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DRL (Design Research Lab) Architectural Association School of Architecture, London-UK (2009-2011)

AA DRL The DRL(Design Research Lab) is a 16-month postprofessional design programme leading to a masters of architecture and urbanism (MArch) degree. The DRL investigates digital and analogue forms of computation in the pursuit of systemic design applications that are scenario- and time-based. Considering controls systems as open acts of design experimentation, the design research lab examines production processes as active agents in the development of proto-design systems.

DESIGN RESEARCH AGENDA : PROTO-DESIGN During phase I, Proto Design, investigates digital and material forms of computational prototyping. Parametric and generative modelling techniques are coupled with physical computing and analogue experiments to create dynamic feedback processes. New forms of spatial organisation will be explored that are not type- or context-dependent. The aim is to detect scenarios that challenge the parameter-identification that allows systems to evolve as ecologies of machines, as material and computational regulating systems, towards an architecture that is both adaptive and hyper-specific. The iterative methodologies of the design studio will focus on the investigation of spatial, structural and material organisation, engaging in contemporary discourses on computation and materialisation in the disciplines of architecture and urbanism. Proto-Design systems developed in phase I will be tested in site-specific testing scenarios in phase II. Theodore Spyropoulos’ studio, Digital Materialism, examines behaviour as a catalyst to explore adaptive and deployable models. Yusuke Obuchi and Robert StuartSmith’s studio, Proto Tectonics, looks at architecture as a product that can be involved in its production process and add value to itself. And Patrik Schumacher and Christos Passas’s studio, Proto-Tower, is focusing on the design of inherently adaptive, parametric proto-types that intelligently vary general topological schemata across a wide range of parametrically specifiable site-conditions and briefs. Alisa Andrasek’s studio, Agentware, is exploring the potential of rewriting material agency via the agency of information. Marta Malé-Alemany’s studio machinic control, examines architectural design processes incorporating novel digital fabrication.

STUDIO BRIEF PROTO-TECTONICS Our studio brief presented by Yosuke Obuchi and Robert Stuart-Smith remarked the relationship between architecture and production, trying to alter the comprehension of architecture as a production of signature and iconic building to become part of the value of the products being produced. Throughout its approach, an architecture of production engages with a significant socio-cultural determinants and negotiates economic and environmental fluctuations in addition to material production. In other words, the attempt in this agenda was to place itself around a type of architecture that adds or reduces the value of products depending on how it engages with being part of the rest of the world, wherein it yields sort of material system that could integrate with its context and relative environmental forces. Tectonic logic was to be understood as an emergent property comprising both part-to-whole and reversed hierarchies and relationships within itself and included required design decision making in a wide range from micro-scale to macro-scale of the system. The issue of time in terms of architecture’s life-span or in other words life-cycle was one of the significant cores of our brief that brought the most important challenge for us to engage with. Place of Production ,(hesitantly Factories for the lack of a better word), was what our typology of architecture had been entitled ,wherein architecture rather than being a product alone, becomes an interface between socio-cultural, tectonic and natural systems. In summary, Proto-Tectonics explored how non-linear design processes may be instrumentalised to generate a temporal architecture with a designed life-cycle. Seen as a recursive process of productions and consumptions, the research aims to contribute to contemporary experimentations on the topic of design ecology. The studio attempted to extend the research into complex systems by developing design logics and strategies for the life-cycle of the buildings through means of production, consumption and reproduction.

We were asked to investigate : - Life-cycle of designed products (including builings) as a case study - Readily available materials that exhibit phase-changing properties and to construct a series of prototypes that harness their potential as possible building materials as well as investigate their potential fabrication processes - Generate families of variations through non-linear design processes that privilege the self-organization of built material.

** with Thesis Project Distinction



As one of four studio teams in Proto-Tectonics agenda, presented by Yusuke Obuchi and Robert Stuart-Smith in Design Research Lab v.13, 35 DEGREE is comprised of four students ;...

Ahmed Abouelkheir(Egypt), Behdad Shahi(Iran), Jiah Lee(South Korea) and Junyi Wang(China), ... gathered together for a collective one-year project towards Masters in Architecture and Urbanism.

TERRI-FORM TERRI-FORM is a material based design research that proposes a self-organisational model of material formation that generates a temporal architecture with a designed life-cycle. TERRI-FORM is an eco-resort on the red sea that has been designed through a zero-waste formative process whose architecture reorganises materials naturally available on the site and redistributes these back into its environment at the end of its cycle. The research proposes a time-based architecture through a tectonic system that extends Frei Otto’s research of sand formations using sand’s natural angle of repose. Formations are hardened as a surface through the phase changing properties of a saline solution which crystallises when cooled, bonding with the sand. An on site fabrication process allows for an annual re-territorialisation of the site by creating a temporary architecture that endures for eight months until the rainy season ensures its dissolution into the landscape. The materiality and spatial qualities of the project are based on the conical geometries generated through the gravitational process of sand formation.

