Map I 2010 melbourne school of design University of melbourne
melbourne school of design University of Melbourne
map I Investigative Designing as an Approach to Architectural Creativity Edited by stanislav Roudavski
MAP 1: 2010
Contents EDITORIAL 7 INTRODUCTION 13 generative objects 21 Material Diagrams 41 Biological Growth 69 creative provocations 79 Parametric diagrams 97 scripting & makIng 109 making for show 139
Lawrence Clifford and Adam Markowitz, Digital Design Applications elective, 2010, led by Jules Moloney. Photo by Stanislav Roudavski.
making at full scale 163
Concept, Direction, Design and Editing Stanislav Roudavski
Design & Layout Josh FitzGerald, Chris Gilbert
Content Curation and Graphic Design Gwyllim Jahn
Edward Blanch, Jonathan Brener, Phuong Le
Melbourne School of Design, Faculty of Architecture, Building and
Cover Artwork Design and photo by Stanislav Roudavski. Project by Jonathon Long
Coordination Michele Burder
Copy Editing Louisa Ragas
Planning, The University of Melbourne, VIC 3010, Australia; www. msd.unimelb.edu.au
Contributors Eugene Cheah, Colony Collective, Steve Hatzellis, Justyna Karakiewicz, Tom Kvan, Janet McGaw, Jules Moloney, Stanislav Roudavski, Alex Selenitsch
Project contributors Mohamad Faiz Akhbar, Priscilla Ang, Laura Bulmer, Edward Blanch,
Jarrod Caveny, Jen Yea Chang, Shyn Yi Cheah, Colleen Chen,
Adams Print, 58 Leather Street, Breakwater VIC 3220
Zhong Chen, Matt Choot, Lawrence Clifford, Colony Colllective,
Evan Dimitropoulos, David Fitzwillian, FloodSlicer, Kenny Foo, Neo
Fu, Shima Ghafouri, Rob Gray, Cheryl Heap, Jingyi Heng, Adam
Copyright of this publication belongs to the Faculty of Ar-
Herbert, Fu Shen Ho, Yan Hou, Gwyllim Jahn, Rachel Jones, Gumji
chitecture, Building and Planning, University of Melbourne
Kang, Goh Kai Kheng, Antry Lau, Adeline Leng, Xiao Liu, Chris
and the respective authors of the included content. We
Loh, Jonathon Long, Gaurav Malhotra, Adam Markowitz, Scott
welcome reproduction and reuse but request that you
Mason, Lorraine Meinke, Peter Muhlebach, Craig Mullens, Tan Yee
fully acknowledge the relevant authorship and inform
Peng, Anne Gaelle Poussin, Angelica Rojas, Alex Selenitsch, Golnaz
us about your usage of the materials in this publication.
Shariat, Hiroko Shirai, Sun Shuli, Peter Spence, James Spillane,
Disclaimer The University of Melbourne has used its best endeavours to ensure that the material contained in this publication was correct at the time of printing. The University gives no warranty and accepts no responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of information and the University reserves the right to make changes without notice at any time in its absolute discretion.
Fereshteh Tabe, Wilson Tang, Nicole The, Michael Thomas, Michael Thomas, Melody Tong, Danh Truong, Giovanni Veronesi, Alex Wong, Foong Chern Wong, Kathy Wu, Wong Chern Xi, Zhengzhan Yang, Hong Yi, Hong Yi, Keong Pei Yi, Ji Yoon, Jang YunKim, Henry Tan Chia Zeh
MAP 1: 2010
This spread: Mould City by Colony Collective. Mould growth over city grid. Next spread: Scott Mason. Digital Design Application elective, 2009, led by Bharat Dave. Detail of a parametric facade system. Photo by Stanislav Roudavski.
sion of this digitality in design is important because its
by Stanislav Roudavski
contributions are frequently misunderstood. Its potential,
By the way of an editorial, here are some notes on the ambitions and the practical context of this publication.
