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Marcus Shaffer

Associate Professor
Head shot of Tenured Penn State Department of Architecture Associate Professor Marcus Shaffer

Marcus Shaffer is an associate professor in the Department of Architecture.

His research focuses on the works, theories, and practices that engage The Machine as an extension of our impulse to explore and re-make the natural world. His work addresses building machines, automatons, and the spiritual mechanisms that represent our earliest technological expression; the mechano-pagan influence of The Machine on modern and visionary architecture; and attempts to transmit architectural knowledge and craft through construction machineries.

While Shaffer studies and contributes to a critical discourse probing The Machine in an Architectural context, his historical/theoretical search is informed by—and applied to—the design and fabrication of various tectonic machines. The agenda for the machines he designs and fabricates is to synthesize our powerfully rationalized technologies with the potency of meaning that is found in human ritual practices, which includes the act of building. The goal in designing and producing these machines is to enhance, extend, and transmit the very human act of architecture across physical, political, and temporal boundaries.

  • Education
    • BFA from Rhode Island School of Design
    • M.ARCH from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (2008 Graduate Design Research Award, 2009 Outstanding Graduate Thesis Award)
  • Courses Taught
    • Undergraduate Thesis
    • M. Arch / Architectural Design II
    • Materials and Building Construction I
    • Materials and Building Construction II
    • Machine Sessions / The Industrial Robot
    • Architectural Metals: Fabricating Hardware and Ornament
    • Seoul Studio, Korea/Japan Architecture Study Abroad
    • Contemporary Korean Architecture: From Modernist Origins to the Asian Avant-garde

    GRADUATE THESIS ADVISER

    • Apparatus X: Activating the Architectural Activist, Aaron Wertmam
    • Mechanizing Rammed Earth: Making New Earth Construction Viable in the United States, Zoe Bick
    • Machine / Block / Vault: Enhancing Earth-built Architecture with Modified Construction Technologies, Connor Pritz
    • The Ephemeral Dream Space: (Re)Activating an Evocative Architecture through Computational Devices and Bodily Interaction, Nasim Motalebi
    • Fast, Low-skilled, and Flexible Building Assembly (Now!): Revisiting the Joint-based Universal Building System through Low/Hi-Tech Fabrication Methods, Lizz Andrzejewski
    • Responsive Skin: Designing an Adaptive Envelope with Bamboo Veneer as a Hygroscopically Active Material, Manal Anis

    Ph.D. CO-ADVISER

    • Tapping Into Urban Recylcing for Housing Alternatives: Developing Cardboard Architecture through Low-Tech Tooling and Self-build Systems, Julio Diarte
  • Honors & Awards

    2019–19

    • Editorial Board Member / Journal: Insight—Civil Engineering

    2017–18

    • College of Arts & Architecture Faculty Research Grant Recipient: Developing Robotic Formwork: Enhancing Plastic Materials Construction Systems through Digimechanical Mobility and Variability

    2016–17

    • Borland Project Space, Faculty Research Showcase: Reconstituting the Master Builder: The Architect Enhanced Through Art, Poetry, Science, and Scholarship
    • TLT Fellow, The Pennsylvania State University

    2016

    • Visiting Scholar, Kookmin University, Seoul

    2015

    • Visiting Scholar, Sogang University, Seoul

    2013–15

    • Visiting Professor, Rhode Island School of Design (Department of Architecture / Department of Experimental and Foundation Studies)

    2013

    • ACSA National Creative Achievement Award with Professor Peter Aeschbacher

    2012

    • Visiting Scholar, Sogang University, Seoul
  • Exhibitions & Presentations

    2019

    • On/Of Paper: Work by the Faculty of Architecture at Penn State (Exhibition Curator, Designer, Fabricator) Stuckeman School Rouse Gallery

    2018

    • TRANSFORMERED: Three Decades of Machinic Works in the Department of Architecture at Penn State (Exhibition Curator, Designer, Fabricator) Stuckeman School Rouse Gallery

    2017

    • Penn State 3D-Printing Showcase (Exhibition Design / Fabrication), Stuckeman School Rouse Gallery
    • Marcus Shaffer with Aaron Knochel, Tom Laureman, Nicholas Meisel, Matt Parkinson, and Timothy Simpson, “Making for the Masses: An Interdomain General Education Course combining Art and Engineering,” presented at the 2017 Symposium for Teaching and Learning with Technology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA, March 18

    2016

    • Marcus Shaffer and Brian Alfred: Researcher Dialogue / Boreland Project Space / Faculty Research Exhibition

