University of Minnesota
School of Architecture Digital Works

Digital Tutorial Series

Date Posted February 26, 2014

Do you want to learn digital design programs like Rhino and Grasshopper? Or, do you need to brush up on your rendering and fabrication techniques using VRay or the CNC?

Check out the Digital Tutorial Series at the College of Design!

The Digital Assistants will be holding a series of digital design tutorials throughout the semester on Fridays at 10am, in Rapson 33.

See the calendar below to learn about the upcoming tutorials!

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Digital Ceramics: Tiling Planter Baskets and Shelves

Date Posted February 1, 2014

Using digital technology to work in the "real world" realm of ceramic casting, the design team created a system of ceramic plant storage tiles that utilized Rhino software's ability to create subtle yet complex CNC-routed curves in plaster blocks, then use traditional ceramic slip casting methods to form the tiles within the plaster blocks. The tiles range from concave shelves to concave baskets and were arranged along the Rapson Hall stairwell in a cascading fashion to draw the eye upwards to the floor above.

Design: Sarah Wolf, Caitlin Dippo, Iran Mejia
Course/Instructor: Arch 3250 Digital Ceramics, Molly Reichert
Software/Fabrication: Rhino, CNC Router, Traditional Slip Casting

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Installed tiles

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Tiles installed on Rapson Hall stairwell

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Slip casting process

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Plaster block mold

Variable Vacuum Formed Wall

Date Posted January 22, 2014

Design: Marc Swackhamer, Philip Bussey (UMN) Blair Satterfield, Ashley Eusebio (UBC)
Fabrication & Assembly: Philip Bussey, David Horner, Justin Kindelspire, Kevin Groenke

Anyone who has ever walked through a parking garage knows that large hard-flat surfaces reflect sound. The echo experienced in these hard spaces are due to that reflection. The more hard surfaces within a closed space, the more acoustically "live" that space will be. This is experienced as "echo" and as "feedback." The main office at the University of Minnesota School of Architecture was designed by Cerny and Associates Architects in the mid-century modernist style. The designers created an open space made of brick, glass and cast-in-place concrete. The resulting office is composed almost entirely of hard acoustically reflective surfaces that result in an extremely live space. This posed difficulties for individuals working in the office.

This past summer, the school decided to renovate the office, and in doing so address problems ranging from seating, storage, display and acoustics. A team of faculty members and students were tasked with designing the space and took on specific aspects of the problem. To address acoustics a new skin was proposed for the brick wall behind the main reception desk. The goal was to mediate the sound in the space to create an environment more conducive to the work of the staff.

The solution was to create a vacuum-formed topographical surface that would disperse or absorb sound in specific locations. The entire surface diffuses sound along its length, mediating the problem of focused directional sound. Pockets of "quiet" are located in specific locations (like the area behind the reception desk) to more completely eliminate ambient noise and create a space more conducive to intimate conversations.


Wall Detail (Photo by Ryan Lodermeier)


Material Testing


Acoustic Map and Fabrication Strategy


Wall Detail (Photo by Ryan Lodermeier)


Wall Elevation (Photo by Ryan Lodermeier)

Digital Design Blog: Call for Entries

Date Posted January 21, 2014

Do you have a digital design and/or digital fabrication project that deserves recognition?

The CDes Digital Design website features student and faculty digital design work and we are looking for more exceptional projects to feature on our blog!

If you have a project that you would like us to feature, send it to us by February 14 @ 5pm!

Submit entries to Claire at:

Submissions should include:

  • a brief summary of the project and project goals
  • list of digital software and fabrication technology used
  • up to five (5) images of the project and process
  • your name, and any contributors and/or course instructors/faculty involved if applicable
  • Submissions must have the subject line: Digital Design Blog Submission_[YourLastName] to ensure that they are received by the digital assistant team
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Centennial Chromography

Date Posted November 21, 2013

Design: Adam Marcus, Daniel Raznick
Fabrication & Assembly: Adam Marcus, Daniel Raznick, Jordan Barlow, Sam Daley, Kevin Groenke
Computational Design (Catalyst Workshop, March 2013): Nathan Miller (CASE)

Prototyping (Catalyst Workshop, March 2013): Will Adams, Philip Bussey, Sam Daley, Matthew Enos, Derek Gallagher, Mohsen Ghanbari, Dantes Ha, Hwan Kim, Benjamin Kraft, Wei Liu, Daniel Raznick, Stuart Shrimpton, Christina Smith
Centennial Graphic Identity: Kai Salmela

The Centennial Chromagraph is a life-size representation of the history of the University of Minnesota School of Architecture. The project is an exercise in data spatialization: using computational design tools to generate formal and spatial constructions with large quantities of data--in this case, information collected over the 100-year history of UMN's architecture school. The installation consists of 100 robotically-routed plywood ribs, joined together with 8,080 colored #2 pencils. The curvature of the ribs expresses major historical eras and periods of the School--the tenures of its leadership, the buildings it has occupied, the colleges it has belonged to--while the color of the pencils reflects the changing composition of the School's degree programs over the past century. (for more, see the Variable Projects website

The Chromograph in the news:

Nine Minnesota firms win architecture honors [including Variable Projects for the Chromograph]

Art Spotlight: 100 years for U of M architecture department

An installation made from 8,080 pencils


courtesy (

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courtesy (

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courtesy Variable Projects,

Digital Provocations (Fall 2011)

Date Posted November 21, 2013

Instructor: Adam Marcus

This one-semester undergraduate design workshop focused on the techniques of parametric design.

"Parametric design tools can enable the architect to have new and unprecedented levels of control over parts of the design and fabrication process that previously were left to others. But it also requires knowledge and grounding in fields as diverse as computer programming and network theory, areas that perhaps traditionally were seen as outside the discipline but that are now central to contemporary architectural production." (A. Marcus)

Through their work students investigated how digital technologies inform design and how the practice of architecture is being transformed through these technologies.

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Dev Chhaniyara

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Sam Daley

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Sam Daley

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Jennifer Kallenbach

Modular Variations (Spring 2013)

Date Posted November 21, 2013
Description Instructor: Adam Marcus This project was a design- and fabrication-driven studio. 'Making' was the primary means of learning, experimentation, and exploration of architectural ideas. The process of forming and casting was explored through exercises that had students explore opportunities for ornamental and decorative innovation, structural performance, material efficiencies, and driving variation with functional or performance-based criteria, such as light transmission or view angles. Particular emphasis was placed on developing workflows that balanced both analog and digital modes of designing, as well as seamless transitions between 2D and 3D. Rhino 3D, Grasshopper, laser cutters, and a CNC were used in this workshop. A comprehensive summary of the studio's work and process can be found here
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Nested Scales

Date Posted November 8, 2013

Guest Instructor: Ken Tracy
Host Instructor: Adam Marcus

Students worked on teams to design and prototype a porous architectural surface. The surface was to be understood at three scales: the overall form, the individual components, and the surface texture. Students used Grasshopper to parametrically control porosity, pattern, and texture, and they prototyped their surfaces with a CNC mill, plywood, and solid hardwood.

Brierly, Newby, Raznik, Stephens

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Brierly, Newby, Raznik, Stephens

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Bussey, Hahn, Snyder, Breton, Vahaji


Bussey, Hahn, Snyder, Breton, Vahaji


Anton, Jameson, Silvestrini, Elenkiwich


Anton, Jameson, Silvestrini, Elenkiwich