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ASU reimagines architecture program to be more inclusive

ASU first-year architecture students take over field with group projects.
October 29, 2021

New curriculum teaches collaboration in group projects

Arizona State University’s reimagined architecture program has welcomed its largest first-year class — 330 students, who are part of an innovative new way of teaching one of the most rigorous disciplines.

“We’ve rewritten the undergraduate course in architecture to be completely inclusive,” said Catherine Spellman, professor of architecture in the The Design School in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

“It used to be that we had room for 45 students in the second year going forward, but we’ve rewritten the undergraduate BSD in architectural studies to accept everyone who has a 3.0 grade point average.”

Previously, the program would have about 200 first-year students. Spellman said the process of cutting down the cohort to 45 students was “heart-breaking.”

“There was always that number 46, and they always had a 3.5 GPA,” she said.

“This is a plan to keep them instead of sending them away.”

Students in ASU's Architecture 101 studio course took over the Intramural Field on the Tempe campus with a collaborative project based on circles.

Last week, the students in the Architecture 101 studio course took over the Intramural Field on the Tempe campus with a collaborative project based on circles. They were assigned to review a real structure, ancient or contemporary, that’s round, and told to redesign it in a computer program. Then they created 50-foot-wide designs on butcher paper and laid them on the field.

ASU architecture student giving the thumbs up sign.

The “buildings” represent outdoor pavilions in a sculpture garden. After creating their designs with the paper on the field, the students “became” the sculptures, including student José Nuñez (shown above).

ASU architecture students unrolling a large roll of butcher paper on a grassy field.

Students Cameron Pfaff, Francisco Valenzuela, Zach Warmiak and Aryan Kashyap (above, from left), and their classmates, learned how to collaborate, organize a project and deal with on-site issues, like wind.

Spellman said that with so many students, the first-year course had to be taught in a new way. She co-teaches with Elena Rocchi, clinical associate professor, and Felipe Mesa Rico, assistant professor. The three professors give lectures and also work closely with the teaching assistants, who are Master of Architecture students.

The semester is divided into three modules, and each has a group project. The circles were the project for the second module.

ASU Professor of architecure Catherine Spellman speaking into a microphone.

“What we’re trying to emphasize is that this is what we do as architects,” said Spellman (shown above).

“Architecture is often taught where every student does their own thing from the start to the end, and that is not how we practice. It’s not how you do anything in architecture.

“You get out to the site and you deal with it.”

ASU students arrange large sheets of butcher paper on a grassy field.

Students Ashlyn Anderson (left) and Wesley Chrisman wait for stones to keep their project from blowing away.

Paola Sanguinetti, an architect and the new director of The Design School, said that having beginning architecture students learn how to connect to a site is a pioneering way to teach the discipline.

“They think about wind loads and scale and gravity in a very experiential way,” she said as she watched the students on the field.

“They will carry this with everything else they do. This is completely innovative and transformational.”

Student Andrea Yazzie was pleased because her team used the design she created. She is a transfer student from Glendale Community College, where she earned a degree in computer assisted design technology.

“It came out pretty good and we managed it as a team,” she said as she sat in the middle of her group’s circle with an umbrella to shield her from the sun. She said that during the semester, the class has dealt with heat and wind while working on projects outdoors on campus.

“That definitely builds character for all of us.”

Aerial view of circular images produced by architecture students on a field.

Photography by Charlie Leight/ASU News. Top and bottom drone photos by Amanda Ochs/Above AZ Aerial photography.

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News


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The science behind the suits of 'Dune'

October 29, 2021

ASU engineer designs clothing for extreme heat

Inhabitants of the desert planet Arrakis in the movie "Dune" wear suits to protect them from the heat, cool them and recycle moisture from their bodies.

It’s more science than fiction for thermal dynamics engineer Konrad Rykaczewski.

He’s been working on similar suits for years.

An engineering professor at Arizona State University, he is more than familiar with heat. He moved to Arizona eight years ago and, like Paul Atreides, became entranced by the desert.

His lab’s mottos: “We make soft thermal materials+systems and cool future fashion / We study human thermal exposure in extreme heat.”

Southern Arizona is a great stand-in for Arrakis. Temperatures can soar to 122 and rain is usually non-existent outside of the summer monsoon season.

A mountain biker, Rykaczewski hits the trails at 4:30 a.m. on summer mornings. “Sometimes that’s not enough,” he said. When daily lows hit 95, it’s brutal doing anything outside.

That inspired him to work on clothing, designs and materials specifically for extreme heat, some of which echo what appears in the film.

In imagining clothes of the future, Rykaczewski didn’t go forward 10,000 years to the world of "Dune." He went back in time to Renaissance England and the court of the Sun King. Clothing from those periods extended far beyond the wearer’s body, like massive collars, padded shoulders and sleeves, hoopskirts, bustles, crinolines, hats and wigs.

Reimagine the design and use modern materials, and some historic styles can cool much more than the tight clothes people wear now.

Think Elizabethan ruff collars, Southern hoop skirts or Victorian calash bonnets, but made from some of the materials Rykaczewski has invented, like a silicone combined with partially liquid, partially solid particles of gallium-based liquid metal. It conducts heat like steel, but is as soft as your skin.

“At some point we might be defined by our need to cool, not by the need to look cool,” he said. “Radiation is a very big chunk of the heat load. So playing around with kind of exterior surfaces and clothes, how do you adjust them? It really has a lot of potential, I think.”

A metamaterial film that reflects visible light but emits highly in infrared could be incorporated into designs. Condenser tubes could provide the support for a future hoopskirt, bustle or crinoline that would provide a large heat rejection area.

“Could the humble evaporative cooling bandana or towel be outperformed and replaced by an expandable, super-absorbent ruff collar, which could store and evaporate considerably more water?” Rykaczewski wrote in one of his papers.

Cooling garments infographic

Infographic by Safwat Saleem/ASU Visual Communications

Seeing the movie and reading the book made him think about some of these aspects.

“It's an engineering thing,” he said. “Whenever you approach a problem, it's interesting to think about the limits and extremes, and this is one of these extremes. Essentially the whole way of living (on Arrakis) is centered around moisture and evaporation.”

He figured out some of how Frank Herbert’s stillsuits work. Evaporation is how people cool, but the source materials never explain how condensation is induced in them.

You are cooling. You release a lot of energy from your body surface with evaporation. But then it takes the same amount of energy to condense it. So the interior surface has to be cooler than the vapor in order to do that. You need to be able to remove that energy to the outside at a higher rate that's equal or higher to the rate you're evaporating. Otherwise the little micro-climates — the gap between the suit and the environment — are completely saturated with water and you couldn't evaporate anymore.

“So that's actually the problem,” he said. “You would have 100% humidity and you sweat all you want, but it just pulls down. So it doesn't do the cooling part ... You need some kind of a heat sink way to remove that heat from the hot vapor in order to cycle it. And that was not explained. So maybe, you know, there's some magical material in there that does the trick.”

Producing water from body moisture is another trick entirely. Astronaut suits have systems for containing waste, but not recycling it into drinking water. In the Duneverse, stillsuits have pumps in the heels to circulate liquids. As well as the filter problems, there are pressure problems, which would have to be cracked as well.

“It makes perfect sense for the water,” Rykaczewski said. “Whether you actually could build up enough pressure to pass it back to your mouth is a different question. You might have to jump a lot.”

Top image: Paul Atreides and Lady Jessica Atreides on Arrakis, wearing stillsuits. Courtesy of Warner Brothers / Legendary Pictures.

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU News