Architectural Design Research PRO JEC T-BA SED DESI GN RESEA RCH A ND DI SCOUR SE ON DE SIG N
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ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN RESEARCH Project-based design research and discourse on design. Architectural Design Research is an international refereed academic journal featuring project-based design research and discourse on design. All research projects and articles published in the journal are double blind refereed by scholars actively engaged in project-based design research and in discourse on design research and practices. Architectural Design Research is a journal of the Association of Architecture Schools of Australasia (AASA). The journal is supported by financial contributions from all of the member Architecture Schools and Programs in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
Copyright: All rights reserved. Except as permitted by the Copyright Act, no part of this publication may be printed or reproduced or utilised in any form by electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing by the copyright holder. The authors of manuscripts that appear in this journal take responsibility for securing written permission for the publication or re-publication of any copyright material included in their work and also assume responsibility and liability for any libellous, unlawful, or injurious statements that may appear in their work.
Editors: Brent Allpress, RMIT Architecture, Melbourne, Australia. Michael Ostwald, University of Newcastle, Australia. Communication Design: Stuart Geddes, Chase & Galley, Melbourne, Australia. www.chaseandgalley.com Editorial Board: Mike Austin, Unitec Shane Murray, Monash University John Macarthur, University of Queensland Mark Taylor, Victoria University Sarah Treadwell, University of Auckland
All opinions expressed in material contained in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Architectural Design Research, the Association of Architecture Schools in Australasia (AASA), the Editorial Board or the Editors. ÂŠ 2008 Association of Architecture Schools of Australasia (AASA) Copyright of all drawings and photographs is held by the authors unless otherwise indicated. ISSN 1448-9007
Editorial correspondence should be addressed to: Brent Allpress, Editor, ADR, School of Architecture + Design, RMIT, GPO Box 2476v, Melbourne, 3001, Victoria, Australia. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Architectural Design Research is published annually in full colour, with occasional special issues. Detailed submission details can be accessed on the Architectural Design Research website: http://adr.tce.rmit.edu.au/
Architectural Design Research PRO JEC T-BA SED DESI GN RESEA RCH A ND DI SCOUR SE ON DE SIG N
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ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN RESEARCH Project-based design research and discourse on design VOLUME 3, NUMBER 1
EDITORIAL 2 • Design Research Infrastructure BRENT ALLPRESS PROJECTS 9 • Light Works GABRIELA SEIFERT, GOETZ STOECKMANN and NARELLE YABUKA 43 • The Contributions of Design to Questions of Sustainability GRAHAM CRIST, PETER JOHNS, BRENDAN JONES and SIMON WHIBLEY 57 • The House of a Missing Family ALEX SELENITSCH 79 • [arc/sec]: Architecture per Second UWE RIEGER, HELLE SCHROEDER, MARTIN JANEKOVIC and DUNCAN LEWIS ARTICLE 103 • Rising out of the Affective Sea: Emergence and Architectural Composition PIA EDNIE-BROWN 133 • Notes on Contributors 136 • Notes for Contributors and Submission Guidelines
Design Research Infrastructure
Brent Allpress RMIT Architecture, Melbourne Australia
There is a more or less finalised new system for auditing research in Australia, entitled Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA). Creative works will now count as a key research activity alongside traditional academic publishing and grant funded research. This qualitative research assessment process will encompass built or unbuilt architectural design research projects that have been published, exhibited or have otherwise entered the public domain as framed, documented and disseminated research.
of project-based design research. In an academic research economy this provides a means for creative works to gain peer reviewed publication and dissemination that would be unlikely to occur readily otherwise. Other journals such as Praxis publish theoretical discourse on projects. Architectural Design Research is still the only journal internationally to primarily publish design projects as research. This model provides key infrastructure for design research scholars seeking to establish the track record necessary to apply for competitive grants in the field. ADR remains one of the few avenues to disseminate grant funded project-based design research outcomes. It also offers design researchers opportunities for academic publishing that is a prerequisite to gaining professional advancement through academic appointments and promotions.
A new journal ranking system is also being introduced to apply supposedly efficient metrics to the assessment of traditional peer review publishing outcomes. This may make some sense in the sciences where there is a high volume of journal publishing and accepted journal hierarchies. In the architecture discipline, as with many other humanities areas, it has generated a sub-field turf war for status between the adjacent fields of building science and architectural history, served by a modest array of established journal outlets, and architectural practice, disseminated through non-refereed professional journals.
There is still a glass ceiling in many institutions for design practice focused academics. Traditional PhD thesis models are largely limited to building science or art history methodologies, and it is no coincidence that there are a disproportionate number of academics in those fields across architecture schools internationally.
The mandate for this emerging journal remains to provide a vehicle for the documentation and dissemination 4
An emerging consensus is forming across a significant grouping of international institutions, particularly in Europe and the UK, around the relevance of the design research by project model for promoting the ongoing renewal of the discipline and the profession. This was apparent in the focus of the 2007 RIBA Research Symposium: “Reflection on practice: capturing innovation and creativity.”1
the background architectural types that structured the remembered experience of the spatiality of the house, ordered thematically as sets, suites and series.
The PhD by project model is increasingly being adopted internationally as the appropriate mode to undertake postgraduate design research. This journal has provided a complementary new vehicle for the dissemination of the outcomes of that category of research. Previous volumes of ADR have featured PhD design research projects undertaken at the Bartlett, UCL, London, at RMIT, Melbourne and COFA, UNSW, Sydney. This volume of ADR features PhD project research by Alex Selenitsch conducted at the University of Melbourne, providing a clear indication of the potential transferability of the model into a range of institutional economies and cultures.
Through their collaborative installation practice formalhaut, Gabriela Seifert and Goetz Stoeckmann engage in experiments with mapping and spatial projection. In the “Light Works” projects their disarmingly direct technique involves tracing out constellations of landscape scale geometric drawings and texts across iconic terrain by carrying torches that register these performed inscriptions through long exposure digital night photography. This work extends their tent series of landscape scale installation projects that explored ephemeral events of occupation and traversal. These site-based 1:1 drawings embody the enigmatic qualities and incidental character that is an artefact of the extended duration of their enactment. This project publication trials a model of co-authorship with architectural writer Narelle Yabuka collaborating in the framing of the embodied research.
Selenitsch’s project, “House for a Missing Family” offers a poignant meditation on architectural identity, migrancy and memory. His family were WWII refugees from Europe and assimilated into post-war suburban Geelong. This project enacts a speculative analysis of the all too familiar environment of the childhood family home. It interrogates unresolved, half-repressed and literally lost family memories. This qualitative design research distills
Architectural sustainability is commonly treated as being primarily a technical and social question that seeks a quantitative minimisation of resource consumption. Graham Crist in “The Contributions of Design to Questions of Sustainability,” considers this issue through critical reflections on a series of built design projects by his practice Antarctica. The explicit environmental strategies in these projects are situated and applied through compositional
practices that respond selectively to canonical design precedent to attain a qualitative surplus.
authorisation of design composition in the essay “Design Discourse” in ADR volume 1.3
Uwe Rieger and his collaborators in the practices XTH-berlin and Scape Architecture have documented a series of prototype installations and speculative designs for large-scale architectural proposals that deploy environmentally responsive, operable elements using non-standard digital fabrication technologies. Biological analogies inform the performative parameters of the designs, and the atmospheric effects of the layered systems.
The first three volumes of ADR have effectively sought to provide a proof of concept for the project-based design research journal model, with an open submission policy and a flexible and adaptable publication design template that can accommodate a range of approaches in this emergent field. The ADR editorial policy and submission guidelines have subsequently been adapted as a book commissioning framework for the new Design Research series through RMIT University Press, affirming the relevance and scalability of the model, and further extending the design research infrastructure.4
Pia Ednie-Brown’s article “Rising out of the Affective Sea: Emergence and Architectural Composition” draws on her PhD thesis The Aesthetics of Emergence, RMIT, 2007, which was shortlisted for the RIBA President’s Award for Research in 2008. David Boud, Emeritus Professor of the Centre for Learning and Change at UTS, argues that the most significant impact of the project-based research model would not be that it supplants the traditional thesis, but rather that it might provoke a diversification within the traditional thesis model.2 In her PhD, Ednie-Brown undertook a hybrid model of project based design investigations, framed, documented and extended through a full length written thesis. She unpacks the relationship between emergent design practices and theories of composition, focusing selectively on bio-mimetic digital processes and related discourses on affect. Her article engages in a direct dialogue with Shane Murray’s arguments on the
1 “Reflection on practice: capturing innovation and creativity,” RIBA Research Symposium 2007 Jarvis Hall, RIBA, London, 19th September 2007. 2 These comments were offered by David Boud in response to the invited public lecture “Project-based postgraduate models: Architectural design research by and through projects” given by the author and Robyn Barnacle (RMIT) at the Centre for Research in Learning and Change, UTS, Sydney, Australia, 20th May, 2008. See also: Brent Allpress and Robyn Barnacle, “Projecting the PhD: Architectural design research by and through projects,” in Changing Practices in Doctoral Education, David Boud and Alison Lee (eds), London: Routledge Press, 2009 3 Shane Murray, “Design Discourse”, in Brent Allpress and Michael Ostwald (eds), Architectural Design Research, Vol 1, Issue 1, 2005 4 http://www.rmitpublishing.com.au/ books.html
light works Gabriela Seifert Goetz Stoeckmann formalhaut & Narelle Yabuka
light works text by Narelle Yabuka
Previous Spread plato’s By formalhaut, E 9°13’19’’/N 50°16’52’’; 2006/12/15 Ground location: Breitenborn, Germany Environment: basalt quarry Natural light sources: stars. ¼ moon Artificial light source: liquid fuel lantern, 80 Watts
Drawings: 5 convex regular polyhedrons (platonic solids) size 5m/9m up to 5m/120m Optical alignment: North Camera: Canon D5, ASA: 50, format raw, aperture: 5.6, shutter speed: 5 X 12min. layered by photoshop
“We see space as something absolute and as something limited in which we stand... Our nocturnal work addresses space and time. We juxtapose scales, which to us seems the most rational way to understand the various aggregates of space – be it space on earth or above.” 1
The nocturnal photography of formalhaut is at once satisfying and unnerving. The familiar (words and geometric shapes) are shown in an unfamiliar means (drawn with light) alongside that which we should be unable to detect (the light trails of stars and aeroplanes) within single photographic frames. Various types of movement, times, spaces and scales are thrust together – or composed. The performances of humans, machines and celestial bodies animate landscapes in Australia, Germany and the USA. The geographic location would not always seem to matter, although the specificities of places are woven into each composition. The intent, and the effect, is a questioning of the nature of our reality and our experience of time and space. The preoccupation is the space of the universe – a totality that non-traditional thought prevents us from engaging with as part of a system of divine harmony, and our conception of which relativity theory has upset. Previous spread mutter vater By formalhaut, E 9°13’ 23’’/N 50°16’54’’; 2007/12/15 Ground location: Breitenborn, Germany Environment: forest clearing Natural light sources: stars. 1/2 moon
Artificial light source: varta battery, 4,5Watt light Optical alignment: North Drawing: illuminated manuscript, mutter vater, size 1,8m/7m, 1,8m/6m Camera: Canon D5, ASA: 50, format raw, aperture: 5.6, shutter speed: 10 minutes
formalhaut is a German group of two architects, Gabriela Seifert and Goetz Stoeckmann, who have investigated ideas of architecture, art and sculpture since 1983 when the group was founded with artist Ottmar Hoerl, in parallel with the architectural practice Seifert Stoeckmann. Their interrogations of proportion and scale, and image and space have most recently manifested in the light works series and in the tent works, landscape installations and framed exhibition works undertaken using off the shelf camping tents as a medium. In the framed projects, tents are laboriously worked in two dimensions for an exploration and exploitation of their generic formal qualities and the act of folding/unfolding. Ideas of nomadism and journeying, and thus learning, arise in the tent installation works. The flimsy fabric shelters â€“ scaled somewhere between clothing and the house â€“ are transformed into vessels and satellites. The imagined location of the body within the physical tent vessels is a counterpoint to the absence of the body in the image-based light works.
Ever present in all of the work is the echo of Immanuel Kant’s assertions about the contribution of the mind to experience. Stoeckmann cites Kant’s proposition that the irrational capacity of the mind to conceive the abstract within a rational perception function allows us to conceive total space – the universe: “I think totality as the representation of space is a provocative, highly exciting thought. It calls for generosity and transcendence in one’s thinking,”2 asserts Stoeckmann, dancing around the ideological totalities that have shaded the past. Along with celestial infinity, he regards landscape as an absolute and a continuity, art and architecture being merely temporary interventions in its context:
Previous spread crazy Northern stellar is crazy about Southern By formalhaut, E144°10’37’’/S 37°07’58’’; 2007/03/04 Ground location: Victoria, Australia Environment: farmland Natural light sources: stars, full koon
Artificial light source: 4 varta batteries and four 4,5Watt lights. Optical alignment: North Drawing: map of northern stellar, diameter ca. 160m Camera: Canon D5, ASA: 50, format raw, aperture: 5.6, shutter speed: 12 minutes
“As an environmental artist I do not care for any kind of moral which sees landscape as something needing healing.” The intended avoidance of moral connotation becomes slightly problematic by Stoeckmann’s own admission. He notes: “The images look super-real – ground conditions that appear day-lit, shadows from the moonlight, the presence of the stars. There is the danger of romanticism (if not moral projection) in this situation.”3 The curiosity embedded in the scenes, the apparently carefully framed views of landscapes, and the very act of photo-documentation may be seen to further destabilise this intention. The degree to which conscious aesthetic choices shape the composition of the nocturnal photographs is difficult to ascertain.
In Seifert Stoeckmann’s residential project of 2005, the Living Room house, in Gelnhausen, Germany, an attempt was made to do away with the distinction between the natural (and illustrative) and the abstract. “We wanted to exclude nature as the instance of morality,” explains Stoeckmann. “We wanted to turn the natural into an artifact.”4 The original idea was to bring landscape indoors, transforming a massive stone block into a living platform. However, the dominance of the stone in the residential-scale space and the surrounding built form made the structured design attempts appear – in Stoeckmann’s words – “picturesque”. The nocturnal work continues to skirt romanticism. Nevertheless, the Living Room stone highlighted the conversation about scale that remains open. It also emphasised position, invariably becoming a location device for the body.