    2014

    2013

    • Marcus Shaffer, “The Machine in an Architectural Context: Ritual > Industrial,” public lecture, Department of Architecture, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA, August
    • Exhibition: RISE TECTONIC MACHINES! CONSTRUCT THE EXIGENT CITY, Rouse Gallery, Department of Architecture, Penn State Stuckeman School
    • Marcus Shaffer, “Developing Digi-mechanical Formwork for Construction in Environments of Displacement,” presented at 4th Annual International Conference on Materials and Manufacturing, May 12, Seoul, Republic of Korea
    • Marcus Shaffer, “Something from Nothing: Extreme Re-purposing and Material/Construction Processes in First Year Studio,” presented at the 101st Annual Meeting of the American Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA), California College of the Arts, San Francisco, USA, March 25
    • Marcus Shaffer, “Tectonic Machines and Building Transmission,” TEDX PSU, March 17
    • Marcus Shaffer, “The Machine in an Architectural Context: Ritual > Industrial,” public lecture, Department of Architecture, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI, USA, March 11
    • Exhibition: RISE TECTONIC MACHINES! CONSTRUCT THE EXIGENT CITY, BEB Gallery, Department of Architecture, Rhode Island School of Design

    2012

    • Marcus Shaffer, “The Machine in an Architectural Context: Spiritual, Cultural, Ritual, Rational, and Industrial,” public lecture, College of Engineering, Department of Architecture, Seoul National University, Seoul, Republic of Korea, July 27
    • Marcus Shaffer, “Flexible Formwork and the Displacement City: A Technology of Extreme Accommodation,” presented at the 2nd International Conference on Flexible Formwork, University of Bath, Bath, England, June 27–29

    2011

    • Marcus Shaffer, “High Tech / Low Tech: Tectonic Machines, Earth-built Traditions, and Constructing the Exigent City” presented at the 28th Annual International Symposium on Automation and Robotics in Construction (ISARC 2012), Seoul, Republic of Korea, June 29–July 2
    • with Peter Aeschbacher, “Pleasure Gardens & Dancing Machines: The Secret Life of Public Spaces”’ Presentation as part of the Stuckeman School’s Faculty Fridays Lecture Series, PSU/University Park, Pennsylvania, April 15

    2010

    • Marcus Shaffer, “New Machine Vernacular: Remote Building Devices, Digital/Cultural Accommodation, and Technologies’ Renewed Humanitarian Agenda” Presentation as part of the Stuckeman School’s Faculty Fridays Lecture Series, PSU/University Park, Pennsylvania, October 15
    • Marcus Shaffer, “New Machine Vernacular: Remote Building Devices, Digital/Cultural Accommodation and Technologies’ Renewed Humanitarian Agenda” presented at Vernacular Futures: The Fifth International Seminar on Vernacular Settlement, University of Moratuwa, Colombo, Sri Lanka, July 28–31
    • Marcus Shaffer and Jodi La Coe. “Vice Versa Machines: Architecture/Cinema” presented at the 2010 National Conference of the Beginning Design Student [NCBDS], Made: Design Education and the Art of Making, University of North Carolina, Charlotte, NC, March 18–20
    • Marcus Shaffer and Jodi La Coe, “Block Wall”, Poster presentation, the 2010 National Conference of the Beginning Design Student (NCBDS), Made: Design Education and the Art of Making, University of North Carolina, Charlotte, NC, March 18–20

    2009

    • Marcus Shaffer, “Mobile, Immediate, and Adaptable (for the People): Three Attributes of Tectonic Machines in the New Mechanical Age”, presented at the 2009 ACSA Southwest Fall Regional Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico, October 15 –17
    • Marcus Shaffer, “The Machines of Cosmic Spectacle: Le Courbusier’s Unrealized Roof Mechanisms for L’Assembly at Chandigarh and the Church of Saint-Peierre de Firminy-Vert,” presentation at the Dean’s Annual Symposium: Le Corbusier: Architecture, Urbanism, Theory. SPSU/Atlanta, Georgia, USA, February 26–28
    • Marcus Shaffer, Rise Tectonic Machines! Poster presentation, 7th Annual Hawaii International Conference on Arts & Humanities, January 9–12
  • Publications & Presentations

    BOOKS

    • Forthcoming: Reality (Spectacularly) Transformer-ed: Observations on the Machine in an Architectural Context
    • Forthcoming: Transformer-ed: Three Decades of Machinic Works in the Department of Architecture at Penn State
    • Marcus Shaffer, Rise Tectonic Machines! Construct the Exigent City! (Providence: RISD Architecture, 2013). This book is currently distributed by ORO in their Advanced Research & Design series

    ARTICLES

    2015

    • Marcus Shaffer, “Raw Power: The Triangle School at Namyangju—A Finely Tuned Monolith.” Space 568, vol. 3: 96–102.

