The visual appeal<br/> of steel Image

The visual appeal
of steel

As this professor's interest in construction grew, so too did her appreciation for the beauty of architecturally exposed structural steel.


From reading about steel architecture to seeing it

During one of the meetings, Boake got to see photographs of the erection and fabrication of Santiago Calatrava's design of the Galleria and Heritage Square of Toronto's BCE Place (now Brookfield Place). Then, she toured a fabrication shop. “That changed everything because I hadn't really been on sites that much,” she says. Watching instead of reading sparked her curiosity. “How do you cut steel? What do people do for safety? That's my fascination, the more tactile how-it's-made.”

That's my fascination, the more tactile how-it's-made.
Terri Meyer Boake
Boake has authored several books on steel design that include hundreds of her construction photographs.

Inspired, she began touring as many construction sites as possible, camera in tow, in the two-hour window she had while her daughter was in preschool. “I'd get in the car, drive downtown,” she says, “throw my boots and hard hat on” and tour construction sites, admiring, for example, the steel architecture of the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy building “that had these wild curved steel pods that were suspended from a big truss.”

Boake's interest in construction grew, along with her appreciation for the beauty of architecturally exposed structural steel (AESS).

A different viewpoint

Her world was changed, and a new passion was born: photography that documented architectural innovation and achievement. “I have a different way of looking at things,” she says. “I record differently. Even a hired photographer won't look at the building in the same way I look at the building. They won't pick out the details.”

Even a hired photographer won't look at the building in the same way I look at the building.
Terri Meyer Boake

Seeing what had been theoretical put into practice gave Boake a new focus as an educator, and she now teaches unique courses focusing on steel architecture. She says by the time her students finish her course on exposed structural steel, they “have more information than any architect or engineer on the planet on AESS design, steel details, how to look at things.” Boake is known for her work with the Canadian Institute of Steel Construction (CISC) and the CISC Education and Research Committee to promote teaching steel construction in schools of architecture. She also commonly is a presenter for the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) and has been instrumental in writing AISC's Code of Standard Practice AESS category system.

By the time her students finish her course on exposed structural steel, they “have more information than any architect or engineer on the planet.”
Terri Meyer Boake

Boake tells her students that high-tech architects like Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, and Renzo Piano are influential because “they understood structure. They were doing the details.”

The design is in the details

That's why in Boake's classroom, students have to submit a hand-sketched detail each week. “If you understand detailing, you understand how all these systems work. I'm trying to get them to feel it. Then they can start to be playful. That's what was successful with a lot of high-tech architecture; it was very playful.”

Boake is doing her part to shape the future of architecture by offering an elective class in which students submit their work to real architecture competitions, such as the annual Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) competition.

She encourages her students to do what she did: observe. “Open your eyes and see. Really look at something. If you don't examine something critically, you're not going to learn about it. You're just going to see a shape, but not the nuances and the details.”

And one material that teaches well is steel architecture, Boake says. “When you look at AESS, it's always there as a lesson. You can always reference it. I think that's part of why I was drawn to projects that do that.”

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