When a beloved museum in upstate New York needed a new master plan for its sprawling campus, it turned to a potent resource to spark the brainstorm: students at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) School of Architecture.
They delivered in a big way, producing "Building Futures: Re-Envisioning The Hyde at Rensselaer," an exhibit at the Hyde Collection in Glens Falls, N.Y. Running February 11, 2012 - April 16, 2012, the exhibit comprises 14 visionary proposals for conceptually unifying the seven-acre campus, its three historic homes, a 1989-vintage addition and future expansion. 3D Systems Corporation proudly sponsored RPI in 3D printing the architectural models for this cutting edge exhibit.
"Our students came up with some wonderfully bold proposals," observed Andrew Saunders, assistant professor of architecture at RPI, who led the project. "They expressed some inventive ways of reconsidering the problem and the potential of the site. Polemically charged, the proposals take the master planning discourse to new, unexpected places, putting different levels of emphasis on the physical, regional, environmental, institutional, historical, economic and cultural contexts. If we help the museum's leadership explore new areas as they ponder its future, we have succeeded."
3D printing is a new and affordable way of creating architectural models faster and more accurately than traditional, labor-intensive handcrafting. RPI's ZPrinter from 3D Systems creates physical models from 3D computer-aided design data much as a document printer creates a business letter from a word-processing file.
RPI has used 3D Systems 3D printers since 1998, and its current full-spectrum color ZPrinter operates "non-stop" during a typical semester, says Saunders. He sees its speed, quality and affordability as a major advantage for students needing to create models, especially 11th-hour end-of-semester projects. As at many campuses, RPI students in other disciplines, such as mechanical engineering and fine art, have caught wind of the ZPrinter's capabilities and are using it in their projects.
"The Hyde exhibit, in addition to revealing possibilities for a new museum campus, is exposing a large community of museum patrons to what the Rensselaer School of Architecture can do with the newest technologies," said Saunders. "A lot of people are fascinated with what we've created and how we've created it. It's just one illustration of the progressive mindset of the school, museum, faculty and students."