Environmental design students work to become modern master builders

February 14, 2014 •

The lamps that some environmental design students are creating this semester aren’t just pretty.

They represent the students’ abilities to design, digitally render and use high-tech equipment to produce attractive, functional and marketable pieces -- requirements in today’s architecture field.

The students are in Marcel de Lange’s Digital Design and Fabrication course.

“Throughout the modern era, the role of architect has devolved from ‘master builder’ -- an expert in material craft and construction techniques -- to one of ‘master coordinator’ at the mercy of clients, engineers and contractors,” said de Lange. “This course addresses some of those disconnects and gives students the hands-on experience to become modern master builders.”

Expertise in computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing -- the largest modern advancements in the field -- could help architects regain control over the design and fabrication processes, said de Lange.

The students are using the latest software and machinery to craft intricate prototypes. Their tools include a laser cutter, a computerized router and a 3-D printer.

Alexandra Stonely, a CU-Boulder senior in environmental design, likes large-scale work and aspires to design huge buildings, but understands the value of creating small component parts that could go into large spaces.

“Looking at small things makes you think about the details within architecture,” said Stoneley. “My lamp would look nice over a dining table, which makes me think about what that table might look like and what the dining room might look like.

“The CU-Boulder environmental design program is really good at relating things together. Students go through architecture, landscape architecture and city planning. Plus there are these really cool special topics classes where you can focus on product development and little tiny things.”

For the course final, students in the Digital Design and Fabrication course will scale up a bit and make furniture such as tables, desks or credenzas.

For more information about CU-Boulder’s Program in Environmental Design visit http://www.colorado.edu/envd/.

Above: Instructor Marcel de Lange helps a student with his prototype. (Stephen Cardinale/University of Colorado Boulder)