Top Irish Architecture Program Looks to Buffalo for Best Practices in Fabrication

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Visitors from the University College Dublin on a recent tour of the school’s Materials and Methods Shop. From left to right: Kenneth MacKay from the School of Architecture and Planning; Gregory Jackson and Donal Groarke from UCD; and Peter Russell, director of the Materials and Methods Shop.

Published December 3, 2013

The School of Architecture and Planning was among a group of top U.S. architecture schools singled out for their state-of-the-art fabrication facilities by the University College Dublin as it develops a new shop for its College of Engineering & Architecture.

Greg Jackson and Donal Groarke, recent UCD architecture graduates who are leading the effort for the elite Irish university, came to Buffalo in search of best practices in tools and technology, shop setup and safety procedures, and innovative models for research through fabrication and making.

Additional stops on their tour included the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Yale School of Architecture and the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.

Kenneth MacKay, clinical associate professor of architecture at UB, initiated the UCD connection several years ago through the School of Architecture and Planning’s study abroad program in Dublin. UCD took note of the School’s expansive and well equipped facilities when Hugh Campbell, dean of the UCD architecture program, toured its shop during a visit to Buffalo last spring.

Indeed, the school’s Materials and Methods Shop is one of the largest in any U.S. architecture school. With 7,000 square feet of high-bay space, the machine and assembly shop features fully equipped wood and metal shops, as well as tools for masonry, glass and plastics. The school’s Digital Workshop supports material research, model making and fabrication with tools that include 3-D modeling software, 3-D printing and scanning capacities, laser cutters and a 3-axis and 5-axis CNC router.

UCD was also interested in the School of Architecture and Planning’s application of digital design and fabrication to research in the industrial and practice environment. While in Buffalo, Jackson and Groarke toured Boston Valley Terra Cotta and Rigidized Metals, where faculty and students have introduced digital design and fabrication processes into the manufacture of terra cotta and metal. UCD is considering similar partnerships with the community to foster new research and increase access to the often cost-prohibitive technology.

Back at the shop, as students welded metals and constructed digital models, Jackson noted the degree to which building and making is integrated into the School of Architecture and Planning curriculum.

“It’s robust. There is a culture of thinking through making here,” he said, adding that many architecture schools in Europe still emphasize analog over digital processes. Jackson says this new facility may be an opportunity to acculturate building through digital design and making for UCD.