Mirroring his own practice philosophy, the pedagogical approach he employs leads students through an iterative process - alternating between interrogation and solution. Reconsidering their assumptions through a series of rigorous explorations in model, drawing, and writing - each mode serving to forge the designs through formal investigations. These iterations take cues from precedent study, architectural theory, and material research - elevating the students’ broader architectural discussion to develop their ideations to formal and spatial ends. This methodology is employed in lecture courses and design studios, as students test their empirical strengths to ideate, examine and enhance their design. Professional and teaching experience with environmental systems, sustainability, materials and methods, in addition to both digital and analog representation and fabrication methods allow Raab to translate multiple sources of information within a singular class settings.
His teaching approach comprises two distinct skill sets; firstly, the basis of graphical representation, and secondly, the development of external awareness. Attaining proficiency in analog visualization techniques, such as the freehand sketch, diagrams, orthographic drawing, collage, and the physical model, not only provides the foundation for more complex digital methods later, but also keeps the student grounded in the physicality of architecture through haptic experience.
Raab has taught graduate and undergraduate studios at Texas Tech and UT-Austin. In early studios, Raab's students sharpen an intuitive sensitivity to the design possibilities of sensory and climatic cues, such as how light can be manipulated and filtered to activate space and how the human body conforms to or alters form, or how structural principles can be used to strengthen and reinforce design decisions. Within more advanced studios, students typically start with a full-scale material exploration, and use this to further the discussion of the entire building through the detail, while integrating construction technologies and environmental systems. Utilizing active and passive systems to benefit thermal comfort and aid energy efficiency, as well as the use of building of full-scale mock-ups and rapid-prototyping to test architectural assumptions.
Raab's interest in sustainability began during his graduate studies while participating in two different design-build projects. The first project called for the construction of two adobe homes for the Yaqui Indians in the Sonoran Desert of Mexico. The solution utilized passive design strategies such as thermal mass, natural ventilation, and the use of local materials. Raab approached the second project readied to add complexity to this low-tech approach. Through a greater leadership role as the landscape team leader, a key member in the engineering team, and site construction manager for the University of Texas at Austin’s design-build entry into the 2005 Solar Decathlon. The SNAP House, an 800 square foot semi-portable residence, placed sixth overall in this International Competition. Following the Solar Decathlon success, Raab continued to investigate climatic integration as a graduate teaching assistant for Environmental Controls II in 2006. This lecture course focused on passive and active thermal techniques and provided an essential component to the comprehensive third-year studio.
This keen interest in sustainability and environmental design led Raab to London, where he had the opportunity to work with Foster + Partners on a number of large-scale mixed-use projects in Europe, and two-winning competition entries for projects in the UK and the Middle East. While there, Raab concentrated on developing integrated design processes that approach sustainability by combining passive design strategies in tandem with active systems through projects like the Prototype School for Sierra Leone and the winning entry for Rimini Hotel and Felini Museum Competition. These large-scale initiatives, coupled with the smaller, more localized interventions that Raab has worked on since founding the Austin Design Collaborative [ADC] translate well to research initiatives bridging practice and pedagogy. These design tools can be applied to small but impactful projects such as local design-build initiatives, educational exhibitions and innovative material research that can be used to energize to the community while advancing the architectural design field. In the fall of 2012, this collaborative effort involving select students from UT-Austin and ADC, were winners to the Sukkah City Austin Competition, which culminated in the fabrication and installation of our designs and presentation to AIA Austin. Currently, Raab is the collaborative lead on a $50,000 grant proposal for a design-build venture between the College of Architecture and the School of Art at Texas Tech University to create a large-scale camera obscura intervention in the downtown arts district - teaching students material and civic awareness, while attempting to strengthen the local community. Raab’s practice continues to develop his professional agenda while working on two bar / restaurants along the San Antonio Riverwalk. One; an upscale tequila bar located within the Hyatt and currently under construction; the other a renovation and redesign of an historic music venue in the Pearl Brewery District, which is currently in design development.
During the fall of 2015, Raab was invited to give a presentation at the Texas Architects Design Expo in Dallas, titled "Old Materials, Newly Conceived," where he will demonstrate several innovative design materials and products that are creating architectural experiences throughout the world. Raab has recently published a chapter for the book “Discovering Architecture: Built Form as Cultural Reflection”, [Kendall-Hunt, 2014], where he wrote of the material and technological development of barns as an evolving archetype. Raab’s pedagogical research has been accepted to National conferences. In addition, Raab has presented numerous papers and projects at the 2014 and 2015 Conference for Association of Collegiate Schools in Architecture Conferences, at the 2014 National Conference for the Beginning Design Student and the 2015 Building Technology Educators Society.