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My name is Jean Alexandre Law Min, but I prefer being called Alex. I hail from the beautiful island of Mauritius, and for those of you who have never heard of it before; it is located next to Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. Anyway, I am 20 year old student from the University of Melbourne, majoring in Architrecture. I have been in Melbourne for almost two years now and I simply love it; the culture, the friendly people and cozy atmosphere. I have always been a very creative person and architecture seemed to be the perfect path for me. In the beginning, I did not know what to expect from the course. I used to flick through architecture magazines and tell myself that one day I will be designing beautiful homes. However, there is more than just designing expensive dream homes next to the beach. Since I started this course, it has been an incredible journey for me, full of experiences and knowledge. I know that there is a long way to go, however, I know that this is my passion and I am looking forward to the following years to come. I have had quite a bit of experience in digital modelling software. I was first introduced to Google SketchUp in high-school and I found it amazing. Then at university, I came across Rhino, AutoCAD and Grasshopper and I then realised how powerful these tools were and how it could facilitate the design process. My first experience with Rhino was in one of my first year subject called Virtual Environments. We learned how to reproduce a physical model into Rhino and consequently, modify the design with panelling tools. I was amazed at what I could come up with in the software. I must admit that digital modelling software has been a daunting experience, since I am mostly used to sketching. However, I realised the potential of computers in Architecture and this taught me that design is an ever-changing environment where you have to adapt.


ARCHITECTURE AS “As will become clear, architecture is as much a philosophical, social or professional realm as it is a material one, and it is through the consideration of architecture as discourse that one can engage with it as visual culture.”1

Everything around us is shaped by the built environment. The social, cultural, emotional and experimental aspect of our live are all constructed and moulded by architecture. What I mean is that buildings are at the core of our daily life and activities. Most of our time spent is in a building, and we tend to overlook the fact that architecture surrounds us. In this discourse topic, I will discuss the problem with defining the term ‘Architecture’ and how people perceives it differently. To the general public, architecture is an art. It is clear that people who think this way do not have proper knowledge of architecture and the design process involved in it. I believe that architecture is NOT an art. If architecture was art, then architects would not work within the boundaries and limitations set by a multitude of parameters such as the environment of the site, the wants and needs of the client. There are some factors that are impossible to control in architecture. If architecture was art, design conventions and standards would be ignored, and architects would run around the city building what they want. While it is true that aesthetic is an instrumental part of a design, it still has to function properly and abide to certain rules such as safety, fire-resistant, reduced carbonfootprint, comfort, etc.

A DISCOURSE What is architecture then? The answer is as complex as the question itself, as it involves a range of factors that infulences the way we see architecture. One of the main factor is time. Time is a great game changer. Presently, we are in the age where sustainability and green design is a requirement for most buildings. Architecture has adopted it through large glass windows, green roofs, photovoltaic cells, natural ventilation, passive heating, the list goes on and on. A century ago, it was different. Industrial revolution made it possible for buildings to be a hundred storeys high and equipped with A/C systems and the number of factories around the world exploded like a bomb. Little regard was givento the environment back then. Architecture had a different facette. The other important factor is culture. People aroundthe world have different cultures and they see things differently. They have different opinions on architecture. Some people could either critisize or love a building, or find it offensive. However, the perception of architecture, particularly contemporary architecture, seemed to have change over the past few decades with globalisation. Traditional buildings are leaving their place to modern high-tech buildings and highrises. Is today’s architecture becoming standardized? Is traditional infrastructure at the mercy of a booming industry? What does the future have in store? 1. Richard Williams, ‘Architecture and Visual Culture’, in Exploring Visual Culture : Definitions, Concepts, Contexts, ed. by Matthew Rampley (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2005), pp. 102 - 116. 2.

Architecture, I believe is constant change. It does not necessarily change for the better, but it learns how to adapt to its environment and look for the best solutions within a certain framework, within which several factors acts on the design. For example, the environment, technology available, material availability, climate, and so on. Therefore, we cannot predict exactly what future architecture would be, but we can analyse current architecture and technology, and assume what this could lead to. The Wanangkura Stadium in Australia is a multi-purpose recreational area designed by ARM architecture. Wanangkura translates into ‘Whirlwind’ in Aboriginal language, and the building is an abstraction of isobars on weather maps. This building has become a landmark for the area which it was built in (Port Hedland), and it has been attracting a considerable amount of people, who not only come to use the building facilities, but also for its architecture. What has made such a building become a landmark? Is it its unusual facade and colours? We must consider the fact that visual impact is very important in architecture, as it is an object in the environment that everyone can see, therefore it contributes to the field of ideas, perceptions and ways of thinking and brings attention and awareness to the building and the practices within.

