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College of Architecture
Texas Tech University
Mail Stop 42091
Lubbock, Texas 79409
Phone 806-742-3136
Email: architecture@ttu.edu


Course Information

Spring 2015 ARCH 5501, Comprehensive Design Studio, section 003
Credits: 5 semester credit hours
Meeting Times: Mon/Wed/Fri 1:00pm - 4:50pm
Location: Architecture Building, Room 803

Instructor Information

Chris Taylor

Office: Architecture Building, Room 709
Office Hours: by appointment
Phone: 806-834-1589
Email: chris.taylor@ttu.edu

Catalog Course Description

Topical studio that explores design, theoretical and/or technological issues that affect current architectural thought and practice. 5 Credits, Graduate.

National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) Criteria

Realm A: Critical Thinking and Representation. Graduates from NAAB-accredited programs must be able to build abstract relationships and understand the impact of ideas based on the study and analysis of multiple theoretical, social, political, economic, cultural, and environmental contexts. Graduates must also be able to use a diverse range of skills to think about and convey architectural ideas, including writing, investigating, speaking, drawing, and modeling. Student learning aspirations for this realm include:
  1. Being broadly educated.
  2. Valuing lifelong inquisitiveness.
  3. Communicating graphically in a range of media.
  4. Assessing evidence.
  5. Comprehending people, place, and context.
  6. Recognizing the disparate needs of client, community, and society.
A. 2. Design Thinking Skills:
Ability to raise clear and precise questions, use abstract ideas to interpret information, consider diverse points of view, reach well-reasoned conclusions, and test alternative outcomes against relevant criteria and standards.
A. 3. Investigative Skills:
Ability to gather, assess, record, and comparatively evaluate relevant information and performance in order to support conclusions related to a specific project or assignment.
Realm C: Integrated Architectural Solutions. Graduates from NAAB-accredited programs must be able to demonstrate that they have the ability to synthesize a wide range of variables into an integrated design solution. Student learning aspirations for this realm include:
  1. Comprehending the importance of research pursuits to inform the design process.
  2. Evaluating options and reconciling the implications of design decisions across systems and scales.
  3. Synthesizing variables from diverse and complex systems into an integrated architectural solution.
  4. Responding to environmental stewardship goals across multiple systems for an integrated solution.
C. 1. Research:
Understanding of the theoretical and applied research methodologies and practices used during the design process.

Course Purpose

Topical studio examining the liminal horizon between landscape—architecture—landscape through experiential modeling, perceptual drawing, and persistent measures of daily practice. Deep geologic time, adaptable tectonics, and autonomous shelter will focus this study of human land interaction.

Course Goals

This course will prompt students to:

  1. Frame, conceptualize, and articulate specific propositions for architecture at the intersection of human land interactions.
  2. Develop architecture propositions with experiential evidence of poetic and technical performance.
  3. Test realization of architecture propositions through detailed operational modeling, perceptual drawing, and generative writing.
  4. Cultivate an active creative process using persistent measures of daily practice of invention and reflection that propel the design culture within the college.
  5. Create a particular body of research locating architecture within a continuum of deep geologic, biologic and human time.

Learning Outcomes

Upon satisfactory completion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Frame, conceptualize, and articulate specific propositions for architecture at the intersection of human land interactions.
  2. Develop architecture propositions with experiential evidence of poetic and technical performance.
  3. Test realization of architecture propositions through detailed operational modeling, perceptual drawing, and generative writing.
  4. Cultivate an active creative process using persistent measures of daily practice of invention and reflection that propel the design culture of the college.
  5. Create a particular body of research locating architecture within a continuum of deep geologic, biologic and human time.


The expected learning outcomes of this course will be assessed through:

  1. Evaluation of performance on studio projects and assignments evidenced in drawings, models, writing, and verbal presentations.
  2. Evaluation of constructive participation in studio discussions and critiques, as well as public events that contribute to the design culture of the college.
  3. Evaluation of work submitted physically for review and digitally to the course web site. Following detail instructions such as naming conventions, organization, proper presentation techniques, and due dates.

Studio Definition

Project Statement

Smithson understood the prehistory of his site. Beneath the Great Salt Lake was, for some, the center of an ancient universe, and his jetty could have been an elaborate means to bore down to get to it. As if understanding this, Ballard wrote in the catalog text: “What cargo might have berthed at the Spiral Jetty?” he elaborated later to me in a letter: “My guess is that the cargo was a clock, of a very special kind. In their way, all clocks are labyrinths, and can be risky to enter.” The two men had a lot in common, and Ballard believed him to be the most important and most mysterious of postwar U.S. artists. My interest in time, cosmic and human, future and past, as well as the analog spooling of the now, has Ballard at its core.
Tacita Dean. “The Cosmic Clock with Ballard at its Core.” First published in the Guardian 27 April 2009, and then in JG (Glenside, PA: Arcadia University Art Gallery, 2013) page 11. ISBN 9780976215455

Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.
Cormac McCarthy, The Road. 
(New York: Vintage, 2006). ISBN 9780307277923

Shore is a liminal space that exists between civilization and the absolute. 
Jayson Musson and Alex Da Corte, Easternsports. Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, 2014. 

