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BIANCA CHRISTENSEN Currently I am in my final year of the Bachelor of Environments, majoring in Architecture. I have just transferred to the University of Melbourne from Queensland University of Technology where I grew up on the sunny Gold Coast. It was here that I was first introduced to digital architectural theory and tools, such as AutoCAD, Revit, Sketch up and so on. Last year, within studio, I began to explore the program Blender. This was utilized as a tool to explore four dimensional diagramming and experimentation using parameters (such as pedestrian traffic) and particle simulations to generate a building form. Precedent work that was examined, emulated and interrogated was the various approaches used by Greg Lynn, Zaha Hadid, Ali Rahim and Ross Lovegrove.









ARCHITECTURE AS A DISCOURSE architecture as cultural investment There is no simple answer to the question ‘what is architecture?’, yet it appears to be a constant battle by authors, critics, artists, architects (and the list goes on) to define it. It could be suggested that architecture is purely a building to provide shelter... However, this would suggest little ambiguity and defining it wouldn’t be a problem. Thus, it could be suggested that this difficulty could stem from the idea that ‘architecture is as much a philosophical, social or professional realm as it is a material one’1

debate has been concentrated at a superficial level and thus not exploring the deeper meanings and concerns that architectural form can encompass.2

This ‘Case for Innovation’, is going to add to the disciplinary discourse of architecture by discussing the role of architecture as a cultural investment. In particular, the idea of governing bodies using public and cultural buildings as a way to increase cultural and social capital and in turn economic capital of buildings and even cities as a whole. This idea comes from the following quote from The literature that all these ideas and the article “Architecture and Visual Culture” opinions encompass, contribute to the by Richard Williams: ongoing conversations and debates that is: Architecture as a Discourse. An immense amount of spectacular new architecture has been built in the past

Architectural discourse has largely been surrounded by the discourse of form and in particular style. This suggests that this large

two decades, a product of the desire on the part of social and political authority of update the public realm in the context

1 Richard Williams, ‘Architecture and Visual Culture’, Exploring Visual Culture: Definitions, Concepts, 2 Neil Leach, ‘Rethinking Architecture: A Reader in Contexts. Edinburgh University Press, (2005), 102 - 116 Cultural Theory’, Routledge (1997), xiii






A.1 ARCHITECTURE AS A DISCOURSE This sculptural like structure known as the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, was designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry. This project is the definition of architecture as a cultural investment.

less than 100,000 visitors a year, very few being tourists. 4 Whereas, the Guggenheim hosts around one million visitors per year, with the majority of visitors being international tourists.5

Due to the success of this project there has The city of Bilbao, Spain, successfully achieved been many assumptions played out about their goals through utilising this building as a using signature architecture by architects such means to restructure the former industrial site.1 as; Frank Gehry, Norman Foster, Renzo Piano, The building became a catalyst for the urban Rem Koolhaas, Daniel Libeskind and Zaha and economic regeneration of the entire city, Hadid, guarantee successful urban and ecowhich prior to opening the museum in 1997, nomic regeneration, this being known as “The Bilbao Effect”.6 It can be argued that using sigwas a cultural backwater.2 nature architects, just by being them, will raise Gehry was determined to push the boundar- awareness of the projects initially - whether or ies against his views of post-modernism and not it is good or bad architecture. thus designed an architectural form that never appeared to be static. His concept was about fish and the way they appeared to be in constant motion when he drew them.3 He achieved this through utilising audacious curves and sculptural forms. The building has been under constant critique of whether it was or wasn’t the reason of the social, cultural and economic growth that Bilbao exploded with once the museum opened its doors. However, numbers tend not to lie. Before the introduction the Guggenheim, the city had a small arts museum that attracted 1 Beatriz Plaza, ‘The Return on Investment of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao’, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, (2006) p 452. 2 Phaidon, ‘Buildings that changed the world - The Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao’, agenda/architecture/articles/2012/november/23/buildingsthat-changed-the-world-the-guggenheim-museum-bilbao/ [accessed 04 April, 2013]. 3 Phaidon, ‘Buildings that changed the world - The Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao’.