The design of the building responds to the site conditions. architecture/29281-wanangkura-stadium

Changsha Meichu International Culture & Art Centre by Zaha Hadid Architects shows and example of a very unusual architectural form (Deconstructivism). It has a very strong visual impact on the urban form city and the user experience seemingly focuses on creating comfort, social interactions and communication within through its fluid and curvy forms and facade. However, is architecture based only on aesthetics and visual impact? How about feasability and connection with its context? It is probably still a concept design, but if it was ever built today, builders and contractors would have a hard time figuring out how to build it. It would also cost millions of dollars to build such a project. And what about sustainability and using a minimum of resources? This project seemingly takes up more space than required for such a densely populated city. Can we consider that architecture, or is it simply a dream spaceship for the future? In our current situation, I believe that sustainability is at the core of our concerns in architectural design.

The interior of the building also seems to have construction constraints and difficulties due to a lot of curvy surfaces.

On the other hand, this contributes (or impede) on the field of ideas and workflows of what modern architecture could be like. Such a building could not only bring controversy, but with it, bring tourists and thus boost the economic and social aspect of the area. As a conclusion, I ask myself that question: Is architecture gradually evolving into art, or is it developing its features to adapt to climate change and other natural calamities?

COMPUTATIONAL “We are moving from an era where architects use software to one where they create software.”1 Computers (and digital technology in general) have an instrumental importance in every task we undertake in our daily life. Particularly in architecture, they have a major role to play in the design process as a whole. My discussion stems from the discourse over computational architecture; whether computers have had positive or negative effects on contemporary architecture and design. Computerization defines the use of computers and digital technology to render tasks easier (for example, copy, edit, delete), While computation allows designers to extend their abilities, “augment intellect of the designer and increases capability to solve complex problems...”1. Therefore, how does computing affects the design process? In my opinion, considering softwares such as AutoCAD and SketchUp, computing increases the self-efficiency of the architect. It facilitates the process, particularly at the drafting stage. Computers also makes construction easier through CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machines, which consequently allows the designer to generate more complex forms. Furthermore, computing facilitates communication with the different parties involved in the design process, such as the engineer, client, interior designer, etc. Computing (both computation and computerization) can be beneficial to an extent where the architect is in control of almost the entire process. Specific softwares could be used to test the structure, preview the interior, calculate optimal material efficiency and so on. The implication is a convergence of different fields into one.

ARCHITECTURE Although a moderate use of modelling software could boost creativity, I believe that an over-dependency could hinder creativity. Let me explain why. While using digital softwares, we are limited in design space through specific constraints. For instance, Rhino does not perform similarly to Google SketchUp or Grasshopper. Each and every software will lead to a different set of possible solutions in the design space because they are dictated by different principles and algorithms. A solution to that would be to design a software that integrates all aspect of a design, but that would be almost impossible, and if it was, it would take years to learn it properly. Therefore, by being dependent on specific digital softwares, we tend to get a tunelled vision and thus, limits our creativity. Aesthetics conventions are dramatically changing in the world of architecture. Forms that were once considered unconventional such as the blob, are becoming more and more common. Perhaps the public are too bored of regular buildings and want geometries that shows complexity and fluidity. Is it an expected transition for architecture? Does architecture have change in order to adapt to new technology and digital softwares? Is computation imposing limits on the design space, or is it pushing the boundaries outwards?

RMIT building blobby structure

Kolarevic, Branko, Architecture in the Digital Age: Design and Manufacturing (New York; London: Spon Press, 2003), pp. 3 - 28 Yehuda E. Kalay, Architecture’s New Media : Principles, Theories, and Methods of Computer-Aided Design (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2004), pp. 5 - 25 svGREENBRAIN-420x0.jpg

For the past few decades, computation has been at the centre of the design environment, regardless of the field of study. Architecture, product design and interior design are a few of the most common fields that uses computation. It can be argued, but in most cases, computation provides ideas, creativity and flexibility to the design. However, performance is often ignored during the process, and this could result in fragile structures or design that do not satisfy their initial function. In these cases, the focus has been deviated to other aspects of the design, most commonly on its aesthetics and appearance. While it is true that aesthetics and appearance is an imporant part of a design, it is not the foremost priority. As students in architecture in the present world, we may find that we often depend a lot on digital softwares to find new ideas. We tend to forget the importance of quick sketching and brainstorming.

A sketch of the building by Frank Gehry shows that computation is not the only to generate ideas nowadays. Quick sketching enable the designer to be free of any constraints and limitations imposed by the use of digital softwares.

We can say that design using computation allows for more complex geometries to be formed, and consequently to be built. However, it does not always facilitate the construction process. There may be challenges encountered that require better technology and equipment or sometimes CNC machines. In a way, this is like a cycle; the better the technology, the more complex the forms, and the harder it is to build. However, if we refer back to technology, it can be further developed to facilitate the construction process.

