Student Research: A 3,000-Mile Architectural Journey Through the Desert Southwest

In June, senior architecture major Keith Stipe joined 27 other Norwich University undergraduate Summer Research Fellows who undertook in-depth research projects across the arts, sciences or professional fields. Awarded by the university’s Office of Academic Research, the competitive, six- and ten-week fellowships are funded by university endowments dedicated to supporting student academic investigation.
Norwich University Office of Communications

August 24, 2015

This summer, senior architecture major Keith Stipe toured the desert southwest to explore ancient and modern examples of earthen and rammed earth architecture and to speak to leading architects in the field.
keith_stipe_portrait

Beginning in Denver, Colo., Stipe drove some 3,000 miles over the course of three weeks, exploring sites in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona.

Building styles ranged from thousand-year-old kivas built by the Pueblo peoples at Chaco National Historic Park in Chaco, New Mexico, to modern sculptor Paolo Soleri’s Cosanti home and studio in Paradise Valley, Arizona.

“One of the reasons this research is relevant and important is that even in our current day, a third to half of the world’s population lives in earthen buildings,” Stipe says.

“There’s a huge population of the world that relies on the availability and the easy use of earthen building materials. So it’s something that’s worth continuing to explore and develop in the future.”

His first stop was the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., designed by I.M. Pei, a concrete structure that uses soil and pigment to make a visual connection to the surrounding Colorado landscape.

Other sites included the 30,000-square-foot PERA office building in Sante Fe, the largest rammed earth building in the southwest; Georgia O’Keefe’s Abiquiu, NM, home and studio; and the Lemuria Earthship, an off-the-grid rammed earth home near Taos, New Mexico.

At each site, Stipe studied the architecture’s technical and aesthetic qualities. He sketched site layouts, photographed architectural elements, and measured wall thicknesses to estimate thermal mass and passive heating and cooling abilities.

The aspiring architect also observed the buildings’ relationships to place and landscape, noting how the structures earthen building materials provided a poetic connection to the landscape.

In Arizona, Stipe interviewed influential rammed earth architect Eddie Jones.

Danny Sagan, an associate professor of architecture and program director for NU’s School of Architecture + Art, served as Stipe’s research advisor. “Architecture is uniquely difficult to study in that many of the examples we use to teach the principles of the subject are not located in Vermont,” he says.

He adds that architecture of place must be derived from regionally appropriate building technologies. Stipe’s trip into the arid Southwest allowed him to explore architecture informed by different influences.

“By traveling into an new environment, Keith was able to see the subject of architecture with new eyes,” Sagan says. “Every architecture student should travel to see architecture in a place very different than the places they know. It makes their studies much broader and therefore much more relevant.”

Stipe documented his trip via social media and photography. He plans to produce a book as his final research product, one that synthesizes his visual impressions with research findings and analysis.

Stipe’s research budget of $3,940, which covered food, lodging, travel expenses, and a new digital SLR camera, were covered by his Summer Research Fellowship stipend.

“Architecture is an art which arises not only from an instinctual need for warmth or shelter, but also from a human desire to synthesize and create at a level which is in harmony with landscape and environment,” Stipe notes.

Modern building approaches often involve demolishing a landscape, building suburbs, then replanting trees—a process that doesn’t acknowledge place, he says. “We try to change the environment to fit our perceptions or needs, rather than using the environment as a tool [for] showing us how to live in an area.”

His fellowship now complete, Stipe will spend the fall semester studying architecture and design in Berlin, Germany, at Norwich University’s City Lab: Berlin micro campus.

Related Articles on Undergraduate Summer Research Fellows:

NU Wins Grant for Interdisciplinary, Environmental Service-Learning Projects

By David Westerman, PhD
Norwich University Office of Academic Research

 
May 28, 2015

Norwich University has been selected to receive a sub-grant of up to $4,000 from a four-state Campus Compact consortium and the Davis Educational Foundation to create institutional change by embedding environmental service-learning projects into courses, thereby strengthening teaching and curriculum, student learning outcomes, and interdisciplinary approaches to education.

Management of the grant program in Vermont is by the Vermont Campus Compact.

The approved proposal, submitted by Profs. Tara Kulkarni, Matthew Lutz, Tom Roberge and Dave Westerman, calls for offering an “integrated, interdisciplinary set of curriculum modifications built around geology, environmental engineering, sustainable architecture, and outdoor education, all in collaboration with the Town of Northfield and its many partners.”

Northfield zoning administrator Michele Braun will manage the project, which aims to develop an education park about flood zones along the banks of the Dog River. Sited near Northfield’s village green, the park will also include a community garden and a playground.