The ambition of this design studio is to develop a particular, distinct and vivid body of architecture research. Work will develop to a level of completion and integrity beyond standard academic studio practice and be held accountable to the details of action that follow the adage of poet and pediatrician William Carlos Williams: “no ideas but in things.”

The studio will examine the liminal horizon of human occupation between landscape—architecture—landscape. Liminal is an adjective commonly defined as: 1) of or relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process. 2) occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold. The examination will be framed and guided by liminal conditions of architecture, its very existence and compositions, as well as liminal site conditions.


The primary site for the studio will be the Great Salt Lake in Utah, however playa lake conditions on the Llano Estacado will also be engaged for analogous testing and development.


The primary program and project for the studio will be a base station for the Great Salt Lake Exploration Platform. Additional supporting projects will further the investigation and propel the primary project.

The Great Salt Lake Exploration Platform (GSLEP) will allow visual and performative research to occur within the vastly under explored landscape of the Great Salt Lake. It will enable people to spend periods of time on the lake to examine issues as broad as environmental indicators, perceptual thresholds, diverse land use, and cultural history from a unique and untapped perspective. It can be difficult to imagine unexploited sites of exploration. The remoteness of places near and far have been challenged by the increasing ability of media to access sites with remote sensing technologies. Despite these new and outstanding tools, much remains to be examined in our own backyards. The potency of primary research—first-person truth on the ground—remains paramount for architects, artists, and culture-workers operating among the complex realities of the built environment. The Great Salt Lake Desert is America’s backyard: collecting land-uses, building programs, and expounding material history expelled from other parts of the country. The Great Salt Lake is the lowest and most remote portion of this desert—our nation’s entropic sink. As a fundamentally inhospitable landscape (no fish live there), it holds unique and extreme architectural challenges for even temporary occupation.

The GSLEP will enable a small group people to remain upon the Great Salt Lake for determinate durations of time, and it will include necessary life support and a research infrastructure (shade, fresh water, food and waste storage, solar power, communications, and evacuation provisions), designed to maximize potential. The GSLEP with be designed and built by a collaboration between Chris Taylor and Steve Badgett, and once operational, it will be available to the Center for Land Use Interpretation‘s Wendover residents and other researchers interested in operating on the lake.


The primary ethos of this studio will hinge on intellectual and material risk. David Pye makes the productive distinction in his book The Nature and Art of Workmanship between the workmanship of risk: where “quality of the result is continually at risk during the process of making” and the workmanship of certainty where “quality of the result is exactly predetermined before a single saleable thing is made.” The formal outcome or destination of the studio is not known in advance—it has yet to be invented. Success will be a factor of the collective effort, student and faculty, to advance the questions of the studio and produce a body of research that evidences our inquiry within the language of architecture.

Multivalent assignments will guide the flow of the studio and meter minimal requirements. They are intended to frame performance goals, not limit intentions or responses. It is intended that work products from all registers and iterations will be cumulative and support the evolution of the project. Session reviews and weekly presentations will evaluate experiential evidence of poetic and technical performance. It will be essential from day one that tangible substantiations of intentions are produced.


Vital source material for the studio will come from direct lived experience and recording of light atmospherics at the water/land/horizon interface; historic and contemporary materials about the Great Salt Lake for both understanding and modeling site conditions; technical performance of materials and forms in hostile and dramatically dynamic conditions. It will be incumbent on the studio collective and each individual to nurture, develop and share these feeds as the studio develops. Particular responsibilities will be determined within specific assignments for the benefit of the studio as a whole.


How and where ideas and aspects of this project develop is part of the design opportunity within architecture. Our relationship to tools—particularly software—should be “by any means necessary.” We should follow whatever workflow and use whatever tools best supports the development of the project. It doesn’t matter if we drawn with our fingernail in mud or with Catia, what matters is how the process supports our ability to see and develop architecture. You will be asked to produce very specific work products with very specific standards. How you get there is part of your design identity that should be considered and most of all productive.


Software for the studio will cover a wide gamut. The choice of which electronic or hand drawing system deployed is up to the individual and choices should be made based on the relative impact on project development. Other software critical to the studio will include Adobe Acrobat for PDF creation and management, page layout application such as Adobe InDesign, animation edition software, word processing and spreadsheet tools. Students are encouraged to use an open and diverse palette.

Studio Operation & Structure

Class time in the studio will be used for working as a group, reviewing findings, and furthering research. Full attendance is required (see Attendance Policy below) and lateness or leaving early will result in a grading penalty. Successful completion of this studio will require significant work outside of class meeting times. The basis of any architecture school worth its salt can be measured in the energy in the studios. Our studio should be a place of investigation, production, dialog, and examination. It is fundamentally a place for developing our work. Therefore it will be essential to use the space, as well as other laboratories within the college with with respect and purpose. The integrity of work will register its details of production and material integrity. Generating dust and debris is necessary. So is cleaning up after ourselves and maintaining legibility within our investigations.

