Seth McDowell’s design work, writing and teaching examines the topic of adaptive construction. Adaptive construction is a research trajectory that investigates the effects of global technologies and distribution systems on material culture. The goal is to discover and imagine how technology offers new possibilities for material alchemy and emergent construction. His work with adaptive construction aims to define new methods for making that expand upon Modernism’s doctrine of standardization. Within this topic of adaptive construction, McDowell concentrates on three areas of study: 1—material transformation and alchemy, 2—building transformation and alchemy, and 3—emergent infrastructure systems.
McDowell has been recognized nationally and internationally for contributions both as a designer and a writer in this field of adaptive construction. As a designer he — within his architecture practice mcdowellespinosa— has won major national and international design competitions and awards that include the 2015 NY Architectural League Prize for a design portfolio that exemplifies conditions of “Authenticity” in architecture, winning entry for The Chicago Architecture Foundation’s 2015 ChiDesign Competition, first place entry in the 2010 Self-Sufficient City Competition sponsored by the Institute of Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, finalist in MoMA’s PS1 2013 Young Architects Program (TempAgency), and winner of the 2015 AIA/DC Unbuilt Award for Excellence.
Seth McDowell’s writing on material and object re-contextualization in art and architecture has been published in STUDIO Architecture and Urbanism Magazine, Pataphysics Then & Now (forthcoming), New Architecture Assembly Magazine, ArchDaily, and presented at various national conferences. His letter for the book competition Dear Architecture was awarded honorable mention and is published in the book. McDowell is editor of the book Water Index: Design Strategies for Drought, Flooding and Contamination, an ACTAR / UVA publication, to be released in the summer of 2016.
McDowell’s teaching is focused on materiality, construction systems and digital visualization/simulation. Core teaching assignments include courses in Building Information Modeling (BIM) ARCH 7270/ARCH 3271/ARCH 5500, Building Matters ARCH 3260, and undergraduate design studios ARCH 3020/ARCH4010.
McDowell has served as guest critic on design juries at UNC-Charlotte, Louisiana State University, Columbia University, Cornell University, University of Texas-Austin, and Clemson University. He also serves on the Scottville, Virginia Architectural Review Board.