sPeculative Bodies




Instructor: Michael Leighton Beaman

University of Virginia | School of Architecture

SARC 5555

Campbell Hall | Bishops Conference

Wed. 3:30pm - 6:00pm

Human bodies are bio-technical spatial artefacts. We have had, and continue to have, a hand in our own evolutionary development by manipulating both ourselves and our environments.  Yet, we speculate on the future conditions that will come to shape our future selves as science and social fictions - xeno-topias -that are often radically disconnected from our present state of being and disregard the bio-technical nature of our evolutionary development as already embedded in who and what we are.

SPECULATIVE BODIES examines the relationship between our future environments and our future selves, through the lens of technology and design. 

This course combines an examination of the discourses from a number of disciplines including design, science, philosophy, technology, and media studies, with practices (processes, techniques and projects) to create a hybridized mode of design inquiry. Fundamental to our examination is the dual problem of defining what a body is or maybe, and how speculation allows designers to be both grounded and projective. Our goal will be to create hard science fiction of bio-technicity and material, spatial design production for the near future.  




Applied Theory Seminar

Discourses | 3:30pm - 4:30pm 

Practices | 4:45 - 6:00pm



Discourses focuses on exploring the concepts and approaches from individuals and fields of study, that help us understand and contextualize the potential relationships between our future environments and our future selves. Each week you will be assigned a reading, film, tv episode, or other media to review, and prepare commentary on for class discussion. You will be expected to participate in seminar discussions, and present a working knowledge of the material covered. All readings and web-based content are provided via link to a PDF or website. See SCHEDULE below.



Practices tasks us with finding operablity and agency for design by exploring these concepts and approaches through a design project. The intent is that theory opens up possibilities for practice, and practices produces new territory for theory. Each week you will be asked to complete one step in a course project. These assignments will require you to use digital and mechanical technologies, and work both in groups and individually. See SCHEDULE below.



All work and participation is graded using a points systems. Points are determined using three criteria, and distributed by the stated percentages and/or points. Points translate to grades from A - D in  +/- increments.


Grading will be determined by how well each student performs in the following areas: 

Contemplative Discourse : 40%

Operative Discourse: 60%



Grading will be determined by how well each student performs in the following areas: 

The understanding of the course/studio project at hand, combined with an appropriate process of inquiry & development of a consistent and rigorous analysis/design process with clearly articulated ideas.

The ability to accurately and precisely craft a digital and physical response to the analysis/design assignment.  This includes the ability to clearly and concisely communicate ideas, and produce well-formed digital and physical: models, diagrams, drawings, and images the project.

The ability to engage in the assignment with fellow students and your instructor & the ability to receive criticism and incorporate this into your project’s development. Your ability to work in groups, meet deadlines, and contribute to studio culture.



A | Excellent:  90 - 100 points  
Project / Course Work surpasses expectations in terms of inventiveness, appropriateness, verbal and visual presentation, conceptual rigor, craft, and personal development. Student pursues concepts and techniques above and beyond what is discussed in class. Project is complete on all levels.
B | Good: 80 - 90 points
Project / Course Work is thorough, well researched, diligently pursued, and successfully completed.  Student pursues ideas and suggestions presented in class and puts in effort to resolve required projects. Project is complete on all levels and demonstrates potential for excellence.
C | Acceptable: 70 - 80 points
Project / Course Work meets the minimum requirements. Suggestions made in class are not pursued with dedication or rigor. Project is incomplete in one or more areas.
D | Poor: 60 - 70 points
Project / Course Work is incomplete. Basic skills, technological competence, verbal clarity, and/or logic of presentation are not level-appropriate. Student does not demonstrate the required design skill and knowledge base. Work is incomplete.


Software & Hardware

This course focuses on manual and digital design and manufacturing processes & practices. You will be required to use the assigned hardware and software.

Each student is required to have a laptop or desktop with the following software installed on the first day of class, unless otherwise noted. Each student must complete any required training associated with the use of laser-cutters, CNC milling, and 3D printing at UVa. You will be expected to use this software and hardware throughout this course.  Training in VR software and hardware may be be provided during the course



Rhino 5 (latest service release)

Grasshopper (latest release) + Relevant Plug-ins - TBD

Auto CAD v.2016 or higher

Adobe CS Suite (Illustrator + Indesign)

Catalyst (available in Architecture School Computer Labs)



Subtractive Manufacturing Techniques

Laser Cutting

CNC Milling/Routing

Kuka Robotic Arm

Additive Manufacturing Techniques

3D printer training

Kuka Robotic Arm 

2D printing & plotting



The following adhere to the University of Virginia polices and may impact your grade. Please read carefully.


Students are required to participate in all class activities. Participation includes completing assignments and group presentations, contributing to class discussions, and presenting work. Each student is expected to come to class prepared with questions and comments about assigned reading(s), and completed assignments.  


Students who are 15 minutes late to class will be marked late. 3 late days = 1 unexcused absence. 4 unexcused absences will result in a lowering of one letter grade, and an additional letter grade for each unexcused absence thereafter. Regardless of tardy of absence, students are responsible to complete all assignments on time, unless alternative arrangements have been made with the instructor.


The University of Virginia is committed to the principles of intellectual honesty and integrity. Members of the UVa community are expected to maintain complete honesty in all academic work, presenting only that which is their own work in tests and assignments. This includes recognition and adherence to the UVa honor code. 


Any student who feels s/he may require accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact the instructor privately at the beginning of the semester to discuss specific needs. In addition, please contact the Student Disability Access Center at the University of Virginia's Department of Student Health directly to coordinate reasonable accommodations prior to the start of any UVa course if you need to discuss or implement solutions to specific needs.




There are two types of documentation for courses at UVA.  The first is documenting your own work. This has two parts.  The first is documentation for UVA's Archives, Publication (Web + Print) and Accreditation purposes. The second is my documentaion of your work for grading and future courses. The first is dictated by the School of architecture and will be sent to you during the semester. The second is outlined below.

The other form of documentation is the citation of other's work you used to produce your work. This includes but is not limited to: text, images, files, scripts, precedence, video, podcasts, web content, newpaper & journal articles, and group work.


Students are required to submit documentation of their work. Late submissions will be graded accordingly. Incomplete and/or failing grades will be given to any student who fails to submit both sets of work documentation

Documentation of all assignments and final project must be submitted to the instructor via Google Drive folder (link will be provided). This submission must include the following:

 1. Packaged InDesign file + PDF of final project board
 2. Photos of your final models, installations, prototypes, etc
 3. All files and requirements from previous assignments 

File naming convention for Individuals: 

For example: 2018_ARCH3020_Smith_A01_CirculationDiagram

File naming convention for Teams or Groups:

For example: 2018_ARCH3020_GroupA_A01_CirculationDiagram



Citing and crediting the work of others used in your own work is an important part of being both an academic and professional. It is also  considered plagiarism when non-trival portions of another's work is not credited or cited.

Failure to cite work used will effect your grade and may lead to an honor-code violation and/or university discipline. To avoid this, be rigorous in documenting what and where you get information and include proper credits and citations when you disseminate your work: Portfolios, Presentations, Websites, etc.

The School of Architecture Library has created a citation guide to assit you in determining how to cite work. For this course both Chicago Style and MLA are acceptable protocols. You may use either, but no both.