Woven Assemblies - syllabus


Material Innovations

Woven Assemblies


The nature of an innovation is that it will arise at a fringe where it can afford to become prevalent enough to establish its usefulness without being overwhelmed by the inertia of the orthodox system.
— Kevin Kelly


Professor: Michael Leighton Beaman

University of Virginia | School of Architecture

ALAR 8010 | ALAR 7010 | ARC 4010

Campbell Hall : 4th floor studios

Mon. & Fri. : 1:00pm - 4:45p | Wed. 1:00pm - 2:30pm



The discourse surrounding social responsibility is one that has increasingly shifted away from a focus on state-sponsored projects, such as the Marshall Plan, to smaller, decentralized projects initiated and executed by a constellation of individuals and organizations, as evidenced by the proliferation of NGOs, which currently represent the world's 8th largest economy. This shift is not a result of new set of capacities or new forms of agency, rather it is emerging from a change in how we position and approach social responsibility within other discourses and practices.

For architects and landscape architects guided by a mission to effect our world, social responsibility is one of many frameworks through which spatial design practices intervene in the creation of the built environment.  It is not an aspect of practice that requires import, only engagement. It is already folded into how we define the our collective built environment. And, it is in the built environment,  within its material, political, cultural, and technological composition, that designers must find the means for intervention.

Material Innovations is a series of research studios that leverage advances in design and production technologies within a socially and environmentally responsible framework for design practice to create novel propositions and transformative interventions for the built environment.

In this semester’s iteration, our focus will be on investigating weaving processes, developing woven enclosure systems and prototyping woven building assemblies that have a low environmental impact, and require little to no construction experience to implement. We will utilize manual and automated processes, intuitive and computational methodologies, and both conventional and experimental techniques throughout the semester.  

This research will then be applied to designs and proposals for the Masoro Learning and Sports Center (MLSC), a project that focuses on expanding literacy and education opportunities through organized sports programs for youth in Masoro, Rwanda.  The MLSC project is being developed and designed with GA Collaborative a design non-profit, and run by Imbutu a Rwandan education-based NGO. The project is funded through the On Purpose initiative & private donations.  

Our studio will be divided into 3 parts, each focusing on a different aspect of the assigned research project. 

Part A:  Research

  • Materials
  • Techniques
  • Assemblies
  • Prototypes

Part B:  Application

  • Demographic, Cultural, & Environmental Context
  • Physical Site
  • Program
  • Landscape & Building Design
  • Details

Part C:  Documentation

  • Assemblies & Details
  • Data Graphics
  • Landscape & Building
  • Phasing
  • Manual


All work and participation is graded using a points systems. Points are determined using three criteria, and distributed by the stated percentages and/or points. Points translate to grades from A - D in  +/- increments.


Grading will be determined by how well each student performs in the following areas: 

Part A | 45%

Part B | 35%

Part C | 20%



Grading will be determined by how well each student performs in the following areas: 

Understanding + Application
The understanding of the course/studio project at hand, combined with an appropriate process of inquiry & development of a consistent and rigorous analysis/design process with clearly articulated ideas.

Craft + Execution
The ability to accurately and precisely craft a digital and physical response to the analysis/design assignment.  This includes the ability to clearly and concisely communicate ideas, and produce well-formed digital and physical: models, diagrams, drawings, and images the project.

Effort+ Participation
The ability to engage in the assignment with fellow students and your instructor & the ability to receive criticism and incorporate this into your project’s development. Your ability to work in groups, meet deadlines, and contribute to studio culture.



A | Excellent:  90 - 100 points  
Project / Course Work surpasses expectations in terms of inventiveness, appropriateness, verbal and visual presentation, conceptual rigor, craft, and personal development. Student pursues concepts and techniques above and beyond what is discussed in class. Project is complete on all levels.
B | Good: 80 - 90 points
Project / Course Work is thorough, well researched, diligently pursued, and successfully completed.  Student pursues ideas and suggestions presented in class and puts in effort to resolve required projects. Project is complete on all levels and demonstrates potential for excellence.
C | Acceptable: 70 - 80 points
Project / Course Work meets the minimum requirements. Suggestions made in class are not pursued with dedication or rigor. Project is incomplete in one or more areas.
D | Poor: 60 - 70 points
Project / Course Work is incomplete. Basic skills, technological competence, verbal clarity, and/or logic of presentation are not level-appropriate. Student does not demonstrate the required design skill and knowledge base. Work is incomplete.


Software & Hardware

This course focuses on manual and digital design and manufacturing processes & practices. You will be required to use the assigned hardware and software.

