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Faculty members awarded grant to research water-management structures

Pictured: Faculty members Kentaro Tsubaki and Charles Jones with Master of Architecture student Riley Lacalli. Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano

Tulane School of Architecture faculty members Kentaro Tsubaki and Charles Jones received a $100,000 grant from the PCI Foundation to develop a class-based research project investigating how precast concrete water-management structures can enhance landscapes and support resiliency in coastal cities.

The multiyear effort will focus on ways to create structures, such as levees and stormwater detention systems, which direct water while also encouraging interaction and appreciation for the substance.

The team hopes to use an architectural approach to challenge the perspective that water should be funneled out of sight and out of mind. Their research will explore opportunities for water-management infrastructure to be an accessible, useful and aesthetic community asset.

The grant will fund a paired design studio and fabrication class investigating this idea. Working around a water-related challenge, students will collectively design, fabricate and test scaled prototypes of precast concrete–based structures.

“We want to establish a strong link between a design education and research,” said Tsubaki, Favrot Associate Professor of Architecture and associate dean for academics. “This studio will create a significant research initiative within the school, combining our expertise in architectural design with the technical side of construction and the issue of water management.”

The precast method involves fabricating concrete in reusable molds housed in carefully controlled environments. This results in a more refined product with cost savings for large-scale projects.

Relationships with industry partners will ground the class learning and research in practical expertise. Precast concrete and allied industry organizations PCI Gulf South, Gate Precast Co., Lafarge Ductal and US Formliner have pledged support to the school’s efforts.

Tsubaki and Jones are working with graduate architecture students Riley Lacalli and Wei Xiao to develop the studio and fabrication course curriculum and plan to begin offering the classes in spring 2019. The team is also creating four precast concrete learning modules customized for core architecture classes.

“Our school served a vital role in community building in the post-Katrina era,” said Jones, an adjunct lecturer. “This partnership with the PCI Foundation will empower our students to also engage in one of our region’s most challenging environmental and cultural relationships — rethinking the way we live with water.”

Charles Jones selected to serve on the Precast Concrete Institute's First Ascent Professional Advisory Committee.

Ascent is a free, quarterly publication of the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute and is a great resource for architects and other stakeholders in the building industry. Each issue features in-depth case studies highlighting industry trends and innovative design, comprehensive articles on specific design challenges from industry experts, and special features on constructing with precast/prestressed concrete.The committee was formed this year by a group of diverse professionals that will be instrumental in the ongoing graphic design, and content curation of Ascent.

Find access to the publications here:


Novedge recognizes One to One an architecture firm founded by faculty members David Merlin and Charles Jones

The Edge: ONE to ONE, Architecture and Design Technology Duo

Novedge:  Tell us a little bit yourselves and ONE to ONE.

Charles Jones: David Merlin and I are both Louisiana natives. David grew up in New Orleans and I grew up in a suburb outside of the city. I practiced in Architecture firms in Baton Rouge and Los Angeles before moving into the academic side and taking a position as a digital lab instructor at the American University of Sharjah, just north of Dubai. This position provided me the opportunity to set up a 10,000 sq ft facility, housing traditional fabrication capabilities and a plethora of Digital Fabrication equipment. It was a dream to say the least and played a huge part in landing a job at Tulane University after moving to New Orleans in 2011.

David Merlin: While practicing Architecture, another colleague and I identified a need in the community for technology based education and consulting. We started weekend workshops, which is where I discovered my interests in teaching and ultimately brought me to Tulane. Concurrently, I started a Design Technology consulting firm focused on BIM and Computational Design.

Charles Jones:  Our professional relationship developed out of common interest and shared vision about Architecture and practice, specifically the way Technology influences Design and Fabrication. Tulane soon received a private donation which allowed David and I to set up Millhaus, Tulane’s CNC lab which houses a 4’x8’ 3-axis router. From there we began co-teaching a Digital Fabrication seminar every semester which focused on the application of this budding technology. Our professional relationship began to formalize on the MTA canopies project. As more of a nuts and bolts minded person I was manually executing a lot of tedious drawing production on the canopies. David was able to come in and save the day with his knowledge of Grasshopper and helped streamline some very complex glass schedules for the canopies.... Full Article Here

Information Session scheduled: Charles Jones - Gallery Talk