PATRICK J TRIPENY portrait
  • Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence, Ctle Ctr Teach & Learning Ed
  • Director Emeritus, School Of Architecture
  • Associate Dean, Undergraduate Studies
  • Professor, School Of Architecture
  • Professor, School Of Architecture
801-581-7597 (CTLE)

Current Courses

Fall 2021

  • ARCH 6612-001
    Comprehens Bldg Tech I
    Location: CANVAS (CANVAS)

Spring 2021

Professional Organizations

  • Building Technology Educators' Society. 01/01/2017 - 12/31/2018. Position : Board Member.
  • Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture Education Subcommittee. 11/01/2016 - 12/31/2017. Position : Member.
  • Building Technolgoy Educators' Society . 07/01/2014 - 07/01/2015. Position : International Meeting Organizing Committee.
  • Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture. 01/01/2011 - present. Position : Faculty Councilor.
  • National Architecture Accrediting Board . 01/01/2011 - present. Position : Accreditation Team Members.
  • American Institute for Steel Construction - Partners in Education. 01/01/2008 - present. Position : Member.
  • Building Technology Educators' Society. 06/15/2007 - present. Position : Member.

Teaching Philosophy

 

I came to the faculty of the Graduate School of Architecture in 1996 to teach the structures curriculum.  I had taught at another university for a few years under the direction of tenured professor during my doctoral studies.  At that university, as in many other programs, the structures classes are considered supplementary to the rest of the program.  These programs consider structures something that an architect needs to know, but not something that an architect will use in practice.  My philosophy in teaching at the University of Utah has been that my courses are first and foremost architecture classes.  The material I teach my students is something that is paramount to their architectural careers.   This has meant that I have had to redirect the curriculum from one that is based in engineering to a curriculum that builds upon the creative talents of architectural students.  By restructuring the curriculum to include lectures, problem sets, design problems, laboratory experiences and collaborative learning experiences, I have enabled my students to put theory into creative practice.

I was lucky enough to begin my teaching career at a time when the curriculum was being reexamined in order to implement a switch from the quarter system to the semester system.  My part was to make any changes that I thought were appropriate for the structures curriculum.  At first I was a bit intimidated at the task, but as time went on it became clear that changes needed to be made.  The curriculum I had inherited was primarily an engineering based curriculum where students learned the theories of the subject through lectures and then perfected their problem solving abilities though numerous problem sets. I was familiar with this curriculum since I had taught it at another school and had been taught it myself in undergraduate and graduate school.  The required curriculum in this area included five quarters of courses being taught in six hours of lecture per week.  My first change was to trim the lectures to two ninety-minute lectures per week.  Then I instituted a laboratory period for the undergraduate class. 

The next development in the classroom was to determine how to use this new format.  In order to understand the curriculum it is important to understand my students.  Architecture students are very creative, dedicated, and gifted.  They tend to think in a spatial and graphical manner.  They are not engineering students and hence don’t think like them.  Architectural students tend to consider analytic work outside of their field as it is often the place where they have had the most trouble in their scholastic careers.  This is not to say that they are mathematically illiterate.  Each and every one of my undergraduate students has had, and passed, calculus and physics.  My students are what Donald Schön refers to as "Reflective Practitioners"[i].  Basically, they are able to handle problems better when they are able to visualize it either graphically or spatially.  This is in direct contrast to engineering or mathematics students who are capable of resolving problems that are abstract in nature.

The lecture portion of the class is where I introduce the concepts of structures.  In a typical class I will introduce a concept using demonstrations, models, and/or slides to visually allow the students to understand it.  I then will introduce an engineering problem and will work though it emphasizing the methodology being used, and how it is related to the concept.  After working one problem I give the students a number of problems which they then work in groups of two to five people.  During this period of the class I mingle among the groups answering questions and helping them get passed any hurdles.  I have found it important to carefully design the problem sets so that every group can work the first couple of problems but that no group can finish them all before we move on the next part of the lecture.  Once they work through some of the problems, I work a considerably more difficult on the board having the students discuss how we are going to solve it.  I attempt to introduce only one or two concepts in any given class.  This allows the students to contemplate each concept outside of class before we move on to the next concept.

In the laboratory portion of the class I allow the students to experience the concept using a hand-on approach.  Often the concept being introduced is something that they already know but one they may not of dealt with in an analytical sense.  An example of this is the concept of a force causing a moment on a given object.  In mathematical terms we say that a moment is equal to a given force times the perpendicular distance between the force and a given point:

(Moment) =(Force)*(distance) .

This is a foreign concept in its abstract reference; however, it is a concept each of us learned when we were on the playground in grade school. Every child discovers that in order to balance the teeter-totter the lighter of the two kids playing on it has to sit further away from the center point of the board.  This is the same concept as a force causing a moment on an object.  Now in the laboratory section we don’t go out and play on the playground, rather we develop another object which is similar in concept, a mobile.  Each student is required to bring several items that represent their lives and they string them into a mobile taking into account which items are heavier and which are lighter.  This tends to drive home for them the concept of the moment caused by the force at which time they determine the weight of every object in the mobile starting with knowing the weight of only one of them.  Laboratory classes tend to be very noisy classes.  Everyone is laughing and talking while learning a valuable piece of the curriculum.

