blu Marble V finch3d

Video available here

I only bumped into this artist because of a post he made on Instagram I read about on Dezeen. Influenced by the group finch3d and their Adaptive Plan 3d algorithm for designing houses Sebastian Errazuriz urged architects through his post to “continue to think and design “architecture” for more abstract systems” in fear that the nature of the profession is changing and fewer architects will be needed in the future.

The finch3d tool is actually pretty fun to watch: a house plan keeps changing while someone presses/slides different buttons of a grasshopper code. Yet I fail to see how that changes architecture. First of all, someone did write that code, probably an architect, choosing what parameters can be changed and how. The very choice of what can be changed is already intentional; it expresses the hierarchical thinking of its designer. By transferring this intentionality to a potential client you only allow him/her to think within a framework that is already set. Unless the client himself/herself writes this code, finch guarantees no more freedom in planning than before.

And by allowing/promoting the use of such tools to the greater public do we really think that we are being deprived of designing? Hasn’t it always been the case in anonymous architecture? US building code for example allows people to freely build their houses on their own as long as they comply to state regulations. So what if that person used the finch tool? And why is the finch tool any different in its conception that the state regulations? They both perceive design as in keeping up with predetermined rules.

So, do I think that architecture is an endangered profession? Do we really risk our jobs by evolving and expanding into new realms? Not really. Experimenting with different design tools has always been a core activity of our profession. But designing is not just designing space, is it? Because then, a code like that could definitely jeopardize what we do. We don’t design space: we design spaces for the people who use them. And it is the elusive nature of human thinking and being keeps us afar from any certainties. It is this incompleteness, the lack of a single answer that drives us and will keep on driving us to explore what it means to be fully human.

Image available here

And then I see Errazuriz’s breathtaking installation: a led lit image of the earth set in an urban void, an unexpected surprise event that invites viewers to contemplate on the “fragility of our existence.” (artist’s own words). And then I think: “go ahead and make as many codes as you like. You will never be able to codify the feeling/the sense of fragility of existence.”Because there are qualities and values in architectural designing that can not possibly be expressed algorithmically.

Architecture can never be generic, nor abstract. In that case, it isn’t architecture, it’s just building. Architecture in my understanding is site-specific, it is contextual, it is a means of communicating who we are not just in terms of our physical existence, but also in relation to others, it is transcendental, just like that earth image suddenly hitting you as you walk by. And if there is ever a code that does that, hell, I am gonna be the first to use it.

Wikkelhouse | Fiction Factory

Image available here

Fro the company’s site:

The base of the Wikkelhouse is ‘virgin fiber paperboard’, which is made from Scandinavian trees. This so called goldboard, is wrapped around a huge mold, with a method patented by RS Developments, while environmentally friendly glue is added. This creates a tough and insulating sandwich structure. By this wrapping process a heat insulation and construction method are integrated in a sustainable way. Afterwards each segment is finished with a protective film and a shell of wooden slats.Wikkelhouse meets the criteria for temporary or permanent housing. It is about eight times more durable than traditional construction.

Baby Cages (?!)

Baby cages , image available here

(…) these were actual mesh cages suspended from apartment windows, much like a window-unit air conditioner would be today (…) it was believed that babies who are exposed to daylight during the afternoon hours slept better than those who were not (…) Invented in the United States in 1922, baby cages really took off in London in the 1930s and allowed for city-dwelling moms to offer their young ones a bit of fresh air when heading down to the local park just wasn’t an option (…) The cages became popular in London in the 1930s among apartment dwellers without access to backyards (…) Once installed, a caretaker could simply place their tot inside the wire basket and go about tending the home

Excerpts available here and here

La MéMé experience of participatory design

Image available here

Students protest the classical pastiche designs made for the Medical School (1968) at the University of Louvain/ University agrees to the formation of a student committee/ Students produce a counterproposal by Lucien Kroll who had no ties to the University/ Kroll organises collaborators and students into teams and turns design into an assemblage of disparate political fractions/ Work is done in his studio at a distance from the institution to ensure freedom/ Collaboration becomes “a kind of architectural method acting” accepting every outcome even if it defies prevailing arch conventions (de Graaf)/ Kroll, when denied the participation of le Roy, his preferred gardener, also engages the adjacent community into participating in the landscape component/ For two years this is an harmonious collaboration/ However, University representatives who visit the site oppose the outcome and the budget increase and fire Kroll/ Kroll exposes the contractor for high pricing but is then accused of vandalising the building site during his open call to the neighbouring community/ The building is highly criticised as a “failed experiment” and “less than a sum of its parts” (de Graaf)/ Petitions for the building’s demolition are opposed by massive support (Excerpts from Reinier de Graaf’s book: Four Walls and a Roof)

In a DOMUS article dated back in 2010, Kroll is presented as “icon of democratic architecture”:

Communication through architecture is an eminently political act, Kroll maintains: the architect is the catalyst of a creative process and social dynamic, in respect to which they make their knowledge available for the translation of interpersonal relationships into a suitable space (…) architects must step out of themselves and put themselves in the shoes of future residents.