Previous spread ground speed left By formalhaut, E132°40’12’’/S 22°57’59’’; 2006/06/14 Ground location: Tanami Desert Environment: bush Natural light sources: stars
Artificial light source: landcruiser’s head/rear lights. Optical alignment: South-West, West-North Drawing: head/rear light rays, size: ca. 1500m/2m Camera: Canon D5, ASA: 50, format raw, aperture: 5.6, shutter speed: 12 minutes
The horizon lines in the nocturnal photography present another location device – a graphic boundary between the cosmic and earth-bound lights, which exist independently. “In our photographs, natural light and artificial light perform like two systems in parallel – timely, co-located, yet of no territorial desire.”5 Yet, the horizon line represents a measure of distance and time that refutes definition due to the curvature of the earth’s surface. The trails of aircraft disappear behind it, warping a two-dimensional reading of the photography.
Phrases and words, drawn with light, are harnessed to participate in the dialogue established by scale between human, landscape and cosmos. These reveal clues to the intellectual intentions of the art, as do the titles of the works. stop making sense references a 1984 Talking Heads concert movie in which David Byrne made the ‘big suit’ famous. This was a stiff, oversized business suit that emphasised scale, dimension and physicality over the intellect that charged through the lyrics. Byrne’s augmented body became the vehicle for an irrational, contortive performance art of staggers and nods – an amusing and proactive opening act for deconstructivist architectural thought.
Previous spread ground speed right By formalhaut, E132°40’12’’/S 22°57’59’’; 2006/06/14 Ground location: Tanami Desert Environment: bush Natural light sources: stars
Artificial light source: landcruiser’s head/rear lights. Optical alignment: South-West, West-North Drawing: head/rear light rays, size: ca. 1500m/2m Camera: Canon D5, ASA: 50, format raw, aperture: 5.6, shutter speed: 12 minutes
Conversely, the dogmatism of Charles Dickens’ school teacher Thomas Gradgrind in Hard Times – “Now what I want to see is facts” – harks definitively to the idea of the vessel, and the school student obediently waiting to be filled with knowledge. mutter – vater (mother – father) also appears, highlighting birth, learning, the development of a viewpoint, and so on. So too do Plato’s forms, raising the notion of a now-defunct idealism.
That formalhaut gives language a role in contemplating the nature of our reality and our occupation of space emphasises the abstract. It highlights the social along with the intellectual. That the words are performed by the body is a delicious irony. Along with scale, the viewer is charged to decipher physical and intellectual space. The former’s connection with the latter is magnified in the representational disjunction.
Previous spread all-round By formalhaut, E127°47’12’’/S 19°10’36’’; 2007/06/15 Ground location: Tanami Desert Environment: Wolfe Creek Meteroit Crater Natural light sources: stars Artificial light source: 2 liquid fuel lanterns, 80 Watts.
Optical alignment: East Drawing: 2 walked full circles, diameter ca 750m, Camera: Canon D5, ASA: 50, format raw, aperture: 5.6, shutter speed: 3 X 12 minutes layered in photoshop
â€œThe murky darkness forms a coat that shelters us, like clothing. While our perception of space at night is diminished, it simultaneously seems more tangible as we instinctively look heavenwards. We wonder about infinity as we register the celestial, the absolute. Here we write words with light to participate in the irradiation. As we produce our artifacts, time moves on. The camera registers the earth moving and us acting. The resulting photograph depicts near and distant spaces and time. Our works simply provide scale.â€? 6
Previous spread facts By formalhaut, W117°27’8’’/N 37°00’15’’; 2007/12/27 Ground location: Death Valley, USA Environment: desert Natural light sources: stars, 3/4 moon Artificial light source: varta battery, 4,5Watt light.
Optical alignment: North-West Drawing: illuminated manuscript, now what I want (to see) is facts (Hard Times, Charles Dickens), size: 1,8m/20m Camera: Canon D5, ASA: 50, format raw, aperture: 8, shutter speed: 8 minutes
stop making sense By formalhaut, E 9°13’9’’/N 50°16’40’’; 2007/01/14 Ground location: Breitenborn, Germany Environment: dip, basalt quarry Natural light sources: stars Artificial light source: varta battery, 4,5Watt light.
Optical alignment: North Drawing: illuminated manuscript, stop making sense (Talking Heads), size: 5m/12m Camera: Canon D5, ASA: 50, format raw, aperture: 5.6, shutter speed: 3 X 8min. layered by photoshop
Footnotes 1 Goetz Stoeckmann, interview with Narelle Yabuka, June 2007 and February 2008, partially published in Landscape Architecture Australia, August 2008, pp. 32-33. 2 Ibid
3 4 5 6
Ibid Ibid Ibid Ibid
The Contributions of Design to Questions of Sustainability
Graham Crist, Peter Johns, Brendan Jones and Simon Whibley, Practice: Antarctica Text: Graham Crist
The Contributions of Design to Questions of Sustainability
What does green mean?
The two architectural projects that are the focus of this piece might be called green. In fact they are overtly marketed and named as such by the client. They form a pair as successive attempts by the architects, Antarctica¹ and the client to develop a prototypical and environmentally sustainable building system based on straw bale construction. The first is a house, and the second a temporary café. They share with many other projects a range of dilemmas that come with the green tag in architecture. As a practice, Antarctica sets out from a skeptical position toward much of what is currently described as green architecture, and as sustainability in design more broadly. This view is made more pointed when the environmental issues these fields seek to address are real, urgent and require contribution from the practice of architectural design. The tendency within the architecture discipline to describe architectural design and sustainability as being separate concerns is one source of skepticism. That is, green debates continue to be sufficiently divorced from architectural design as it is usually framed, so that the two are frequently seen as being at odds. Green architecture is usually focused on the delivery of energy systems. Its association with building science, rather than architectural design, is well understood, and for many this relationship is unproblematic. Through these projects we suggest that it is not sufficient to replace a set of spatial or compositional discourses for another around resources and energy. The untested relationships around the term green are another cause for skepticism. Marketing assertions that a particular product or design outcome is green without substantiation or shared definition are common. The currency of the term greenwash,² with companies or institutions making questionable claims to being environmentally friendly for marketing advantage, is an increasing concern, with governments and ‘corporate citizens’ now obliged to contribute a position on sustainability. Architectural design is of course not immune to this economy. I discuss these projects in an act of reflection where I am partially the author as well as the observer. As architectural works of Antarctica, I am jointly their author, and as part of that collaboration I have at other times acted as the critical observer of the process. In using the
From top • Antarctica, Flower House, 2007, Site Plan • Floor plan
The Contributions of Design to Questions of Sustainability
term we, I refer to this practice collaboration as well those other client and consultant participants involved more broadly within the projects, and acknowledge this complexity. Questioning these relationships and working methods is a recurring theme of sustainable practice.
The image of sustainability
I am interested in the image that green architecture takes.³ This does not mean establishing an image that signals greenness as the right form for the sustainable. The idea that a position on the environment has an attendant aesthetic, whether that might be vernacular, organic or high-tech, has limited the debate both for its supporters, and those suspicious of it. Likewise, the view that questions of image (or ornament) are trivial or antithetical to green building is also prevalent.⁴ A common industry view of sustainability is a ‘business as usual’ approach that seeks to bury any necessary environmental strategy within the image of architecture as it has been and is currently practiced. Not only is an imaging, coding or styling present in all architectural design, even when buried in another discourse such as function, but it can signal a shift in priorities - a visual argument of how we currently see the world. There are design research opportunities for exploring formal or spatial changes resulting from green strategies.
The Flower House project is a private dwelling on a rural site a short distance out of Melbourne. The site covers a little over two hectares and contains orchards, flower planting, and a house with an almost square footprint of nearly a thousand square meters. Within this footprint are cut three courtyards, one forming an entry sequence, and two outdoor spaces cut from the edge but contained by its perimeter skin. The fabric of the house is a construction system being tested by the client as a possible repeatable building system. On a conventional insulated and heated floor slab is a prefabricated steel frame creating a large span independent of the walls. That frame supports straw bale ceiling insulation, matching the walls which are composed of straw bales contained in a custom folded steel stud frame. The straw bale
Clockwise from top left • Northwest courtyard • West façade • Under construction • Central courtyard
The Contributions of Design to Questions of Sustainability
surface is buried internally under conventional linings and thus acts as a thick insulation core. This, in conjunction with double-glazing creates a highly insulated envelope that is relatively indifferent to its site orientation. The external skin of the perimeter also suppresses the straw bale fabric and is expressed as a steel support grid for seven thousand flowerpots. At the wall surface, the pots form a veneer hung over a steel cladding which in turn covers the straw bale. At the courtyards, the hanging grid splits from the wall skin and forms a permeable screen. On courtyard surfaces the cut away cladding is made from recycled railway sleepers. The dominant surface effect of the perimeter is of the terracotta - in time to be replaced by the growing foliage on the faĂ§ade, with the permeability of the screens determined by the density of foliage growing. The Greenhouse project at Federation Square, Melbourne followed this house and involved the same client with other business and industry partners. It is a further test case for a similar construction system to the Flower House in a radically different context. This is a temporary building with a life of a few months over summer. The Greenhouse is intended to demonstrate the prefabricated super lightweight framing and straw bale system for small event buildings with systems that are all subsequently recycled. It also showcases the possibilities for sustainable food principles in an urban cafĂŠ/bar setting. Here the folded steel skeleton is exposed, as is its straw bale flesh, each in a polythene wrapping, with the frame forming a lightweight roll out glazing. The primary materials of plywood and steel are re-usable and recyclable. The straw bales, if not re-used, return as compost. The wall system of hung planting is continued here, in this case contained in commercial floristsâ€™ trays and Chep crates. Planned essentially as a single hall with an open, planted roof deck above, the project was initially proposed for a flat open site in the city of Melbourne. It was re-sited instead (and fortunately), into a wedge of space between two pavilions of Federation Square - a complex space in close confrontation with the facades designed by Lab Architecture Studio. Earlier ideas that this building would be a prototypical pavilion universally applicable to a range of sites were deferred as it became an intensely site specific installation. While the generic wall system and the sustainable gardening techniques had been thoroughly
Clockwise from top • Antarctica, Greenhouse, 2008, Section • Upper Terrace Plan • Lower Floor Plan
The Contributions of Design to Questions of Sustainability
worked through – the task of framing this project on stairs and a suspended plaza platform over railway lines was resolved through the collaborative contributions of skilled contractors and engineers working on an exceptionally short time schedule. The task of spatialising the project in this particular location made it an essay in expressing architectural values differentiated from Federation Square. The set of contrasts reads somewhat like Venturi and Scott Brown’s description of the ugly and ordinary versus the heroic and original.⁵ Where Federation Square is complex, precious and permanent, the Greenhouse’s gestures are formally dumb and materially rugged, reading more like a remainder of the modest sheds used while building the larger project. Where the square is composed symbolically as a desert, the Greenhouse is an oasis of un-composed planting. Where Federation Square suppresses readings of windows under double skins, the glazing at Greenhouse is rolled out, soft and ephemeral. The project’s name is a marketing pun since it is neither truly a greenhouse, nor a house. It is however a kind of slow event that offers an opportunity to consider within a very particular urban context, what codes might be attached to the term green.
A couple of Antarctica precursor projects inform discussion of the built projects above. An off-the-shelf shed house was designed in 1991 by the author for a semi-rural site outside Perth. This approach was autonomous and low-tech, asserting the rawness of its large volume at extremely low cost. In this case though, the skin was entirely uninsulated, the large interior content to be little more than ambient shade. A second precursor is the earlier straw bale Merrijig House in Victoria, designed in 2000, though constructed much later. It similarly aimed at autonomous services for a pair of families opting out into a new lifestyle. Here, the design concern was to work through the limitations and potential of straw bale construction. Recognising its tendency to veer toward adobe vernaculars in image, we sought to bring this self-made field into direct contact with questions of composition in the architectural canon. Straw bale, as an extremely
Clockwise from top • Interior • Under construction • Under construction
The Contributions of Design to Questions of Sustainability
loose and imprecise form of construction that is ‘levelled’ with a hedge trimmer, resists the precision of the architectural designer. As a very thick wall (here 500mm), it resists the taught planar skin we might associate with modernity. It also resists the orthogonal. The resulting plan maps these observations, along with compositional interests in sampling, and selective axial symmetry or mirroring.⁶ Le Corbusier’s chapel at Ronchamp was the reference point for operations, sharing obvious formal and scale affinities with a straw bale/stucco wall. The house-sharing by two families became the motivation for a mirrored plan form. The design satisfies all its green demands, and the demands of a loose, robust building process. It also foregrounds formal composition and its image as an overt question in the design project.
Methods of working
It is a mantra of sustainable practice that the traditional modes of working must be reoriented toward more collaborative models. This is well documented, for example, in the case of Council House Two in Melbourne, a prototypical sustainable high-rise office building commissioned by Melbourne City Council.⁷ This view holds that conventional roles for disciplines or consultants inhibit the innovation needed for green design, and that the sharing of knowledge early in the design process is analogous to how a sustainable community would operate. The reality of authorship roles in architecture is usually more complicated than is described. These projects by Antarctica are instructive in recognizing the participatory role of a number of players, and the particular expertise that the architectural designer can bring. In these projects, the owners were hands on - the builder was a slightly blurred notion between an owner and a contractor - and the designer and builder were necessarily enmeshed. With the Merrijig House, it became clear that what the client required was a spatial mapping - a spatialising of their minds’ understanding of their environment. Construction, details and services were the domain of the builder (themselves), but the mapping was crucial and they recognized this. Indeed they recognized and accepted the surprises of someone else’s mind (the designer’s),
Clockwise from top left • Flinders Street façade • Entry and green wall • Roof terrace • Flinders Street façade contrasted with the Federation Square façade by Lab Architecture Studio
The Contributions of Design to Questions of Sustainability
and instantly recognized when the map resonated with their own conceptual space. The plan was primarily seen as a map – a loose territory to navigate and gently manipulate. In the case of the Greenhouse, roles were further complicated by the desire to promote a system and a facility, (an events promotion company was a co-investor), and complicated further still by the fasttrack process forced on the contractors (also investors). The spatial mapping, central to our concern as designers and critical in the particularities of the site, appeared at times to be self-evident in its apparent off-the-shelf character.
