Students at the University of Minnesota’s School of Architecture are getting first-hand training in masonry design. In May, the university offered a workshop at the School of Architecture as part of an apprenticeship method of teaching and work to: break down barriers between designers and builders; encourage future designers to use masonry; teach the valuable lessons of building and craft; reinforce the importance of quality workmanship and the value of using trained craftworkers for projects; exposing architects and other designers to the amazing potential of designing with masonry.

“The BDA (Bachelor of Design in Architecture) Workshop offers a unique opportunity for architecture students to learn and practice masonry design and construction by working directly with the Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers (BAC) Local Union (Minnesota/North Dakota) Apprenticeship Training Center and in conjunction with the International Masonry Institute (IMI),” Adjunct Professor Mark Swanson told Masonry Design in an email. Swanson (AIA, CSI, LEED AP BD+C, NCARB) is the director of industry development and technical services for IMI.

The BDA Masonry Workshop is offered each spring semester. The challenge for participants: to design a masonry structure on the campus of the University of Minnesota. The project deliverables consists of a group digital presentation that includes the inspirational photos from their portfolio, original sketches and charrette ideas, journal, virtual or actual modeling, elevation and details, section detail showing flashing and moisture control as well as a construction site sample or “mock-up“ panel. Panels include example assemblies of base, decorative wall elements, bonding patterns, top of wall accent, examples of moisture control systems, joint finishes, and display acceptable workmanship.

Like many architectural presentations, students were judged in a jury format with the judges coming from different areas of expertise with masonry – architects, contractors, suppliers and union masons, Swanson said.

Minnesota Concrete & Masonry Contractors Association (MC&MCA) Marketing Director Elena Peltsman was invited to participate as a guest speaker and substitute instructor. She and several MC&MCA members and allied professionals served as judges.

Four teams presented their work, and a creatively designed bench to be located on the West Bank plaza was selected as the winning project. The bench was comfortable to sit on, its scale and proportions were well designed, and it incorporated light fixtures in a creative way. You can see the winning design on the MC&MCA’s website