Expanding Our Reach

The PCI Foundation Board of Trustees recently voted to continue its support for Clemson University's Precast Studio for three more years.

Over the past 5 years, the Clemson/PCI Foundation Architecture Studio has completed 5 architecture studios with a total enrollment of 51 students, both graduate and undergraduate seniors (vertical studio); plus more than 360 students involved in architectural structures courses. Its main studio program has developed a unique approach based on hands-on experiential learning and direct involvement of industry partners and professionals. A typical studio consists of 3 distinct projects, each representing a key step in the learning process about the material possibilities and the industry at large. The 3 projects are identified with unique characteristics and learning objectives as follows:

  1. Introduction to precast concrete: the reconstruction of an existing cast-in-site building where students must transform the original design into a total precast solution. Conducted after an introductory lecture on precast design and fabrication, students learn about design logistics, production sequence, panelization and component fabrication, transportation, final delivery and site erection.
  2. Hands-on exercises: this includes workshops on fabrication, plant visits, panel fabrication with diverse architectural finishes, mold-making with elastomeric rubber formliners, and a special project on tessellations, a multi-casting of repetitive products for design of patterns.
  3. Main architectural design project: the studio continues with a long term-project of demanding program and complexity. Projects have included a mixed-use high-rise building in New York City, extension to the Greenville-Spartanburg airport main terminal and design of diplomatic buildings, one for the Embassy of Australia in Washington DC, and one for the US Consulate in Rio de Janeiro – each incorporating precast/prestressed concrete in their design solutions.

In addition to the main studio, special lectures and modules are now part of the regular architectural structures courses curriculum, which include site and plant visits and lectures by Peter Finsen, Executive Director of Georgia/Carolinas PCI. Furthermore, a creative inquiry (CI), which is a special topics elective, has served to bring together students from architecture and civil engineering to work on special topics related to precast concrete.

All these activities have created a culture in which students and recent graduates are constantly seeking opportunities to use their knowledge in precast concrete for their design projects. Several students have landed jobs as a result of their involvement in our studio and have invited PCI producer members to present their products and capabilities to their architectural offices. Peter Finsen has also delivered lunch & learn presentations to their firms by invitation of our studio alumni.

Recently Clemson professors have seen additional evidence of the success of its program and how it can transform the culture in our school. "Three graduate students in the Architecture and Health program are using precast concrete in their projects, despite none of them haven taken our studio," says Professor Carlos Barrios. "They have reached out for advice and resources and I have provided them a copy of the PCI Architectural Manual. Furthermore, all students that had participated in the most recent edition of the precast studio are doing their senior design projects using precast concrete in their studio, even against the advice of their instructors."

The Clemson/PCI Foundation Architecture Studio will its program based on the success of our main studio as well as collateral courses (structures and CI). It aims to expand involvement of civil engineering students in the studio in a more systematic way to be active participants in the process. The professors' thinking is that engineering students can make significant contributions in any of the two first exercises. " also aim to involve local architecture professionals to be active participants in the studio as project mentors to the students, while at the same time students can teach these professionals about the advantages and benefits of using precast products in their projects," says Barrios.

"Further expanding the studio’s footprint to reach a significantly larger group of students and faculty, we would like to invite high caliber design and industry professionals to participate in our school-wide annual lecture series to showcase their precast design concepts and projects. The PCI Foundation and PCI at-large might help identify potential speakers continuing our successful partnership."

 
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