Secrets of the Samurai Sword


Great conversation about steel, making and craftmanship.


assignment 1 – ASCENT / DESCENT


A small scale, high intensity material investigation that explores the relationship between circulation, structure, tectonics and space.

-learn to discover criteria and constraints on your own
-understand space and program as it relates to the scale of the human body
-develop conceptualization and problematizing skills
-explore material connections and expressions in steel and simple steel structures
– gain insight into steel fabrication methods and craft in order to control outcomes for objects
-interrogate the simple acts of climbing a stair, descending a fire pole and inhabiting structure to shape space and experience.
-focus on the craft of building a great model

Design a steel stair and pole tower for firefighters. It may be a lookout for forest fires, a candidate-training tower, or the everyday access to/from the apparatus floor of a fire station. The critical investigations will be the act of ascending/descending and the details of connection (material, programmatic, and spatial) at each landing/level/platform. Investigate steel as the main building material both structurally and expressively. All structural components will consist of conventional or custom steel sections (tubes, angles, channels, W-sections, etc), sheet metal, steel cables etc. that will be applied to a conclusive structural system.

The remaining criteria are as follows:
1. The tower shall achieve a minimum height of 24’ and a maximum height of 30’.
2. The stairs (rise/run) and handrails must comply with a current code of your choosing.
3. The tower must include both stairs and a fireman’s pole, and the stair tower may include any one other single element.

1. A comprehensive and well crafted model of the tower at ¾” = 1’-0”.   Material of your choosing.
2. Minimum of (2) process drawings of the structure or material connections at 1 ½” = 1’-0” or larger.

additional resources:
1.  American Institute of Steel Construction, Manual of Steel Construction.
2. Municipal Building Code of Chicago.
3. 2012 International Building Code.  ISBN-13: 978-1609830403.
4. Schulitz, Sobek, Habermann; Steel Construction Manual; Birkhäuser Basel, 2000
5. Ernst Neufert; Architect’s Data; Lockwood
6. Hoke, Ramsey; Architectural Graphic Standards; Wiley,2000


A high intensity small scale investigation introducing you to the 1:1 material qualities and properties of steel.   

-develop skills of concepting
-explore steel connections
-explore material expression with steel
– gain insight into steel fabrication methods and craft in order to control outcomes for object
-develop conceptual thinking with structure + material
-interrogate the boat and the act of rowing

Design a steel armature for displaying a single two person sculling (row) boat.  Assume that the boat will be displayed in an enclosed, empty four walled and roofed space, and the space will have no relevance to the design of the Armature.  The boat can be displayed by any means in any orientation or in any position in the room.  

A single model of the armature, either at 1:1 or any other scale no smaller than 1 ½” = 1’-0”. Due Wednesday, September 7th, 2pm.

additional resources:
1. Sverre Fehn, Hamar Bispegaard Museum, 1973, Hamar, Norway
2. Carlo Scarpa, Castelvecchio Museum, 1973, Verona, Italy
3.  Alinea serving ware,