Architecture education isn't always about designing buildings. Students at the Daniels Faculty are frequently asked to expand their imaginations beyond bricks and mortar, often with surprisingly beautiful results. That was the case last semester, when sessional lecturer Andrew Bako led fourth-year undergraduates through the first-ever iteration of his design course, Lazy Computing (ARC465).
Bako, a recent graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Design, joined the Daniels Faculty as a part-time instructor in 2019. (He's also an intern architect at Adamson Associates, where he's working on the firm's high-profile CIBC Square project.) With Lazy Computing, he wanted to make students think about and critique the way architecture is defined by digital drafting tools, which he contends promote a kind of "laziness" (hence the course title) by greatly easing the design process. Bako also wanted students to reflect on the internet's rampant image culture — particularly the way social media overwhelms architectural practitioners with unfiltered information about new styles and trends.
"One of the major criteria for success in the course was whether or not students were able to make a cohesive argument," Bako says. "Each piece of their work had to have some kind of conceptual clarity." The best projects, according to Bako, also had an element of timeliness about them. To succeed, students needed to develop real-time responses to the rapidly changing world around them.
Bako divided his students into teams of two or three, then began assigning them readings that covered various contemporary design-theory topics. The readings served as inspiration for a trio of design projects over the course of the semester. Students were free to create drawings, physical models, or computer animations.
The resulting student projects are visually striking, whimsical, and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny. Here are few of them, with commentary from Bako.
Made by: Alex Tomasi and Marta Zinicheva
"The course was called Lazy Computing, and this project was definitely the 'laziest,'" Bako says. "It's comical and a bit satirical. And there is a certain timeliness to it. The same way Marcel Duchamp would turn a urinal into a piece of high art, Alex and Marta were looking for easily downloadable content on the internet to see if the rapid transmission of files and content could produce a new architectural proposal, and a new aesthetic."
Made by: Amira Babeiti, Jeremy Chow, and Jasper Choi
"This team was trying to manipulate concrete. It was a formal experiment, but also an experiment in how we work back and forth between digital media and the physical environment. They used spray foam insulation as formwork to create this almost grotesque cavelike grotto. At the same time, they were embedding 3D-printed and laser-cut forms into it. They were also 3D scanning the physical model and entering their 3D-scanned point cloud back into the computer and continuing to manipulate it digitally. I found this back-and-forth workflow to be quite successful."
Made by: Haadiah Kahn and Yuanrui He
"These students were trying to provide a commentary about the use of augmented reality in architecture. They were tapping into how image culture allows people to comment on almost anything nowadays. Really, the world is your critic."
Made by: Noa Wang and Tasneem Shahpurwala
"When I saw this animation, I was floored and delighted. They used images of Toronto to provide a mental image of a city without the actual form of the city. They were trying to capture the cultural zeitgeist of image culture in Toronto through the rapid transmission of images."
Made by: Zirong Liu and Shengfang Gao
"These students were inspired by the work of Andrew Kovacs, whose writings we discussed in the course. What they were trying to do was critique the way in which our design software behaves, and the commands that are ingrained within that software, which dictate the way we design. If the cartesian grid system suddenly became unstable rather than acting as a unifying grounding element, what sort of reverberative impact would that have on design?"