or its faults, are seen to be confined to geometric explorations (and these are very interesting and valid too) – I believe the implications are far broader. Thus, within this
INTENDED PURPOSE When I was asked to edit the the Melbourne School of Design’s EYES publication that had acted as a snapshot of everything that happened in the School in a given year, I hesitated. I felt that an all-inclusive overview, like the EYES, can usefully exist – witness those produced by many leading architecture schools – but should be curated and edited by students rather than academics. For students, it is a valuable experience and a meaningful credit. For a faculty member, it is an unrewarding exercise of passing judgement. With this in mind, I suggested replacing the all-inclusive format with a themed publication that responded to the expertise, interests and editorial judgement of its current editor, promoted a particular topic within the field and could be framed with a coherent and defendable – even if idiosyncratic – selection criteria. It seemed that the work of the School could be
book the overarching theme of investigative designing is utilised as a frame to reflect on the potentials and practices of digital technology, even if some of the included examples do not utilise computers. This publication can only hint at the richness of this topic but – I hope – can serve as a trigger for more serious investigations in this area, as well as manifestations of some interesting existing achievements. My other frequent impression is that the changes brought about by digital technologies are understood as something detached from the established flow of architectural discourse. In response, the other motivation behind this publication is to demonstrate how non-digital techniques – grounded in architectural history – could support computational and generative methodologies.
better promoted by a coherent publication that could delve deeper into the conceptual issues. I wondered whether the lack of breadth resulting from greater depth could be compensated by instituting a series of monographs, all edited by experts in their fields and complementing each other. This reflection was formulated as a practical idea by Associate Dean (Engagement) Peter Raisbeck and the Director of the Melbourne School of Design Philip Goad who took it to the Dean, Tom Kvan, and the MAP series was born.
INTENDED AUDIENCE My intention to campaign for investigative designing and some of its particular techniques is directed towards current and future students who sometimes do not know that this work occurs within the Melbourne School of Design. Similarly, I wanted explain the origins of this work to colleagues within the university and beyond. I envisage directing my new and old acquaintances to this publica-
THEME My decision was to focus on the theme of investigative designing. This theme was dictated, simultaneously, by pragmatic concerns of what was available/showable and by the desire to promote a particular attitude towards creativity and designing. Interest in investigative designing comes from my conviction that digital tools and techniques significantly influence contemporary architectural designing and human creativity at large. I believe that the discus-
tion for an indication of the on-going activities at my place of toil, especially when the online version becomes available. I know that others intend to use this publication
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to inform potential students and for broader purposes. I hope it can be useful there too, especially when/if it takes its place amongst the future alternatively themed issues of the MAP series.
SELECTION OF WORK The selection of work was a difficult task. As someone who only recently joined this university, I began by surveying the students’ work in the School’s exhibitions and publications. I failed to distil these general impressions into a worthwhile vision of a comprehensive book and this is when the idea of a topical monograph emerged. With a specific theme in hand, I sought to identify the staff members whose work appeared to be compatible and approached them for content. Obtaining the work that could be published in a monograph of acceptable visual and conceptual quality proved difficult. I was determined to adhere to a rigorous selection system even if my task required foraging amongst the available. My criteria were as follows: all of the work included in the publication had to be conceptually coherent as well as practically sustained. Projects had to do what they declared they were doing and their processes/outcomes had to be understandable to the design team. This criterion excluded many projects that declared very interesting ambitions but left them at the level of ideas. Another important criterion stated that all of the included projects had to be supported by the visual evidence suitable to the book format. This meant high-resolution, unlabelled images and adherence to the basic principles of visual communication. Again, much of in-principle interesting work had to be excluded because it was not supported by such evidence. The third criterion stipulated that the work had to complement the general theme without repeating the contributions already provided by other parties. This led to some radical editorial decisions that – by design and necessity – dissociated the included content from the rich and heterogeneous contexts of the source projects.
The book is divided into chapters that include content produced by particular individuals or groups. This content was largely – but not always – produced within 2010 and almost always – but with some exceptions – within the University of Melbourne. However, each chapter has a topical title that is suggested by me rather than by the authors of the content. These chapters promote specific non-repeating sub-themes without attempting to give comprehensive information about particular studios. I hope the contributors agree with my interpretations of their work or at least find them suggestive. However, I expect that in many cases my emphases are different from theirs. I take the blame and invite those who would like to know about the included projects in more detail to approach the contributors directly.
GRAPHIC STYLE With coherence in mind, I attempted to produce a layout that could balance the extremely diverse content by employing book-wide rhythms and colour coordination. At the same time, I did not wish to present individual projects, or the book as a whole, as fully resolved, completed and static. The book is about explorations that challenge
Left: Laura Bulmer, Parametric Miniature Gallery (detail), Digital Design Applications elective, 2010, led by Jules Moloney. Photo by Stanislav Roudavski. Right: Priscilla Ang, Cheryl Heap, Jingyi Heng, Abstraction Fabrication studio, fragment of a prototype, 2009.
