For young designers, ceramic has the pedagogical power, and material vibrancy to bring, making, tolerance and expression together in conjunction with new technologies. This course overview presents a pedagogical framework to have students respond creatively to structural instability, and error, by making iterative prototypes using a CNC clay extruder.
To exist as a part inter partes inside the isotopic space invented by the long history of geometry, still-life painting, and technical drawing is not at all the same as existing as an entity that has to resist decay and corruption. Obvious? Yes, of course—but then why do we so often act as if matter itself were made of parts that behave just like those of technical drawings, which live on indefinitely in a timeless, unchanging realm of geometry?
– Bruno Latour, Can We Get Our Materialism Back, Please?
The labor and skill associated with measure and tolerance are often difficult subjects to teach in architectural education. This is due in part to the partitioning of virtual models from matter, and images from drawings. Correlations between form, material and tolerance are contingent upon a framework of unpredictability, and they are often pedagogically isolated from the richness of cultural diversity and artistic expression that they engender. For young designers, ceramic has the pedagogical power, and material vibrancy to bring, making, tolerance and expression together in conjunction with new technologies. This ceramic design seminar initiates hands on experience for students to engage in the production of a stool that they design in the computer, and then produce through the use of a CNC ceramic extruder. For most architecture students this is their first experience with ceramic. The course is designed to setup the students to respond creatively to structural instability, and error, by making iterative prototypes using clay.
Rhett Russo is a designer, educator and a maker of ceramic objects. He currently serves as the Undergraduate Chair in Architecture at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). Rhett defines his approach to Architecture and Design as Ceramicology – a confluence of the ceramic process, the physics and chemistry of clay, and digital technology. His research engages reuse at multiple scales, including objects, furniture and sculpture to explore architecture, structure, light and sound through the surplus of ceramic formations such as grains, slabs, sheets, slips, and semi-plastic mediums. His design work has been exhibited internationally including, the Florence Art Biennale, OBJECT Rotterdam, & Taiwan Ceramics Biennale. Rhett Russo is the recipient of numerous design awards including: The Young Architect’s Award from the Architectural League of New York, and the Van Alen Institute Dinkeloo Fellowship at The American Academy in Rome where he studied the works of Giovanni Michelucci and Pier Luigi Nervi. Russo’s writings on design, pedagogy and architecture have been published in various publications including: Aesthetics Equals Politics (MIT Press), AD Workflow (Wiley), XXL-XS New Directions in Ecological Design (Actar D), The Estranged Object (Graham Foundation), Via: Dirt (MIT Press), Meander: Variegating Architecture (Bentley), & Matter: Material Processes in Architectural Production (Routledge).