Students Working on the Buckling of Columns in Lab Section

The out of class assignments are different than they would be in a typical engineering class where the students would work a series of problems on each concept covered in class.  This is based on the theory that by covering a number of different problems a student will understand the underlying methodology that they will use to solve other problems that they have never seen before.   My students also work these sorts of problems, particularly toward the beginning of the class.  However, as the class develops I replace the problem sets with design problems.  In a design problem the student is given not an analytical problem but a design problem similar to what they get in the design studio class.   Then they analyze the structural system they have designed.  For example, when we are studying cable suspension systems the design problem is to design a pedestrian bridge between the student housing complex and the main campus. By designing the problem the students take ownership of their work.  The designs are graded for their analytic and creative work.  I have found that architecture students tend to remember the analytic methods used in these problems because they have a vested interest in them.   They also tend to spend more time checking their analysis before turning the assignments to be graded.

The last eight weeks of the second semester of the undergraduate curriculum contains only design problems.  During this section we work on three-dimensional building systems using only non-mathematical methods of understanding.  During this phase the students take high level engineering concepts and develop abstract three-dimensional models.  It is at this level that students tie together the engineering analysis and architectural design.  By developing very abstract concept models, a tool common to architecture, students gain a fuller understanding of the systems that they must use in their architectural designs.  I have had students told during design critiques that a design could not be built.  They had the knowledge, and the confidence, to say that it could be built and then describe the structural system needed to make it a reality. This is a measure of success.

I have spent time discussing my undergraduate curriculum up to this point because it is the corner stone on which my graduate curriculum is built.  The graduate curriculum is a series of short half semester classes.  Student is required to take two classes.  Each of these courses covers a type of structural typology or material.  A typical two-year master’s curriculum will include a diverse grouping of topics including steel, concrete, wood, and masonry materials as well as high-rise or long-span structural typologies.  

Each graduate course is taught using many of the philosophies addressed in the undergraduate curriculums.  At the beginning of each session the students design buildings based on some abstract theme that use the material or structural typologies being discussed in the class.  The students then work on the analysis and sizing of each structural member in the building.  The class lectures give further support to these ideas.  This give the students an ownership of the work being done in the class which would not be present if we were working with traditional problem sets.  The downside to such a system is that each student is working on a different design therefore there are twenty different problems to grade instead of twenty copies of the same problem.  Additionally this method requires a great deal of personal interaction with the students while they are working on the homework.  The more time I spend with them before they turn it in the less time it takes to grade it after.  Despite this time requirement, I find that this is a very effective way to teach graduate architecture students. 

I do teach other graduate classes including design studios in which I use many of the practices and philosophies I have described earlier.  These practices are part and parcel to everything I teach.  I believe that architecture students are truly gifted and are hungry to learn about their profession and about life. Every class I teach is important to my students' intellectual and professional growth.  If you can get an architecture student to visualize a problem you can get that same student can solve the problem.  If you allow a student to take ownership of her/his education then there is no limit to what they can learn.

 



[i] Donald A. Schön. Education the Reflective Practitioner: Toward a New Design for Teaching and Learning in the Professions. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1987.

 

Courses I Teach

  • ARCH 3310 - Architectural Structures I
    Investigation of the fundamentals of statics and mechanics of materials; two dimensional structural systems including axial, shear, and bending elements; basic methods of graphical and analytical analysis.
  • ARCH 4011 - Architectural Design Studio IV
    Capstone undergraduate studio involving projects that integrate building systems, technological and theoretical issues to make more complex buildings. Emphasis on synthesis, process, and intention that results in the development of the students' own methodology.
  • ARCH 4311 - Architectural Structures II
    Investigation of individual structural elements in a three dimensional architectural context, including discussion of three dimensional equilibrium and forces, how one element bears upon another and three dimensional structural systems as implemented by architects.
  • ARCH 6011 - Architectural Design Studio IV G
    Capstone undergraduate studio involving projects that integrate building systems, technological and theoretical issues to make more complex buildings. Emphasis on synthesis, process, and intention that results in the development of the students' own methodology.
  • ARCH 6302 - Advanced Structures based on Typology
    Examination and analysis of a particular building typology from a structural perspective. Small scale, long span, towers, and mid-scale buildings are regularly considered on a rotating basis. Use of computer analytic tools to achieve understanding of the structural behavior of a particular typology is included.
  • ARCH 6310 - Architectural Structures IG
    Investigation of the fundamentals of statics and mechanics of materials; two dimensional structural systems including axial, shear, and bending elements; basic methods of graphical and analytical analysis.
  • ARCH 6311 - Architectural Structures IIG
    Investigation of individual structural elements in a three dimensional architectural context, including discussion of three dimensional equilibrium and forces, how one element bears upon another and three dimensional structural systems as implemented by architects.

Teaching Projects

  • Flipping Architecture Structures. Project Lead: Patrick Tripeny. Collaborators: Teodor Antonov. TLT Grant 07/01/2012 - present. Total Budget: $73,000.00.