Nancy Cheng’s Work and Interests

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I enjoy folding as a quick way to generate forms that catch the light in interesting ways; combining curved folds can generate unexpected results. To explore physical-digital fabrication techniques, I have designed decorative sun-shading screens and lighting fixtures of sheet materials. Playing with light source types, angle of incidence and angle of view can produce endless visual variations and reveal the complex interaction of material effects. My recent research looks at how the geometry of secondary surfaces added to building facades can affect ventilation in the air channel created. Wind-tunnel measurements reveal which patterns decrease windspeed and which patterns accelerate the windspead.

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What do designers consider as they work? What do expert designers do that beginners don’t do? A scanning pen allows capture of the graphic processes of artists and designers of all ages. The Digital Sketching collection of stroke-by-stroke animations contains life drawings from observation, diagrams from analytical thinking and design drawings from the imagination. By giving the same design problem to designers with different expertise, the research team could analyze and propose conceptual frameworks used for design. By dissecting the design problem into micro-tasks and tallying student mastery allows identification of learning progression steps. Strong examples of design drawings were subsequently used to create interactive lessons on sketching for space planning.

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My studios lead students in using design methods to address real places and client needs, thinking about the confluence of social, spatial and ecological considerations. The most recent studios consider the role of nature in the city through the lenses of Biomimicry and Ecodistricts.

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I have used computer networks to expand the classroom and connect my students to external partners and resources since international Virtual Design Studios of mid-90’s. In 2006-10, I worked with interdisciplinary colleagues in the Inter/National Coalition for Electronic Portfolio Research (INCEPR) to understand how learning portfolios can be used to improve learning, teaching and assessment. Through these ePortfolios, students can reflect on how class assignments and co-curricular activities address learning goals. In blogging about their work-in-progress, they can share research efforts and develop online communication skills while developing an archive from which to develop more polished professional presentations.

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