    PAPERS

    2019

    • Marcus Shaffer with Julio Diarte and Esther Obonyo, “Developing a Panelized Building System for Low-cost Housing Using Waste Cardboard and Repurposed Wood.” IC-NOCMAT 2019 / The 18th Annual Conference on Non-Conventional Materials and Technologies / Construction Materials & Technologies for Sustainability” / Nairobi, Kenya, Africa
    • Marcus Shaffer with Julio Diarte and Elena Maria Vazquez, “Tooling Cardboard for Smart Re-use: A Digital and Analog Workflow for Upcycling Waste Corrugated Cardboard as a Building Material.” CAAD Futures 2019, Hello Culture! / The 18th Annual CAAD Futures Conference 2019, Daejeon, Republic of Korea

    2018

    • Marcus Shaffer and Elena Maria Vazquez, “Bring in the Noise: A Robotic-aided Framework for the Indirect shape Translation and Molding of Inexact Geometries.” eCAADe2018 / The 36th Annual Conference / “Computing for a Better Tomorrow”
    • Marcus Shaffer and Julio Diarte, “Urban Recycling Intervention: Prototype Tooling for Transforming Waste Corrugated Cardboard into Architectural Elements and Building Components.” WASCON 2018 Conference / The 10th International Conference on the Environmental and Technical Implications of Construction with Alternative Materials / “No Cradle, No Grave—Circular Economy Into Practice”
    • Marcus Shaffer, “Developing Mechanized Formwork: An Alternative to Single-use Concrete Formwork Systems.” WASCON 2018 Conference / The 10th International Conference on the Environmental and Technical Implications of Construction with Alternative Materials / “No Cradle, No Grave – Circular Economy Into Practice”

    2017

    2015

    • Marcus Shaffer and Aaron Wertman “Apparatus X: Designing an Architecture for Civic Engagement.” In Proceeding from the 2015 AIA/ACSA Intersections Conference. Atlanta, GA: AIA/ACSA.

    2014

    • Marcus Shaffer and Chaeshin Yoon, “The Open City: Technology Informed, De-formed, Re-formed,” published in the conference proceedings of Architecture (ACSA) International Conference, Open Cities: The New Post-Industrial World Order, Seoul, June 21–23, 2014 AIK/Ewha Woman’s University, Seoul, Republic of Korea
    • Marcus Shaffer, “Incongruity, Bizarreness, and Transcendence: The Cultural/Ritual Machine v. Technocratic Rationalism at Expo ’70,” published in the conference proceedings of the 102nd Annual Meeting of the Associated Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA), April 10–12, 2014, Florida International University, Miami, USA

    2013

    • Marcus Shaffer, with Timothy Simpson, Elisha Halpin, Amy Vashaw, and Dorothy Evanson, “Integrating Engineering and Arts Through Capstone Design: Creative Campus Meets the Learning Factory,” published in proceedings of the 120th ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE), June 23–26, 2013, Atlanta, USA
    • Marcus Shaffer, “Developing Digi-mechanical Formwork for Construction in Environments of Displacement,” published in the Advanced Materials Research Journal, Proceedings from the 4th Annual International Conference on Material and Manufacturing Technologies, ed. Thomas Wohlbier.
    • Marcus Shaffer, “Something from Nothing: Extreme Re-purposing and Material/Construction Processes in First Year Studio,” published in the conference proceedings of the 101st Annual Meeting of the Associated Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA), March 21–24, California College of the Arts, San Francisco, USA

    2012

    • Marcus Shaffer, “Flexible Formwork and the Displacement City: A Technology of Extreme Accommodation,” published in the conference proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Flexible Formwork, International Society of Fabric Formwork (ISFF), June 2012, Bath, England, p. 314–322

    2011

    • Marcus Shaffer, “High Tech / Low Tech: Tectonic Machines, Earth-built Traditions, and Constructing the Exigent City” published in proceedings of the 28th Annual International Symposium on Automation and Robotics in Construction International Association for Automation and Robotics (IAARC), Seoul, Rep. of Korea, p. 850–856

    2010

    • Marcus Shaffer, “New Machine Vernacular: Remote Building Devices, Digital/Cultural Accommodation and Technologies’ Renewed Humanitarian Agenda” published in Vernacular Futures: FARU Journal 2010, Proceedings from the Fifth International Seminar on Vernacular Settlement, ed. H. Munisinghe, p. 201–210
    • Principal Author with Jodi La Coe. “Vice Versa Machines: Architecture/Cinema” published in Proceedings of National Conference of the Beginning Design Student [NCBDS], Made: Design Education & the Art of Making, edited by Jeff Balmer and Chris Beorkrem, p. 291–296

    2009

    • Marcus Shaffer, “Mobile, Immediate, and Adaptable (for the People): Three Attributes of Tectonic Machines in the New Mechanical Age”, published in Chang[e]ing Identities: Design, Culture, + Technology, proceedings of the 2009 ACSA Southwest Fall Regional Conference, K. Holliday ed., p. 164–173
    • Marcus Shaffer, “The Machines of Cosmic Spectacle: Le Courbusier’s Unrealized Roof Mechanisms for L’Assembly at Chandigarh and the Church of Saint-Peierre de Firminy-Vert,” in Le Corbusier: Architecture, Urbanism, Theory, ed. Tony Rizzuto and Chris Welty (Atlanta, GA, 2009), p. 129–135
  • Built Works

    2004–08

    • Exhibition Design: “The Star-Spangled Banner: The Flag That Inspired The National Anthem”
      Venue: The Smithsonian Institute, National Museum of American History, Washington, DC
      Client: SOM/Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
      Role: Senior Exhibition Designer with Design Principal Tom Geismar