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Failing Fast & Failing Often // Alex Palmer


With the countdown until graduation rapidly dwindling, construction at the Alma Pavilion is in full swing. Some days are better than others, but overall we have been making great progress and rapidly gaining knowledge of construction. One of the biggest learning curves we have needed to conquer is craft and quality control, especially when faced with small details and connections. Inspecting welds as the steel structure is erected, we are proud of the skills we have developed, but also much more aware of the quality our work. We speak amongst one another about how to better control our welds, or how the detail could have been executed in other ways. Constructing a structure designed within the studio, everyone is much more aware of how a detail is intended to appear and come together, but maintaining this control becomes a difficult task on site, especially with limited experience. Once aware of imperfections that arise during the building process, it remains embedded in the mind, which is frustrating, but also makes one accept reality. This reality we face is that of a joint or detail made to perfection in a computer, but all the factors that come into play in the physical detail make it impossible to be perfect.


A factor we have learned we have more control over to improve craft is location. We have the opportunity to work primarily in our shop at Kansas State, allowing for more consistency and fewer variables, like weather, which could set us back on site. However, even with this factor under control, we do not always have control of one of the biggest factors of craft, the human factor. As a studio, we work hard to maintain a high level of craft, but everyone on the team comes into the field with varying experience levels, making it imperative to share of knowledge amongst each other. Overall, the skill, comfort, and exposure in the building process has thoroughly improved throughout our time in the Design+Make studio.

Looking back to my first days of studio as a first year, I recall a professor telling us to fail often, and fail fast. This lesson seems to be more appropriate than ever, with real timelines for design and construction to maintain. We have learned the value of a mockup, allowing us to fail, but then push to find successful solutions. As expected though, we still run into road blocks and hiccups all throughout construction, but lessons learned from these set backs always produce valuable knowledge to carry along as we begin to edge closer to graduation and into the practice of architecture.

Written by Alex Palmer

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