Assignment 4b: Building Systems


As with every building design project, once the driving principles have been established, the architect’s job is to then turn the idea into a building by developing and composing the building systems into space.  Your job is to now complete the design of the Lincoln Park Boathouse through the development of the key building systems – plan, section, structure and enclosure.   A great project will use the developed Parti to lead the design process for every one of these systems, allowing the building systems to fully embody the idea, just as the programmatic organization or site strategies have.

– learn to use your Parti as the primary driver of all building systems
– develop and produce plans and sections that investigate and convey space and experience through intelligent and creative use of drawing conventions.
– understand the relationship between building systems and spatial experience.
– develop structural frames and enclosure systems that embody the larger ideas and ideals of a project.
– understand the performance criteria of an enclosure system and learn to develop enclosure systems that meet those functional requirements while advancing design agendas.

Starting from the ground, develop a building frame that satisfies the complex issues of creating a form, resolving all typical building loads necessary to support the building while still advancing your design agenda as much as necessary to satisfy your larger design intent.

Consider the following as you develop your structural system.
– Does your structural system have a common and/or governing logic for resolving all of the parts in relation to the whole?
– Have you studied alternatives and variations that meet your specific criteria and analyzed their pros and cons?
– Does your structure satisfy a broader agenda?  If so, how?  If not, why not?
– Is your structural system exposed or is it concealed, and what is your process for determining the most appropriate answer to these questions?

Using conventional drawing means, develop detailed plans and sections for your Boathouse.   Plan and Section are two of the most typical and useful means of communicating space and spatial relationships, but they should also be used as a means of investigation and exploration.

To draw successful plans and sections, it is critical to have an intent for the drawings.  Consider the varieties of systems we have been working with and designing and determine methods for communicating each of these systems in your drawings.  Let the convention of drawing also find ways to express your larger ideas and agendas.

When investigating, consider the following:
– the thickness of your lines
– the thickness of your systems (walls, enclosure)
– materiality
– interior versus exterior
– poche
– building systems (circulation, use, structure)
– context

Develop an enclosure system, composed of all of the parts/systems discussed in our Box for Boats assignment and Wall Section lecture, that controls the environmental stability of your Boathouse as well as satisfies the larger design agendas you have established through your Parti.

Remember, an envelope is the primary means of controlling visual and physical access to our buildings as well as energy transmission to and from the spaces we create.  As such, we should consider these primary systems in the development of our enclosures:

Aesthetic – Both from the interior of the building and the exterior of the building, the enclosure system, often in conjunction with the structural system, forms the visual expression of our buildings, and this expression must be considered and developed with intent.  The agenda for the expression should be developed initially from our Parti and realized through the specific use of materials, their connections and compositions.

Thermal – This system embodies the control of energy and moisture through the envelope and includes the primary means of waterproofing and insulating a building, as well as controlling the passage of water vapor.  These elements should form continuous lines of control and protection, and should only be compromised when absolutely necessary to satisfy other, and more important, agendas.

Use – Elements such as doorways and windows facilitate use, circulation and view, and must be manipulated strategically to choreograph a users experience in and through a building, and it, too, should be developed in conjunction with your larger Parti to become one with your overall design agenda.

The deliverables for this phase will be any necessary drawings, models and visualizations to convey the development of these systems and the overall design for your Boathouse project.   Drawings can and should include any information necessary to convey your process and your broader intent, including diagrams and Parti’s.   Drawings will not be limited but should include at a minimum, building plans and building/site sections, a minimum of 2 enlarged details/wall sections that convey the details and relationship of your structure and enclosure, and representations necessary to convey the materiality of your project and its desired effect.   Other drawings that attempt to convey the spatial experience of your boathouse are strongly encouraged.

Models can include any massing or study models, or enlarged enclosure/structural models.  Models will not be limited, but at a minimum a well-considered study/massing model and a model representing your building frame at a minimum scale of 1/16” will be required.

All information should be composed on individual 11×17’s pages oriented horizontally.



Workshop #5 Structural Framing Lecture


  • to study the parameters involved for framing strategies.
  • to study how structural design derives from a parti meaning what is the project about?
  • to investigate the spatial impact of structural design.


  • Print: 11” x 17” site plan (scale: 1’=32”)
  • Roll of Trace Paper
  • Marker (3 different colors)
  • Bass Wood Sheet (1mm thickness)
  • Square Wood Rod (1mm diameter)
  • Round Wood Rod (1mm diameter)
  • Glue Gun
  • Chipboard Baseplate ((2mm thickness) – cut to site boundaries)

Part 1- Intro: Framing in the Spirit of the Parti. (2:00-2:30)

Part 1- Action: Frame Design Schemes (2:30-3:00)
Plan – Sketch two optional span layouts on trace paper on your site plan (1’=32”). Apply the following horizontal framing design criteria:


  • Span analysis (long + short directions)
  • bay analysis (distances)
  • span directions
  • diaphragms
  • cantilevers


  • “What is your project about?” (parti)
  • rhythm
  • openings

Section – Sketch two sections and apply the following vertical framing design criteria.

  • Column thickness
  • shearing
  • span
  • cantilevers


  • “What is your project about?” (parti)
  • rhythm
  • openings
  • roof slope
  • openings
  • “gate”

Part 2 – Intro: Estimating Structural Dimensions (3:00-3:30)

Part 2 – Action: Framing Model (3:30-end of class)

Step 1  Determine Structural Hierarchy
Use your schematic design of your frame layout. Determine the structural hierarchy of girders, beams, joists and columns and mark them in different colors.

Step 2  Estimate Structural Dimensions
Estimate the following structural dimension and write them onto each member in your drawing:

  • heights of girders, beams, joists (L/20)
  • heights of cantilever (L/10)
  • thickness of columns (L/10)

Step 3 Make Framing Model
Cut all structural members (columns and girders/beams) according to their estimated dimensions.
Glue the frames together and assemble them according to your framing plan and section.

Kearns Studio: For Wed

please come to class with a model that synthesizes your site strategy, program analysis, parti work and feedback received from Monday’s crits into a massing model with materiality positioned and sized appropriately on site and with all of your program.  This model will facilitate the next phase of structure development, then plans/sections, and enclosure.

TA Help Desk

As we make our final push on the Boathouse design Chris and Chan have agreed to hold help desk hours outside of studio time.  If you need feedback on your work or if you have software issues, they can be found for assistance at the following times:

Thursdays, 1:00pm – 5:00pm, Room 204 of 3410

Sundays, 2:00pm – 6:00 pm, Room 208 of 3410