Tech Core Studio with Erin Besler, Benjamin Freyinger, Michael Loverich, and Narineh Mirzaeian

M.Arch., Second Year


“My house never pleased my eye so much after it was plastered, though I was obliged to confess it was more comfortable.”

- Henry David Thoreau, Walden

The 401TC design studio continues the focus of the design project of the core studio. As the culmination of the first year studio progression from form (411) to plan (412) and now to section/elevation, this studio deviates slightly from the tripartite project structure of those before it, beginning instead with a series of abstract design exercises meant to generate an iterative process to work on a design project through the development of sectional artifacts.  “We begin with the seemingly obvious question ‘What is a section?’

- Paul Lewis, Marc Tsurumaki, Davie J. Lewis, “Manual of Section”

Preston Scott Cohen has called the section “the hidden core of architecture,” a place of great intensity that can never be seen. The importance of this observation, however obvious, cannot be understated in light of the effort spent by architects (and historians, and theorists) on the design of the section. Often, much of what makes great buildings great lies in their section, even as this site of such focus and debate nearly always finds itself hidden, wrapped, finished and closed. In the end, elevation is what we see, the outermost surface of an enclosure whether inside or out. Its insistent visibility – its availability – eclipses whatever ingenuity the section might have up its sleeve. In counterpoint to Cohen, Robin Evans describes the “hermetic” nature of the elevation: “...nothing outside can be shown – in this case, not even the thickness of the walls.” In this troubled relationship lies our problem: how to resolve the connection between section and elevation? How have architects thought about this in the past and how might we think about it now?

To interrogate the questions posited above we must also clarify how we intend to harness the potential of section and elevation as drawing types. In the Manual of Section, the authors assert that the origin of section as a representational mechanism “has typically been associated with its capacity to reveal the hidden workings of an existing building or body – often as a retrospective or analytical technique.” It is precisely this more typical use of the section we wish to swerve throughout our operative work this quarter as we explore section’s projective potential to be a driver for design development. 

The studio works with a series of sectional drawings understood in terms of the organizational specificity of their components. The selection of these drawings is based on the acknowledgment that in architectural discourse there are some sections, considered to be canonical, because of the place of significance they hold in advancing novel spatial and/or organizational ideas. For the purposes of our ongoing discussion we call these standard sections. Furthermore, the swatch of standard sections we have limited ourselves to this quarter can be characterized as infill, urban projects with a heightened sense of interiority. These projects, though ranging across a few types, deploy a series of similar components to address spatial, programmatic and structural orders.