Among the 1,695 new attendees at CAMX 2018 in Dallas last fall was Quang Truong, an architect who is fascinated by composite materials. Truong studied both art and engineering at Dartmouth College as an undergraduate student, then earned his master’s degree in architecture from Yale University. He now runs his own studio in Portland, Ore.
Truong, who has been practicing architecture for approximately 15 years, teamed with an engineering and manufacturing company that specializes in advanced composite materials several years ago to build a dream home for an owner using structural FRP components. He is currently working with a publisher to write a book on composites in architecture.
“There are lots of textbooks featuring technical and engineering information, and there are great industry publications put out by ACMA and JEC,” says Truong. “But I saw a gap in the literature for a publication that prominently features the architectural design possibilities of composites.” After CAMX, Composites Manufacturing magazine’s Managing Editor Susan Keen Flynn caught up with Truong to talk about those possibilities.
Q: Do you recall when you first heard about composites?
A: Well, I played tennis when I was growing up, right around the time that companies were experimenting with composites in their racquet frames. There was a brief moment where wood racquets were still in people’s memory, metal was still commonly used and graphite composites were just starting to appear. … That and my lifelong love of cars meant that I always was aware of composites. But it was through a series of graduate courses at Yale, one with architect Greg Lynn and one with architectural historian Mario Carpo, that I really started to dive into both the technical and theoretical potentials for composites as a building material.
Q: When did you first incorporate composites in a professional project?
A: For a residence that I built in New York which, for various reasons, was designed in a way that was only possible to build with composites. I think it was a fortunate circumstance where the architect, contractor and owner were all on board with making that vision a reality.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about that project?
A: I can’t say too much about it, but I know that at the time it was built, there was no other structure like it – a monocoque structural FRP roof and exterior enclosure. That’s what is exciting about architectural composites right now. Each building that uses [the material] does so in a way that is unique. I think that as other architects begin to use composites, each will find their own way to use them that speaks to how they see the material solving a problem or achieving a certain design goal. The Apple buildings are certainly doing it in a certain way, with a specific vision for how the material can expand architectural possibilities. [Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., and Chicago’s flagship store both feature CFRP roofs.] And I’m excited to see how other architects explore composites as well.