Do Ho Suh

© Do Ho Suh, Photo: Jeon, Taegsu 

Program Brief: Pliable Practice


Protocols for architecture are becoming more open, fluid, and complex, due to recent advances in communication, manufacturing, and material technologies. Consequently, contemporary relationships between the design, fabrication, and implementation of buildings are becoming far more pliable. This transformed context provides architects with vast opportunities to reshape the means of architectural production in compelling and provocative ways.

Present Future 2017–2018 launches a new phase of work with faculty director, Associate Professor of Architecture, Dawn Finley. This research project, Pliable Practice, advocates for the immediacy of material investigations and fabrication in architecture, whether low-tech or high-tech, analog or digital. Immediacy demands pliable research and design methods that enable nimble responses to unforeseen discoveries. This collective research agenda aims to reveal new potentials for architectural practice and to articulate innovative disciplinary futures offered through material techniques and protocols.

The Pliable Practice research agenda will foster resistance to predictable building industry workflows, claiming and inserting new procedures for architects through focused material investigations and productions. The program’s three-semester project takes action with one material type and a collection of associated construction techniques to propose specialized design, assembly and delivery formats at a range of scales.

The 2017–18 research group will investigate fabric (natural and synthetic) as a primary material type using an array of seaming techniques (manual and machine sewing, heat and pressure welding). The terms fabric and textile are synonymous for the most part. Both broadly refer to a pliable material that is interlaced or bonded using natural or artificial fibers. Manufactures and fabricators limit the term fabric, however, to designate those materials used for the production of goods. Pliable Practice deliberately specifies fabric to indicate the research intent to produce speculative architectural components.

Fabric has historically been an integral part of architecture's disciplinary domain. In 1851, Gottfried Semper identified the textile enclosure as one of four fundamental elements of architecture. Semper's definition precedes advances in technology that have allowed contemporary fiber and composite materials to perform in more sophisticated, diversified ways, yet fabric has nevertheless maintained a somewhat singular, peripheral role in the making of architecture. The Pliable Practice research team will undertake unconventional material investigations, aiming to produce a fresh, diverse collection of architectural enclosure types (interior to exterior, tiny to medium, practical to preposterous). Proposals will rethink the material application and assembly potentials of fabric while questioning its impact upon architecture's protocols for documentation, delivery, and deployment. The work will culminate in full-scale experimental constructions showcased through a public exhibition and operations manual.

The Present Future M.A.A. program exploits architecture’s interdisciplinary breadth to produce disciplinary specificity. Students take a minimum of required courses that comprise the research sequence and are then free to enroll in additional courses of interest across the school and university. While the research focus is decidedly architectural, Pliable Practice seeks applicants from a broad range of design fields—apparel, architecture, graphic, digital media, industrial, textile, etc.—who will bring to the table a broad, yet precise range of material and informational protocols. Interdisciplinary expertise, in short, will be harnessed for disciplinary application.

The Rice School of Architecture is a small school with large ambitions. Present Future M.A.A. students will be actively engaged with a collective conversation that is curated, spontaneous, formal and informal—within the school and extending into the city of Houston. Significant academic and social events led by students and faculty (lecture series, round-table discussions, exhibitions, workshops, etc.) are coupled with state-of-the art fabrication facilities and design resources, both within the school and the diverse manufacturing industries in the city (medical aeronautical, petroleum). The Rice School of Architecture teaches students to be leaders in the conversations that inevitably advance our world.

To apply to the Present Future program for Fall 2017, please visit the Graduate Admission page.

Image credit:
Do Ho Suh, Wielandstr. 18, 12159 Berlin, Germany – 3 Corridors, 2011, detail, Polyester fabric, stainless steel, 655 x 209 x 351 cm