Leslie Lok: Investigating Construction's Novel Materials

October 24, 2019

A profile of Leslie Lok that originally appeared in Ezra magazine as part of the feature story titled "Faculty Profiles, Fall 2019."

In her research, teaching, and practice, Leslie Lok, assistant professor of architecture, studies the intersection of housing and urbanization as well as novel materials and construction practices.

At a recent faculty retreat, the concept of "informed making" emerged as integral to teaching and research within the Department of Architecture. It's a core idea that Lok values highly and is central to her professional practice, Hannah, which she cofounded with assistant professor Sasa Zivkovic.

"We leverage and augment ordinary technology for material, spatial and cultural experimentation in architecture," Lok says. "Teasing out deliberate idiosyncrasies in the technology and building process, we find non-guilty pleasure in the formal expressions of our experimental prototypes and are deeply committed to making, building, and design."

These investigations into the playful use and misuse of materials and construction methods are evident in some of Hannah's recent projects, including RRRolling Stones, which won The Architectural League of New York's Folly/Function 2018 design competition. The project is a movable outdoor seating system made from 3D-printed concrete.

Lok's other research focus is housing. This year, she received two grants for proposals addressing issues pertaining to housing for the urban-rural fringe in China.

The Cornell China Center awarded Lok a development grant for her project Learning With Chongqing: Sustainable Urbanization and Housing Models for Urban-Rural China. The grant supports an interdisciplinary team to develop new design metrics for urban-rural development models.

Using Chongqing as a case study for villages confronting the pressure of urbanization, the team will explore ways for villages to become self-sustainable, with approaches that simultaneously consider ecology, housing, infrastructure, and social needs.

Lok recently received an Affinito-Stewart research grant from the Cornell President’s Council of Cornell Women for a related project that connects two lines of inquiry: local housing spatial practices and digital construction methods for a dense midrise urban fabric, as an alternative to the homogenous housing towers at the urban-rural fringe.

Collaborative, interdisciplinary teaching has also been a stimulating and thought-provoking experience, Lok says, noting the fall 2018 Mellon Collaborative Studies Seminar, which she cotaught with comparative literature professor Andrea Bachner.

By Patti Witten

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