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materials at the appropriate standards. Specifics of these standards can be decided on a per-volume basis, but the capability of participants and from this standpoint, all of its
serious critical engagement needs to drive the narra-
projects are but sketches of future potentials.
tive if the series is to become credible to an external
The book relies on two major guiding principles or â€“ rather â€“ ways of seeing the available content. Firstly, I see the book as a continuous flow of provocations with no clear boundaries between projects or themes. In response to this perception, my design decisions were to: make the boundaries between chapters fuzzy by not aligning them with page edges; allow images and headings to wrap page edges; allow images to split into multiples; and introduce vertical lines and tint panes to suggest multiple levels of depth. Secondly, I saw the book as a field of exploration that could reward its readers in several ways. In response, the book allows the reader to flick through quickly, paying attention to images only. In support of this mode of access, it attempts to present the visual evidence as suggestive traces rather than didactic explanations that depend on textual content. Simultaneously, the book attempts to slow down the experience for those who become interested after the first quick encounter. To achieve this objective, the design attempts to encourage the reader to move back-and-forth through the book through strategically discontinuous placement of images texts and captions.
SUCCESSES, LIMITATIONS AND LESSONS I hope that the book can usefully serve its purposes by establishing a precedent for the MAP series, testing the new mode of curation and presenting an idiosyncratic but coherent visual outcome. It is not without significant limitations: its visual evidence could be stronger and its textual descriptions more developed. We need to institute a system that encourages students and other contributors to produce more daring work and prepare the descriptive
audience as an intellectual contribution rather than as a promotional exercise. I hope that this volume will motivate future editors, designers and contributors whether they agree with my interpretation or not. Believing that the richness of the work within the School, or the field at large, can be best represented though a co-presence of simultaneous contrasting perspectives, I look forward to these future stories.
This spread: In Marcus Whiteâ€™s studio, students used a raytracing engine to cast light from a desirable viewpoint and map where that light intersected built form. With this technique, they could visually distinguish elements of the building that allowed for desirable views, and remodel their design accordingly. This diagram captures the process of the raytracer that casts randomly directed light paths from within the focus zone evaluates their intersections with the surrounding buildings. As this evaluation can be quantified, it would be interesting to allow the computer to drive the design moves through a genetic process, as opposed to intelligent guesses made by the designers themselves in an attempt to improve upon the evaluation. Diagram by Gwyllim Jahn.
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The introduction to the idea of MAP as a series of monographs Professor Tom Kvan, Dean With this volume, we initiate a new series of publications entitled MAP, celebrating the work of the Melbourne School of Design in the Faculty of Architecture Building and Planning at the University of Melbourne. Established in 2008, the Melbourne School of Design (MSD) has claimed a leading role in propelling the debate in design across all professional disciplines contributing to conceptualizing, realizing and managing the
In the end, it is up to [academia] to facilitate the adoption and
world in which we live - now and in the future.
dissemination of a cultural paradigm in which architects may
A broad term with many implications and meanings, design can be understood here to be the deliberative act of engaging with the contingent to realize an opportunity. By this, I mean that design is never removed from the need to address the realities of materials, contextual conditions, policies, natural laws and all other exigencies that exert influence on our capacity to realize an outcome. That outcome, however, is not just a product; it is a product with a future role in the communities who will
find themselves in a (group) discussion on buildings but also industrial systems, on spatial semantics but also procurement strategies, on materials but also industrial relations and training programs, on project budgets but also project priorities. Of course, implementing this agenda requires adjusting curricula [and] devising teaching strategies that can expand the idea of design as an activity broader than architectural design.
use it. Thus, design might result in a building but it might also result
With this understanding, it is clear that designing is an act of
in a planning policy, a new material or a new process in construction.
research. As we frame, discover and test the body of infor-
William J Mitchell, prolific author on matters digital and urban and a graduate of our Faculty, defined “designing” as “the task of producing and recording the controlling information” in the processes of production. As a consequence, a “design” can be understood as a “resulting body of information” (Mitchell, 2003). Without diluting the particularities of
mation which we will convey, we rely on a range of research techniques. In each of our professional domains, conventions and paradigms of research will guide specific approaches to such research, be in it the form of papers, sketches or models offering propositions, critiques or provocations.
each, this definition embraces then the writing of policy, the drawing of
The initiation of this new series, MAP, is part of our efforts
lines, the making of a model or the preparation for construction on site,
to carry such a debate into a broader realm, illustrating our
as well as heritage strategies.
contributions through the work of students and staff.
