In the course of a long career teaching architecture students to explore new design approaches, Chris Abel has created many experimental design studios, explaining his aims and methods and illustrating students' projects in his writings. Whether exploring the significance of tacit knowing in the design process, the creative exchanges between local and international approaches in regional architecture, or the impact of new technologies of production, Chris has encouraged his students to treat design as a form of research, the ultimate aim of which is to improve the quality of the built environment. Depending on the nature and scope of the projects, students also commonly work together in these studios in small teams, developing the kinds of collaborative skills they will need in practice.

The Vertical Architecture STudio (VAST) exemplified this experimental and collaborative tradition, providing a focus for research in high-rise architecture and sustainable urban design. Beginning with a studio project for a "Tropical Tower" at the University of Nottingham in 1994, the program was further developed at the University of Sydney (USYD) in 2006. Since then, Chris has also run VAST programs at the University of Nebraska Lincoln (UNL), 2008, and the University of New South Wales (UNSW), 2009 and 2010, the results of which have been widely published in Australian, American and Chinese journals. A broad selection of VAST project designs, a few of which are shown here, is also displayed on the Council for Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) website.