Visitors Join our Symposium on the Future of Architecture

As a part of their architectural tour of Chicago, 20 students from the Institute for Lightweight Structures and Conceptual Design (ILEK) at the University of Stuttgart visited Northwestern University for a symposium on Education and Research for 21st Century Architects and Engineers.  The symposium brought together ILEK visitors with architects and engineers affiliated with Northwestern’s Architectural Engineering and Design (AE&D) Program, as well as current students and other faculty.

Architectural historian Thomas Leslie, Morrill Pickard Chilton Professor of Architecture at Iowa State University,  kicked off the program by reviewing the evolution of skyscrapers in Chicago, which was driven by unique soil conditions, a volatile real estate market, the shift from iron to steel, the costs of brick construction, and developments in plate glass, elevators, and, eventually, air conditioning.

ILEK Research Associates Stefanie Weidner and Christian Kelleter then described the history of the ILEK and some of their current research efforts in the innovative use of materials, and designs to mitigate vibration in lightweight structures.

Architects working with the Northwestern AE&D Program then described some of their own innovations in architecture and design.

  •  Eric Keune and Christian Hartz from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill reviewed the engineering concepts for extremely tall buildings they have worked with.  They described the evolution from the steel frame to the trussed tube (John Hancock Building), bundled tubes (Sears Tower), concrete core, buttressed-core (Burj Khalifa), and the super core concept, the next innovation in tall building framing, which can allow heights not previously attainable.
  • Thomas Mozina of Perkins and Will Architects described the design for Northwestern’s Simpson Querry Research Lab on the downtown Chicago medical campus, focusing on the challenges of placing a complex structure on a unique and constrained site, and emphasizing  energy efficiency and the use of natural light.
  • Thomas Jacobs of Krueck and Sexton Architects discussed the design for their South Florida Federal Building, the FBI regional headquarters, which has strong aesthetically appeal, makes effective use of natural light and surroundings, while still providing a high level of security.  Jacobs described a successful building as one that is useful, essential, understandable, and strong in form.
  • Larry Booth of Booth Hansen, who is Richard C. Halpern/Rise International Distinguished Architect in Residence at Northwestern University, illustrated his simple and inexpensive designs for public facilities, including efficient and elegant construction methods made possible through the use of precast concrete panels. Booth also described Northwestern’s Architectural Engineering & Design Program, which he created and has led since its inception in 2008. 

The symposium concluded with a round table discussion of needs and opportunities for preparing the next general of architects and engineers. Among the ideas advocated were the value of the “Euro model” of education that integrates theory and practice; the importance of teaching students to think, not just to do; the essential value of developing a true understanding of the problem to be address, the “what” and the “where”; the usefulness of hand sketching skills to capture ideas rapidly; the benefits of bringing architecture and engineering together; and the contributions of interdisciplinary collaboration, which is sometimes easier in practice than in school.

The relationship between Northwestern and ILEK began with a summer 2015 workshop at ILEK attended by a group of AE&D students and faculty.  Plans are in progress to repeat this visit in summer 2017.

Learn more about the Architecture Engineering and Design Program.