Future100: Eric Kyle Cheung Explores Architecture’s Impact by Dissecting Its Tech

This Rice University student looks to building technologies to understand the economic and cultural forces driving the field of architecture.

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Cheung’s project Cross Conics investigates the intersection of the waffle slab structural system with conic volumes. The resulting proposal is a boathouse that uses the forms created by the overlaps as thresholds that help define circulation. Courtesy Eric Kyle Cheung

Rice University architecture student Eric Kyle Cheung gravitates toward building technology. His investigations of new materials and algorithmic processes range from table-size assemblages to 1:3-scale models of bent plywood as an alternative to framed systems. “Embedded in many of these projects is an age-old intent to find out how material properties can drive design,” he says. “Recently, I’ve become more interested in how other realities factor in, such as cost or biopolitical impact.”

Aside from his exploration of the building sciences, Cheung is also interested in uncovering the external economic and cultural forces that drive architecture. With the Station of the Future project, he seeks to address the issues involved in the broad rollout of electric car charging hubs. Cheung questions whether this new type of infrastructure will completely replace obsolete gas stations while still offering the same essential amenities Americans have grown accustomed to, such as food and retail options. He argues that even if paradigmatic shifts in technology change our urban landscape, we will still need to rely on existing architectural typologies to signify the services each type of structure provides.

In a similar spirit of adaptation, he also believes that architects should expand their scope of practice and apply their skills to other sectors that could benefit from having architects do more comprehensive and intuitive modeling of their products. “This diversification would take the financial pressure off the problems that come with the lowest-bid system and create opportunities to focus on design without squeezing pay or over-time,” he concludes.

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Station of the Future seeks to understand “the next evolution in the lineage of gas station design” from aesthetic, structural, and programmatic standpoints. Exploring the deep-rooted symbolism of the American gas station, Cheung suggests that qualities such as respite and convenience should be reimagined for a near-future society in which electric cars are the norm. Courtesy Eric Kyle Cheung

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Rice University

Undergraduate Architecture

NOMINATOR: Andrew Colopy, Assistant Professor

With an interest in building technologies, Cheung often evaluates how digital technologies such as parametricism and numerically controlled fabrication “give merit to form.”

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