Each student is required to have a laptop or desktop with the following software installed on the first day of class, unless otherwise noted. Each student must complete any required training associated with the use of laser-cutters, CNC milling, and 3D printing at UVa. You will be expected to use this software and hardware throughout this course.  Training in VR software and hardware will be provided during the course

Software Requirements:

Hardware & Training Requirements

  • Subtractive Manufacturing (Laser Cutter + CNC Mill + Kuka Robotic Arm Foam Cutting training ) 
  • Additive Manufacturing Techniques (3D printer training)
  • 2D printing & plotting


The following adhere to the University of Virginia polices and may impact your grade. Please read carefully.

Students are required to participate in all class activities. Participation includes completing assignments and group presentations, contributing to class discussions, and presenting work. Each student is expected to come to class prepared with questions and comments about assigned reading(s), and completed assignments.  

Students who are 15 minutes late to class will be marked late. 3 late days = 1 unexcused absence. 4 unexcused absences will result in a lowering of one letter grade, and an additional letter grade for each unexcused absence thereafter. Regardless of tardy of absence, students are responsible to complete all assignments on time, unless alternative arrangements have been made with the instructor.

The University of Virginia is committed to the principles of intellectual honesty and integrity. Members of the UVa community are expected to maintain complete honesty in all academic work, presenting only that which is their own work in tests and assignments. This includes recognition and adherence to the UVa honor code. 

Any student who feels s/he may require accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact the instructor privately at the beginning of the semester to discuss specific needs. In addition, please contact the Student Disability Access Center at the University of Virginia's Department of Student Health directly to coordinate reasonable accommodations prior to the start of any UVa course if you need to discuss or implement solutions to specific needs.


Students are required to submit documentation of their work. Late submissions will be graded accordingly. Incomplete and/or failing grades will be given to any student who fails to submit both sets of work documentation

Documentation of all assignments and final project must be submitted to the instructor via Google Drive folder (link will be provided). This submission must include the following:

 1. Packaged InDesign file + PDF of final project board
 2. Photos of your final models, installations, prototypes, etc
 3. All files and requirements from previous assignments 

File naming convention for Individuals: 2018_ARC1020_Last Name_Assignment Number_Document Type

For example: 2018_ARC1020_Beaman_A01_CirculationDiagram

File naming convention for Teams or Groups | Group Name or Number_Assignment Number_Document Type

For example: 2018_ARC1020GroupA_A01_CirculationDiagram



Each week is shown in the following format: Monday | Wednesday | Friday, unless otherwise noted. This schedule is subject to change at anytime to accommodate the needs of the studio, facility and equipment availability, review schedules or any unforeseen issues. . 

Part A

Week 01 | Aug. 21

M: Studio Presentations

W: Studio Introduction

F: Studio 


Week 02 | Aug. 28

M: Grasshopper Tutorial

W: Studio 

F:  Studio 


Week 03 | Sept. 04

M: Grasshopper Tutorial

W: Studio 

F: Studio 


Week 04 | Sept. 11

M: Studio 

W: Studio

F: Studio 


Week 05 | Sept. 18

M: Studio

W: Studio 

F: Studio


Week 06 | Sept. 25

M: Studio

W: Studio

F: Studio


Part B

Week 07 |Oct. 02

M: Studio

W: Studio 

F: Studio 


Week 08 | Oct. 09

M: Studio

W: Studio 

F: Studio 


Week 09 | Oct. 16

M: Studio

W: Studio

F: Studio 


Week 10 | Oct. 23

M: Field-Trip

W: Studio 

F: Site Model(s) Due 


Week 11 | Oct. 30

M: Guest Speaker

W: Studio

F:  Studio 


Week 12 | Nov. 06

M: Guest Speaker

W: Studio 

F: Studio 


Part C

Week 13 | Nov. 13

M: No Class

W: Studio 

F: Studio 


Week 14 | Nov. 20

M: No Class (Thanksgiving Break)

W: No Class (Thanksgiving Break)

F: No Class (Thanksgiving Break)


Week 15 | Nov. 27

M: Guest Tutorial

W: Studio 

F: Studio 


Week 16 | Dec 04

M: Studio (last class)

W: No Class

Th: No Class


Week 17 | Dec 11

M: Final Review Week

W: Final Review Week

Th: Final Review Week




Though we are working on a semester long project divided into three major parts, smaller assignments will be issued throughout the semester to address specific needs and to keep the studio focused.

