Last summer, Austin-based practice Matt Fajkus Architecture (informally known as MF Architecture) launched a new collaborative identity, MFx, as an extension of the firm. MFx was founded to explore unknown variables in the field of architecture and beyond, with the intention of adding a new dynamic branch to the everyday practice of the office. MFxWORKSHOP is included in this branch as an alternative to the traditional “internship” experience.
Matt Fajkus, Founder and Principal Architect, states, “Since the inception of the firm, we have been working toward expanding the relevance of the architectural discipline beyond our circle of peers, reaching out to the general public and within popular culture. Architecture is perpetually behind the curve of culture, not readily adapting as technology evolves, including digital engagement and social media. Is architecture becoming less relevant? How can we increase its relevance and affect more positive change though design? That’s what MFxWORSKSHOP was created to explore.”
The educational and discursive intent of the program is influenced by Fajkus’ role as an Associate Professor and Director of the Graduate Program in Sustainable Design at The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture. In 2016, the inaugural MFxWORKSHOP initiative was comprised of 11 student collaborators from various schools of architecture from around the United States, including UT-Austin, Rice University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Cornell University. In addition to working on applied production, the program notably developed conceptual designs for a “University Island” as part of a competition hosted by the Young Architects Competitions (YAC). The design brief called for teams to transform an abandoned island off the coast of Venice into an innovative and revitalized center for research and education.
The 2016 MFxWORKSHOP’s schemes included an “UN-versity” comprised of beacon-like data towers and a vast digital network that spanned the globe; a complex system of canals designed to respond to rising waters and preserve sections of the island for field research; and a campus designed specifically for those with autism that capitalized on the unique existing features of the island.
The wide range of ideas generated for this competition and other projects over the course of the first summer encouraged MF Architecture to expand the scope of the MFxWORKSHOP. This experimental arm of the firm will pursue installations, exhibits, events, research and development projects, in addition to proper live architectural projects to be built. “The aim to learn from the firm’s built and unbuilt projects in an experimental loop was creating a workflow that allowed the office to think more experimentally, creatively, and critically,” explains Fajkus.
The program is continuing and advancing under the supervision of MF Architecture team member, Sarah Wassel, as the Director of MFxWORKSHOP’17. Choosing the team involved a rigorous selection process, with several layers of reviews and interviews to select candidates from among many applications. This summer’s team again includes students hired from across the country. The University of Texas School of Architecture contributes three team members: Tim Petersen, Savannah Simenhoff, and Yee Sang (Fiona) Wong. Additional MFxWORKSHOP’17 members are Charlie Hart of Washington University in St. Louis, Jessica Huang of Syracuse University; and Elijah King of Carnegie Mellon University.
“The 2016 MFxWORKSHOP transcended the typical ‘internship’ role to great effect. The buzz of creative energy in the office last summer was consistently inspiring and utterly unique within a professional office. We look forward to the exciting discoveries and opportunities of this summer’s MFxWORKSHOP team,” says Wassel.
“The most unique component of the program is the fact that each member of the workshop is allowed to both learn through performing diverse tasks and, simultaneously, have a voice in ongoing dialogs about the shaping of the firm. We have therefore found that the enthusiasm and ideas generated by MFxWORKSHOP are just as valuable to the firm’s work as our mentorship is to MFx participants,” concludes Fajkus.
MFxWORKSHOP’17 runs June 5 – Aug 11. Check the MFx website for updates about future opportunities.