In their proposal, the four Norwich faculty stated: “We do this because one of the founding principles almost 200 years ago [of Norwich] was to promote experiential learning, cast in the framework of ‘service before self.’ The University’s original concept of developing the citizen soldier has evolved to match the changing nature of our nation, now striving to develop leaders to implement change for the good, from the global stage to the local neighborhood.”

The overarching issue being addressed in this integrated project was presented as follows:

“The largest overriding issue regarding the future of Earth’s habitability is climate change, with the myriad repercussions that stem from the current warming trend. We want to focus on this tremendous issue, while carrying out a project that highlights the need for interdisciplinary solutions. Our specific project addresses living with flooding, and we seek to use this as a means of helping our students, members of the local community, and ultimately the world at large as they face the process of designing solutions to global environmental change.”

Members of the grant team will receive training in June in Portland, Me., as well as ongoing support in the development and delivery of courses that will partner with community organizations to address environmental challenges.

About the Author: David S. Westerman, PhD, is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Geology at Norwich University and the Associate Vice President for Research in the university’s Office of Academic Research.

Norwich to Design Sustainable “Tiny Houses” for Vermonters

Norwich University’s College of Professional Schools has received a $20,000 grant from the TD Bank Charitable Foundation to design affordable, green micro-houses for low-income residents
Daphne Larkin | Office of Communications

 
February 3, 2015

NORTHFIELD, Vt.–Norwich University has been awarded a $20,000 grant from the TD Charitable Foundation, the charitable giving arm of TD Bank, to fund the development of affordable solar houses by students and faculty in the School of Architecture + Art and the David Crawford School of Engineering.

The grant will support the Creating Affordable Sustainable Architecture (CASA) Initiative, a new program within the College of Professional Schools that will focus on research and development of affordable alternative-energy housing for low-income families in Vermont.

“In the true Norwich traditions of experiential learning and service to others, we are offering students credit to research, develop and produce a micro-solar house that offers a solution to the housing crisis in Vermont, and this generous gift from the TD Charitable Foundation is helping to make that possible,” said Aron Temkin, an architect, professor and dean of the College of Professional Schools at Norwich University.

The effort builds on lessons Norwich University architecture students and faculty learned over the course of their 2013 competition in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon. Norwich’s Delta T-90 house won for affordability.

The immediate and long-term objective of Norwich’s new CASA affordable micro-house program is to develop a regionally derived, solar-powered, affordable housing model. Norwich architects and engineers ultimately aim to develop a modular system of “micro houses,” units that can stand alone or be combined to create larger, cohesive structures depending on the needs of the occupant.

“Over half of all Vermonters cannot afford a house that meets the target construction costs of the 2013 Decathlon’s Affordability Contest, regardless of energy costs,” said Cara Armstrong, director of Norwich University’s School of Architecture + Art.

“Consequently, we have committed to continuing our work with students and faculty across disciplines to design and build adaptable and sustainable housing to be affordable by a family living at 80% of Vermont’s median income level and below.”

Through seminars and a design/build studio, a team of Engineering and Architecture + Art students and faculty will design and build one “Micro House” of approximately 200 square feet, including a bathroom and kitchen, by the end of the next academic year.

“TD is a strong advocate for environmental sustainability, so we are extremely excited to support this program,” said Phil Daniels, President, TD Bank, Maine. “This initiative will greatly benefit the residents of Vermont and provide students with the opportunity to give back to their community and contribute to its improvement.”

Norwich University is a diversified academic institution that educates traditional-age students and adults in a Corps of Cadets and as civilians. Norwich offers a broad selection of traditional and distance-learning programs culminating in Baccalaureate and Graduate Degrees. Norwich University was founded in 1819 by Captain Alden Partridge of the U.S. Army and is the oldest private military college in the United States of America. Norwich is one of our nation’s six senior military colleges and the birthplace of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). www.norwich.edu

In fulfillment of Norwich’s mission to train and educate today’s students to be tomorrow’s global leaders and captains of industry, the Forging the Future campaign is committed to creating the best possible learning environment through state-of-the-art academics and world-class facilities. Learn more about the campaign and how to participate in the “Year of Service” here: bicentennial.norwich.edu

A staunch commitment to active involvement in the local community is a vital element of the TD Bank philosophy. TD Bank, America’s Most Convenient Bank® and the TD Charitable Foundation provide support to affordable housing, financial literacy and education, and environmental initiatives, many of which focus on improving the welfare of children and families.