Our studio Assignments are focused on breaking down research and application into a few discrete deliverables/products:

  1. Technique Catalog
  2. Weaving, Knitting, Braided, etc Machines
  3. Woven, Knit, Braided, etc. Enclosure Systems
  4. Design Proposals
  5. Project Documentations
  6. Studio Book

This list will evolve over the course of the semester, and is subject to change. We will return to and refine each of these deliverables throughout the semester. 




A01 |  Cataloging Techniques

Part 01  

Due Friday Aug 25th | group work

1. Form a group of 3 people. This group should be as diverse in background, skill, discipline, age and experience as possible. 

2. Identify 12 weaving, lacing, strapping or other technique for commingling materials.

  • These examples can come from any discipline, industry, activity, culture, or time period.
  • These can be examples at any scale, utilize any material or process. 
  • Each of the 12 should be different in some distinct way. 

3. Identify the following for each technique:

  • Qualities & Properties:  (texture, structure, dimensionality, etc.).
  • Histories: Where do these techniques come from? How have they developed? Within what context have these developed?
  • Application: How are these techniques typically used? What materials are typically used? For what purpose are these techniques typically used?

4. Find images of each example that covey the qualities and processes identified in step 3 . These images should be as illustrative as possible. 

5. Compile these findings, descriptions, images, etc into a presentation to be given at the start of class - Friday Aug, 25th.


Part 02

Due Monday Aug. 28th | group work

1. Select a subset of unique techniques from A01 - Part 01. 

2. Divide this subset so that each group has an equal number of unique techniques.

3. Propose a graphic language that can be used for the entire class. These should be vector based drawings, drafted in CAD, Rhino, etc, and developed in Illustrator.  The drawings/diagrams should  convey the following information:

  • Element
  • Assembly Process
  • Relationships (between Elements + Process)

4. Using two of the techniques assigned to your group, complete a set of drawings/diagrams that communicate information from step 3. 

5. Present these on Monday Aug. 28th @ 1pm.


Part 03

Due Friday Sept. 01st | group work

1. Initial research has revealed that we have 4 parts to our technique catalog:

  • Procedure Diagram/Drawing (isometric drawings/diagrams that stylize the parts, relationships and processes of each technique)
  • Pattern Diagrams/Drawings (isometric or orthographic drawings/diagrams that show how recursive procedures create expanses)
  • Text Procedure Description (this should include history, context, performance, typical materials, typical applications)
  • Glossary (specific terms that are used to name and/or describe objects & actions)

2. Collectively as a class, select/develop a graphic language that can be used to describe two types of drawings/diagrams: Procedure & Patterns

3. Complete the Procedure Diagram/Drawing. Vector-based file scaled @ 4800px X 4800px for each drawing/diagram.

4. Complete the text description of each technique. 

5. List all relevant terms and their definitions

6. Propose a sub-set of critical or canonical patterns to be described in drawings. Find images of each.



A02 |  Programming Techniques

Part 01  

Due: Friday Sept. 08st | individual work

1. Choose a commingling technique from A01

2. Propose a way of translating this technique into a tool, jig, mold, or other machine that allows you to produce variations and iterations of material patterns.  

3. Design this machine so that you can manufacture it. This machine is a design problem in it's own right and should be approached as such. 


Part 02  

Due: Friday Sept. 08t | individual work

1. Using your chosen technique construct a surface that can be extended in at least two dimentions

2. This surface should be approx. 150 square inches in area.

3. Propose or explore how this surface can define or extend in a 3rd dimension. 



A03 |  Assembly Matrix

Part 01  

Due: xxx| individual work

1. From the research you have conducted so far, determine a set of Morphologies and Patterns to develop for  Assignment 03. 

2. Construct a virtual Matrix, a grid of possible configurations. Start by assigning possible Morphologies in  the X axis, then assign possible Patterns in the Y axis.  Name each morphology and pattern type, and configure the matrix accordingly. This matrix should have at least 25 distinct but related members.

3. Using Grasshopper/Rhino fill in the Matrix with digital models of each iteration (i.e. Morpho 01 + Pattern 01to  Morpho 05 + Pattern 05)

4. Produce a graphic catalog of this matrix. Use the graphic language you developed in Assignment 01. 

Part 02  

1. Establish a set of extensive quantities (size, proportion, form, etc) and intensive qualities (density, porosity, texture, etc) that you feel will are of value in the built environment.

2. Evaluate each iteration in the matrix from this set of criteria and grade them. Incorporate this grading system into your catalog.


Part 03

1. Select 5 digital models and mark them in the Matrix and re-construct them physically, using the assembly/material system you have devloped in Assignmnet 02.