Campus News

New architecture media lab to feature virtual reality, robotics

The Advanced Media Technology Lab will open in Spring 2020. | Bernadette Tumaliuan/The Cougar

The Advanced Media Technology Lab is set to open in Spring 2020 at the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design that will give students access to new resources for testing products and processes.

The media lab will feature robotics, 3D multi-material printing, a virtual/augmented reality hub, digital fabrication, advanced computation and parametric design and extensive pharmacy-style lab of sensory technology parts and materials.

“It’s a center for innovation,” said Patricia Belton Oliver, dean of the College of Architecture. “It will impact all of our disciplines, not just architecture but industrial design and interior architecture.”

Oliver said technology, especially in the architecture and design world, is always changing. The media lab puts Hines college ahead of the digital movement, especially in the areas of virtual reality and artificial intelligence, Oliver said.

“We have a robust design program,” Oliver said, “but the majority of our students don’t have the opportunity to work on building assemblies at a larger scale.”

The sensory technology elements in the lab can give some handicapped students the opportunity to create movements and changes in their design work using their brains, sound or motion.

“This technology allows them to participate in design and manipulation in ways that they wouldn’t have been able to,” Oliver said.

The lab will be directed by the recently recruited Andrew Kudless, currently an associate professor of architecture at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco and founder of the design firm Matsys.

“We’re very, very excited about having him join us,” Oliver said. “He is one of the top media technology experts in the country.”

Kudless is a recipient of Hines college’s first Bill Kendall Memorial Endowed Professorship. The professorship was established in 2018 with an initial gift of $250,000 from the Houston architecture firm Kendall/Heaton Associates Inc. Kendall was a Hines College alumnus and an architect with works in Houston and around the world.

A $1 million donation from Gerald and Barbara Hines in 2017 has largely supported the construction of the lab, and this isn’t the first large donation the Hines family has made to the college.

In August, Hines pledged $500,000 to the Kendall professorship. In 1997 Gerald Hines made a leadership gift of $7 million, and in 2014 he committed an additional $1 million to support student international scholarships and international programming.

“Barbara and Gerald Hines have been extremely generous to us,” Oliver said. “Their investment in the college is impacting generations of designers and architects for Houston.”

Hines college aims to raise $5 million for the media lab. As of Oct 3, they’ve reached $1,516,100 of that goal, according to the media lab’s fundraising page.

“We are constantly trying to keep abreast of the changing expectations of our disciplines,” Oliver said.

Oliver said she believes that the media lab’s innovation will continue bringing the direction of Hines college and the University forward.

“We hope it will encourage more interdisciplinary research,” Oliver said. “We will be able to experiment with materials in multiple scales.”

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