4 Beatriz Plaza, ‘The Return on Investment of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao’, p. 453. 5 ‘The Guggenheim Bilbao museum, art and avantgarde’ , (2013), museo_guggenheim_arte_y_vanguardia_en_bilbao.html [accessed 26 March, 2013]. 6 Beatriz Plaza, ‘The Return on Investment of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao’, p. 453.




D e s i gn e d fo r t h e Lo n d o n 2 0 1 2 Olympics, the London Aquatics Centre was designed to provide a legacy that would out-live the events entity and become a place for the public. In order to make this a viable outcome, Hadid designed the building to be able to be transformed. The building was to have it’s ‘wings clipped’, and replaced with glass facades, shedding 85 percent of the spectator seating used for the games.1


The concept behind the form was inspired by the ‘fluid geometry of water in motion, creating spaces and a surrounding environment in sympathy with the river landscape of the Olympic Park’.2 The swooping roof, was generated by sight-lines for spectators for the duration of the Olympics. As the Olympics were always going to draw great numbers of tourism to the area, the question arises if having signature architecture increased the interest generated during and post-games? It could be argued that it has, because not only was it a landmark in Olympic history, it was also designed by a renowned architect. This means that it has become a tourism destination through multiple avenues whilst also becoming a place for the community to use. However, in terms of the success post-Olympics, further time is needed to analyse the site.

1 Architectural Record, ‘Aquatics Centre Zaha Hadid Architects’, (2012), 200(6), p. 1. 2 Zaha Hadid Architects, ‘London Aquatics Centre’, (2012), [accessed 29 March 2013]

The above images represent the ‘wings’ that were only intended for the duration of the games, whereas the image on the opposite page shows the building in legacy form.




COMPUTATIONAL ARCHITECTURE COMPUTERIZATION VS. COMPUTATION Currently the use of computers in design, is dominated by many utilising it as just a tool. Another way to represent drawings that were conceptualized by a designer and then entered, manipulated and stored on a computer system. 1 This is the idea known as ‘Computerization’. Although this process has had many benefits to the design and construction industry, it is the shift towards computation that will have the significant advantages. Computation, is the idea that computers and software can be used in both the design 1 Kostas Terzidis, ‘Algorithmic Architecture’, Elsevier, (2006), p.xi


and manufacture of the built environment.2 However, Bryan Lawson suggests that ‘“CAD might conspire against creative thought{...}” by encouraging “fake” creativity’. 3 Personally, I disagree with this idea. I believe that when computation is used correctly, it is a tool that can be utilised in making designers rethink the way they design through new constraints and exportations that could possibly increase creativity. Computation can help produce 2 Jan Knippers, ‘From Model Thinking to Process Design’, Architectural Design, (2013), 83(2), p.77. 3 Bryan Lawson, ‘Fake and Real Creativity using Computer Aided Design: Some Lessons from Herman Hertberger’, Proceedings of the 3rd Conference on Creativity and Cofnition, ACM Press, (1999), p. 174-197.

numerous outcomes that may not have been thought about. Possibly due to constraints such as time and a focus on the personal attachment a designer may have through the effort they have pursued. It is a new tool that can be utilised as part of the design process, a alternative approach to problem solving, which after all is the basis of all architectural explorations. `

The above image is of the Computational Design Research Pavilion, designed by Achim Menges in 2010. It’s purpose was to design an innovative structure that demonstrated the latest developments within material-orientated design, simulation and production processes. The project utilises computation as a generation of form that directly responds to the physical behaviour and material characteristics. 1 1 EVolo, ‘Computational Design Research Pavilion’, ICD-ITKE, (2011), computational-design-research-pavilion-icd-itke/ [accessed 01 April 2013]



THEMATIC PAVILLION SOMA The Thematic Pavilion in South Korea was designed by SOMA for the 2012 Expo in Yeosu. It was essential for the building to become an iconic landmark that was fully integrated into the urban context and surrounding nature. 1 As it was designed for the World Expo, 2012, it could be suggested that the design needed to generate more cultural and economic capital for the city of Yeosu. Thus, an innovative structure was required to capture people’s attention and in order to achieve this SOMA utilised computation in terms of design and fabrication.2 The idea behind this building was to use computation to generate from but concentrating on the structural aspects. It was this aspect that allowed the buildings concept to be achieved. That concept being, to represent the endless surface to the ocean and it’s depth. And thus, the form plays with the horizontal and vertical, twisting them and letting the outer shell define the interiors.3

