Thin Skinned

Exploring Design Though Vacuum Forming

Fabrication Facilities, Illinois School of Architecture,

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


This seminar/workshop explored human scaled design though the application of vacuum forming, or thermoforming, in which plastic sheets are heated and then vacuum suctioned over a molded form.  The course took advantage of the new fabrication equipment now available in the dF shop, especially the Formtech 1250 Vacuum Former that allows plastic panels up to 4’ square to be molded into furniture elements, building components, etc.  Initial studies were conducted with a small-scale dental vacuum former with a 5” square panel size. 


At the end of the semester, the work was exhibited at [co][lab] in Urbana.  


Graduate Seminar/Workshop: 2016

Material Sponsor: ShapeMaster, Ogden, Illinois


Folding Farm I & II

Sustainable Student Farm, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


Folding Farm II (FFII) is a “green” produce transport vehicle and a deployable farm stand. It represents the modification of Folding Farm I (FFI), a working prototype conceived in 2012 as a bicycle‐powered delivery system and market display for locally grown and sold produce.  The next generation FFII, currently in development, decreases the weight and cost of the first prototype.

Folding Farm II is constructed from steel and aluminum sections. It incorporates standard plastic farm‐grade vegetable bins, which means that the produce can be cleaned and immediately packaged on the farm, eliminating handling at the market. Beginning at the farm, the bins are set flat in FFII’s metal frame for transport.  The bins are then filled with cleaned produce. The FFII’s canvas canopy is collapsed to cover and protect the produce during transport.


At the market, the bicycle is disconnected and the bracing bar is swung down to stabilize the cart – no additional anchoring is required due to careful calibration of the weight distribution.  Then the canopy is deployed and the produce bins are tilted for display. Ratcheted bracing bars lock the canopy and produce bins into position.

Thus Folding Farm II is a farm utility vehicle that delivers and displays produce for local

marketplaces.  These added values supersede its additional cost.  In addition, it becomes a

demonstrable design idea that serves as an emblem for the environmental transformation of the local community.


Graduate Studio Project: 2012

Research Project: 2013-14

Completed: 2015

Design Associates: Charles Huss, David Emmons


  • 2013 Green Dot Awards - First Prize in 'Services: Personal Transportation'

  • Honorable Mention, PopUp Project Design Competition, 2014 AIA National Convention, Chicago

Wash/Pack Pavilion

Sustainable Student Farm, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


A spring 2012 graduate architecture studio focused on the design and development of a “Wash/Pack Pavilion” for the campus’ Sustainable Student Farm.  The farm was initiated in 2009 to promote alternative growing practices and sustainable agriculture research. The project continues as a research endeavor.


The Wash/Pack Pavilion combines prefabricated sheds with a long, site built linear workspace – adaptable space combined with storage. The workspace provides a protected location where crops can be sorted, triple washed, and packed for transport to market.  Additionally it provides a paper laboratory, the Fresh Press, protected space for the processing of crop waste, used for the production of recycled paper.  Finally, the classroom portion (under construction) will educate adults and children on small farm food production.


The farm was allowed to utilize university agricultural acreage ONLY if the support structures minimally impacted the topsoil.  To solve this requirement used tires were arranged on prepared ground, filled with concrete, bolted to a lumber superstructure, and cloaked in corrugated polycarbonate – a modular system easily constructed, disassembled and reassembled as required.  It creates a system that can be safely assembled by semi-skilled or volunteer labor without large machines.  The base and superstructure form a repetitive truss system that creates stiffness in the short direction, while allowing spine-like flexibility in the long direction to accommodates varying freeze-thaw cycle soil pressures.


Graduate Studio Project: 2012

Research Project: 2012-15

Completed: 2015

Research Assitants: Jordan Buckner, William Burdell, Meagan Calnon, David Emmons, Charles Huss, Daniel Jeuk, Ethan Rattray, Fadi Salem, Jaijun Zhang


  • Honor Award for Sustainable Design,  AIA Central Illinois Chapter, 2012

Classroom and FlatPack Furniture

Sustainable Student Farm, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


The Classroom, including a large deck and deployable furnishings, is located in a prefabricated shed at the southernmost portion of the Wash/Pack Pavilion.  Its purpose is to create a meeting space that serves as a nexus for the education of adults and children on small farm food production.


In 2013 the interior of the 18’ x 12’ space was painted white.  This is to contrast with the more utilitarian spaces that comprise the rest of the Wash/Pack Pavilion, which remain unpainted.  At the east end of the classroom is a large built-in seat that contains batteries for the storage of energy generated by the photovoltaic panels on the roof. The bench and floor are ebony stained plywood.  Along the south end are a series of glazed doors that connect the classroom to the deck.


A spring 2014 undergraduate architecture independent study project focused on the design and development of furniture prototypes for the classroom.  After developing several options, it was determined to integrate easily assembled furniture elements into a storage wall along the north side of the space.  The outline of each piece is stenciled onto the perforated doors of the storage pods.  The assembled pieces create tables and benches scaled for both children and adults.


Research Project: 2013-15

Undergraduate Independent Study Project: 2014

Completed: 2015

Design/Research Associates: Charles Huss, David Emmons

Arch 401 Independent Study Students:  Lian Ren, Grace Soejanto


Subtraction and Enhancement:  

The Transformation of the Farm Mechanics and Tractor Laboratory

Into Undergraduate Architectural Design Studios

Architecture Annex One, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


In 2006 we were asked by the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to transform the ground floor of the 1906 Farm Mechanics and Tractor Building (FMTL) into undergraduate design studios. In 1932 the FMTL, originally a support building for the College of Agriculture, was expanded to house the university’s motor pool. In 1988 the building became painting and sculpture studios for the School of Art and Design. Since then art students have created in a graffiti-tagged warren of makeshift workspaces stuffed with old furniture and large neglected collections of “ready-mades.”


Our intention was to stabilize the building and provide 130 beginning design students ample space for the creation and discussion of models and drawings. We have created both functionally specific and functionally non-specific spaces, a lively environment that is conducive to adjustment, reflection, and concentration. In the larger context it is equally important to stabilize the buildings’ perception on campus, in order for such buildings to survive expansion pressures in the central campus area.  


The physical transformation of the FMTL represents a new architectural vision combining thoughtful stewardship with creative improvements, demonstrating the validity of re-use from both qualitative and quantitative viewpoints. 


Commissioned Project: 2006

Completed: 2008

Research Assistants: Ryan Chester, Jesse Haas, Jordan Sutton


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