Frank Gehry is the architect of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center. It is a center for Brain Health and the pursuit of more effective brain treatments for brain diseases. It also provides state-of-theart care for patients that are affected by those diseases.

Notes: 1. 2. photos/53_1ext_05_lou_ruvo_brain_institute.jpg 3. 4. http://themissionlasvegas.files.wordpress. com/2009/07/inside-gehry-ruvo-building1.jpg

Computation and computers are not the only way too achieve complexity in forms, shapes and patterns. Nowadays, a lot of architects are totally dependent on computers, and as I said earlier, this limits their creativity (but not necessarily hinders it). For architecture students like us, we tend to believe that it is only through computers that one can create and model complex shapes. Antonio Gaudi and a few other architects such as LeCorbusier proved us wrong. These architects managed to create and build unconventional forms without the use of computers. Particularly Gaudi, in the Sagrada Familia; both the exterior and interior facades reflected patterns and blobby forms. Obviously, computerization would have made the task more efficient, but the point is; great ideas do not only come from modelling softwares.

Le Corbusier achieved smooth rounded curves in the building ‘Ronchamp’ without the use of computers.

Consequently, I ask myself: can we achieve the same solutions within the same design space if we are using traditional designing methods as compared to digital modelling softwares? Is it possible to reach a solution by taking two seperate pathways? I believe that it is possible, but the difference in time taken will be enormous. Computers allow architects to perform tasks faster and with less errors (since they are great analytical engines) than using traditional methods. I believe that the opportunities present in computation are vast. In the future, builders won’t be needed as everything will be done by machines, even construction and building. For the architect, it means that he will have more control over the design process, and we are bringing up the concept of ‘Master Builder’, whereby the architect is in charge of the whole project A to Z. As a general rule in architecture, we must learn how to adapt to our changing environment.

Sketches done by Antonio Gaudi showing details of one of the tower top.

Notes: Barcelona.-Sagrada-Familia.jpg uploads/2012/10/1349215460-ronchamp-528x352.jpeg

PARAMETRIC “Design is change. Parametric modelling represents change.”1 In an article, Patrik Schumacher states that “Parametricism is able to deliver all the components for a high-performance contemporary life process.”2 While it is true that parametricism enhances dynamic forms/spaces, it also has a few drawbacks, as far as modern architecture is concerned. In the same article, Patrik Schumacher also mentioned that Parametricism is the new architectural style of the 21st century. Parametricism is not a style, but rather a process, and it is based on relationships and sets of principles that can be manipulated to fit different contexts. However, parametricism is limited by several factors such as high building and construction costs, efficient use of space, and so on and so forth. Let me explain why I believe that parametricism is not a style. Parametricism is not a fully developed and mature process. It is too early to implement parametric modelling into architecture as it lacks the technology for it to be efficient. Furthermore, it does not fit in today’s context. Why? Today, we are more concerned with the environment than ever before and this has had a major impact on global architectural designs. A building that uses parametric modelling may enhance its visual and social aspects, but may not be accepted by the general public if it does not have environmental-friendly properties, or costs a lot of money to build. Furthermore, it is disrespectful to cities as it has space constraints. Parametricism, I believe, does not have its place in cities. Cities are becoming denser and denser and blobby buildings would not resolve this issue. Rectangular buildings make better use of the space. I believe one of the main reason why parametricism cannot be considered a style in the present is because it does not respond to construction factors and consequently; buildability, efficient use of materials, costs, etc.

MODELLING On the other hand, we must not believe that Parametricism is an architectural disease. It has its own advantages as being a software-dependent process. It is a process that is dynamic and time-efficient during the design process, but most importantly, it can easily respond to several factors. Building costs and space constraints aside, it allows a building to be flexible and interactive to its surrounding environment. That does not mean that modern architecture cannot achieve the same effect. It can. But it will not be as flexible and responsive as parametricism. I believe that in a few years when technology has improved considerably so that parametric modelling and building cost less time and money, then parametricism would easily adapt to the situation. At the moment, it only impedes on the flow of ideas and visions to reach sustainability and preserve the environment. The main reason why this is the case is because parametricism is softwaredependent and I believe that this will encourage young architects to overlook environmental factors. To me, it will stay a concept that has yet to be developed in order to integrate into our world. In my opinion, parametricsm is such a new concept that it will take some time to adapt, especially to building conventions and standards and people’s way of thinking. Parametricism effectively represent the term ‘change’, but sometimes too much change leads to turmoil and irrational decisions being taken.

1. Woodbury, Robert (2010). Elements of Parametric Design (London: Routledge) pp. 7-48 2. patrik-schumacher-on-parametricism-let-the-style-warsbegin/5217211.article Patrik Schumacher, London 2009 Published in: AD Architectural Design – Patterns of Architecture, Vol 79, No 6, November/December 2009

The Metropol Parasol by J. Mayer H. Architects is a redevelopment of Plaza de la Encarnación in Sevilla, Spain. It is entirely made of timber and designed using parametric modelling.