1 SOMA, ‘Thematic Pavilion EXPO 2012 Yeosu, SouthKorea’, (2012), php?page=thematic_pavilion&parent=2 [accessed 01 April 2013]. 2 Jan Knippers, ‘From Model Thinking to Process Design’, (2013), 83(2), p.77. 3 SOMA, ‘Thematic Pavillion EXPO 2012 Yeosu, SouthKorea’. (2012”.


Further to this, computation allowed the kinetic facade of this project to be possible. It is comprised of 114 louvres, that are up too 14 metres in length and are elastically deformed through compression and tension (to open and close the louvres). 1 1 Jan Knippers, ‘From Model Thinking to Process Design’, (2013), 83(2), p.76


Above: the kinetic facade of the building, showing the open to close stages. Above/middle: the kinetic facade slightly open. Right: The way the fibre glass kinetic facade operates, through the use of tension of open and close the lourves.




PARAMETRIC MODELLING One way designers can utilise computation, is through the use of parametric modelling. Not necessarily a new concept, parametric design is becoming more apparent in the built environment. One reason that this has occurred is due to the designer wanting more flexibility within computation. Thus allowing the designer to be able to make changes without the constant ‘re-do’ of deleting and/or redrawing to produce variations in designs.1

change’ and ‘parametric is design’ and so on. These bold statements have all partial truths but are opinions and thus not an appropriate form of a definition. I agree with Davis’ idea of defining parametric modelling according to Weisstein’s mathematical definition: set of equations that express a set of quantities as explicit functions of a number of independent variables known as ‘parameters’2

Parametric modelling encompasses so many different elements that it cannot be conceptually defined as being a specific ‘thing’. When Daniel Davis gave his lecture in week three, he suggested that many people define parametric modelling in a variety of ways, such as ‘parametric is 1 Carlos Roberto Barrios Hernandez, ‘Thinking parametric design: introducing parametric Gaudi’, Digital Design Studies, (2005), 27(3) p. 309-324.


2 Eric Weisstein, ‘CRC Concise Encyclopaedia of Mathematics’ , Chapman & Hall/CRC

The two images below are of the rope and weight tension/ compression models that Guadi used. Expressively showing that parametric design is not just a computational tool,

Now, through the application of these parameters and furthermore algorithms, designers become the ‘programmer’ and have the ability to generate and control multiple outcomes with less effort. I believe that parametric design is currently a driving force for architecture and consequently to stay ‘relevant’ in the industry one must utilise this tool. Not just as a way to be able to possibly save time, but to also create the most innovate forms that operate successfully as a building. As it is currently at the forefront of technology in the industry these types of buildings are becoming the new ‘signature architecture’ that can be used as a cultural investment. These types of buildings also tend to develop the most controversy as most either love or loathe the designs. Yet, this controversy generates more discussion and knowledge of the buildings. It could suggested that parametric modelling increased cultural and economic attributes even before computers existed. An example of this, is Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, where he used a physical model of rope and weights (the parametric aspect) to create form through tension and then reversing for the arches and vaults to work in compression. This cultural building has high volume of international and local visitors and as it is still in construction, will continue to be a generation of economic and cultural capital for the city.





Parametric digital models, exploring the potential designs that could be generated.

The Burnham Pavilion by UNStudio is an example of how parametric design can increase urban, cultural generation. This pavilion was designed to be an urban activator to encourage local and international visitors to the site, Millennium Park in Chicago. The purpose was to connect people with the site and each other through being able to explore within and around the project. 1

The pavilion at night, showing the engagement with people and with the city beyond.

space. The design originated with the orthogonal setup of the city and park grid, with the edges of the pavilion following this geometry. Through using cities geometry, the rigid grid and the diagonal streets, UNStudio utilised these as the parameters to be able to explore multiple potentials for the overall design. Whilst also creating fluidity through the form, with a geometry that may not have been otherwise explored.