Experiments from Frei Otto

Crystallization of Sodium Salt used for hardening the sand patterns

Distribution of loose sand under gravity force - Angle of repose ~ 35 Degree “Any granular material falling from a fixed point forms a cone on the surface below and a funnel within the granulate masswith the same angle of inclination,the “natural” angle of repose, 35 degree.” Frei otto-1975

/ Distribution

// Solidification

/// Dissolution

Distribution process is based on sand self-organization behaviour under the force of gravity. Sand follows the natural angle of repose and leaves behind a field of conical surfaces.

Inspired by natural process of soil crystallization, the loose sand surface is solidified by crystallized salt. A saturated sodium solution is sprayed on the surface and starts to crystallize with sand grains to form a solid surface in few minutes.

The material goes back to nature by its ability to dissolve in water. A one-cm surface is washed away in 30 min. Water breaks down the salt crystal bonds, and returns the sand back to its initial loose condition.


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1.5 min 7 min 15 min

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/ Compactness test

// Sandwich moulding technique

The strength of the panel is tested by using a saw to divide it. The resulting compact section shows that the panels are strong enough to be packed, transported and ,assembled and used as “form work� for moulding.

The performance of the material in structure is increased by the moulding technique. A liquid mixture of sand and salt is moulded in between two panels to form a 7 cm solid block.

TAN 35 = H / L L = H / TAN 35 COS 35 = L / D D = L / TAN 35 H = h1-h1 Tan 35 = h1 / ( y * 1/2 ) h2 = y * 1/2 * tan 35 H = h1 – [ D - ( r + r1 ) – [ ( h1 - h ) / tan 35 ] Tan 35 = ( h2 - h1 ) / d2 X = D – ( r + r1 ) Y = x - d2 = D - ( r + r1 ) - d2 = D - ( r + r1 ) – [ ( h1 - h ) / tan35 ] D = u + v = 2u Cos a = ( D / 2 - r ) / u`

H = h1 - [ (d - r/2 ) / cos a – ( r + r1 ) – ( h - h1 ) / tan 35

The material behaviour (35-degree angle of repose) is the mathematical base of the design system. Design system parameters are derived from the material system as the holes’ size, height and distribution. Parametrically, any change in the parameters affects the whole geometry and both local and field configuration of the patterns. Illustrated on the left is the calculations required to have the exact height and location of any point on the surfaces (in this case on the intersection line between two cones). Similarly this equation demonstrates the constant factor of 35 degree-angle of repose- and adjusting the equation between the rest of the parameters gives different and desired heights along the conical surfaces in the geometry.

Simple grid

Alteration in size of the holes / the radii on top of the surfaces increase proportionally

Deletion of some holes / local increase of height

Fading the density + Trajectories / variation in height and curvature three dimensionally / more density - less height , structurally more stability Fading the density

Rotation of top layer ( Differing the amount of deposited sand along the area ) / angle = 15 / Angle of the repose remains constant(35) / Gradual increasein density of the holes twards ower parts --- continuity of concave pattern

Making grid of points for setting up a grid of points to draw the attractor curves

Allocates different set of points to their boundaries within the voronoi pattern

Two controlable curves as an attractors

Highlights the areas of the voronoi pattern which is within a certain amplitude

Makes conical geometry based on the attracted set of points

Using sand’s angle of repose to simulate the formation of the pattern in 3-dimension

Create vertical surfaces under ridges if the height reaches certain amount

Makes the ridges without boolean or union

Points are being attracted with the curves

Grid of points to be attracted by the curves

Rotation of the base plane - angle = 15 / Angle of the repose remains constant(35) / Gradual increasein density of the holes twards ower parts --- continuity of concave pattern

Makes conical geometry based on points on curves

Create vertical surfaces under ridges if the height reaches certain amount

// Application_Scenario CONSUMPTION

The proposed scenario is based on the material’s life-cycle as a medium to control building’s life-span. The proposed application is a contemporary ecolodge in a Red-sea area ( Nuweiba, Egypt). The chosen area is the research’s prototypical site where material is widely available and tourism economy is in need of ecological temporary accomodations . The diagram in this page shows the building lifeDISTRIBUTION


cycle and life-span in relation to the site climate and different states of the material. Fabrication begins in early spring for about two months, and the buildings would last around 7 months (summer holiday season). During December and January, seasonal rains dissolve the building and give the material back to environment for the reproduction processes of the next touristic seasons.


//Building LifeCycle diagram

Nuweiba, South Sinai, Egypt (Gulf of Aqaba - Red Sea)











Temporary accommodations for tourists during summer + Additional service and maintenance facility spaces ...















RED SEA (Gulf of Aqaba)







ENT. Public Area




Bath Room

5 o Rotation

Bed Room

Living Area


10 o Rotation Beach

Single Type CURVE 3

15 o Rotation

Mass B + Main Spaces (Usable Area : 8.5 + 3.5 m2) Length A(2) / Curve 5


20 o Rotation


25 o Rotation Public Area ENT.