Full article available here
Image available here

History/Theory

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  • 1970’s: critical theory focused on labor (or the social)/ this theory did not transition well into neoliberalism
  • theory that involved  Derrida, Heidegger, Deleuze, and Foucault tried to replace the theory that came out of modernist intellectual formations as the intellectual energy spent on mastering a difficult literature—mostly in translation—would enrich architectural discourse and trickle its way down into practice (…) It was hoped that architecture could be taken out of the deadening nexus of modernism and professionalism and be given a “thicker” disciplinary identity (…) The trouble was that the epistemology of delayed gratification could find its resonance in advanced history/theory work (i.e. PhD work), but not in the normative world of the studio (…)  with the arrival of computation, “intellectually-oriented” classes became increasingly impossible to justify in the curriculum (…) Furthermore, and importantly, with the arrival of the globalized student population in American universities, it became increasingly unclear how this Eurocentric reading list dealing with issues from a pre-globalization era could related to the wide range of issues coming from the global realities.
  • the semiotic approach evaporated away. Like the intellectualist stand, it proved to be too difficult to teach
  • Theory, if we think of it at the level of phenomenology, promised to enliven the inner spirit of the designer (…)  it promised a disguised spirituality residing not in humans alone but in materials, or even, more importantly, in joinery, in that proverbial tectonic
  • Theory tried to open up an awareness that history and its critical role in defining the “consciousness of the young student.” (…) Today, out of the around 120 or so architecture schools in the US, one half—if they teach history at all—still teach the old curriculum from pyramids onward
  • Theory—in whatever formation—could only barely deal with the problem of global warming (…) an alternative disciplinary horizon allied, correctly or not, with ethics, management theory, and building technology.
  • Theory—in whatever formation—failed to address the rise of nationalism in the post-colonial context (…) In a complex, global world, is it really a victory when Eurocentrism is replaced by nation-centrism?
  • Theory—in whatever formation—could not cope well in the expanded field of “historical architecture.” (…) no one knows how to teach architectural history, and there were few “theoretical” takes, especially since most of the effort at “theory” now tries to address issues in the contemporary world, a world often conveniently stripped of historical and cultural backgrounds. We have moved from modern architecture to environmental architecture, which serves to bring modern architecture towards its teleological end.
  • Theory—in whatever formation—passively, though in some cases actively promoted the emergence of Modernist Majoritarianism. Most schools of architecture came to emphasize the history of modernism as part of its core epistemological project (…) theory failed to critique the important institutional changes within the world of history/theory, the most important being the split between Modernism and Tradition, and now, more recently, Modernism and Pre-modernism
  • Theory—in whatever formation— failed to adequately address the digital until it was too late.
  • Theory—in whatever formation— failed to deal with the humanitarian crisis of the twenty-first century and still struggles with issues of violence and trauma (…) e need to recognize that normative theoretical systems do exist, they are just not called history/theory.2 They go by other names such as preservation, digital architecture, modern architecture, sustainability, pre-modernism, etc (…)  the very success of the last decades is now coming to haunt the system, creating immobile boundaries that mitigate against interdisciplinarity. Advanced scholars who now work in the domain of “history/theory” do indeed often bridge into the realm of political science, anthropology, colonial studies, philosophy, geography, and other disciplines in the humanities. But whereas these other fields have made strong and important inroads into developing critical positions, architecture as an educational platform has in the last decades moved in the opposite direction, cleaning out its curriculum from disciplinary entanglements, placing the entire weight of that operation on the narrow ledge of “history/theory.” (…) To make matters worse, many elite schools decided to follow the neoliberal model of labor by tenuring only a few people and farming out the rest of its curriculum to hired guns who had little vested interest in—and no power to—transform the curriculum

Excerpts from: The School of Architectural Scandals, written by Mark Jarzombek, full article available here

Image available here

ΟΜΑ’s BLOX

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1:200 model of BLOX integration in the neighborhood. this was in the gift shop area, a great one by the way

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caption from the exhibition on housing, collage shows the evolution of social housing and public space policies in Europe and Denmark. the exhibition contained data on family types, ownership status and revolved around housing types, building materials, energy saving solutions for housing blocks, AR and smart house applications.

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Olafur Eliasson’s installation of light projections on walls

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BLOX’s children playground (completely black of course)

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Visitors holding the special red card were required to answer one question per room and at the end of the exhibition they received a note describing their ideal home based on their answers.