Our role as a leading research and education institution is clear: we must encourage debate and challenge orthodoxy. As our Professor of Construction, Paolo Tombesi, recently observed (Tombesi, 2010):
MAP 1: 2010
Danh Truong, Digital Design Applications elective, 2010, led by Jules Moloney. Photo by Stanislav Roudavski.
MAP 1: 2010
Left: Hong Yi, Parametric Miniature Gallery, Digital Design Applications elective, 2010, led by Jules Moloney. Photo by Stanislav Roudavski. Right: Jang YunKim, Parametric Miniature Gallery, Digital Design Applications elective, 2010, led by Jules Moloney. Photo by Stanislav Roudavski.
Introduction to the current volume. In this first issue of MAP, we are probing in particular the concept of investigative design and creative research in architecture. Drawn from exhibitions and studios held during 2010 in the MSD, the body of work presented here spans the small scale to the large, embraces discovering, doing and making and delivers these in a wealth of modes, such as models, diagrams, scripting, provocations and manifestations. In this, it draws upon work by students and academic staff in the School. Throughout the history of design, we can observe the manner in which practice addresses new technologies. With the introduction of perspective representation, for example, came a change in the conceptualisation of urban space (Wittkower, 1973) . The potential of a new material - iron - was recognised in the nineteenth century by Viollet-le-Duc, among others, who engaged with new materials, iron in particular, and associated
their exposition, in this case, place making. In the studio described, the topic was that of Indigenous place making in particular. The outcomes are illustrated by way of the research and projects of four students. Four of the papers here directly engage with digitally enabled approaches to design. Of the developments that have had profound impacts on our lives, it is the advent of digital systems that have had the most profound change in recent times, not least in the practice of our professions. While the capabilities for documenting and modeling are widely known, more profound and subtle potentials are now being realized.
new technologies (Benevolo, 1977 ; Viollet-le-Duc and Hearn, 1990). In
Framing our approach to these new opportunities, Bharat
his writings in the latter half of the nineteenth century, Viollet-le-Duc
Dave identifies that the practice of design continually exists
explored the architectural potential of iron, cast and plate, as readily
in a tension between cultures of science and the humanities
reproducible components with distinctive structural properties. The
and between action and theory. We have established three
practice of design continues to examine our understanding of processes
opportunities to explore these productive tensions through
and materials in light of additional capacities enabled by new tools or
digital approaches, namely the Production of Digital Space,
Contemporary Digital Practice and Digital Design Applications.
The introduction of digital tools and techniques has done much to enable such research but, as the examples presented in this issue of MAP demonstrate, it is clearly not the privilege of such approaches. The
In contextualizing modes of digital engagement, the subjects offer students the opportunity to situate current theories in attitudes to practice.
contributions by Alex Selenitsch and Janet McGaw develop research
Justyna Karakiewicz identifies that digital representations of-
through engagement of the physical, both models and existing urban
fer a new perspective on architectural diagramming. Exploring
the realm of diagramming, she introduces parametric systems
In his essay, Selenitsch examines through artworks the contexts of design, from a priori assumptions to operative decisions (â€˜rulesâ€™ in
and exposes students to the potential for conceptual diagrams utilizing the power of computational methods.
language) which act upon the exigent, such as materials, sites and
Studies in the Melbourne School of Design attend to fun-
impingements during the process. Working on individual products with
damental issues of architecture and our situation. As urban
rule systems to guide their evolution and a variety of manual or machined
populations increase globally, issues of such increased popu-
techniques, we remark on the diversity of the pieces.
