As part of its continued engagement with the AIA of Virginia, the Center for Design Research (CDR) in the School of Architecture at Virginia Tech presented “Democratizing Design Technology” at Architecture Exchange East in November. The exhibition recalibrated and reframed work from the CDR’s exhibit, Modeling A Vision, held at the Branch Museum for Architecture and Design in Richmond from June through September in 2023, and focused on new ways of making in contexts outside of the university.

Highlights from the exhibition included:

From Tanzania, the Portable Laboratory on Uncommon Ground (PLUG) was assembled by two students with no tools in the remote Mahale Mountains in Tanzania. The Mzuni Library, designed by CDR students is currently under construction in Mzuzu Malawi.  In Uganda a clinic designed by students and faculty has served thousands of patients since 2018 and helped to transfer construction automation technology for distributed healthcare. And from Rwanda, a collection of furniture, designed as part of a vocational training program curriculum development for the African Design Centre was designed and prototyped with specific focus on locally available materials and processes. These chairs, juxtaposed with two chairs ‘Ring’ and ‘Stiletto,’ were designed and produced using advanced computational design and fabrication technologies. 

The selected work captures a snapshot of twenty years of Center for Design Research activities exemplifying a process of becoming, an undertaking that is ongoing and ever changing. The issues explored may be viewed as individual, discrete projects, but they also represent an evolution of the development of ideas and ways of working, each containing parts of the whole and a continuous thread that connects action, impact, and evaluation, informing and expanding future activities.

This exhibition is the second in a series of work intended to disseminate the underlying framework that guides the CDR as it moves into the future. The Center for Design Research is led by Robert Dunay, FAIA, Joe Wheeler, AIA, and Nathan King, AIA.