The contribution of architectural design
These projects are at their beginnings, and superficially, about a system of construction. This is true of many buildings with sustainable aspirations – they make claims for a way of building, a way of delivering materials, energy, and systems. This ignores a central intelligence for architecture, that of spatial arrangement. The organization of a house, facilitating possible social arrangements or ways of living may well contribute more to the greenness of a proposition than the material or servicing systems. Likewise, the spatial dexterity involved in occupying an unintended sliver of space may demonstrate as much about the future green city as does the waterless plumbing and recycling systems. Of course contemporary modes of servicing sustainably require spatial manipulation (passive solar or natural ventilation systems are an obvious example), and the architectural designer cannot sit on the sidelines of the engineer’s team. Green buildings continue to be full of contradictions and wrestling with their meaning is messy. Excessive claims are often made with a thin glaze of greenwash, while other designers actively suppress expressions of green systems.⁸ We are, by necessity, proceeding with some of the facts missing, and with a degree of rhetoric (what else are all the flowerpots?), in moves toward integrating such thinking into our general awareness. Such considerations are present in any design process, but perhaps they are more acute in one dominated by environmental agendas. Research on green building, so dominated by a focus on quantifying and minimizing consumption, might usefully expand to questions of spatial arrangements and qualitative values,
Clockwise from top left • Antarctica, Merrijig House, 2000, Floor Plan • Under construction, in snow conditions • Under construction, during recent bushfires • Under construction, straw bale walls • Under construction, stucco exterior façade.
The Contributions of Design to Questions of Sustainability
to meet those ends through the contribution of architectural design knowledge. These diverse projects have taught us lessons in how the architectural designer can respond to their environment, in particular an environment of participation and of competing interests, just as we respond to unpredictable weather. They have taught us too, how the priorities and expertise within architectural design might surface in and through these environments. 1 Antarctica is a Melbourne based architectural practice with four directors: Graham Crist, Peter Johns, Brendan Jones and Simon Whibley. 2 For further definitions and documentation of the term greenwash see: www. stopgreenwash.org; www.stopgreenwashing.org; www.letsgreenwashthiscity. org; www.corpwatch.org; www.sourcewatch.org 3 Graham Crist, “Invisible Sustainability”, in Helen Lewis and Chris Ryan (eds), Imaging Sustainability, Melbourne: RMIT University Press, 2006. 4 “This is form follows function in the tradition of modernism with its commitment to derive beautiful form directly from function. The aesthetic qualities of the building are justified and rationalized because they are expressions of its environmental functions and the conditions of its production, as in nature. This imparts a sense of legitimacy and conviction to the appearance, a sense that has been neither sought nor demonstrated in much postmodern architecture, with its justification of form and decoration on other grounds of coding and meaning.” - Terry Williamson, Antony Radford, Helen Bennetts, Understanding Sustainable Architecture, London: Spon Press, 2003, p.26. The passage cites and links Greenborough (1805-1852), Durand, and Perez-Gomez. 5 Robert Venturi & Denise Scott-Brown, Learning from Las Vegas, Boston: MIT Press, 1972 , p. 102, table 1. comparison of Guild House and Crawford Manor. 6 Graham Crist and Stuart Harrison, Practice: S-Architecture, “Mirroring”, installation, in Small Exhibition, RAIA Victoria, Span Gallery, Melbourne, November 2000. 7 Graham Crist and Darko Radovic, “Nature and Aesthetics in the Sustainable City”, Technical Research Paper 01, in CH2: AusIndustry Research Papers, Melbourne: City of Melbourne, 2006. Available online: http://www.melbourne. vic.gov.au/info.cfm?top=171&pa=4113&pg=4118 8 Graham Crist, “Case Study: Monash Science Centre”, in RAIA Environment Design Guide, Melbourne: RAIA, May 2003. In the Monash University Science Centre, Melbourne, the architects Williams and Boag, wished to render environmental features `invisible’ despite the client’s assertion that they should be visible and didactic. The location of the photo-voltaic panels are a key example of this.
Th e H o u se o f a M i s s i ng Fami ly
The House of a Missing Family * FIRST OF ALL, A CODA: a house of a missing family the house of the missing family the dwelling, the rooms, the location, the place, the home of a missing family a house as a missing family the house as a missing family a house for the missing family the house for the missing family the house of a lost, unknown, rejected, absent, forgotten family the house of a missing past of the missing ancestors of a missing history of the missing culture of a missing origin a house for my missing family the house of our missing families a house for a missing family the house of a missing family
SETS, SERIES AND SUITES IN The House of a Missing Family¹ TAXIS This composition sits on a strong geometric setout, derived from a simple vernacular house plan of four rooms. The set-out consists of two parallel ladder-like figures extending from the front to the back of the site. One is of a single repeated rectangle creating a simple rhythm (1+1+1+1+1 etc), the other is cyclic due to the repetition of a triad of rectangles (1+0.55+1). The two ladder figures coincide at what would have been the back of the original house: forward and back they become more out of phase as the repetition proceeds. Between these two longitudinal figures there is a long strip of space which could belong to either. The set-out is the architecture’s taxis, which “constrains the placing of the architectural elements that populate a building by establishing successions of logically organized divisions of space.”² In classical architecture this is all done off a level and flat plane, where the architect’s sheet of paper is a model of the ground plane of the architecture. This scheme is the same: it is on one level, and relationships are suggested through distance and lateral displacement rather than height. In The House of a Missing Family, the taxis is derived from a specific object rather than an abstract or geometric concept and is consequently inflected in specific ways in a combination of symmetry and non-symmetry both across and along the site. Interestingly, for a scheme that explores the multiple, the taxis is derived from a single object and allows the multiple to proceed through the tactic of repetition. This is possible because the received plan provides three possible simple rhythms of repetition. Two are used for the back wings and outlined above, but the third is an alternating rhythm of (1+0.55 etc) extended to the front of the site of the eastern ladder. Because
THE VOID No-one can trace their ancestors back to the first couple. Later rather than sooner, the record runs out. Against this there is the tangible body of a person who must have had forebears. This fact gives the abstraction of ancestors a strange reality. Stories, narratives, legends and songs exist. They give the illusion of record and memory. Specific kinds of lives are memorialised. These stories are fragments, networks of events always being re-mapped; always, there are large areas of Terra Nullius. Then there are children. For mothers and fathers, children are small steps into the future. In a kind of eternal present, they too will have children, and so on. The present is a constant re-ordering of the detritus flung at us from the past, some of which we will carry into the future, which when it comes about, will be the present.
of its tripartite cell arrangement, the eastern half of the found plan can produce a cyclic or linear repetitive pattern. The tactic of repetition has been prompted by the corridor of the plan: this secondary space suggests extension as well as splitting the taxis into parallel lengths. The extension is also the result of a reading of the site, which is the generic suburban block of land. In such a site, there is a flow from front to back. The front is more public, decorative, semantic, manicured, formal, and fashionable than the back which is more private, ad hoc, utilitarian, messy, casual and old-fashioned than the front. Parallel to this gradient of contraries, the block of land could easily be seen as having a front which is the present, facing the future (which is the street or road), and a depth which gradually goes back in time towards the back fence.
ANECDOTE #1 Standing inside Karl Friedrich Schinkel’s Neue Wache in Berlin, now a Memorial For the Victims of Fascism and Militarism, my wife whispered over my shoulder that “this is for those missing in the war”. I looked down and saw my missing family scattered in the small stones paving the floor. The shock of that moment materialised as an idea for a house a month or so later while daydreaming at a dinner function in Melbourne… My father, mother and I arrived in Australia in 1949 as refugees. My father never spoke of his past or his family. My mother did, but through anecdotes and details. Somehow I picked up the idea of not asking, and just accepted this twinned reaction to the disaster of WW2. Then, in Berlin, on the 60th anniversary of the end of WW2 and the beginning of the Cold War, I saw the black stones and realised I indeed had a sense of family but not as a tree of names or personalities, but as an abstraction and a pile of details.
THREE ZONES #1
Three zones are then identified. The first is forward of the back of the original house and goes laterally across the site from boundary to boundary thus including both ladder-patterns. The second concerns the simple additive figure on its own, the third the simple cyclic figure on its own. Combined with the temporal fiction of the block, the ladder figures fall into place as temporal zones. The front zone therefore has been thought of as the present, as the space of potential, as the place of becoming. The two wings going back articulate versions of the past. The present is then nominated as the place of sets, the repetitive wing as the place for a series, and the cyclic wing as a location for a suite. While the zones are contiguous, the design has introduced a slight hierarchy to them. The house is approached only through the present; this leads indirectly to the anecdotal past of the suite, and only then into the silent past of the series. Except for the small alcove between the two pavilions where the three wall systems of the scheme visibly meet, the present zone looks away from the past, or rather, ignores it. But the two versions of the past recognise each other. While in the corridor, going from one ‘anecdote’ to another, the glass block wall is ever present with its hazy view of the exterior alcoves, and while in the silent courtyard, the corridor is visible as a shadow and roughly half of the anecdotes would be visible above the glass block walls. Finally, in this house, because of the appropriation of the block at the back, the furthest most boundary – the most distant past – is actually the front fence to the next street in the suburb, so that the furthest space of one’s past is at another’s present. But this distant front fence is a blank façade consisting of two high walls, and no entry.
The starting figure for this design is a plan of the Australian house in which I grew up. Drawn from memory, the plan shows a four-room house with a central corridor. Each of the two halves of the plan is repeated as a rhythm into the extended back yard to give the geometry for two conditions of the past. This extension is made possible by occupying the house-block at the back, so that the distant boundary is at the frontage of the next street along in the suburb. Thus there are three zones to the house. There is a front zone that gives form to the present, with two long zones extending from it. These give form to the past or rather, two particular versions of the past derived from the present. One version is unknown, the other is anecdotal.
* The unknown version of the past is articulated through a series¹. Thirteen successive alcoves, made of glass blocks, contain three object-to-origin pairs: a cube of earth and a hole, a cast glass slab and a perimeter seat, and an aluminium beam and split roof. The three pairs form a series through their rise from ground level to roof level. At the furthest left-over space there is an oval cut into the paving and the grass. This contains a tree made of sheet lead and a real tree at its two foci. At the edge of the oval there is a concrete “missing chair”. Against the wall at the end of this space there is a ladder-like cabinet containing all the meters for incoming services. These too are in series, loosely based on the four ascending states of matter: earth, water, air, fire: in actuality empty, water, gas, electricity. Being quotations, the lead tree, the missing chair and the ladder are also object-to-origin pairs, pointing to works by Anselm Kiefer, Bruce Nauman and Joe Tilson².
THREE ZONES #2 The ladder-like figures of the schema are developed independently in each of the zones. In the SETS zone, which combines the repetitive and cyclic figures: all objects are present as groups - there are four pavilions, four little ones (the full-size and model pavilions could also be considered as a single set), three front doors, three sets of tyre track paving strips to the driveway, three front fences; there is variety but not real difference - the windows to the pavilions are in equal sets, unequally arranged pavilion to pavilion, the two different pavilion roofs use the same roof framing system, the doors swing in different ways, but swing nevertheless and so on; specific fixed sequences are avoided - paths and views link up places and objects via multiple directions. The pavilion roofs create a field of directions, echoed by the models of the letterbox/playground. The schema is absorbed into the pavilions as a solid/void figure, with one of the pavilions displaced towards the side boundary to increase the spatial distribution of its set and mitigate the linear effect of the schema. Further, because the design takes up the typology of the suburban front yard with its SUITE of elements, this zone has become a SUITE of SETS, rather like a single image with a number of misaligned over-prints. In the SERIES zone, which uses the repetitive figure: there are single elements repeated in a line - three large slabs, somewhere between a floor and a path, are placed one after the other between the long wall and the alcoves, the long wall is a repetitive modular structure of the same unit size as the glass blocks of the alcoves, there are thirteen alcoves in a row; the relationship of origin to destination is
The alcoves (and the last space) are surrounded by a thick wall of concrete blocks. This separates the courtyard from the surrounding houses. * The anecdotal version of the past is articulated through a suite続. Here, there are twelve alcoves of two different widths, with walls of cement render, making them opaque and matt. Each alcove has a small room. Each room is different. Each room is made of a material that requires constant maintenance. Each room contains a single object or amenity. Each room (except the last one, and the BBQ) is entered via a long corridor with a sloping ceiling; about two thirds along its length, the corridor begins to drop below head height until it stops further on at 1500mm. Two of the rooms allow access into the back yard and some of the rooms are only accessible from the yard. The boundary of the suite zone is defined by a standard timber paling fence, linking that side of the house to its neighbours. * The present, at the front of the block, is articulated through sets.4 Things in this zone are multiple and spread out and around. The main rooms are the most obvious set. The set of small boxes near the front boundary is a model of the main room set and could be considered to be a model set, or as members of the main room set. The main rooms support another set: that of the windows. Each room has side infill walls of four of the five pieces of the total window set, with the omitted fifth piece set in its front wall. The driveway is a tyre set, being an overlay of three double strips of paving for three different tyre-track sizes. The front yard has a fence set; there is a front door set of three doors in a row at the entrance to the house; the sun-visor set is attached to the main room set.
repeated - three pairs of objects are placed in the alcoves, each pair demonstrating object to origin relationships; there is incremental change - the three pairs of objects showing the origin/destination overlap their vectors. Going to the back of the site, each pair rises above the previous. The actual direction of movement in each pair is ambiguous. For example, an imaginary ritual such as burial or exhumation could give the direction for the cube and its hole, but it could be either. The schema of the alcove walls is materialised in glass blocks, giving a transparency without clarity. Because of the various forms and materials of the objects, the SERIES is a conceptual one, that is, the idea of object to origin is the link. Further this idea does not change, but shifts in space; this is another SERIES. A more subtle SERIES could be read in the greater refinement of (mineral) material in the pairs, from earth to glass to aluminium. This sequence of refinement is echoed by the meters in the ‘oval’ alcove at the end of the block. These are placed one above the other according to their parallel to material states. While the mineral SERIES of the pairs is a matter of chemistry, the material states are associated with archaic imagery of earth/water/air/fire: again, a conceptual order even if it has a pragmatic and phenomenological aspect to it. John Coplans suggests that the minimum number of terms in a SERIES is two.³ A better minimum number is three, in that it allows two increments to be established between the terms.4 But in this design, it appears as if two-term SERIES are the norm. Or rather, two terms are given as terms in the SERIES. The invention of the next term for these pairs is therefore very open, perhaps a creative challenge. At the ‘increasing’ edge of the SERIES, almost any pairing of qualities of the complex physical objects which make up the terms in the series, can be used for the serial formula. And at the other end, what is
All sets in this zone are made of the one material - steel. Only the floor finishes vary a little and give the rooms their names: the Pavilion of the Good Earth (terracotta), the Pavilion of the Clean Slate (smooth black slate), the Pavilion of Greener Grass (Astroturf), the Pavilion of Treading Boards (mixed timbers).
