Cupkova and Pratt receive grant to develop adaptive reuse of Eastern European housing

March 7, 2009

Visiting Assistant Professor of Architecture Dana Cupkova and Assistant Professor of Architecture Kevin Pratt were awarded the Arnold W. Brunner Grant from the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) for their project proposal, “Adaptive Modularity: A Sustainable Approach to Adaptive Reuse in the Eastern European Housing Block.”

Cupkova and Pratt will apply the $12,500 grant toward further developing methods of using environmental data simulation to inform building design. Their project seeks to establish “a building’s ecological footprint in the earliest stages of design process” through the use of digital technology.

The adaptive component design methodology they employ was developed out of a series of research studios taught at Cornell and aat the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Slovakia, beginning in 2006. The first studio was based in Bratislava, the second in Dubai (fall 2007), and the third in Fiji (spring 2008). Pratt and Cupkova are planning to revisit the site of the first studio and expand their concept of adaptive reuse in the post-Soviet period. 

The two professors explain their adaptive component design approach as “a holistic methodology we are developing in attempt to create architecture that is tightly bound to the specificity of dynamic local ecologies while at the same time recognizing that contemporary means of production require a degree of repetitive process and material uniformity to achieve economic viability.” The design process is enabled by series of algorithms.

The focus of their research will be apartment buildings in Slovakia slated for retrofitting to comply with new energy consumption standards. In this former Soviet state the privatization of state-owned apartment blocks has created uncertainties about the ownership of areas beyond the immediate apartment. This ambiguity has led to neglect, maintenance problems, as well as “imposing on residents the human costs of living in fundamentally unsustainable buildings, ” according to Pratt and Cupkova.

Further, they state that the “current solutions only address minimum standards and don’t look at the qualitative aspects of the living environment.” The team hopes that “the reconfiguration of the existing structures using adaptive component assemblies whose performance is defined in terms of rigorous environmental analysis will offer an alternative to currently proposed schemes, which focus on envelope remediation without attempting to fundamentally improve quality of life by changing the character and social consequences of both the pubic and private spaces that result from rigid and unsustainable urban patterns.”

Cupkova and Pratt were also recently awarded a grant from the Cornell Center for a Sustainable Future’s Academic Venture Fund providing funding of the project “Integrated Digital Design Environment for Sustainable Architecture,” proposed in collaboration with the Department of Computer and Information Sciences and Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell. The CCSF funding will serve to further develop and extend the hardware infrastructure and computational tools that are necessary to the scope of work proposed for the Brunner Grant.

The Center for Architecture Foundation, which manages the grant for AIA, stated that the purpose of the Brunner Grant is to “advance study in any area of architectural investigation, which will effectively contribute to the knowledge, teaching, or practice of the art and science of architecture.” Applicants must be engaged in the profession of architecture or a related field and have a professional background. Project submissions must include background information; objective of study; method and scope of work; and the applicant’s curriculum vitae. 

Cupkova is the principal of DCm-STUDIO, an architectural practice that deals with both real and speculative projects. Her work explores “spatial organizations derived through the systematic subversion of normative architectural models and their adaptation to local ecologies.” Her teaching focuses on technology and digital fabrication.

Pratt’s expertise in is environmental systems. Pratt teaches building technology and sustainable design at Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania. In 2008 he and Cupkova founded Epiphyte Lab, an interdisciplinary design and research practice. Pratt is a LEED v2 Accredited Professional, and a registered architect in the state of New York.

Past recipients of the Brunner Grant include AAP Dean Kent Kleinman, who in 1996 was awarded the grant, along with Leslie Van Duzer, to document and prepare a monograph of Haus Lange and Haus Esters, two villas by Mies van der Rohe.

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