A materials studio is nothing new for most schools of architecture, and at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Architecture, the precast studio is considered the “granddaddy” of all the PCI Foundation Precast Studios, having been the first program built in our industry that inspired the others that followed.
The goal of this studio is to give students expertise and exposure to a single construction typology. Students consider how a precast concrete system can influence environmental issues such as collecting rainwater, daylighting, and thermal mass. How does the opportunity for the mass production of elements affect the sourcing of concrete, the relationship between the individual parts and larger structural systems, the formwork and production of units, as well as their transit and the assembly?
This studio, generously supported by Wells and the PCI Foundation, asked students to consider the challenges and the opportunities of using precast concrete building systems. Precast concrete allows for vast amounts of customization while also providing the framework for mass production. The production, tightly controlled within a prefabrication facility, has also provided architects with the opportunity to maximize spans, reduce waste, and produce consistent high-quality finishes.