the origin of origin? It is easier to treat the three pairs a spatial SERIES in which the terms are also linked by a thematic idea of object-to-origin (see IMPURITIES, below). In the ‘oval’ area, there are a number of other object-to-origin pairs present, either explicitly or by implication. The explicit one is the pair of trees, where there is a pleasing ambiguity as to which is the original ‘tree’. (See also below, in IMPURITIES.) The chair, ladder and lead tree are quotations of, or imitations of, works by other artists: these constitute the originals to the terms which are actually in the oval courtyard. In the SUITE zone, which uses the cyclic figure: things are arranged through sequential contrast - two groups of threes control the variety, being the geometry (square/circle/ triangle), and the spatial direction in the alcove (up/along/across), with materials being structured through four criteria (metal/wood/ earth/plastic); each alcove contains an ad hoc - like object, not completely filling the space and suggesting a fragment; each object or alcove insertion contains only one piece of equipment to suit only one phase of a functional ritual, ensuring that actions such as ablutions, laundry and cooking would be spread across a number of alcoves. The alcove walls are opaque and neutral in contrast to the variety of finishes of the insertions. While the walls are used to separate the fragments or ‘anecdotes’, the flow of anecdotes proceeds without acknowledging the walls, as if the flow rather than the separation was more important. The cyclic nature of the alcoves is also ignored, with the fragments stressing the novel rather than the repeated. The score used is not an exhaustive one, that is, only three different criteria (geometry, direction, materials) are explicitly used. But a line of small buildings provokes very many potential
design decisions. In this design, further elaboration of the openings, roof material, and drainage points are established on an ad hoc basis but mindful of the main criteria; for example, openings are designed as missing parts of the cladding. (A prior attempt to construct a complete score stalled at design; it became too complex and intensive for the situation.) THE PAST AS A SKELETON The House of a Missing Family shows the following relationships: in the present, an underlying schema is implied, or ignored, while for the past, it is explicit and solidified. Further, where the schema is solidified it can either structure the applied objects or the applied objects can dance over the schema and to a large degree ignore it. IMPURITIES In the zone of SETS, there is also: a SERIES is the use of the circle/triangle/ square motif for the glazed panels of the three front doors; a hidden SERIES in the infill windows of the pavilions, in that they consist of a series of orthogonal elements of 1:1, 1:2, 1:3, and 1:4 proportion; hidden because the elements are then arbitrarily placed together without reference to their systematic dimensioning; a SUITE formed by the pavilion floors, in particular their semantic/material finish. In the SUITE zone, there is also a SET of service functions such as kitchen, laundry, bathroom, which even though dispersed, still gather all facilities that are necessary for such activities to function; a hidden SERIES in the use of the circle, square, triangle as a formal guide for the fragments, but dispersed so that each form never occurs twice in succession; a SERIES formed by the water tanks which
TWO THRESHOLDS There are two thresholds where the sets, suite and series abut. At the end of the entry space, there is a recess where the three specific walls of the zones visibly touch. But access further into the building is prevented by the ceiling lining, which drops down as a curtain or wall. This stops short of the floor, so that the floor surface can be seen to vanish under and past. Real access to the rear wings is through the first of the suite alcoves. This alcove contains the stove. Opposite the door from the stove alcove to the central corridor there is a sliding glass door, which is the only access to the series courtyard. The second threshold is the overlap of the suites and series zones â€“ the long corridor. Its two walls are a contrast. The suite side is opaque and has nine pivoting doors in it, while the series wall is translucent but has only one access door. Both the ceiling and the floor have grooves scored across them, picking up the locations of the return walls of the series side and the walls of the small alcoves on the suite side. The two rhythms of the alcove walls are visually tied together with these lines.
sink regularly and progressively into the earth. In the SERIES zone, there is also a SET of alcoves, when the repetition is perceived rather than the different insertions; a SET of object-to-origin pairs, including those used as a series and those in the last oval-bound space.
collection and unrelenting rush to the ground and below. Water and gravity thus link the three zones and suggest that water and gravity could be taken as a compound image for time, history and genealogy.
The zones of SETS, SERIES and SUITE have been placed into a schema derived from a house plan, that is, a schema not necessarily derived from inherent relations (if any) between SETS, SERIES and SUITES themselves. Given this, would it be possible to produce a plausible House of a Missing Family if the zones were shuffled about? In other words, is the present largely spatial, and the past largely temporal as the realised scheme might suggest? Further, in this particular design, the two temporal groups, SERIES and SUITE, are contrasted with the former being more abstract with the latter being more concrete. Could this be reversed, or the role of being abstract (or concrete) be given to the SET? With these questions, one can sense a tendency to think of projects as a group of possibilities, and the underlying motive of a way of working can be glimpsed. Although there are six possibilities, using the same schema, two re-shuffles are enough to sense the implications. The first uses the SUITE for the present at the front, with SERIES for the anecdotal past, and SET for the silent past. The second puts the SERIES as the figure for the present, the SET for the anecdotal past and the SUITE for the silent past.
There are also ambiguous places where the three zones abut or overlap. The most obvious of these is the long corridor. Its function is mitigated by the dropped ceiling at the start of the SUITE/SERIES overlap, and by its ceiling height which rakes constantly at the same angle. Perspectival exaggeration results, looking from both directions. The roof stops short of the glass block walls by five mm: this gap allows water in. Being both internal and external, with translucency on one side and opacity on the other, the corridor can just as easily be thought of as a veranda. This reading would be reinforced by constant movement in and out of the pieces of the functional alcoves, while engaged in routine tasks. While the â€˜outerâ€™ edge of the roof lets water past, the corridor roof functions as the gutter for the entire building, taking the water to the four rainwater tanks at the back of the site, which, in turn, take it into the ground. At the front of the house, the pool is an abstraction of a beach, and is a single item in a zone of groups. Its width conforms to the same ground plane outline as the pavilions, so that the playhouse/model group sets up a microcosm of the house in the present. As a beach, the water in the pool is an index of the ocean which is the prime source of water especially in the form of rain. The pool, large gutter and rainwater tanks are a spinal system over and above the zoned schema. The fountain, well and spring are perennial images of the source, of beginnings. In this project the flow of water is reversed so to speak: attention is given to the receipt of water from rain, its
A SPECULATIVE SHUFFLE
In the first re-shuffle, the present could be shown as a rich varietal SUITE of experiences, the anecdotal past could be arranged in chronological order, or in order of clarity of memory, with the fuzziest of memory being the most distant past; while the silent past could be shown with a SET of mute objects or spaces, with no flux or variety involved. In the second re-shuffle, the present could
ONE CYCLE Intersecting all three zones, there is a sequence of elements related to the origins, flow and destination of water. In the set zone, the pool forms an artificial beach at the back of the model set. The narrow pier into the water is a hint of the main roof/gutter of the central corridor that extends from the entry to the back end of the house. This large gutter drains the water from all roofs (except for two â€“ the shed of the suite and the final roof of the series) and dumps it into the tanks that progressively sink into the ground. The gutter/roof is kept away from the glass block walls by a gap of five mm. This allows water to penetrate; a spoon drain at the base of the glass block wall takes the collected water away. The corridor is a kind of semi-outdoor space: this effect is stronger at the entry end where there are no walls to the corridor at all, turning the main rooms into pavilions.
be expressed as time which is planned, or given expression as a steady orderly flux, the SET could show how the anecdotes have a similarity either in content or style or ritual of telling, the SUITE could supply a collage of appropriated images of silence or unknowing. None of these conceptual or poetic ideas invented for the re-shuffles pre-empt forms, materials or spatial experiences. Clearly, temporal or spatial subject and form (or schema) have no unique 1:1 status.
ANECDOTE #2 In his book The Many-Coloured Land, Christopher Koch gives his Tasmanian ancestry a dynamic symmetry.5 One side is from the Irish Protestant Ascendancy. This has a status through written histories and genealogies, is paraded, and always talked about. The other side is convict and Catholic, and was for a long time repressed, denied and certainly never spoken of. Koch finds that unlike the hazy images of gentility accompanying the Protestant side, his convict side is actually recorded in detail in Government archives. Koch goes on to reverse his legitimate and his unmentionable ancestors: the convict history is fleshed out, while the genteel side ends in a visit to a half-hidden and now completely abandoned Irish Georgian House. But the inversion is not a simple one. The convict side is a speculative reconstruction joining the facts provided by the government records, and the hazy images of genteel ancestors have a tangible ruin and land as a talisman.
FINALLY, AN INTRO This House of a Missing Family is not a monument or a diagram. It is a house to be lived in here and now, in which daily routine is disrupted to give particular spatial experiences that point to: memory, and how the abstract and the concrete emerge from the ephemeral; history, and how the forgotten and the selective are solidified; and being, in which the search for origins and the telling of stories are two of the possibilities. *
1 See: Alex Selenitsch, SETS, SERIES and SUITES: composing the multiple artwork, Thesis (Ph.D), University of Melbourne: Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, 2008. For
& Buch Mit Flügeln (Book With Wings), 1992 lead, steel and tin 200x530x150cm
definitions of the terms series, suites and sets, refer to footnotes 1, 3 and 4 respectively in the parallel section. 2 Alexander Tzonis, and Liane Lefaivre, Classical Architecture: The Poetics of Order, Cambridge Mass. and London: MIT Press, 1986, p. 9. 3 John Coplans, Provocations: Writings by John Coplans, London: London Projects, 1996, p. 77. 4 The key word is ‘better’. How many terms are necessary for a series to be evident? Three, pragmatically: two adjacent terms to suggest the linking relationship, and another to confirm it. This can be seen with even the simplest of series: if 1, 2 are the first two terms of a possible series, the next term either adds one or doubles. Stating the series through two terms confirms which it is: (1, 2, 3) or (1, 2, 4), but there may be other readings of the serial formula eg, single stroke, single stroke plus curve, then… Theoretically, there is no defining number of terms because of the difficulty of establishing an unambiguous rule. See: Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, G.E.M. Anscombe (trans), Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1953/1968, p. 83-86.
Ruam Art Foundation, Korea
Bruce Nauman A Cast of the Space Under My Chair, 1966-68 Concrete 44.5x39x37cm Collection Geertjan Visser, on loan to the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo, the Netherlands
Joe Tilson See below, 1974 western red cedar fire ladder 225x120x7cms air ladder 225x70x9cms water ladder 225x70x9cms earth ladder 225x70x9cms location unknown
1 A series links events or objects through a predictable, logical yet changing difference. A minimum of three objects or events is needed to identify the difference; a series is a pre-set temporal (intellectual) way of ordering a group. 2 In THREE ZONES, the object-to-origin pieces of the oval courtyard point to: Anselm Keifer Yggdrasil, 1991 emulsion, acrylic and lead on canvas 220x190cm McMaster Art Gallery, Ontario
3 A suite collects an arbitrary number of events or objects, each of which is identified through its contrast to adjacent events or objects. The whole is thematically related but heterogenous in effect; the suite is a temporal (experiential) way of ordering a group. 4 A set includes any number of events/objects that share a characteristic. Often related to a specific ritual or purpose, and hence creating an arena or bounded area, a set is a spatial (intellectual) way of ordering a group. 5 Christopher Koch, The Many-coloured Land: a return to Ireland, Sydney: Pan Macmillan, 2002.
Model photographs by Terence Bogue
[arc/sec]: Architecture per Second Uwe Rieger, Helle Schroeder, Martin Janekovic, Practice: XTH-berlin with Fraser Horton and Alexander Wright; Duncan Lewis, Practice: Scape Architecture, Bordeaux Text by Uwe Rieger
[arc/sec] is a scale unit setting architecture in relationship to time. Started in 1996, in Berlin [arc/ sec] has become an international project platform for architects, artists, designers and engineers working in the field of Reactive Architecture. Reactive Architecture focuses on environmentally responsive design strategies as an interaction between landscape, people, architecture and digital information. `Reacting` in this case means a responsive behaviour to changing conditions such as weather, climate, program, frequency of use or topography. Reactive Architecture is focused on efficiency relating to usage of space, material, construction, energy, time and pleasure. The [arc/sec] projects take strategies and processes in nature as an impulse for architectural development. Based on todayâ€™s technologies, a bio-mimetic view on form and construction and the functional creativity of nature is used as a role model to develop new relationships to architecture. While taking advantage of traditional low-tech solutions, the overlay of physical conditions and data based technology allows the exploration of new dimensions of responsive behaviour. In an architectural context information technology has redefined five fields: 1. Form: It is very obvious that drawing, graphic and morphing programs have introduced a new formal language. Digital programs allow the design and control of complex biomorphic shapes. 2. Fabrication: More interesting than just the graphical appearance is the ability to describe and eventually fabricate complex elements, through large-scale digital fabrication methods. 3. Calculations: Today we are able to deal with dynamic calculations. In opposition to a classical architectural approach this allows the development of flexible constructions, which are able to adapt to different conditions. Flexibility in opposition to ridged constructions is the key principle of the success of evolutionary design in nature.
4. Sensitivity: Taking nature as a model, it is the principle of instant control and regulation that leads to highly energy efficient solutions. Using sensors and learning programs, data technology enables us to go in a similar direction. 5. Communication: Humankind is fascinated by contact with man-made objects. From early childhood dolls inspire our communicative imagination. Interactive virtual pets and robots are closing the link to the living environment. Here our expectations are growing with the rapidly changing status of technology. These conditions find their direct expression in current architecture. â€œFriendly Alienâ€? is the name of Peter Cook`s Museum of Modern Art in Graz, Austria. The building appears as a biomorphic blob form that, through its media facade BIX, by Realities United, is eagerly communicating with the surrounding city. The low energy house R128, from architect and engineer Werner Sobek in Stuttgart, does not have any light switches, door handles or taps. The temperature of the building can be controlled by mobile phone from any spot in the world. The concept explores the question of how many technical devices are useful. Is it necessary to know how much milk there is left in the fridge while on holiday? We should not forget that dynamic reactive or sensitive architecture has been around for thousands of years by simply utilizing living nature. The edge between real and virtual space is an intersection in todayâ€™s life. The concept of Reactive Architecture integrates data as a new building material, which is utilized next to other traditional materials such as stone, steel, glass or vegetation. The fusion of digital media and physical reality offers a new approach and opportunity to explore space, material and information in an architectural context. The overall intention however always stays the same. The main aim is the efficiency of the building and that the user enjoys living in it.
Project WideShut Uwe Rieger, Helle Schroeder, Martin Janekovic; XTH-berlin Installation WideShut The installation WideShut is the prototype for a light sensitive facade system. The installation consists of 12 motor driven umbrellas supported by a flexible light structure. In this installation the umbrellas are additionally used as a projection surface for a video beam. 12 sensors are reacting directly to the changing light and are controlling the opening of the projection surfaces. In this way the light sensitive surface of the umbrellas reacts to the choreography of the changing pictures of the video animation. By shading parts of the projection the spectator can influence and control the movement of the umbrellas. 82
System WideShut System WideShut is a light sensitive facade/roof system. The basic element consists of 3 beams curved in one direction along the surface of a 3-sided pyramid. In combination, the elements make up a 3-dimensional comb structure, which is stiffened at the knot-points by pressure rods. In the X-Direction the elements can be added in curves. The Y-direction is stable through the gearing of the comb structure. The bowl shaped indentation is used for the assembly of the sun shield. This consists of linear motor driven umbrellas (d=280cm). The umbrellas are covered with translucent fabric. The control works automatically according to climatic conditions. According to the time of the year, the position of the sun as well as individual control, the roof/facade has a lively, changing and flourishing appearance.
