Dan Weissman AIA, Assc. IALD

GSD 6480/6473
Fall 2015 Module 1
Fridays 3-6pm (9/5/15 - 10/9/15)

Office Hours: By appointment IRL or Appear In
Note: You are welcome to come to my office with advanced warning: 84 Sherman St. Cambridge MA 02138

At this point it is abundantly clear that worship of technologically-determined solutions that attempt to transcend local conditions has bit us in the ass. This mentality, born out of the idealized formalism of modernity coupled with material and economic logics at multiple scales has truncated the feedback loop of design - build - test - evaluate - redesign - rebuild that, in vernacular architecture, spans generations and hundreds of years. Oh what a predicament we find ourselves in now.

Yet the digital has offered us another path. Digital tools now allow us to shorten the traditional feedback loop, both learning from, and expanding on, lessons derived from the vernacular. Rather than architects actively striving to overcome, or even ignore, the exigencies of local climate and light, form can again follow performance.

In this course we will follow in the footsteps of both vernacular builders and high-performance architects to investigate methods developed both over generations, as well as within the last two decades to analyze and design architectural form and spaces in the light, both solar, and electric. By illuminating both the metrics and workflow processes, students will produce robust, meaningful, and actionable design studies using former or current design projects of their own choosing, to understanding how forms, details, and materials interact with light.

Just say no to buildings with windows. This is daylit architecture!

Follow Dan's board Daylit Architecture on Pinterest.

Understanding Goals

This course will introduce many concepts and technical information. Although much of what you learn in class will likely be lost to interneting, facebook, or other projects in life, if you learn anything in this class, it should be basic understanding of:

  • How to analyze and design beautiful architecture with daylight as formgiver
  • How to make generalized electric lighting design decisions
  • The importance of materials and lighting in perception of architectural spaces
  • How to see.

Format and Assumptions

The class will consist of a combination of in-class activities, lectures, group discussions, activities, lab sessions, but the primary focus is via a project with a final review. You will work independently, yet are encouraged to discuss concepts collaboratively throughout the course of the class. It is assumed that you have a well-developed understanding of architectural design and theory, as well as solid basis in digital representation (rhino+grasshopper heavy...).


This course is constructed around project-based-learning; therefore you will be primarily assessed on your completion of the project. The project assesses your ability to synthesize research using graphic language, and to develop new skills as actionable workflows useful to the architectural design process. Assessment will focus on rigor of research, depth of analysis, error checking, design process, and graphic representation. Although students will not be heavily penalized for incorrect analysis, students should learn how to spot and avoid glaring errors in digital analysis processes. Given the interactive learning process inherent in design school, students are expected to participate in discussions and pinups.

Project: 75%
In Class Participation: 25%


Although this course is designed to minimize the possibility of cheating in the traditional sense, we will rely heavily upon content across many resources throughout the research process. It is imperative that you cite sources from which you learn specific pieces of information, not only to give credit to those who deserve it, but also to signal what content is original work conceptualized and created by you, and what content exists on its own terms. All information and drawings originating outside your own brain must be re-drawn by you, and cited with the original source. Failure to do so will result in grade reductions for small offenses, and expulsion from the course for grave offenses.

Equal Opportunity

This course, in a way, seeks to give you as designers agency towards providing future human society with comfortable, safe, and delightful structures for habitation. Within the frame of this course we seek to celebrate the diversity of minds, backgrounds, and opinions across the GSD community and hope to foster a space of learning, collaboration, and exchange in and beyond Gund Hall. I welcome new ideas, spin-offs, and parallel interests that all of you bring to the table through your unique life experiences. With that in mind, we as facilitators of group conversations will seek balanced opinions from many voices. Inappropriate outbursts, time-wasting rambles, or derogatory comments made to other students or faculty will not be tolerated.


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