lations need to be addressed either through increased area
Janet McGaw articulates the changes in our curriculum to demonstrate how research now intersects with the architectural thesis. Students in the thesis studio employ a range of research methodologies to develop
MAP 1: 2010
(sprawl) or increased concentration (intensification). Using parametric research techniques, the studio led by Marcus White identifies and then tests dimensions of urban experience by pushing them to extreme levels to challenge rhetorical positions. In the traditions of engineering testing, the models created are brought to failure so that the consequences can be examined. Computation can of course be carried out by non-digital devices. In work presented here, Steve Hatzellis explores the experience of analogue computing complementing the digital and Colony Collective explores the biological. It is our practice to work beyond an ideology and without a dogma. We can observe in some institutions that particular approaches are granted such status; for example, digital approaches are often the present dogma. Steve Hatzellis challenges this by noting the theoretical groundings for digital engagement in architecture has yet to be established. In his studio run over several years, studioHatzellis, he asks the students to embrace the analogue and the digital, working across these two modes, partaking of diagramming, scripting, interaction design and performativity to develop a theoretical foundation for their own work. The analogue approach to computation is carried a step further by the Colony Collective, a team inclusive of colleagues on our teaching/ research staff, students and alumni, assisted by the School of Botany in our University. Working with the generative capacities of mould organisms and interpreting these into digital evolution, the team develops a proposition for urban communities. The contributions by Stanislav Roudavski and Eugene Cheah bring these strands together. In the former, the act of exhibiting connects designing of an artefact with the act of delivering that artefact into place, in this instance the wearing and exhibiting of the product. The work of Eugene Cheahâ€™s studio drew upon patterns of pedestrian behaviour in a confined space and resulted in the manufacture and installation of a sculpture that redefined the space and suggested new behaviours or circulation.
Specifically, Roudavski engages students in design thinking through the use of digital systems and has redefined the boundary between conceptualizing and manufacturing. As bounded by contract and conventional forms of practice, architects hand over their design ideas to the construction and manufacturing phase at an earlier stage than is necessary when the design process is digitally supported and the manufacturing digitally driven. In this first-year subject, Roudavski introduces students to the transition from ideation and making through the use of processoriented designing and contemporary digital processes. By posing an
The next chapter features the work from three exhibitions: Ovals Sketchbook, 2009, 26 draw-
approachable topic of the making of headgear, the students are moved
ings in sketchbook, pencil and ink
beyond their propensity to naïve referentially to a focus on exploration.
on paper, exhibited in Constellations: A Large Number of Small Drawings,
The work by Eugene Cheah, SKINS 2010, takes this to a larger scale and immerses the students in the transition from generative exploration of form through to manufacture. Developing the dialogue of skeletal
RMIT Gallery, 344 Swanston Street, Melbourne Victoria 3000, 8th April to 26th June 2010. 35 sculptures, 2008-2009, various
structures to claddings of an architectural skin, the studio extends the
found timbers, various sizes, ex-
design embrace to final delivery.
hibited as IMROVISATIONS: blocks
The perspectives on design presented in MAP illustrate the breadth of
son Street Richmond Victoria 3121,
design enquiry engaged in the Melbourne School of Design.
References Benevolo, L.: 1977, History of Modern Achitecture, M.I.T. Press, Cambridge, Mass. Mitchell, W. J.: 2003, Constructing Complexity, University of Sydney, Sydney.
and sticks, Place Gallery, 20 Tenny9th June to 3rd July 2010. www. placegallery.com.au (‘artists’, then ‘Alex Selenitsch’, then ‘2010 exhibitions’) Mack’s Stack, 2007, found cardboard, 95 items, one die-cut stack, 94 folded objects, stack 10 x 31x 18.5cms, objects variable, but average 14 x 16 x 14cms each, exhibited as Out of the Box: 94 variations, Craft
Tombesi, P.: 2010, On the Cultural Separation of Design Labor, in P. Deamer and P. Bernstein (eds.), Building (in) the Future: Recasting Labor in Architecture, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, pp. 216 p. Viollet-le-Duc, E.-E. and Hearn, M. F.: 1990, The Architectural Theory of Viollet-le-Duc: Readings and Commentary, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. Wittkower, R.: 1973, Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism, Academy, London.
Victoria, Gallery 3, 31 Flinders Lane, Melbourne Victoria 3000, 22nd October to 27th November 2010, www. craftvic.org.au (‘exhibitions’, then ‘past’, then ‘out of the box - 94 variations’) Right page: Alex Selenitsch, Loop #4, 2009, various timbers on blackwood, 39 x 48 x 28cms, photo Michele Fuller, from IMPROVISATIONS, Place Gallery.