Architecture Saar-Lab In an architectural competition for a pharmacy laboratory building for the University of SaarbrĂźcken the WideShut project was used as an intelligent faĂ§ade system. On this basis XTH-berlin developed, in cooperation with the engineering office Rentschler + Riedesser, a passive energy concept. Situated in a park like environment the building changes its appearance in response to the thermal requirements of the different seasons and the changing sunlight during the day.
Project CitySail Installation CitySail Uwe Riege; XTH-berlin with Fraser Horton and Alexander Wright
The CitySail model is a surface supporting structure in a physical 1:25 model. The construction has been developed as a tensegrity system in analogy to a dragonfly wing. The dynamic ultralight construction minimises the usage of material and consists of structurally identical pressure elements. Three membranes are taking all tension forces. The inner CNC cut membrane defines the position of all members and the wing profile. In order to translate the time related and environmentally responsive aspect of the CitySails project, the installation combines physical and digital modelling. Projected place bound data are used as an additional source of information in order to introduce and represent process oriented architectural aspects.
Architecture CitySail Uwe Rieger XTH-berlin and Duncan Lewis, Scape Architecture, Bordeaux
CitySails can be described as hybrid building-machines, blurring the boundaries between land, water and city scape. The CitySails combine an internal, vertical garden structure to generate a composite growing environment/recreational living area which is situated in the middle of the Central Business District. The challenging constructive system of these wing type towers is flexible, turning with the wind and by this, self-stabilizing in windy conditions. The face of the 100m high towers rapidly changes with the seasons of the year in correlation with the surrounding environment. Inspired by the structure of the surrounding suburban areas, the CitySails are organized as a thin vertical layer of growing greenery. The functions of irrigation, living, and gardening form a hybrid system that is highly adaptive to seasonal and climatic changes.
Project: ShippingLandscape Uwe Rieger XTH-berlin and Duncan Lewis; Scape Architecture, Bordeaux Installation ShippingLandscape The model of ShippingLandscape is a haptic-digital installation. Digital information is overlaid in a place bound and choreographic manner with a physical model. Multiple layers of steel gauze as a translucent projection surface allows the creation of light-constructive spaces. The simulation shows the adaptation of the system to changing landscape and climatic conditions
Relying on various landscape patterns and placed along rivers, a hybrid barge-based network sets built volumes between landscape and architecture. This extruded system dissolves into shippable parts, maintaining flexibility and allowing the system to react to existing micro-conditions. The units provide a series of public and private space, allowing the areas to be used for hotel rooms, restaurants and sports facilities. The flexibility of the system allows various combinations of micro-urbanistic patterns and functions, as well as allowing for differing relationships between existing structures. New impulses for towns in their relationship to the river sites are given, as new water related qualities are introduced. The swimming system easily adapts to different conditions and shifting local requirements of function, density and even to seasonal changes. In seawater and tidal areas the swimming barges are transformed into water storage tanks to run the internal irrigation system, creating artificial islands along the coast line.
XTH-berlin develops architectural projects around process oriented spaces and reacting systems. The XTH-berlin office was founded by Uwe Rieger, Martin Janekovic and Helle Schrรถder as a spin-off from [kunst und technik] e.V., a Berlin-based interdisciplinary group. XTH-berlin develops architectural strategies between material and information and between social needs and new technologies. The projects take strategies and processes in nature and landscape as an impulse for architectural development. Scape Architecture is the practice of Duncan Lewis, based in Bordeaux, France. Scape Architecture seeks to relate architecture to ecosystem, finding new ways to create architecture blurring the boundaries between nature and the man-made.
R ISIN G OU T OF TH E A FFEC T IV E S E A : E M E RG EN CE A ND A RCH ITEC T U RA L CO M PO S IT IO N
This paper argues for a strong historical and philosophical relationship between theories of architectural composition and theories of emergence. Historically, both theoretical fields play the role of negotiating and bridging discursive conflicts between mechanical or scientific rationalisation and vitalist or aesthetic knowing. Philosophically, I suggest that both composition and emergence fundamentally operate through the bridging ground of affect, where contested terrains of thinking and feeling loop together into a compositional fold. I argue that an exploration of the plastic nature of the compositional fold is at the core of experimental or ‘avant-garde’ architectural design research of the last decade. It can also be argued that a new compositional paradigm is emerging, one that is yet to be clearly articulated. Acts of thinking and feeling have a history of conflict. The common assumption is that we think clearly when we are not feeling too much; feeling interferes with and muddies rational thought. To be objective, a state of judgment highly prized by our academic traditions, is to think and perceive without being influenced by personal emotion or feeling. We are so familiar with these ideas that they seem almost obvious. But there are any number of instances through which the apparently obvious becomes clearly questionable. The experience of designing is one such instance. Anyone experienced in the act of design composition knows that both rational thought and states of aesthetic feeling are crucial to practice. We cannot simply analyse scientifically nor can we just rely on forces of feeling. We tend to oscillate between these modes of knowing. But in those moments when the project seems to be ‘coming together,’ we cannot clearly separate one mode of knowing from the other. Thinking and feeling no longer seem separated across an oscillation. They fold together through an emergent overflow. I call this the compositional fold.
THE COMPOSITIO N A L FO L D, A FFECT A ND TH E E M E RGE NT
Conflict implies a struggle or a battle, a clash of divergent forces. Characteristically, moments of conflict involve the experience of tension, of a suspension in a struggle for resolution. It is not clear what will happen next because negotiations between conflicting forces are still in play. Moments such as these are affectively charged, thick with the feeling of feeling. In conflicts between people, for instance, emotions such as anger, fear and passion deeply influence and propel the event. But here I am talking about the emotive, which is not quite the same as the affective. Affect is often associated with, or thought to mean, emotion. Brian Massumi argues that affect needs to be understood as being part of but not reducible to the emotive.1 Massumi reiterates William James assertion that “we don’t run because we feel afraid, we feel afraid because we run.”2 Affect sparked the running and running unraveled affect into fear. Emotions turn affect into gestures or postures, operating within experience in a similar way that form operates within design process. Emotions and forms both emerge through modulating, molding and rearticulating affect. Affect is an abstract level of embodiment because it is inseparable from our bodies, but yet to be molded and directed into specified gestures, thoughts, emotions and forms. Affect, the ‘force’ of pure relations, is the shared ground of thinking and feeling. Composition, understood in the simplest terms, refers to the way in which we draw something together into a coherent whole. It is the way in which we mold and direct affect into form. By ‘coherent whole’ I do not necessarily mean to imply a seamless unity. A whole might be dominated by disjuncture and conflict, which characterise the nature of it as an event or thing (i.e. as a perceived whole). Composition is not necessarily about the resolution of conflict, as it can simply involve the holding together of conflicting elements and forces into something more than the sum of its constituents. Conflict might remain, but something emerges through it, an overflow that holds it together in a resonant tension. That something is the ‘compositional fold’: an assemblage of relations that amount to abstract feelings and unnamable thoughts.
When something arises that is clearly not reducible to the sum or properties of its parts, it is emergent. The compositional fold is an emergent phenomenon. The idea of emergence is one that developed into a discernable field of discourse that peaked in the 1920s and again in the 1990s. My interest in this discursive field, its philosophical problems and its historical development has been fuelled by its quite clear affinity with the discourse of architectural composition and aesthetics. Along with some satisfying historical concurrence, both discursive fields arose as attempts to mediate conflicts between aesthetic and rational modes of knowing and doing. Or, in other words, they both arose as an effort to negotiate the conflict between feeling and thinking. The ground of such a negotiation, as I have been suggesting, is the operations of affect. T HE EMERG EN CE OF CO M PO S IT IO N T HEO RY
While composition, as Robin Evans writes, “is where the geometry of architecture is usually sought,”3 geometry is not always where composition is sought. In fact, composition seemed to have emphatically arrived as an idea just as geometry was loosing grip on its superior status. Colin Rowe, in his essay Character and Composition, contends that the word composition “really entered the English architectural vocabulary as a result of the formal innovations of the Picturesque, and… was conceived as being peculiarly applicable to the new, free, asymmetrical organisations which could not be comprehended within the aesthetic categories of the academic tradition.”4 In continental Europe, he argues that another comparable evolution was linked to the rationale of Romantic Classicism. But in England, Rowe observes that in early nineteenth century publications, “the words ‘composition,’ ‘character,’ ‘effect,’ ‘interest,’ and ‘expression’ are liberally scattered; and the further these architects succeed in emancipating themselves from the Anglo-Palladian tradition, the more prone they are to the use of this new vocabulary.”5 The turn to the idea of composition in the Picturesque climate of the eighteenth century was related to a shift from a belief in the truth-value of geometry – or form in itself – to the perception or effects of form. As part of an attention to
a field of perceptual, picturesque movement, ties between particular formal conventions and types of buildings were loosened, giving rise to a surplus of choice from a smorgasbord of styles. The use of the idea of ‘character’ prevailed as a way of transcending style, enabling a mixing of stylistic manners in the production of character appropriate to the task at hand. It is important to recognise here that the rise of the idea of architectural character offers a no less abstract way of defining the aesthetic standards of architecture than mathematical or geometrical systems, it was just endowed with more movement and vagueness of measure.6 Theories of architectural composition became an intensified field of academic endeavor in the early twentieth century. This peaked with a notable expansion of literature on the subject in the 1920s.7 The emphasis shifted away from stylistic typologies, turning toward underlying diagrammatic principles constituting ‘the grammar of design.’ This phrase was adopted by Trystan Edward’s influential treatise of aesthetics The Things Which Are Seen (1921),8 which proposed number, punctuation and inflection as the foundations of beauty. Edwards later worked these principles into his book Architectural Style (1926) to be republished in 1945 as Style and Composition in Architecture and reworked yet again twenty-two years later in Towards Tomorrow’s Architecture (1968). The shift toward diagrammatic principles in the 1920’s attempted to reconcile modernist and traditional positions. Modernist orientations stood starkly against the historicist backdrop of the liberal mixing and remixing of styles and manners. For progressive modernism it became an issue of the One outlined against the many; holding a boldly delineated stance sharply silhouetted against a blurry field of laissez faire nostalgia. Painterly notions such as character were no longer adequate in holding these new conflicts within the one field. New tools were required, which took the form of diagrammatically plastic principles of composition. Edwards proclaimed that his grammar of design “enables us to appreciate the qualities which distinguish all manners of building whether they be past or present, of the West or of the East.”9 These early years of the twentieth century also involved an intense development of functionalist approaches to architecture, based on rational and systemic analyses of the architectural program. In Hyungmin Pai’s study of American Modernism, he argues that composition theory sustained a zone of academic architectural endeavor while keeping rationalization at bay:
“Composition, as a set of analytical procedures and perceptual effects, could thus avoid being entangled with the rationalized procedure of planning”.10 Composition was a way of asserting the significance of the aesthetic within the new field of rationalist abstraction. The new compositional principles bridged between traditional and modernist approaches through standards of aesthetic measure attuned to scientific reductionism. Alongside these texts on architectural composition, the manifestos of the modern movement were simultaneously proliferating, embracing the logic of scientific rationalization. Either way, but in different ways, affective intensity was fostered in partnership with the agendas of cool objective calculation. In terms of the historical developments that subsequently unfolded, the modern movement triumphed over composition theory, thoroughly installing into architectural discourse a rejection of aesthetic categories for more scientifically oriented standards of measure.11 In 1947, Seigfried Giedion lamented the modernist rejection of aesthetic values: “In our period, feeling seems to be much more difficult than thinking. Man is able to invent nearly everything he wants in science and in all kinds of gadgets; but as soon as we approach the emotional, or, if you prefer, the aesthetic sphere, we meet the strongest resistance… The result is that aesthetic values born out of the spirit of our period remain ignored.”12 Nevertheless, a strong coherent aesthetic consistency still operated at the core of the canons of modernist architecture, accepted as a recognizable international style. However, in what amounted to a pathological denial, architecture became ill equipped to account for its own aesthetic dimensions; a deficiency that the discipline has only recently shown some nascent signs of recovery from. TH E EMERG EN CE OF E M E RGE NT IS M
The development of composition theory in Britain in the 1920’s occurred at the same time that emergence theory was also gaining prominence. These two discursive fields shared a close affinity that indicates deeper philosophical implications embedded within the composition theories of this period.
The word ‘emergence’ was first used in English during the sixteenth century, as “a fancy and learned way to refer to the process of coming up out of the sea.”13 This remains an amusingly apt kernel for the subsequent development of the term, which has become a name for something that, in its strongest forms, eludes causal explanation or whose processes of coming-into-being are untrackable. Emergent phenomena are properties that seem to exist at a different epistemological and/or ontological level to the interactions that generate them. They are properties of a whole that seem magically both inseparable and disconnected from the properties of its parts. As such, emergence is a construct that seeks to explain how novelty arises, whether that is new species of life, innovative theories or technical objects. In other words, emergence intrinsically concerns processuality and how things are created or generated. As such, an appeal to emergence is also an appeal to principles of composition, in the double sense of referring to both properties of the whole and the process of pulling together the parts. Quite apart from any historical connection, emergence has a significant intrinsic affinity with composition and the creative processes of design. The term ‘emergent’ was introduced as a philosophical concept in 1875 by George Henry Lewes in Problems of Life and Mind.14 This initiated a new field of philosophical enquiry that reached its zenith in the 1920’s, in a movement known as emergent evolutionism15 or the British Emergentists,16 which targeted a middle ground between the mechanists and the vitalists, in a non-reductive materialism.17 Again, the split between body and soul or matter and mind were being folded together. In the very particular intellectual climate of Britain in the 1920s, both composition theory and emergence theory were employed to temper the advance of more stringent forms of scientific or modernist reductionism, while also dancing to its tune. Both carried out a simultaneous defense and assimilation. Constructs of emergence and composition have played a similar discursive role in offering a folding together of two forms of knowing: the holistic, aesthetic and sensate, commonly associated with feeling, and the reductive, scientific and analytical, commonly associated with thinking. In short, at the basis of theories of composition and emergence is the fold of thinking-feeling: affect or embodied abstraction.
