in history, and in the speculative future. Students in small groups will analyze case studies and ultimately adapt/rethink their chosen case study to a small, simple, climate-specific volume; resulting in a class-wide collection of "primitive huts" that demonstrate the urgency of climate and tectonics to architectural discourse.

View a PDF of this class description.


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