Felix Heisel to present at ACSA Teacher’s conference

The June 2021 Teacher’s Conference, Curriculum for Climate Agency, as a collaboration between the EAAE + ACSA, welcomes a range of formats for presentation and communication, from full‐paper and project-based presentations, to workshop‐based interactions, to graphic, visual and/or textual analyses of projects that respond to the 10 scholarship themes.

Felix Heisel presents the following two papers at this year’s ACSA Teacher’s Conference:


Heisel, Felix, and Sasa Zivkovic. 2021. “ON PAPER // Reciprocity between Architecture and Environment.” In 2021 ACSA/EAAE Teachers Conference – Curriculum for Climate Agency: Design (in)Action.


This paper outlines and discusses a number of novel pedagogical strategies developed for a recent First Year Design Studio at [redacted]. The global climate and resource crises are calling for paradigm shifts in the way we design, build, and manage our physical environment. Importantly, those paradigm shifts also fundamentally challenge the way we teach architecture. The studio aims to introduce students to the issues, elements, processes and interdependencies of both sustainability (environment, climate, politics) and architectural design (geometry, materiality, form, structure).

The ON PAPER First Year Design Studio aims to challenge our understanding of paper, engaging it both in theory and practice, as medium and material, as mediator and actor. Throughout the semester, paper creates the foundation and constitutes the common thread which we use to dissect architecture, pedagogy, and spatial exploration while training the skills, methods and tools of the discipline, as well as critical and proactive student minds. In this context, paper is understood as a practical and widely available resource that is easy to manipulate with basic tools, which is essential during a pandemic.

The studio loosely borrows and appropriates pedagogical strategies developed by Josef Albers in his Vorkurs at the Bauhaus, which themselves are based on the work of Friedrich Fröbel and Japanese Origami Traditions. However, it aims to drastically augment abstract-geometric and analytical “Bauhausian” investigations and digital paper-folding explorations by imbuing assignments with new relevant narratives for creative exploration and critical reflection. One assignment, for example, playfully introduces the notion of environment and performance: utilizing origami and kirigami techniques, students manipulate a planar sheet of paper into a complex and performative surface. The addition of environmental forces such as wind, light, shade, cold, heat, sound, scent, or vapor introduces new design objectives that address environmental performance. A later assignment argues for material as an active participator in the design process: materials are perpetually invented, designed, re-designed, fabricated, or augmented, challenging the very nature of the material, its structural and chemical composition, economic business models and most often aesthetics. Based on haptic qualities (fluffy, spongy, rough, cracked, thorny, granular, smooth, viscous), students are asked to manipulate the materiality of paper and its composition of matter with the goal to investigate, react to and enforce the many physical and aesthetic qualities paper might have. The resulting paper-based material systems in each of the two above mentioned exercises create playful dialogues between performance, geometry, proportion, material, structure, and design concept.  

A total of five assignments and their results will be presented in this paper, historically contextualized, and pedagogically analyzed. Each of the exercises incrementally introduces new architectural concepts related to environment, body, material, culture, landscape, spatial tectonics, and representation. As the semester progresses, project narratives are layered, expanding a student’s understanding of architecture as a complex set of abstracted, reciprocal – geometric, proportional, formal, performative, constructed and natural – relationships.  


Heisel, Felix, and Val Warke. 2021. “Building on Material: Towards Circular Construction in the First-Year Design Studio.” In 2021 ACSA/EAAE Teachers Conference – Curriculum for Climate Agency: Design (in)Action.

Abstract: Human influence on the socio-economic and ecologic systems of planet Earth has become so dominant that, in May 2019, the Anthropocene Working Group of the International Commission on Stratigraphy officially voted for the introduction of a new unit on the Geological Time Scale — the epoch of humans, or the Anthropocene. This development is especially relevant to architects and engineers, since buildings account for more than 50% of the consumption of global finite resources, 39% of global carbon dioxide emissions, as well as 50% of global solid waste production, over their full life cycles. All of these factors are dominant causes of climate change. We believe that the construction industry requires a complete paradigm shift in the way we design, build, and manage our built environment: a shift from linear resource consumption to circular material usage.

This paper describes the application of this theory into the curriculum of a first-year Bachelor of Architecture design studio, as well as the teaching methodology developed to facilitate this paradigm shift. The significant steps of the process are illustrated through examples of student work from the Spring 2020 design studio.

‘Circular construction’ addresses both the re-activation of anthropogenic material stocks in today’s already built environment as well as the design of buildings as material depots for future construction. Detailed and precise material information as well as designing for adaptability and/or disassembly are prerequisites for both of these aspects. At the heart of the development of the syllabus is our conviction that circular design and construction requires detailed material knowledge at the earliest stage of every design process. Consequently, over the course of the semester, each student was assigned two design parameters presented in the form of a postcard, depicting (1) a raw material and (2) a reversible joint typology. In combination with a third postcard—the site—this technique generated sixty unique results from the same design brief: a small workshop for a craftsperson.

After the initial material research where students aimed to understand the chemical and physical specifications of the ‘chosen’ material throughout several use cycles, the studio repeatedly shifted in scale, from 10:1 to 1:500, thereby challenging the spatial and constructive qualities of the given joint typology while observing various material behaviors as they ranged from detail to building to ‘urban’ scales. Bringing together the lessons learned, the final workshops were designed to be constructed for adaptability and disassembly, utilizing throughout all aspects of their designs circular materials and reversible connections. Developed from intrinsic material specifications and capabilities as well as a life-cycle perspective, the resulting design proposals seem both oddly familiar and excitingly innovative, and ideally initiating in the students a strong conceptual vector that should propel their awareness of environmental responsibility throughout their educational and professional careers.