TH E G ROWTH OF SY ST E M IC A NA LYS IS
By the end of the 1920’s, the more radical forms of modern architecture arrived in Britain and composition theory was increasingly dismissed. Similarly, use of the term emergence in philosophical discourse had also declined by the late 1920’s. Debates regarding emergence came back into active currency in the 1990’s, when it proliferated across diverse fields of research. In the interim fifty or sixty years, a series of mathematical, scientific and philosophically intertwined fields accumulated a range of concepts, tools and techniques which provided the ways and means to reveal factors involved in the production of emergent phenomena. In the fields of social theory and urban planning, the work of Jane Jacobs, most famously The Death and Life of Great American Cities of 1961, brought the notion of self-organising systems to urban systems thinking. Michael Ostwald, in his doctoral thesis Multidirectional Appropriations of Theory between Architecture and the Sciences of Complexity (1998), clustered together the works of Jane Jacobs, Robert Venturi, Christopher Alexander and Lucien Kroll as those comprising “the canon of architectural complexity prior to the influence of various appropriations, slippages and migrations from Complexity Science”18. This included the work of Peter Eisenman, Charles Jenks, Ushida Findaly and Co-op Himmelblau, amongst others. Ostwald’s analysis of the connections and borrowings between complexity science and architecture was constrained by his delimitation of the term ‘complexity science’ as referring “only to the combination of chaos theory, nonlinear dynamics and fractal geometry.”19 There is another lineage that traces a path from cybernetics through both evolutionary biology and computational theory, toward emergence. One figure whose work spans much of this history is John Frazer, who was a student of cybernetician Gordon Pask. Frazer’s book An Evolutionary Architecture published in 1995, was a culmination of work that began thirty years prior when he arrived at the Architectural Association (AA) in London as a student. Frazer’s lineage reaches back to the 1960’s when the AA was preoccupied, as he describes, with “issues of flexibility, impermanence, prefabrication, computers, robotics, and a global approach to energy, resources and culture.”20
Frazer locates Gordon Pask’s, The Architectural Relevance of Cybernetics published in 1969, as the key marker in the unfolding development of architecture and cybernetics. Pask claims that a desire for systems oriented thinking was implicit in the novel techniques developed over the previous 80 years or so, but that there was no theory for this. Pask cites the Fun Palace, a project he was involved in with Cedric Price from 1960, as a key example of the systems thinking in architecture at the time. The public unveiling of the Fun Palace in 1961 coincided with the launch of the Archigram group, who shared an orientation toward the architecture of event and mobility. Peter Cook’s 1967 book Architecture: action and plan21 consolidates a certain attitude of the time toward architecture’s transient, responsive, reconfigurable future. His book brings together very diverse architectural examples that thread together, he writes, through the “search for absolutes [which] lies behind most experimental or definitive architecture.”22 In other words, his was a search for principles of composition. In this and other diverse examples from the period such as the work of Christopher Alexander and Peter Eisenman and the ekistics of Constantinos Dioxiadis, there is a common orientation toward diagrammatic analysis, where new techniques and approaches to understanding architectural problems were developed, as well as new diagrammatic modes of generating architectural solutions. In the 1960’s and 70’s, the architectural discipline was obsessed with diagrammatic, analytical, systemic processuality. The aesthetic dimensions of these discursive developments operated largely in a covert rather than an articulated manner. The embodied abstraction that operates at the folding core of both emergence and composition was not exactly suppressed, but it was, on the whole, denied acknowledgment. EMERG IN G COM PO S IT IO N
The historical linkages between composition and emergence theory continued with the return of emergence as a discursive philosophical concern in the mid1990’s in conjunction with the development of new theories of composition as an implicit project of the experimental architecture of the period.
Alongside the resurgence of debates regarding emergence in the 1990’s, which occurred in conjunction with developments in digital technology, there was a significant shift in the status of digital tools for architectural practices. These moved from periphery to centre stage, from anomaly to everyday. Drafting shifted from drawing board to computer. Collaborative communication and networking technologies and the gradual digitisation of design and fabrication processes ushered in significant shifts in the flows and rhythms of practice. On the edges of conventional practice and at the centre of avant-garde discourse, the opportunities offered by digital tools for generative architectural design processes were increasingly explored. The work of Greg Lynn had an influential impact, particularly through the publications Folding in Architecture (1993)23 and Animate Form (1999).24 Lynn’s key move was to link technology, technique and philosophy, offering both ways of doing and modes of thinking. Other significant contributions on the role of generative digital design technologies were made by Bernard Cache, Marcos Novak, Karl Chu, Lars Spuybroek, Mark Goulthorpe, Mark Burry, Tom Kovac, Reiser and Umemoto, UN Studio, Stan Allen, Jeffrey Kipnis, Sanford Kwinter and Michael Speaks. Experimental practices like Dilller and Scofidio, Arakawa and Gins, and Melbourne-based architects Ashton Raggatt McDougall and Minifie Nixon, have also been influential in their very idiosyncratic ways. A cluster of younger and more recently formed architectural practices, such as biothing, kokkugia, Arandah/ Lasch and the Emergence and Design Group are currently explicitly claiming processes of emergence as central to the concerns of their research. All of this diverse recent work could be loosely clustered together under the banner of ‘processual architecture.’ A defining moment for this field was the publication of Earth Moves (1995)25 by Bernard Cache, in which he unravels a classification system of architectural images pertaining to Deleuzian philosophy. His system is implicitly a theory of composition in the sense that his images operate as abstract principles for architectural operations, with a special attention to a ‘liquid ground’ of action pertaining to the primary image of inflection. Cache’s three images: vector, frame and inflection, resonate with Trystan Edwards’ three principles of number, punctuation and inflection. Cache’s manuscript was written in French in 1983, but was not translated and published until 1995, in the wake of Lynn’s Folding in Architecture (1993), with both sharing an explicit relation to Deleuzian philosophy.
A resurgence of discursive interest in the diagram in the late 1990s and early 2000s was another emphatic sign of a broader reappraisal of compositional principles. In a related philosophical project, Brian Massumi extended the architectural discourse on diagramming into a concept of the ‘biogram’ as an experientially based compositional guide. The subject of composition also crept out from the background in the AD publication Architecture After Geometry (1997) edited by Donald Bates and Peter Davidson of LAB Architecture Studio. Their editorial discusses composition as “a companion issue… that charts a similar, or at least a congruent territory.”26 This territory, they claim, is defined by the adoption of new techniques and tactics of architectural production that work against more established relations between architecture and geometry, through which the transcendental imperatives of geometry can be disrupted. While admitting that architectural production ends in geometry, they insist it need not start there. One can start with the production of texture fields, from which geometrical form is drawn out and emerges: “Rather than an operation circulating around degrees of correspondence to a pre-existent figure (grid, axis, concentric layering, symmetry, etc) the development of graphic space, liquid space, texture fields, pattern effects and field conditions is possible only in a context of emergent readability.”27 This book was full of textures, patterns, fields and swarms presented as generative, performative diagrams. The essay “From Object to Field” by Stan Allen, remains one of the more useful and influential texts of processual architecture. While Allen makes the cautionary point that field conditions “cannot claim (nor does it intend to claim) to produce a systematic theory of architectural form or composition,”28 his essay nonetheless concentrates on architectural composition as the main issue and makes the following distinctions: “If classical composition sought to maintain clear relations of figure on ground, which modern composition perturbed by the introduction of a complicated figure against figure, with digital technologies we have come to terms with the implications of a field-to-field relation. A shift of scale is involved and a necessary revision of compositional parameters implied.”29 One of the reasons that the essay remains influential ten years later, is that Allen is acutely aware of the relationship between field conditions and emer-
gence: “Field conditions are bottom-up phenomena: defined not by overarching geometrical schemas but by intricate local connections.”30 His essay offers working concepts that change in their encounter with the realities of practice. Allen discusses the field condition in relation to a broad range of architectural, art and urban examples. But how the field condition might operate within a meaningful process for generating a building is not something he addresses. The object cast in a field is a key property of processual architecture. This operates as forms that emerge through a field of spatial influence, and/or in an experiential body-architecture field. This emphasis can be found in Lynn’s call to work with a dynamic materialist space of forces, in which the object is part of, rather than separate to, the space in which it comes into being. In Lynn’s work, however, much of this field condition remained hidden in the black backgrounds of his digital animations. Spatial texture in itself was not visualised, but implied and made active in the effects it had on the forms within it. In Architecture After Geometry, the field of spatial texture was foregrounded as a formal device where a field of relations becomes visualised and central to the design process. With the exception of Jeff Kipnis’s School of Fish display systemsculpture and Greg Lynn’s Hydrogen House and related generative process, work in this book was largely mobilised through plan-based investigations. Graphic texture fields become the material from which form is drawn out, predominantly through extrusion. From a compositional perspective, it’s interesting to note that these graphic fields are employed in a way that can be likened to the old Beaux-Arts methods of indication. David Varon’s Indication in Architectural Design (1916) promotes the technique of indication as graphic and visual skills for “training the eye and hand.”31 This involved the drawing out of form from the simpler, more diagrammatic lines of the esquisse. In public lectures Donald Bates and Peter Davidson have often discussed “hand to eye coordination” in relation to their design processes, which begin with graphic textures from which a developed architectural proposition is gradually drawn out. Interesting relationships with pre-modernist, traditional approaches to architectural composition become implied here. Hyungmin Pai points out that “we must remember that the essence of BeauxArts vision was in the ability to see and draw through the density of overlapping traces, to envision the possibilities within the lines and surfaces.”32 The problem of drawing form out of textured fields is an endemic one for processual architec-
ture. While the Beaux-Arts method of indication begins with a fine skeletal frame or rigid boundary within which the lines and surfaces gather density through the enumeration of detail, these contemporary methods of â€˜drawing outâ€™ tend to be intricately detailed before becoming simpler. Of greater significance is the meltdown of the rigid frame, which deforms and develops as part of the whole developmental picture in which all components are embroiled in interactions of mutual affect. I will briefly discuss three final year design thesis projects by RMIT Architecture professional degree students where this plays out.
1 Peter Ryan, A Character-Building Experience, Thesis Project, Bachelor of Architecture, RMIT, 2002, character properties. 2 Peter Ryan, A Character-Building Experience, formal rationalisation.
3 Peter Ryan, A Character-Building Experience, characterised masterplan. 4 Peter Ryan, A Character-Building Experience, landscape plan. 5 Peter Ryan, A Character-Building Experience, render of school buildings.
The thesis project A Character Building Experience, designed by Peter Ryan and supervised by Paul Minifie, involved an extraordinary amount of effort to develop a generative system for the design of a school in suburban Melbourne. Using characters from the TV show The Simpsons as the basic ‘score’ or reference point, Ryan generated a range of different agent characters based on numerical figures given to ‘speed’, ‘sharpness’, ‘acuity’ and ‘diligence’. These properties were related to things like the frequency at which the agent would check for repulsions and attractions. Agents/characters were programmed with relationships between one another. The ‘teachers pet’ was attracted to the teacher and staff room areas, while the ‘nerd’ would always try to avoid the ‘bully’ who in turn would chase the ‘nerd’. A complex network of field relations was generated. The problem of how to draw the form of the school out of this field was eventually developed through another layer of codes related to ‘technique’, ‘building’, ‘threshold’ and ‘landscape’ which offered guidelines for the architectural effects of the trajectories. The very deliberate attention to ‘character’ as an issue gave an immediate qualitative edge to the coded relations of the project. This focus on character resonates with the early days of composition theory and the picturesque. What seemed especially interesting to me was the variety of line qualities created in the trajectories of the various agent characters. The quality of the line became discernable and important, in a way that has been missing amidst the proliferation of curves in many recent architectural projects. Here, there seemed to be glimmers of promise for compositional tools engaging with the qualitative differentiation between one curve and another, one curvilinear formal gesture and another. The emphasis here is on the behavioral tendencies of the line or curve.
6 Roland Snooks, Negotiations in the Emergent Field, Thesis Project, Bachelor of Architecture, RMIT, 2003, agent ďŹ elds.
7 Roland Snooks, Negotiations in the Emergent Field, ďŹ nal project render.
The thesis project Negotiations in the Emergent Field designed by Roland Snooks (now of kokkugia), also supervised by Paul Minifie, developed a three dimensional field through agent interactions. Agents were conceived from little chunks of program, having a set of behaviors related to their attraction or repulsion to other agents as well as their attraction to various aspects of their surroundings (street frontage, adjacent programs, height etc). Once a swarm of these agents began to generate recursive patterns or demonstrate some sort of stability, it was deemed to have found a degree of equilibrium and was stopped. Snooks then overlaid a grid, extrapolated from column grids of the surrounding built fabric. Nodes of this grid were programmed to respond to the agent swarm in particular ways. For example, the grid compressed when in proximity to programs such as cafes to create laneways, and expanded when in proximity to office space to create clear span space. A third simulation was generated to carve out public space through the various program areas, where agents where programmed to enact various basic urban relationships. Like the previous two processes this was run through many iterations with an eye for the emergence of coherent figures from the traces of their movement. Curves were selectively chosen out of the swarm in order to generate surfaces. Snooks explained that the design of this process involved developing a satisfying balance between bottom up generative process and top down decision-making. Drawing out the forms was a very slow and difficult task that involved sensing a whole within the simulation and trying to draw out surfaces faithful to that simulation.
Snooks’ project seems quite reminiscent of Beaux-Arts compositional techniques such as indication. As Pai describes it, “indication was not merely a static method of redrawing but a mechanism of altering and transforming.”33 This involved cultivating “the ability to move from simple diagrammatic lines to detailed form – a process that may be called figuration – and the complimentary skill of drawing simple lines with a generative idea in mind – the capacity for abstraction.”34 It is as if recent digital processes in architecture have, as part of an evocation of the aesthetic dimensions of composition, begun to draw back on its academic history.
8 Miniﬁe Nixon, Corner Study, 2001.
9 Miniﬁe Nixon, Harbour Study, 2001.
A third thesis project Highly Evolved, by Jonathan Podborsek (also now of kokkugia), worked with fields of influence that were not visualised as swarms as in the previous two examples. While the invisible field was a key aspect, this project gave more emphasis to the negotiation between forms within such a field. Paul Minifie, who again supervised the project, had previously appropriated Ken Brakke’s mathematics software Evolver to work with triply periodic minimal surfaces for his architectural projects Habour Study and Corner Study, exhibited at the Archilab convention in Orleans, 2001. Evolver was developed by Brakke for modelling liquid surfaces shaped by various forces and constraints. It takes planar formal descriptions and refines surfaces so that their surface area is minimised and they exhibit behavior similar to that of soap bubbles.
