This studio began with a discussion at the Mass Timber Summit in Portland, Oregon that was presented by Governor Kate Brown and held in March 2017. Alex Olsen, a construction instructor in the Career Technical Education Center (CTEC) in Salem, Oregon, which focuses on vocational training programs for high school students, spoke with University of Oregon Professor of Architecture Judith Sheine and Tyler Freres of Freres Lumber in Lyons, OR about an idea for a collaboration between his CTEC construction students, UO Architecture students and Freres Lumber.
Olsen proposed a UO studio that would take on the challenge of designing small residential units (12' x 20' maximum footprint) constructed of 3" thick Mass Plywood Panels (MPP), a new material about to go into production at Freres Lumber in Lyons, Oregon starting in late 2017, with one of the projects to be built by the CTEC students under Olsen's supervision. Tyler Freres was on board with this plan and volunteered to donate the MPP Materials. After some months of discussion, Sheine taught the UO studio in winter 2018, in collaboration with Olsen, Tyler and Kyle Freres, and with invaluable consulting by California State Polytechnic University, Pomona Department of Civil Engineering Professor Mikhail Gershfeld. The class began with case studies of cabins and small houses, an increasingly popular building type. Next, Sheine and the 16 UO students traveled to CTEC and participated in a charrette in which UO and CTEC students worked together in teams to design small houses, making rough cardboard models. The UO Studio, with Olsen, then visited the Freres Lumber MPP plant. The UO students spent the next eight weeks designing individual houses.
The studio structure paralleled practice models for mass timber projects, which involve close collaboration between architect, engineer, contractor, and manufacturer, with Gershfeld, Olsen and the Freres brothers all acting as consultants. Gershfeld made bi-weekly visits to give input on structural issues raised by the use of MPP, Olsen reviewed the projects several times, giving advice on construction and detailing issues (and brought his students to UO to see the projects and tour the studios), and the Freres brothers reviewed the work twice, discussing what was possible - and what wasn’t - for their CNC equipment to fabricate. After the final review during the 10th week of the term, Olsen selected Andrea Liu’s “Cantilever House” for construction by CTEC in the fall of 2018.