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1.0 Introduction This essay deals with three groups of artworks which were exhibited in Melbourne in 2010. The works will be described through three stages of composition: the acceptance of a priori decisions, the invention of rules and their performance, and final outcomes. Behind this, there is the contention that all three phases of creativity must be evident in the work itself when completed. The three works are Ovals Sketchbook, IMPROVISATIONS, and Mack’s Stack.
1.1 OVALS SKETCHBOOK This is an A5 sketchbook, containing 26 drawings. It was exhibited in a survey show of drawings by different creative professionals – painters, sculptors, fashion designers, composers and architects. The ovals drawings were placed in the last category. Their un-architectural nature prompted the curators to ask for a few notes. This is what was sent: “My interest in rule-driven compositions of dynamic groups began with spatial typographic experiments in the late 1960s. Since then I’ve realised that the elements in the composition need not be letters. Most of my drawings continue to explore the unique positions of adjacent similar elements in relation to the pattern of the whole field. I look for a kind of aggregation associated with herds, flocks and crowds. And perhaps cities… AS, March 2010.”
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The book was displayed in its own vitrine, resting at an open page, with high-resolution copies of three other pages placed next to it.
1.2 IMPROVISATIONS This was a collection of 35 small sculptures, including wall reliefs, freestanding reliefs, and objects in the round, exhibited in a single space at a commercial gallery. Eight books open at appropriate images were placed under the display tables as evidence of the works’ heritage. The books showed images of works by Hans Arp, Kenneth Martin, Alexander Rodchenko, Gustav Klutsis, Lucas Samaras, Piet Mondrian, Imi Knoebel, and Kasimir Malevich. The artist’s notes reproduced in the gallery’s flyer listed the following creative rules for the works: “BACK GROUND RULES for the works: 1) all timber pieces = off-cuts from the one workshop (from teaching programs); 2) all pieces as found, with no further machining; This spread: Alex Selenitsch, six out of eight, 2009 (detail), pencil on found paper sheet, 30 x 20.5cms, from Constellations, RMIT Gallery. Next spread: ovals sketchbook 2009 (detail), pencil and ink on paper, 26 drawings in A5 sketchbook, from Constellations, RMIT Gallery.
3) pieces added incrementally; 4) surface to surface with glue: no interlocking; 5) size of finished work from held in one hand to held in two hands; 6) all of the above to be ignored as necessary to achieve (7): 7) pieces added until a balance of movement and stasis is achieved.”
1.3. MACK’S STACK Mack’s Stack is one work, 94 works, or perhaps a number in between one and 94. The work was exhibited in a single space at a state-funded gallery. As well as the 94 works and a pile of leftover die-cut cardboard sheets, images of three related previous works, from 1994, 2004 and
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2008, were shown to place the new work into the context of the artist’s oeuvre. The following statement was pasted to the wall to one side of the work: “While clearing out one of the side rooms in my father-in-law’s house, I found a slab of die-cut cardboard pieces, designed to be folded into a small open-top container. This was a few days after he had died. He lived for 94 years and spent much of it collecting and hoarding potentially useful, but obviously leftover materials and objects. He was also a maverick, given to idiomatic gestures of difference in an otherwise conventional life.
Variable repetition points to the condition of sets. All three works form coherent groups by being sets. A set has members, which are independent entities – in this case compositions. The members of a set share a characteristic or property, and all other properties of each member are ignored. In materialised systems or objects, ‘all other properties’ may be reduced but never completely erased, even in attempts at perfect simulation or reproduction. Often ‘all other properties’ are exaggerated
The slab of cardboard was first salvaged by him, and then salvaged for
and multiplied so that some pleasure is obtained from seeing through
a second time by me, another collector and hoarder. Before it made it
the surplus to the set definition.
to the boot of my car, I resolved to do something interesting with it. A few days later I began to fold the pieces into objects, but deliberately not in the way the designers had intended.
The three works discussed here are all sets, but variously so, with the third work, Mack’s Stack, exemplifying a special case of sets, which is theme and variation. In this ubiquitous way of producing a multiple
Each cardboard piece was made into one object using only the existing
artwork, the set definition – the theme – is varied in example after ex-
fold-lines and cuts. In the end, I also curved some of the cardboard
ample, and the differences in the examples, far from being ignored as
ends, bent over some of the small tabs and used glue to fix the forms. I
would be usual for a standard set, are brought to notice. The variations
worked towards and then stopped at 94 objects, as an elegy or tribute.
are then compared to the theme and across each other.