10 Jonathan Podborsek, Highly Evolved, Thesis Project, Bachelor of Architecture, RMIT, 2004, early Evolver tests.
11 Jonathan Podborsek, Highly Evolved, ďŹ nal tower render.
Podborsek explored the software somewhat differently to Minifie, using it to generate far less pure mathematically formal descriptions. His project was a high-rise tower composed as three intertwining strands of form related to office, residential and void spaces. The relationship of the three strands was generated through a three-dimensional cellular automata program. This block model was then ‘evolved’ into a far more bulbous, knotted, plait-like form. The ‘void’ strand was then extracted, revealing the shared surfaces between this and the other two strands. The nature of these shared surfaces seemed to most clearly articulate the potential of the design research, if only because of their surprising elegance. These surfaces embodied, not metaphorically but literally, a highly efficient but complex negotiation between two conditions; the feeling of perfectly balanced mutual affectivity. They were surfaces of negotiation, expressing the mutually held affects of a relationship between adjacent zones of force and constraint. While, visually at least, this was a less explicitly complex generative process than the former two examples, its simplicity acted to articulate the poignancy of the mutual affectivity that was a key aspect of all these compositions.
12 Alisa Andrasek, Practice: biothing, The Invisibles, animation, 2003, a series of morphologies from the animation showing both the rendered ‘skin’ and the ‘bones’ that underlie that skin. 13 Alisa Andrasek, Practice: biothing, The Invisibles, sample morphological stance. 14 Alisa Andrasek, Practice: biothing, The Invisibles, diagram of speed-distribution and cellular relationships. These affect rotations in a skeletal ﬁeld that in turn affect the movement of the skin. 15 Alisa Andrasek, Practice: biothing, biﬁd, ‘crea-
ture’ during installation at the KSA Gallery, Ohio State University, 2006. 16 Alisa Andrasek, Practice: biothing, poli::mat, a genetically designed surface system proposed for MOMA PS1 Warm Up series as a poly-use accessory. It’s variable patterns are derived through computational algorithms by scripting relationships of speed distribution through the cellular ﬁeld. Higher number of speed increases intricacy of a pattern, while decreases depth of surface. 17 Alisa Andrasek, Practice: biothing, Pavilion Design, 2007.
biothing is another young practice, founded by Alisa Andrasek, in which processes of emergence are an explicit interest. biothing has developed techniques of design composition that intrinsically involve computation, working with fields constituted by a very deep ecology of relationships.35 biothing’s way of working involves multitudes of micro-components ‘wired’ together into a behavioral network such that the resulting forms emerge from this network of interrelated fields of micro-behaviors. This is played out through both digital and analogue models. Andrasek was in residence at the Spatial Information Architecture Laboratory (SIAL) at RMIT University, Melbourne in 2006. She laser-cut the first physical model for her project bifid at SIAL and I was able to literally play with this model, feeling out its behavioral tendencies. During a seminar on ‘Material Potency’ that she offered as part of a design studio that we ran together, she would often evocatively orient the design investigations of the RMIT Architecture students towards the production of ‘creatures’. This is quite different to biomorphism as an approach because it is not about looking like or formally resembling a living thing. Rather, a pattern of relations is built into a physical model such that the behaviors of both the manufactured pattern, a colony of variationally repeated units constructed out of strips of material, and properties of the physical material actively co-determine the nature of the creature’s swarming morphology, which comes into being at a different scale and ontology to the ecology of relations
through which it emerged. The relations that constitute biothing’s compositional entities cannot be singled out: they are never experienced in isolation, not even as some part of a whole. As a multitude engaged in an emergent process of composition, they generate patterns or textures of multiple, mostly invisible relations. What we aesthetically experience is an all-over, over-all consistency. My interest in biothing’s work has centred around the idea that the aesthetic power of the projects is integral to this mutual affectivity,36 a property that was also constitutive of Ryan’s and Snooks’ swarm fields and rendered very explicit in Podborsek’s surfaces of negotiation. The Emergence and Design Group and their recent AD publication, Emergence: Morpho-genetic Design Strategies, have taken the growing interest in emergence and design to an even more explicit level. The publication offered a very useful investigation into the potential of emergence for design practice. Both Lars Spuybroek and this group draw significantly on the work of Frei Otto, who exemplifies a focus on embedding structural behavior into processes of emergent form-finding. This takes le Corbusier’s enthusiasm for the ‘engineer-aesthetic’ through to an engagement with new tools and techniques. I approach the subject with a different question in mind: what do design processes modeled on emergence imply for the ethico-aesthetic know-how of architectural practice? A compelling dimension of all the examples above is the strong sense of vitality they present us with. There is a powerful sense of event in which a balance is struck between the out-of-control and the intricately precise. But this balance is less between them, than vitally overflowing and encapsulating them both. All the work in this cluster of experimental architecture has foregrounded processes of formation as constituting key properties or defining conditions of the product. Built outcomes became emphatically responsive, interactive and/ or experientially challenging, while design processes became products in themselves, in what has become known as ‘designing the design’. As an extension of the systemic processuality of the 1960s, this field of work operated to further unsettle the clarity of distinction between process and product. But not only has it been technologically able to take this in new directions, it has bought a plasticity of thinking-feeling through both form and process into a far more emphatic expression. This lies at the heart of key conflicts in contemporary architectural discourse.
EROTIC PLA ST IC IT Y
The cool objectivity of modernism was unsettled by the covert operations of its aesthetic dimension. A pertinent sensibility clash within 1960s modernism was caricatured in Reyner Banham’s 1968 essay “Triumph of Software” in New Society, where he compares the film Barbarella’s “ambience of curved, pliable, continuous, breathing, adaptable surfaces” with “all that grey plastic and crackle-finish metal, and knobs and switches, all that… yech… hard-ware!”37 in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001. Both films were made in 1968. An image from 2001 of a seminaked male lying somewhat impassively relaxed in a hard surfaced, hard edged environment is juxtaposed with an image of Barbarella in tight, sheer garments and on all fours in her fur-lined space ship, looking a little startled. Banham’s short essay paints a picture of a battle between the behind-the-times hardies and the finger-on-the-pulse softies. Banham, being a softie, celebrates that which he sees as the “whole vision” of the film as “one in which hardware is fallible, and software (animate or otherwise) usually wins.”38 Sylvia Lavin briefly addresses Banham’s essay on Barbarella in her 2002 essay “Plasticity at Work”.39 She critiques the opposition Banham sets up between hardware and software, arguing that the plasticity of the ‘soft’ bought something repressed within ‘hard’ modernity to the surface. She tracks the role of plasticity in architectural discourse back to Vitruvius’s Ten Books, where he codified the ‘plastic arts’ as derived from the Greek term plassien, or ‘to mould’.40 The plastic arts were rooted in the material and manual labour of ceramics, stucco, plaster and sculpture and were distinguished from the ‘higher’ liberal arts which pertained to abstract rather than material properties. Architecture is a liberal art, not a plastic art. However, by the turn of the twentieth century, the abstract breeding ground of the liberal, abstract art of architecture had become plastic. If architecture is a pure creation of the mind, it embodies the mind’s plasticity: “almost every major modern architect… was interested in this kind of plasticity and claimed it as a distinguishing and privileged feature of modernism itself.”41 Implicitly, the mind and the abstract adopted a more material inflection: the compositional fold of embodied abstraction was becoming palpable. Barbarella
becomes a comic caricature of the scene, powerfully suggesting the very emergent nature of this new abstract-material plasticity: “the ocean from which Venus emerges becomes in Barbarella the erotic plastic landscape of the chamber of dreams.”42 The soft, responsive pliability of plastic became one literal sign, amongst others, of the growth a soft, sensual, affective sensibility that had long been implicitly embedded in the embodied nature of architecture’s abstraction. In other words, there was not so much an opposition between soft and hard or plasticity and rigidity, but a transformational surfacing of a sensibility implicitly embedded in the background, or submerged but now “coming up out of the sea”, an emergence of the implicit aesthetic dimensions that gave covert power to the explicitly systemic. A FFECTIV E EN V IRO NM E NT S
After the last decade of digital exploration, it is clear that digital technology in itself is not the primary issue, but simply part of a larger equation. The broad socio-economic atmosphere in which we are currently situated seems to increasingly display emergent behavior: our systems becoming responsive, decentralised, self-perpetuating networks demonstrating life-like activity to which no simple cause and effect relations can be attributed. Think of the stock market, reality TV, the intertwinement of media, politics and the multitude, terrorism, mobile phone swarming. These very contemporary situations all blur distinctions between process and product. In the midst of this blurring, affective dimensions of experience become primary. The collective effects of mood on the movements of the stock market are widely acknowledged. Moods and atmospheres are emergent. The interest within contemporary architecture in emergence is not occurring in a void, but in a moody or affective environment where the compositional fold becomes more emphatic and crucial to our ways of working. Lavin argues that modernity itself was “disfigured by a plastic already embedded in modernity’s ideology.”43 This disfigurement resonates with the early work of her partner Greg Lynn. His ‘blob’ animations quite literally disfigured
simple forms such as spheres and prisms in filmic sequences whose qualities could aptly be described as exceptionally plastic. Lavin’s arguments in “Plasticity at Work” are further developed in her book on Richard Neutra, Form Follows Libido, published a few years later. In her introduction she writes that this “study seeks to explore the zones of affective intensity that came to infiltrate the cool and neutral spaces of modernism.”44 Lavin gave birth to their first child while finishing the fourth chapter of the book, “Birth Trauma”. This was in the late 90’s, around the time that Lynn’s Embryological Houses were being widely published. If something was conceived around that time, it is perhaps lodged in her question regarding why Neutra’s work is still considered to be contemporary.45 This leads to her final remarks that “today’s interest in Neutra, the moodiest of architects, reveals that architecture… [is] again able to generate new affective environments.”46 If Neutra’s affective sensibilities are contemporary, then Lavin must have some particular contemporary architecture in mind. In drawing attention to Neutra’s part in a history of relations between architecture and psychoanalysis (or the analysis of affects) she associates his work with both Peter Eisenman and Frank Gehry. But in her relationship with Lynn, there is perhaps an even more poignant association. When Richard Neutra did his lectures, his wife Dione would often play the cello in the background. Her cello playing was a clear attention to the construction of affective environments or background mood. Like Dione’s music swirling around and through Richard’s lectures, Greg’s architectural plasticity could be considered as the atmospheric in which Sylvia speaks of a contemporary, affective sensibility, emerging by stealth out of the compositional practices of contemporary process architecture. TH E CONTEMPOR A RY CO NFL IC T
In the patterns perceived across the earlier historical examples related to emergence and composition theory, there was always some kind of conflict that these theories acted to mediate, through establishing a shared ground of negotiation. If this is a pattern that is being repeated in contemporary architecture, how might we see the nature of the related conflict? Despite the quite intensive and diverse academic research into architectur-
al design process that has occurred in the field of processual architecture, any reciprocal or related work on the nature or assessment of design products has remained, at best, peripheral. It is not that the products of architecture have not been discussed, ad infinitum, but that the relationship between a studied articulation of process and the nature of the outcome is a stunningly rare discussion. The recent RMIT doctoral thesis on architectural composition by Shane Murray (2004), opens such a discussion and suggests something of the conflict being grappled with in the revived attention to composition. His research explored the disjunction between the actuality of design process and its discursive authorisations, setting out to demonstrate a closure of this gap through accounts of his own architectural design work and his approach to composition. Murray argues that “much architectural execution relies on compositional procedures that have direct historical precedent within the history of architectural composition but that these are rarely, if ever, disclosed.”47 He is very critical of the tendencies of design discourse to call upon authorizations that are not embedded in the actuality of their process. Addressing architectural discourse of the past 30 years, Murray comments that: “what has actually taken place is a substantial change in the discourse and pre-design investigation that surrounds architectural production that still however avoids or is unable to account for what is entailed in architectural composition. It can still be observed that discourse, including new forms of analysis, act as authorising or legitimising agents rather than attempting to actually inquire into what we do as architects.”48 Murray does not attempt to articulate a set of rules or principles that can be generalized for the use of designers. Rather, he points to the ‘signature’ of the designer or office as the basis of compositional practices, and highlights the manner in which this is realised, in the double sense of being both developed and understood, through engagements with contingency: site, architectural culture and architectural expression.49 For Murray, it is an understanding of what a particular “formal language” does that opens the path to a more productive integration between the actuality of design process and the nature of the design product. Murray’s turn back toward architectural composition as a subject of discussion is another instance in which a desire to connect divergences or temper the fall of a transcendent authority enters the scene. In this case the flailing authority was philosophy and critical theory, which enjoyed a privileged status in the
1980’s and 1990’s. A big shift in this status was marked by the final issue of Assemblage, published in 2000. The editors, K. Michael Hays and Alicia Kennedy, make the emphatic point that: “The end of Assemblage has nothing to do with the end of theory… Rather, the transitional moment means that theoretical activity achieves a new excitement and urgency. We hear the antitheoretical rants to be sure, and, oddly enough, coming from deep within the theoretical camp.”50 Sure enough, this last edition, a collection of one (sometimes two) page contributions from those who had been published in Assemblage over the years, is riddled with references to, celebrations of and discussion regarding ‘the end of theory’. It is interesting to note that this edition also publishes Greg Lynn’s story, “A New Style of Life”, which in itself is an enactment of a turn away from theory toward different kinds of writing. Hayes and Kennedy, while rejecting the finality of ends, do promote the idea that the work of theory ”now demands new formats, new styles, new modalities.”51 This is reiterated in the last essay, and final word, of the edition by Robert Somol, who offers a bitingly sharp, provocatively critical and amusing synopsis of architectural discourse at the time. He bemoans the stagnation of criticality into increasingly predictable ‘end-state’ forms and suggests that both writing and design “under the regime of criticality have become commoditized, and it remains for future configurations to see whether they can be rechannelled to the new economies and ecologies of experience and engage new audiences.”52 My own doctoral research and Murray’s recent thesis are, in part, responses to this ‘falling out’ of critical theory and an attempt to establish some new ground and fresh forms of consensus. In Melbourne, the research community at RMIT’s School of Architecture and Design has given significant attention to models of research by project. This has notably occurred through Peter Downton’s publications on the subject (2003, 2004),53 through Leon van Schaik’s practice based postgraduate streams and publications (2003, 2005),54 and Mark Burry’s ‘embedded practice’ doctoral model. Ways of integrating theoretical scholarship and research through practicing remain a key concern.
