The Flight of Icarus

Architecture students launch flying machines

students launch kites on Art Hill
First-year architecture students test-launch kites, gliders and other flying machines from the top of Art Hill in Forest Park May 9. (Photo: Sid Hastings/Washington University)

And having lifted himself up on his wings
he flies before and he fears for his comrade. Just as a bird
who has led forth a tender offspring from a high nest into the air
— From “Daedalus and Icarus,” Book VIII of Ovid’s “Metamorphoses”

From Greek myth to NASA spacecraft, the dream of flight has powered some of the world’s most ambitious feats of design and engineering.

This spring, dozens of first-year students in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis built their own flying machines as part of “Architecture 112: Introduction to Design Processes II.”

Coordinated by Kelley Van Dyck Murphy, lecturer in architecture, the five-section core studio was also taught by architecture faculty Joshua Chan, Elisa Kim, Alex Waller and Samuel Xu. Projects engage the basic principles of architectural design through the processes of drawing and making.

Creating a kite, the studio’s traditional final project — or a glider, projectile or other flying machine — allows first-year students to explore a wide range of subjects and skills, from research and design to materials, joinery, fabrication and assembly. On May 9, students had the chance to put those aeronautical experiments to the test, launching them from the top of Art Hill in Forest Park.

(All photos: Sid Hastings/Washington University)

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