30 o Rotation

One One way way Rotation Rotation

Two Twoway way Rotation Rotation

One Oneway way Rotation Rotation

Two Twoway way Rotation Rotation

One Oneway way Rotation Rotation

Two Two way way Rotation Rotation

One way Rotation

Two way Rotation

One way Rotation

Two way Rotation

One way Rotation

Bath Room

Two way Rotation Bed Room

/ Spaces are generated thought algorithmic rules engaging the context parameters. Spaces’ area, orientation, linearity and height are the genes of the family. Through rules of curving, curling, rotation and length a range of spaces is generated and evaluated respecting the programme needs.

Living Area

Bed Room


// Catalogue of various spatial composition from three kinds of masses within the fixed area.

Double Type Mass A + Mass B + Main Spaces (Usable Area : 14.5 + 5.5 m2) Length C(1) / Curve 3 Length C(2) / Curve 2

MASS C + A Length C(2) / Curve 1 Length C(1) / Curve 2

MASS C + A Length C(1) / Curve 1 Length C(1) / Curve 2

MASS B + A Length C(2) / Curve 2 Length C(1) / Curve 3

MASS B + A Length C(1) / Curve 2 Length C(2) / Curve 3

MASS B + A Length B(2) / Curve 3 Length B(1) / Curve 4

MASS B + A Length B(1) / Curve 4 Length B(2) / Curve 5

MASS B Length A(2) / Curve 5

MASS B Length A(1) / Curve 6 Public Area ENT. Bath Room

MASS A + C Length C(2) / Curve 2 Length C(1) / Curve 1

MASS A + C Length C(1) / Curve 2 Length C(2) / Curve 1

MASS A + B Length C(2) / Curve 3 Length C(1) / Curve 2

MASS A + B Length C(1) / Curve 3 Length C(2) / Curve 2

MASS A + B Length B(2) / Curve 4 Length B(1) / Curve 3

MASS A + B Length B(1) / Curve 4 Length B(2) / Curve 3

MASS A + B Length B(1) / Curve 6 Length B(2) / Curve 5

MASS B Length A(2) / Curve 6

Bed Room

Living Area

Bed Room Beach

Family Type MASS C + A Length A(1) / Curve 5 Length A(2) / Curve 6

MASS C + A Length A(2) / Curve 5 Length A(1) / Curve 6

MASS B + A Length A(1) / Curve 4 Length A(2) / Curve 5

MASS B + A Length A(2) / Curve 4 Length A(1) / Curve 5

MASS B + A Length B(1) / Curve 3 Length B(2) / Curve 4

MASS B + A Length B(1) / Curve 3 Length B(2) / Curve 4

MASS B Length C(1) / Curve 1

MASS B Length C(2) / Curve 1

Mass A + Mass C + Main Spaces (Usable Area : 17 + 11 m2) Length C(1) / Curve 2 Length C(2) / Curve 1

// FABRICATION_Machine , Technique The proposed machine is a simple device, needless of heavy machineries, that can be assembled and deassembled on site when required. It consists of a steel structure and a base with high resolution grid of holes, wood box, and sprayer and sand tank hovering above .

Machine size (3x4m) able to produce a (1x2m) panel every 30 minutes.

Machine structure - possible to be assembled and deassembled

Base plane with high resolution of holes + sides of the box

Sides of the area to be solidified by sprayer

Sand tank and sprayer hovering above sand

i. Divide the double layer surface into small panels (1*2m), The panel dimensions follows the machine size and considers material weight.

ii. Fabrication of each panel in the machine individually

iii. Assembling the first layer panels on the scaffold

iv. Assembly of the second layer respecting overlap connections with the first layer. The form-work is ready.

The Fabrication technique as well as the design system are tested through a range of sand physical models. Along the physical experiments a feed-back loop between digital design and analogue fabrication has been developed to optimize the material performance as well as the design possibilities. Assembly techniques was studied through different connection systems that enable a range of design articulations ( Adjacent, offset & back to

v. Moulding from highest points

vi. Removal of the scaffolds starting from the highest point. The result is a monolithic layer of solidified sand surface.

back techniques) Assembly logic is based on the inevitable requirement that the surfaces edges have to meet in order to create one continuous large form-work. The challenge of alignment requires the assimilation of the surfaces curvature at the edges. This achieved by two different techniques of surface fabrication to afford the edge alignments.

// Model 3 / Assembly Prototype ( 80x120x7 cm) / the model examines the offset assembly technique. The ‘Offset’ technique is the most crucial method for assembly. It allows for the usage of surfaces as ‘form work’ for moulding.

// Model 1 / a field of 120 panels assembled in a 3x4m wall. The models examines the geometry articulations as continuous field. The model shows different connection possibilities on the level of adjacent assembly technique.

// Model 2 / Assembly Prototype ( 80x120x50 cm) / the model examines the material performance on the level of fabrication scale.

// Model 4 / Assembly Prototype ( 80x120x20 cm) / the model examines the section articulation in case of back to back assembly technique.

... this research is to be continued

Profile for AHMED hussein

AADRL 2011 Sand works  

Research project of team 35 Degree at the AA school of Architecture , DRL (Design Research Lab) 2009-2001

AADRL 2011 Sand works  

Research project of team 35 Degree at the AA school of Architecture , DRL (Design Research Lab) 2009-2001