TH E MATER IA L RU PT U RE
“Solidity is the first quality a building must have.” (1753)55 There is another significant rupture or conflict that is at stake in this contemporary reappraisal of composition, that being the conflict between the insistent stasis of buildings and the interest in explicit movement within contemporary architectural discourse. Given that buildings have always been the artefact that defines the discipline of architecture, I argue that it seemed that “the foundations of authority upon which architecture has curated itself have begun to crack.”56 In foregrounding processes of formation as constituting the key properties or defining conditions of the architectural product, processual architecture might be seen, and has been seen, to be either irrelevant to the discipline proper, or throwing that which constitutes the discipline into question.57 This is related to the idea that through the use of all these digital and virtual realities, we were somehow becoming disembodied and out of touch with the concrete reality of the world. I am arguing here that the key to establishing a shared ground of negotiation between conservative views about the ‘proper’ limits of the discipline and more experimental trajectories, between the perceived stasis of buildings and the movements of process, and between the physical actuality of bodies and the intangibility of ‘virtual worlds’, lies in the abstract but embodied reality of affect.
1 See Brian Massumi, Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation, Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2002. 2 “He means ‘consciously afraid.’ We have already begun to experience fear nonconsciously, wrapped in action, before it unfurls from it and is felt as itself, in its distinction from the action with which it arose.” Brian Massumi, “Fear (The Spectrum Said),” in Positions: East Asia Cultures Critique, Durham and London: Duke University Press, Vol 13, no. 1, 2005, p 36.
3 Robin Evans, The Projective Cast. Architecture and Its Three Geometries, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1995, p. xxxi. 4 Colin Rowe, “Character and Composition; or Some Vicissitudes of Architectural Vocabulary in the Nineteenth Century,” in The Mathematics of the Ideal Villa and Other Essays, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1988, p. 65. 5 Ibid. 6 The way in which I understand the term ‘abstract’ departs from the common idea of abstraction as a withdrawal from material ac-
tuality. Rather, the abstract is transpositional or nonlocal; able to move, transformationally, through and between diverse instances. This describes the nature of affect, as embodied abstraction. For a detailed development of this understanding of both affect and the abstract, see Brian Massumi, Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation, Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2002. 7 Publications of the 1920s included John Harbeson’s The Study of Architectural Design (1926), John Theodore Haneman’s A Manual of Architectural Compositions (1923), Howard Robertson’s The Principles of Architectural Composition (1924), Nathaniel Curtis’s Architectural Composition (1926), Trystan Edward’s Architectural Style (1926) and Robert Atkinson and Hope Bagenal’s Theory and Elements of Architecture (1926). These built upon a collection of early 20th century texts such as John Belcher’s Essentials in Architecture (1907), John Beverly Robinson’s Architectural Composition (1908) and David Jacob Varon’s Indication in Architectural Design (1916). 8 Howard Robertson, a principle of the Architectural Association in London, acknowledged and elaborated upon Edwards principles in his own theories of composition, similarly separating “abstract composition” from the “elements” of composition. 9 Tystan Edwards, Towards Tomorrow’s Architecture: The Triple Approach, London: Phoenix House, 1945, pp. 27-8. 10 Hyungmin Pai, The Portfolio and the Diagram: Architecture Discourse and Modernity in America, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2002, p. 106 11 RMIT Professor Peter Downton has related to me that when first tutoring in architectural design at the University of Melbourne in 1973, academic staff were expressly forbidden to make aesthetic comments on student work, having to confine themselves to functionally related issues with some basis in science. 12 Seigfried Giedion, Architecture You and Me: The Diary of a Development, London: Oxford
University Press, 1958, pp. 68-69. 13 Joseph Earley, “How Dynamic Aggregates May Achieve Effective Integration,” in Advances in Complex Systems, Vol 6, no. 1, World Scientific Publishing Company, 2002. Earley cites his source as L. Brown (ed.), The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon, 1993. 14 See Brian McLaughlin, “Emergence and Supervience,” in Intellectica, No. 25, 1997, pp. 25-43. 15 Jeffrey Goldstein, “Emergence as a construct: history and issues,” in Emergence: Organisation and Complexity, Vol. 1, no. 1, 1999, pp. 49-72. 16 Brian McLaughlin dubbed this movement “British Emergentism”; see: Brian McLaughlin, “Emergence and Supervience,” in Intellectica, no. 25, pp. 25-43. 17 The publications usually cited as central to this 1920s discourse on emergentism are Samuel Alexander’s Space, Time and Diety (1920), Roy Wood Cellars’s Evolutionary Naturalism (1922), Conway Lloyd Morgan’s Emergent Evolution (1923) and Charles Dunbar Broad’s The Mind and it’s Place in Nature (1925). 18 Michael Ostwald, Multidirectional Appropriations of Theory between Architecture and the Sciences of Complexity, PhD Thesis, University of Newcastle, 1998, p 58. 19 Ibid, p. 54. 20 John Frazer, “The cybernetics of architecture: a tribute to the contribution of Gordon Pask,” in Kybernetes, 30, 5/6, 2001, p. 643. 21 Peter Cook, Architecture: action and plan, London: Studio Vista; New York: Reinhold, 1967. 22 Ibid, p. 5. 23 Greg Lynn and Helen Castle (eds), Folding in Architecture, Architectural Design, Vol. 63, London: Wiley Academy Editions, 1993. 24 Greg Lynn, Animate Form, New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1999. 25 Bernard Cache, Earth Moves, Anne Boyman (trans), Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1995. This book was originally written in 1983 in French under the title Terre Meuble.
26 Donald Bates and Peter Davidson (eds), Architecture After Geometry, Architectural Design, Vol. 67, 5/6, London: Wiley, 1997, p. 11. 27 Ibid. 28 Stan Allen, “From Object to Field,” in Donald Bates and Peter Davidson (eds), Architecture After Geometry, Architectural Design, Vol. 67, 5/6, London: Wiley Academy Editions, 1997, p. 24. 29 Ibid, p. 29. 30 Ibid, p. 24. 31 David Varon, Indication in Architectural Design, New York: William D. Comstock, 1916, p. 19. 32 Hyungmin Pai, The Portfolio and the Diagram: Architectural Discourse and Modernity in America, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2002, p. 62. 33 Ibid, p. 46. 34 Ibid. 35 Pia Ednie-Brown, “All-Over, Over-All: biothing and Emergent Composition,” in Helen Castle, Michael Silver (eds), Programming Cultures: Art and Architecture in the Age of Software, Architectural Design, Vol 76, no. 4, London: Wiley, 2006. 36 Ibid. 37 Reyner Banham, “The Triumph of Software,” New Society, Vol 12, No 318, (October 1968) p. 629. 38 Reyner Banham, “The Triumph of Software,” p. 630. 39 Sylvia Lavin, “Plasticity at Work,” in Mood River, Ohio: Wexner Centre for the Arts, 2002, pp 74-81. 40 Sylvia Lavin, “Plasticity at Work,” p. 76. 41 Sylvia Lavin, “Plasticity at Work,” p. 77. 42 Sylvia Lavin, “Plasticity at Work,” p. 76. 43 Sylvia Lavin, “Plasticity at Work,” p. 75. 44 Sylvia Lavin, Form Follows Libido: Architecture and Richard Neutra in a Psychoanalytic Culture, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2004, p. 9. 45 Sylvia Lavin, Form Follows Libido, p. 4-6. 46 Sylvia Lavin, Form Follows Libido, p. 144. 47 Shane Murray, Architectural Design and
Discourse, Doctor of Philosophy (by project), Melbourne: RMIT University, 2004, p. 3. 48 Ibid, p. 18. 49 Ibid, p. 161. 50 K. Michael Hayes, Alicia Kennedy (eds), Editorial, Assemblage, no. 41, 2000, p. 6. 51 Ibid, p. 7. 52 Robert Somol, “In the Wake of Assemblage,” in Assemblage, no. 41, 2000, p. 93. 53 Peter Downton, Design Research, Melbourne: RMIT University Press, 2003; Peter Downton, Studies in Design Research: Ten Epistemological Pavilions, Melbourne: RMIT University Press, 2004. 54 Leon van Schaik (ed.), The Practice of Practice: research in the medium of design, Melbourne: RMIT University Press, 2003; Leon van Schaik, Mastering Architecture, Becoming a Creative Innovator in Practice, London: Wiley Academy, 2005. 55 Marc-Antoine Laugier, An Essay on Architecture, Wolfgang and Anni Herrmann (trans), Los Angeles: Hennessey and Ingals, 1977, p. 68. (ﬁrst published 1753). 56 Pia Ednie-Brown, “Falling into the Surface,” in Stephen Perrella (ed), Hypersurface Architecture II, Architectural Design, Vol 69, no. 9-10, London: Wiley, 1999, p. 8. 57 see Ostwald, “Freedom of Form: Ethics and Aesthetics in Digital Architecture,” in The Philosophical Forum, Vol XXXV, no. 2, 2004, pp. 201-220.
Notes on Contributors GABRIELA SEIFERT and GOETZ STOECKMANN are Directors of the architectural practice Seifert Stoeckmann, based in Frankfurt, Germany. In parallel they founded formalhaut (with Ottmar Hoerl) as a collaborative practice that undertakes installation and exhibition projects. Their work has been widely published and exhibited internationally at venues that include the German Pavilion, Venice Architecture Biennale, 2004 and the V&A Museum, London, 2005. Stoeckmann is a former Diploma Unit 13 Master, Architectural Association, London and Visiting Professor, Curtin University, Perth, Australia. Seifert is Professor, Vice Dean of the Faculty of Architecture, and Head of Studio 2, Institute for Design, Leopold-Franzens-University, Innsbruck, Austria. NARELLE YABUKA is an architectural writer currently based in Singapore. She is a former Lecturer at the Department of Architecture and Interior Architecture, Curtin University, Perth, Australia, where she taught with Goetz Stoeckmann, Curtin University Visiting Professor, in 2007. She contributed to the Seifert Stoeckmann/formalhaut exhibition Geometric Environments, at Moores Building Gallery, Fremantle, Perth, 2007. She published an interview with Stoeckmann, â€˜Formalhaut - Human Interventions in Nocturnal Landscapesâ€™, in Landscape Architecture Australia, Issue 119, 2008. GRAHAM CRIST, PETER JOHNS, BRENDAN JONES and SIMON WHIBLEY are Directors of the Melbourne-
based architectural practice Antarctica. Crist is an RMIT Architecture Senior Lecturer and former RMIT Architecture Program Director, and coordinates the RMIT Sustainable Architecture research stream. He contributed essays to Helen Lewis and Chris Ryan (Eds), Imaging Sustainability, Melbourne: RMIT University Press, 2006 and was the winner of the VicUrban Sustainable and Affordable Housing Competition built commission in 2007, in partnership with Metropolitan Housing Laboratory. Whibley is an RMIT Architecture Lecturer. He was co-convenor of the Re-Housing International Conference and Exhibition, Melbourne, 2006, and co-editor of reHousing: 24 Housing Projects, Melbourne: RMIT Press, 2008. Antarctica maintain a research consultancy with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners RACGP. Jones has run a series of RACGP commissioned community-based design studios at RMIT on remote aboriginal health facilities and mental health facilities, with a focus on cultural, social and environmental sustainability. Crist and Jones are co-authors of Rebirth of a Clinic: A Design workbook for architecture in general practice and primary care, Canberra: Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, 2008. DR. ALEX SELENITSCH is a Melbourne-based poet and architect and a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, University of Melbourne where he teaches design. He makes and exhibits sculpture and furniture, sometimes in collaboration with Hamish Hill, and is a member of the Public Art Committee of the Melbourne City Council. The
research published in this volume of ADR draws on his PhD Thesis SETS, SERIES and SUITES: composing the multiple artwork, University of Melbourne, 2008. The project The House of a Missing Family was exhibited in the show HOW ARE THINGS AT HOME, at Geelong Gallery, Victoria in 2008. UWE RIEGER, HELLE SCHROEDER and MARTIN JANEKOVIC founded the practice XTH-berlin in 2000. XTH-berlin develops architectural projects and strategies around process oriented spaces and reacting systems, forging productive relationships between material and information and between social needs and new technologies. The projects take strategies and processes in nature and landscape as an impulse for architectural development. Rieger co-founded the Berlin-based interdisciplinary group [kunst + technik] e.V. that preceded XTH-berlin. He studied Physics and Architecture at the University of Muenster and the Technical University of Berlin. He taught Architectural Design as an Assistant Professor at the Technical University of Berlin, the BTU Cottbus and within the Masters program of the University of Muenster. Currently he is Associate Head, Design at the University of Auckland School of Architecture and Planning, New Zealand.
various international projects, has been internationally exhibited and has been teaching as visiting Professor at a number of European Universities. He has worked in collaboration with Uwe Rieger and XTH-berlin on a series of design research projects. DR. PIA EDNIE-BROWN is an RMIT Architecture Senior Lecturer and a research stream leader in the RMIT Spatial Information Architecture Laboratory. She teaches design and theory, and supervises research candidates. Her article in this volume of ADR draws on her PhD Thesis The Aesthetics of Emergence, RMIT, 2007, which was short listed for the RIBA President’s Award for Research in 2008. She is the author of Plastic Green: designing biospatial futures, Melbourne: RMIT Press, 2008. She is currently undertaking the Australian Research Council Discovery Grant funded research project ‘Ethics and aesthetics as criteria for innovation: A design research study of biological art and digital architecture.’ Her trans-disciplinary research activities are undertaken through the collaborative practice onomatopoeia.
DUNCAN LEWIS is a British-born architect and Director of the practice Scape Architecture, based in Bordeaux, France. Scape Architecture relates architecture to ecosystem, finding new ways to create architecture blurring the boundaries between nature and the man made. Lewis has realized
Notes for Contributors
through the design of projects where the research is embodied within the project-based design All editorial enquiries and investigations and outcomes. Acsubmissions should be sent to: companying exegesis plays a role Brent Allpress, Editor, ADR in situating, framing and clearly School of Architecture + Design, communicating the contribuRMIT tion that the project makes to GPO Box 2476v, knowledge within the field of Melbourne 3001 architectural design. The exegesis Victoria, Australia. Email: email@example.com may be text-based but it may also encompass other disciplinary modes of representation such as diagrams and drawings that also Editorial Policy: play a framing exegetical role. Architectural Design Research is an international refereed journal The editors welcome the submission of project-based research that publishes architectural undertaken through design indesign research, focusing particularly on project-based design vestigation and speculation, and scholarly reflection on research research and associated discourse on design. This journal is embodied within a contributor’s design practice and projects. founded on the premise that the activity of designing constitutes a crucial mode of research specific The journal also publishes discourse on architectural to the architectural discipline. design, to bring project-based It primarily aims to publish ardesign research and discourse chitectural research undertaken
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Published on Aug 24, 2009
Project-based design research and discourse on design. Brent Allpress and Michael Ostwald (Editors), AASA, 2008