About the TD Charitable Foundation

The TD Charitable Foundation is the charitable giving arm of TD Bank N.A., which operates as TD Bank, America’s Most Convenient Bank®, and is one of the 10 largest commercial banking organizations in the United States. The Foundation’s mission is to serve the individuals, families and businesses in all the communities where TD Bank operates, having made more than $133.2 million in charitable donations since its inception in 2002. The Foundation’s areas of focus are affordable housing, financial literacy and education, and the environment. More information on the TD Charitable Foundation, including an online grant application, is available at www.TDBank.com.

About TD Bank, America’s Most Convenient Bank®

TD Bank, America’s Most Convenient Bank, is one of the 10 largest banks in the U.S., providing more than 8 million customers with a full range of retail, small business and commercial banking products and services at approximately 1,300 convenient locations throughout the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Metro D.C., the Carolinas and Florida. In addition, TD Bank and its subsidiaries offer customized private banking and wealth management services through TD Wealth®, and vehicle financing and dealer commercial services through TD Auto Finance. TD Bank is headquartered in Cherry Hill, N.J. To learn more, visit www.tdbank.com. Find TD Bank on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TDBank and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TDBank_US.

TD Bank, America’s Most Convenient Bank, is a member of TD Bank Group and a subsidiary of The Toronto-Dominion Bank of Toronto, Canada, a top 10 financial services company in North America. The Toronto-Dominion Bank trades on the New York and Toronto stock exchanges under the ticker symbol “TD”. To learn more, visit www.td.com.

Robust Slate for School of Architecture + Art 2014-15 Lecture Series

Upcoming speakers include Michael Gericke, partner at global design powerhouse Pentagram, and Kill Shakespeare graphic artist Andy Belanger.
By Tolya Stonorov & Timothy Parker, Assistant Professors
School of Architecture + Art

 
October 22, 2014

Over homecoming weekend, the School of Architecture + Art kicked off its annual lecture series, supported in part by the Jack & Dorothy Byrne Foundation, with a Norwich focus. Two students who received the prestigious Summer Research Fellowship, Shaili Patel and Taylor Davidson, each presented their research. They were followed by a lecture from Norwich architecture alumnus Jason Iacobucci, principal of Solus 4, an architecture, interior, and planning design and research firm which operates as a core group collaborative on a global platform.

The lecture series continued this October when Michael Gericke, a partner at Pentagram, self-described as the world’s largest independent design consultancy, who spoke on October 10. With offices in London, New York, San Francisco, Berlin and Austin, Pentagram markets itself by stating, “We design everything: architecture, interiors, products, identities, publications, posters, books, exhibitions, websites and digital installations.”

Co-sponsored by the Norwich University Writers Series, Andy Belanger (Andy B.), the graphic artist for the comic book series Kill Shakespeare will talk about creating art and life as a comic artist at the Chaplin Hall Gallery on Friday, Nov. 7 at 4 p.m. Kill Shakespeare is a 12-issue comic book that deals with William Shakespeare’s characters and Shakespeare himself. These famous characters are brought to life and they either long to kill Shakespeare or to protect him. The first 12 issues of Kill Shakespeare were adapted into a live staged reading format in 2011, which the Norwich Pegasus Players will perform on Friday and Saturday, November 7-8, at 7:30 p.m. in Dole Auditorium.

Later on November 14, Whitney Sander of the international-award-winning Sander Architects joins us from Los Angeles. Sander’s work includes a Hybrid House that “uses components of prefab technology to create homes that are custom designed for each client. Homes that are not only green but also very high design.” This focus on prefab and green design choreographs well with Norwich’s recent completion of the Delta T-90 Solar Decathlon house.

In February, we are thrilled to host Michael Cotton, a senior architect with Snøhetta, New York, who will discuss a newly completed project. Snøhetta’s designs are cutting edge, internationally recognized as among the best in the world. Their work varies in scope from architecture to landscape to branding.

On March 27, the School of Architecture + Art co-sponsors a symposium with the Vermont Arts Council on modern identity in architectural history, theory and practice. Prof. Vladimir Kulić, Prof. Monica Penick and Norwich Assistant Professor of History and Theory of Architecture and Art Prof. Timothy Parker are co-editors of Sanctioning Modernism: Architecture and the Making of Postwar Identities. The trio will convene and join a panel of practicing architects in a Sanctioning Modernism symposium that seeks to reflect on how modern identity touches present-day clients, architects’ own design principles and related contexts.

Norwich architecture alumnus Gavin L. Engler, an associate with Carol A. Wilson Architect in Falmouth, Me., whose work has been published and widely recognized for its excellence in design, will give the final lecture of the school year on April 10. Engler was named one of Maine’s “Forty Under 40” in recognition of his commitment to leadership, professional excellence and community involvement.

The School of Architecture + Art heartily invites you to join us for any or all of these events, which are all held in Chaplin Hall Gallery.