UNStudio placed a particular emphasis on the specifically of the site, exposing the relationship The design that was chosen, frames views of between the existing rigid geometry, whilst the park and city in a specific way that aligns also introducing a floating and multidirectional the parameters used. 1 UNStudio, ‘Burnham Pavilion’, (2009), http://www. [accessed 30 March, 2013.]


RIBBONS OPEN-AIR THEATRE MAKOTO SEI WANTANBE The Ribbons Open-Air Theatre was basically an ‘extension’ to an existing outdoor theatre in a city park in Taiwan. The idea was to produce something noticeable and renowned in a way to regenerate the existing site.

using the same concept of ‘ribbons’ to generate the optimal result. I believe that if he had not utilised this tool, he would not have explored further and changed parameters in a way that completely changed the final result. Thus, the building may not have been as successful in Wantanbe, expresses that his wave- his intention to connect the city and the like ribbons utilised algorithmic design, theatre as one, whilst maintaining its own although no special software was devel- identity. oped for the project. He further suggests that the project is successful if the func- This is showing the relationship between tions that are held within are expanded design and the success of a building to into the city and he believes that these generate a higher cultural capital and in ribbons are what allows this to happen1. turn investment. Just like many of the Connecting the city and theatre and mak- other projects explored, people when interested, will travel to see a building of ing them one. innovation even if they may not be interThrough utilising algorithmic exploration, ested in what the built form encompasses Wantanbe produce multiple versions inside (exhibitions and so on). 1 Philip Jodidio, ‘Ribbons Open-Air Theatre’, Public Architecture Now, Tachen (2010) p. 402-405.



Far Above: the three explorations of parametric design that Wantanbe explored. Above: the built structure of the Ribbons Open Air Theatre and the way it connects to the city and engages cultural vitality.






Grasshopper is one program that allows us to explore algorithmic functions that allows designers to produce multiple solutions within minutes. The reason I have shown this image, even though it is one of the most simplistic definitions that can be done in Grasshopper, is due to the fact that it takes a matter of seconds. Three lofted examples, all completely different, however all began in the same form. Thus, best representing what algorithmic design can achieve. The image represents just three potential outcomes, however, the possibilities are endless and potentially it makes me question - how do you know when best to stop the exploration? Could having this power of nearly infinite possibilities be a negative impact? However, I believe that parametric design for the use of the Gateway Project Competition, will be a great tool to explore multiple options for designs that will challenge people’s perceptions of to what innovative forms can be produced. Thus, generating that element of controversy to spark intrigue and become a ‘signature architecture’.




CONCLUSION It is becoming more and more evident that architecture is being employed to be utilised as a cultural investment. This is being seen in many public architecture projects, where governing bodies are employing the architecture to become one of the main reasons, never mind what the building actually holds, to draw in visitors and thus economic viability. The projects that were explored are evident that using this approach is becoming more successful, through using ‘signature architecture’. At present this ‘signature architecture’ is parametric design. I believe that it has the highest potential to create innovative forms that produce quality architecture. It tends to generate much controversy, as many either will love or loathe the project, which will add to the cultural investment of the project itself. As seen in the case studies, the potential for the projects to overlap each section is quite significant. And many of the topics could be explored in much greater detail. In order for the Gateway Project Competition to be innovative, it needs to explore parameters of different ways to alter geometry of the form. The most optimal solution would be chosen once as many possibilities are tried and tested. From the case studies presented, an interesting form is vital in creating cultural and economic capital that will not only have its intended purpose, but to also have people want to go out of their way to visit the site out of pure intrigue.




LEARNING OUTCOMES Since the beginning of this semester, my knowledge of the way computation differs from computerization has expanded immensely. The idea that being able to control the program through algorithmic exploration, is something that I had not thought about but makes perfect sense. Being able to manipulate to that extent produces much more of a creative process. Yes, you face new constraints, but this just adds to the test of your ability to problem solve. In past projects, I found I was very limited because I couldn’t quite test the ideas I had in my head on paper or through computerization and due to this I found my projects lacked innovation.



Journal for Studio AIR