In addition contributing to the design culture of the college is part of the course goals and grading criteria. This includes extracurricular field trips associated with the studio as well as lectures, symposia and events that are part of the expanded educational opportunities of campus life. Efforts should be made to contribute and participate in the majority of these events.

Work and live by the Truisms ~ Studio Ethics. INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE IS SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASED BY WORKING IN THE STUDIO. Manage the time and focus of your work wisely. This is a profoundly demanding course and will require significant working time in addition to course meeting times.


The semester is divided into four primary sessions that feed into one another and support the development of the primary project. Session 1 - Charette will begin the studio by constructing a framing device to be used in the daily practice exercise throughout the term. Session 2, 3 and 4 will organize work of the primary project and structure a pattern of performance thresholds for the work. In additional to the daily practice a persistent research develop project will be ongoing throughout the term. In late February the studio will travel to the Great Salt Lake to make on site observations of liminal conditions and opportunities to be incorporated in the SITE work portion of the studio.

See the Detail Course Schedule and File:2015 Liminal Studio Schedule.pdf for additional and current information.


  • Session 1 - Charette camera frame / animation stage.
  • Daily Practice still images and compiled animation.
  • Research Log — sketchbook compiling ongoing research findings.
  • Individual studio development Wiki Archive — linked to studio page.
  • Collective physical / digital site model and supporting evidence.
  • Project components:
  • process evidence.
  • physical / digital models.
  • physical / digital drawings.
  • physical / digital documentation.
  • Electronic archive containing all work products, statements, research, precedents, synthesis, reflections, and references. (Indexed/nested PDF document).


Visit and contribute often to the continually evolving course references.


Academic Policies

Students are required to comply with the College Academic Policies, Attendance Policy, Architecture Building Policies, Student Code of Conduct, and the Retention of Student Work Policy. Should any changes in the syllabus be required during the course of the semester in-class announcements and/or electronic postings will be made to alert all students. Check the announcements section of the course website often.

ADA Statement

Any student who, because of a disability, may require special arrangements in order to meet the course requirements should contact the instructor as soon as possible to make any necessary arrangements. Students should present appropriate verification from Student Disability Services during the instructor’s office hours. Please note: instructors are not allowed to provide classroom accommodations to a student until appropriate verification from Student Disability Services has been provided. For additional information, please contact Student Disability Services in West Hall or call 806.742.2405, and see University Operating Policy 34.22.


As specified in the College Attendance Policy students are responsible for attending all scheduled class meetings for the full class period. A total of four absences is considered excessive, requiring the student to drop the class or receive a grade of “F” in compliance with drop deadlines. Tardiness, arriving more than 15 minutes late, will be recorded as 1/4 of an absence.

All absences are considered unexcused with the exception of those due to religious observance specified in University Operating Procedure 34.19 and officially approved trips or University Business regulated by University Operating Procedure 34.04.

Students are expected to comply with TTU Center for Campus Life rules for reporting student illness requiring absence from class for more than one week, or immediate family member deaths. Attendance is defined as participation in all studio/class activities including group and individual critiques, lectures, presentations, demonstrations, discussions, in-class assignments, and possible field trips. Attendance requires students to have their tools and materials available for all studio activities; excessive tardiness, leaving early, lack of participation, walking in and out of lectures, undivided attention, disruptive behavior, etc. will be recorded as absences. Students are not allowed to work on assignments from other classes during studio.


All assignments are due as indicated on the course schedule prior to the beginning of class. Not having work to present (models, drawings, printouts, papers) or documentation materials posted to the course wiki at the start of class will be considered an absence. In studio courses all previously completed work should be available in the studio always so it can be referred to throughout the design and critique process.

Studio Work Archive File Naming

Ideally everything created in the studio will exist both in analog and digital form. Creating a standard system of naming files and objects is essential to maintain order. Part of each assignment will be the submission of work in both both forms. All digital documents must adhere to the following naming convention:

File name structure: Prof.Lastname_Prof.Firstname_Stu.Lastname_Stu.Firstname_ProjectName_IterationNumber_Semester.jpg
Example: Taylor_Chris_YourLastName_YourFirstName_Daily Practice_0000_Spring2015.jpg

All letters are lowercase and the article number should always be in four digit format to allow for many items.

Grading Criteria

Grading will be based on individual performance and the products produced over the course of the term. Everything relative to the studio production is part of the process. Grading will follow the criteria of the college Grade Definitions on a 0-100 scale and evaluations of Intention, Development, and Resolution will be provided at the conclusion of each session of the studio. Attendance is vital to success in this studio (be sure to review the Attendance Policy listed above). Participation in lectures and events outside class is also greatly encouraged and required as part of overall participation since it has the potential to significantly impact your education. No extra credit is available in this course.

Grade weighting:

Component = Percentage
Session 1 = 15%
Session 2 = 10%
Session 3 = 10%
Session 4 = 25%
Daily Practice = 10%
Research Log = 5%
SITE work = 15%
Overall Participation = 10%
Total Grade = 100%

2015 Liminal Studio Studio Home