Parametric design challenges traditional architecture. To the public, especially in a traditional city like Sevilla, a structure like the Metropol Parasol is an eye-sore. It creates confusion and people wonder whether it could live in harmony with the surroundings. At first, there is a bad impression and some controversy. It feels alien. However, as time passes, opinions change and it starts attracting more and more people until it becomes a landmark. Like in the video2, there is an initial unease among the citizens. Then, they start realising the importance of such an infrastructure in the social, visual and commercial context of the city. Similarly for parametricism, it is a process that is highly overlooked. A lot of people do not see any sense in such designs. However, when they realise the opportunities that it could bring, then people’s perception starts to change.

Parametric design is flexible and if used properly can reflect fluidity, enhance connections between different aspects of the surrounding environment. It has a positive effect on the social, communication and economic aspect of the area. It is a dynamic architecture that makes connection by reaching different outside and interacting with things around, rather than being a building on its own. However, as I said earlier, there are a few issues to be addressed before Parametricism can be considered a style. The photo above shows the Metropol Parasol being build. We can see the complexity and high construction costs of such a project.

1. uploads/2012/10/20520110178337_Metropol-Parasol38-web.jpg 2. 3.

The project is a Stadium for the FC Bate Borisov designed by OFIS architecs. It takes into account the terrain and environment in which it is built in by preserving as many trees as possible. The soft and smooth curvature of the stadium, along with the dull grey colour integrates perfectly into its environment. The skin and structure has been designed using parametric modelling softwares. As we can see in that example, parametricism does not always have a strong visual impact. The reason is because the idea of building a stadium is completely different to that of a commercial or residential building. The context here is different to that of a metropolitan city. There are no other buildings around to compare to and this enhances its ability to merge into the context. Parametricism is broad and I believe that it cannot be classified into a specific category of architecture purely on aesthetics and appearances. We tend to think that every building that has a pattern and is blobby/ curvy is classified as Parametric. Ancient buildings also had patterns on their facade. Does it mean that it forms part of parametricism? No. Parametricism is classified according to its priniciples. However, parametricism is a new concept and therefore needs some time to mature. In the meantime, architects around the world are slowly adopting it and testing the process in the built environment. Therefore, are in the PreParametricism era?

The skin of the stadium was designed parametrically. Parametricism allows for more flexible and responive design.

Analogy of bubbles and patterns for the skin of the stadium.

CONCLUSION & LEARNING OUTCOMES Architecture is an ever-changing field. It is complex and many questions remain unanswered within. It is also subjective, thus, everyone holds different opinions and ideas. Thus, the discourse can be considered a bad thing as it can sometimes result in conflicts and a clash of ideas, but it is also what helps architecture to develop, mature and expand to new horizons. Since the beginning of time, mankind has wondered; what is the true purpose and meaning of architecture? Even if today, we have been equipped with powerful softwares and precedents from the past, the question still remain unanswered. What is architecture? The design will expand on the field of ideas and communicate innovation as well as making people aware of the issues we are facing today, such as climate change, global warming, etc. The design approach will be fexible, that is; embracing new ideas and finding ways to integrate them into the old design. Responding to variables and challenges that will be encountered throughout the design process. The design will be innovative as it will communicate architecture as being more than just art. It will contribute to the surrounding environment and promote sustainability in design (through the choice of material, forms and aesthetics). Since it is a public structure situated in an area where significant amount of people will pass by, it will catch people’s attention and communicate ideas and thoughts to them. Therefore, it has to be innovative both visually, and contextually. People who will benefit from it are mostly young architects and designers. The goal is to provide them with ideas and precedent for their career paths, and hopefully instill sustainability in their field of ideas. However, it is also for the general public and will contribute to the architectural discourse by giving rise to new thoughts and arguments. Initially, architectural modelling softwares is a daunting experience. We are dropped into a pool of knowledge and we don’t know what to expect. Gradually, we learn the functions, properties and commands, and then everything seems to come together. We can manipulate the software and use it to your will. I learnt that in architecture, you need to adapt and change according to your environment, build a framework, expand your horizons, learn new things and follow your instincts thereon. Computing is only a tool that facilitate specific tasks in the design process. We cannot be dependent on it, as a machine cannot think like we humans do. We must not be dictatesd by what a particular software that performs in a particular way, rather, we must use a software that suits our ideas and what we are willing to design. My understanding of the subject have broaden to the point where I am asking myself questions whenever I see architecture. Why? How? What? Every information that I come across serves as a piece of puzzle for my personal discourse for architecture.

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