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En Pointe on display until Jan. 21 in Knowlton Hall. Credit: Courtesy of Joshua White Photography

From Knowlton to LA and back again

A nationally recognized architect is returning to her alma mater from Los Angeles.

Wednesday evening, the Knowlton School of Architecture’s semester-long lecture series will be kicking off with award-winning designer and UCLA professor Heather Roberge. She will be presenting a number of projects from her office that deal with professional problems encountered in the field.

For Roberge, who obtained her master’s degree in architecture from Ohio State, it’s a homecoming to the place that gave her a passion for architecture.

“I started studying engineering at Ohio State,” Roberge said. “I had an interest in visual art, so I took a historical architecture survey class. I loved the way the history of architecture was described, its cultural implications and the rich number of multiple influences that affected the production of architecture. The passion of the instructors at Knowlton was contagious.”

Andrew Cruse, associate professor of architecture and director of the series this year, described Roberge as the perfect candidate to kick off the event.

“As an alum, she has ties back to OSU,” he said. “Her relationship with UCLA makes her a colleague, and she has very compelling work to showcase.”

Students can see some of Roberge’s work firsthand in the Banvard Gallery, located on the first floor of Knowlton Hall. “En Pointe” is on display until Nov. 23. and is a series of aluminum columns that are close to touching the ceiling and take up almost the entire room. While the columns might look massive, each weighs only 90 pounds.

“We wanted to produce a column that defines space, but takes up very little mass,” Roberge said. “Aluminum is of recyclable, very lightweight material.”

The columns also lack a base for support. Each column’s mass and silhouette is individually designed to support the other columns. No column can stand up without the other adjacent columns. They all counterbalance each other.

Roberge said this design represents one of the focuses of her lecture: integrating materials with modern techniques.

“Our techniques we have today deal with physics simulations and using digital control to produce material assemblies,” she said. “We can use this numeric control to replicate highly refined parts, and this in turn could relate to how the column might work differently in the future.”

The focus of this semester’s lectures is energy and environment, and another work that Roberge will be focusing on is her award-winning design, “Succulent House.” Roberge describes it as a potential way for American families to understand how much water they are using.

Roberge said the standard design is to get rainwater away from the house as soon as possible. Her design changes the pitch of a roof, so it inverts the water into interior storage containers, where it could then be reused.

“My design could let the occupants live with an immediate understanding of how much water they are using, so the occupants are aware of how much demand they are placing on water use,” she said.

Roberge said that she hopes to be able to introduce students to a way of working that deals with present-day constraints and concerns in the field, as well as environmental conditions and long-standing disciplinary problems.

“Often there’s a break between research and practice,” Roberge said. “I want students to see that these two things can be integrated and not separated by presenting real world problems and applying that to how architects tackle problems theoretically.”

The lecture will start at 5:30 p.m. in the Gui Auditorium, room 250 of Knowlton Hall. All lectures are free and open to the public.

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