On Building: A Return of the Master Builder

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Virginia Tech


This project aims to chronicle the process of building from the architects point of view. Not mindless, mechanical tasks aimed at some economic goal; but tangible, thoughtful work towards an educational and philosophical desire. The desire to be a Master-Builder has fueled architects for centuries. It is a role that the common definition of Architect has all but forgotten. While in practice very few of us will continue this tradition, it is important that we not lose this fundamental aspect of building.

To begin to fulfill oneself with this title, the path is very simple: build a building. That is what follows in this book. It is a chronological outline of the design and build of the New River Valley Train Observation Tower. An additional layer to this project is the inclusion of a variety of innovative building materials/techniques, particularity the use of hardwood cross-laminated timber (CLT). This building will serve as an ongoing research opportunity to evaluate the conditions of building with this material in an extreme condition, complete exposure to weather.

No work of architecture is a solo endeavor, yet my heavy involvement in the design, documentation, and building of the tower has culminated in a body of work that is distinctly my own. My role was that of a project manager, and I reported to faculty Kay Edge, Edward Becker, and Robert Riggs. This structure allowed me to have a great deal of independence, while vetting my drawings and ideas with experienced professionals. A small group of students joined me in the larger aspects of the build, which provided another opportunity to discover an aspect so critical to building: collaboration. This build taught so much about project management, design, and realization that could only be understood through such a physical experience.



Design/Build, Cross-Laminated Timber, Material Research