Some of the objects became profiles, some emerged as toy-like scoops,
sleds and vehicles, some as trays, some even became containers, more
The Ovals Sketchbook drawings has a set definition, something like:
elegant in my opinion than the quick-snap thing originally intended.
‘pencil ovals of equal size, filling a page, with each oval on the page
The 94 objects don’t appear to have exhausted the die-cut’s potential.
marked in ink in the same or similar way’. Via the sketchbook, these
I originally thought I might stop at 20 or so, but at every consecutive
drawings are also part of another set – more sketchbooks which explore
ten or so objects, I was amazed at what new combinations and forms
field configurations of oval-like shapes and their markings, these being
could be produced from such an apparently restrictive starting point.”
known – at this point – only to the artist and some of his colleagues.
2.0 SETS All three works use repetition. None of the works use identical repetition or seek such a condition – in fact, the opposite is true. The repetition is variable, so that a constant can be deduced as a principle or set of relationships. If an object is cloned, or exactly repeated, then all of it is principle, and the creative tension between idea and matter is defused.
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Alex Selenitsch, left: ovals sketchbook 2009 (detail), pencil and ink on paper, 26 drawings in A5 sketchbook, from Constellations, RMIT Gallery. This and next spread, left: Light Scatter, 2010, beech, 32 x 31 x 17cms, photo Michele Fuller, from IMPROVISATIONS, Place Gallery. Next spread, right: HAHA Dada (Homage to Hans Arp), (detail), 2008, handrail slices on oregon, 20 x 21 x 4cms, photo Michele Fuller, from IMPROVISATIONS, Place Gallery.
The sketchbook as an object is obviously part of a larger set of sketchbooks by the same artist on other themes, an even larger one of the set of A5 sketchbooks in general, and so on. But here, the ambit of the creative work is abandoned for the general world, which for set theoreticians, is also an interlocked and nested structure of a very large number of sets.
2.2 IMPROVISATIONS The timber sculptures are a relatively complex assembly of sets, some being conceptual, and others perceptual. The title IMPROVISATIONS is a set definition which is received before examination of the works takes place. On examination, it becomes obvious that the works are a single set of constructions made of pieces of wood, of constant section with machined surfaces, put together in spatially complex ways. There are also two subsets. The first set uses a larger piece of wood as an armature or ‘ground plane’ from which the composition of smaller pieces is compounded. The second subset has no such armature in that all elements in the one composition are the same.
2.3 MACK’S STACK Of the three works, Mack’s Stack is the most obvious set, and also the most deviant. There are two related sets. One is the remaining stack of die-cut cardboard flats; the other consists of the folded objects. The stack of remaining die-cut sheets is ALL set definition. Any individual variation or unique property, such as a different edge colour or mark and bump from handling, and so on, is likely to be small and hardly perceivable over the attention range of the composition. Once the 94 variations are approached, there is a dissonance between the known die-cut origin, and the many kinds of objects. Obviously, all are the same as far as cardboard area and fold-lines are concerned, but their final form is highly variable. In considering or imagining the sub-groups, the initial set definition which is based on the physical properties of the die-cut sheet must be abandoned and spread into different kinds of categories. Some variations are containers and the set definition is therefore one of function. Some are similar geometric compositions and that set definition is geometric. Some are suggestive
MAP 1: 2010
MAP 1: 2010
Alex Selenitsch, IMPROVISATIONS: blocks and sticks, 2010, north wall installation, photo Michele Fuller. Next spread, right: Loop #4, 2009, various timbers on blackwood, 39 x 48 x 28cms, photo Michele Fuller, from IMPROVISATIONS, Place Gallery.
of other objects (wheelbarrows, bow ties, scrapers etc) so that those set definitions take on a metaphoric/structural tinge. Many of the variations belong to a number of sub-sets. Because the initial set of definition (the die-cut sheets) is so clearly visible, each of the variations is easily compared to it, and then to the others around it, so the classic theme and variation effect of attractive difference is invoked.
3.0 ACTUALITY MATTERS The semantic arena of these works includes a priori decisions, the making of the object, and judgements on the outcomes. In other kinds of works, where a priori decisions and making procedures are hidden, or ignored at the presentation of outcomes, those parts of the creative process are important only in so far as they allow the final work to come into being. But in the works being discussed here, a priori decisions, the making process and the outcomes are intended to be equally visible, and the relationships between them sum up the whole work. The concept of the Set is used as the strategy to link the three phases of composition.