 

The “Connected Curriculum”

CONNECTED CURRICULUM

UCL’s twenty-year vision and a wholesale commitment to changing programs of study/ its goal is to enable students to participate in research and inquiry throughout their education/ allows students to make connections both vertically across a program’s year groups and horizontally across disciplinary divides, even beyond the university setting/ research-based education aspires to widen the notion of what constitutes legitimate research and who has the authority to contribute to it.

The University is changing: new ways of knowing in order to thrive in a unknown future/ in the age of supercomplexity a new epistemology for the university awaits, one that is open, bold, engaging, accessible, and conscious of its own insecurity (Barnett)

SIX DIMENSIONS OF CONNECTIVITY

  • students are encouraged to connect with staff and learn about ongoing research
  • connected sequence of research activities throughout students’ programs (scaffolding)
  • research is inherently social/ students are encouraged to connect their learning across the subjects they are taking and with the wider world
  • students are encouraged to connect academic learning with workplace learning and develop a full range of professional attributes and skills
  • assessments: critical questions concerning their forms or types of skills they address
  • interpersonal connections between people from different disciplines, cultures and backgrounds

 

References

Carnell, B., 2017. Towards a connected curriculum in architectural education: research-based education in practice. In Charrette 4(1) Spring 2017, pp. 14-26

Image available here

 

On the reliability and validity of meaning in arch and urban research

ACTIVITYTHEORY BIGGS 3

  • Gibson_affordances: how it is that some situations and objects seen to present themselves to us as things we can use
  • Wittgenstein_language games: in which we share common attitudes towards the world and what it presents to us (constructivist view where we make an interpretation of the world that facilitates certain interactions and limits others) Questioning is a kind of malady, a disquiet that can only be satisfied by an answer that makes the question go away.” Our questions occur in a context.
  • Scientific worldview contrasts the constructivist one as “everything about the real world lies out there to be discovered.”
  • Popper_Science is as speculative as other disciplines
  • Feyerabend_ science is much more creative than is stereo-typically assumed
  • Latour & Woolgar_have exposed the the human, interested, motivated world of the science laboratory that is usually excluded from accounts of scientific inquiry
  • Bloor: all kinds of knowledge is motivated and arises in a context of values and beliefs. Many scientific or sociological advances are themselves based on ungrounded assumptions, or on a persuasive narrative, in favor of a particular position at the expense of the alternatives. “Unmotivated decisions are impossible”

ACTIVITY THEORY: An activity is an organized set of actions that combine together to construct our reality; activities are central to our knowledge production; activities are considered as corresponding methods in research and the worldview within which these activities are perceived as meaningful by the actors who deploy them, as methodologies. Methodologies are value and belief sets that provide an interpretative framework for understanding the impact and significance of those activities.

Activity situated in a social context and in an interpretative community of users provides us with evaluative tools, not only for assessing the appropriateness of the proposed methods, but also of assessing the appropriateness of data (…) one can use an activity-theoretic account to explain why an architectural activity is appropriate in response to an architectural question, i.e. a question posed in the context of architecture; or one can use it to identify the architectural worldview and values within which a response is perceived as meaningful by the interpretative community of architects (..) it is false to assume that data alone, or evidence-based assessment, has the potential to point us towards a single narrative or argument leading to an incontrovertible conclusion in research.

By legitimizing alternative ways of interpreting data, and indeed what we might accept as data, the field of architectural research is given a voice with which to express alternative socio-cultural values and to describe how these values give rise to alternative, productive insights and understandings to traditional models of academic research, i.e. significant research outcomes, based in professional practices, which have potential impact.

Science tries to make claims about an external world that exists independently of the observer/ The sociologist is interested in the social interaction of human beings that includes the opinions and personalities of the individuals concerned, it is essentially a science of the social world rather than a science of the material world

 

References

Biggs, M.A.R., 2014. An Activity theory of research methods in architecture and urbanism. In City, Territory and Architecture 2014, 1:16, http://www.cityterritoryarchitecture.com/content/1/1/16

Image available here

ZARCH Publication now available!

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I am very pleased to see our articlePedagogical approaches to embodied topography: a workshop that unravels the hidden and imaginary landscapes of Elaionas,‘ get published in ZARCH Journal and I am also very happy to share this with you. It is based on a collaborative project that began in 2015 with Prof. Nelly Marda and Christos Kakalis from the University of Newcastle along with the students of our postgraduate course in NTUA.

The article highlights the importance of mapping in urban design and uses the concept of embodied topography to describe how activating the human body through a series of sensory motor tasks can help individuals immerse themselves in the landscape to acquire a better understanding of the urban phenomena. This process is presented here as a tool of mapping and managing the complexity of the urban landscape as it enables the individuals to recover the more hidden or even imaginary aspects of the city and their own relation to it.

As this is an ongoing research I hope that there will be plenty of opportunities to discuss what we are doing with more people involved in this kind of research in urban design. So, feel free to comment and write back your own experiences on the matter.

ZARCH: Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Architecture and Urbanism, Num. 8, image available here