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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Academics & Research

Architecture, fine arts faculty adjust to teaching without lab tools


Interior architecture and architecture students normally have access to technology like laser cutters, CNC routing machines and 3D printers at the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design's Keeland Design Center to complete their work. | Gerald Sastra/The Cougar

Interior architecture and architecture students normally have access to technology like laser cutters, computer numerical control routing machines and 3D printers at the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design’s Keeland Design Center to complete their work. | Gerald Sastra/The Cougar

For many architecture and fine arts students, access to a variety of tools and technology is necessary to complete their creative schoolwork.

Since students now work from home and lack the supplies needed for their courses, the University’s shift to remote learning in light of the coronavirus pandemic meant many course adjustments for architecture and fine arts faculty.

Interior architecture and architecture students normally have access to laser cutters, computer numerical control routing machines and 3D printers at the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design’s Keeland Design Center, architecture professor Alan Bruton said. 

Bruton initially planned to have his students present their prints on a wall and display physical models. Now, each of them will leave the course with a website showcasing their work instead.

“For industrial design students, the range of tools that are inaccessible is even greater, as they would normally now be vacuum forming, welding, bending (and) casting to test and achieve their final prototypes for review,” Bruton said.

The professor’s graduating senior students will be presenting these websites to professionals in the industry via video conference. While Bruton typically invites these professionals to campus to see the students’ work in person, the threat of COVID-19 has made it impossible this year.

Architecture freshman Kaiden Law experienced changes in his assignments to reflect the pandemic’s circumstances, but overall he said he hasn’t come across many problems.

“My coursework changed from being model heavy to being drawing heavy, either digitally or by hand,” Law said. “The project we are working on now is the same as before the quarantine, but the professors are promoting the usage of 3D CAD/Vector programs to visualize our project instead of a model.”

The School of Art also had facilities with specialized equipment for students to use to complete assignments before Harris County’s “Stay Home, Work Safe” order.

Art students use the Arts and Technology Center to complete their work through MobileStudio Pro and iMac computers with Adobe Creative Cloud software. Students can check out Wacom tablets, and scanners take documents as large as 11 inches by 17 inches.  Two printmaking studios also aid students in carrying out special techniques such as lithography, letterpress and silkscreen. 

Interior architecture junior Miguel Carrión is taking a studio art class and said the College of the Arts provided all students with access to the Adobe Creative Cloud at home. His professors have also extended deadlines.

Painting professor Dana Frankfort said she has continued to see beautiful paintings from some of her students despite situational limitations. Herself and other professors have been sharing with students how they found creativity during difficult circumstances in the past.

“Having to ‘keep it neat’ (at home) all the time can inhibit creativity,” Frankfort said. “On the other hand, obstacles and restrictions can bring about unexpected results, and within the limitations that our students are experiencing we are seeing some really beautiful and sophisticated paintings being made.”

Frankfort has also found comfort while adapting to teaching remotely through a Facebook group comprised of professors who give each other ideas and inspiration during the transition to distance learning. 

To keep her class connected, Frankfort implemented class blogs where each student posts their work and other students and faculty give feedback. Overall, her chief expectation has not changed; she wants her students to learn how to better create and “see the world like artists.”

The most important thing that students have been missing, Frankfort said, is each other. This mirrors the human interaction that Carrión is most looking forward to once in-person classes resume.

“There’s the concept that working together is like having pebbles in a bag,” Frankfort said. “They polish each other.”

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Correction: A previous version of this story existed that said painting professor Dana Frankfort had seen an increase in creativity from some of her students due to a lack of resources at home.

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