3.1a OVALS â€“ a priori The sketchbook is a standard commercial product, the pencil likewise, the ovals come from a drafting stencil, and the pen, a standard fountain pen filled with black ink. Some preliminary trials of added pen strokes were made on loose paper: these were then discarded. For the exhibition, a single sheet of such trials for another sketchbook was submitted, but not shown.
3.1b OVALS - making The drawings in the sketchbook were done at home, in the evenings, while sitting on a sofa and watching television. Each drawing was initiated by a field of pencil ovals whose configuration was derived from some aspect of the page, but also from the rule of not repeating previous configurations. Further, all ovals were to be clearly visible as separate individual forms. Spontaneous and ad hoc decisions were possible for both oval configuration and ink infill. More ovals could easily be added, and some of the in-fills were designed to work in rotation. The in-fills were sometimes magnified or altered to suit. All such decisions were
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directed towards the gestalt of the finished drawing. See rules 6 and 7 in 1.2 above.
3.1c OVALS – outcomes The book format clearly indicates that all drawings are to be considered as a whole. It also structures the first of two effects of surprise. The first effect is the change from page to page, where there is a pause and physical action due to the page being turned over. Memory and expectation affect the surprise: the pencil and ink materiality continues, but page and oval configurations change. The second effect of surprise is weaker, but occurs on the single page, when the ovals and their markings are compared over that single composition.
3.2a IMPROVISATIONS – a priori The title IMPROVISATIONS suggests some kind of balance between structures and spontaneity. The eight open books, held in the trestles under the tables, give an indication of the work’s historical and contemporary domain. The books also show that the domain is supplied through publication, which allows for an a-chronological and placeless appreciation of these other artist’s works.
3.2b IMPROVISATIONS - making The general title of these works refers to the similarity of their making to the experience of playing improvised music. In such music, the context of the performance and immediately previous events can be very suggestive – often dictatorial – for any momentary action. In music, the
This and next spread: Alex Sele-
moments come very quickly, relentlessly, but in these timber sculptures
nitsch, Mack’s Stack, 2007, (detail),
the practicality of gluing and clamping slowed the improvisations, or rather, pulled them apart to a ‘moment’ every six to twelve hours. The stick/slat pieces needed no initiating piece. Called jumble algorithms, after their rule of successive addition and rotation against the flat edges of the stick’s profile or section to achieve a scattered effect, these compositions could be started by just gluing two sticks together. Other pieces began with the selection of a ‘ground’ piece against which other pieces could be placed. These began as reliefs with additions parallel to the picture plane of the ground piece, but soon under the influence of the jumble algorithms, rotation was introduced and exploited. Like the ovals drawings, the procedure for each piece was additive, element by element, but not simply so.
photo by Robert Colvin, from Mack’s Stack, Craft Victoria.
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At the start of any piece, blemishes or standout features of the ‘ground’ piece were used as positioning marks. Later in the improvisation when a figure began to emerge, this was considered in the next placement. A working rule was that each element should be perceivable as such – this generally meant that the ends of sticks had to be visible and clear of overlaps to avoid two touching sticks being read as a single piece.
3.2c IMPROVISATIONS – outcomes The making procedure and the desired result (see rules 6 and 7, quoted in 1.2 above) produced, first of all, a sense of play, as evidence of the maker’s experience and in the engagement of the viewer; and secondly, a sense that the sculptures might be images or even the results of natural events or forces. An unintended effect, but obvious when the material source is considered, was the sense of precision, due to the machined finish and sharp edges of the timber pieces, and also the rule of showing each piece of timber as whole and individual.
3.3a MACK’S STACK – a priori The display of the remaining die-cut sheets shows the pre-condition of the 94 variations. Images of three previous works by the artist suggest that the new work continues and develops existing themes. The n variations of the Southern Cross (1994) is a work of 211 constellations using the same figure of five points – the Southern Cross. The two books Cut, Tear (2004), were altered page by page in a single continuous flow of operations, wherein what had just happened would influence the next action. The Rothko Vowels (2008) are a set of concrete poems with the subject of revealing the hidden or un-sayable. Revealing the ‘hidden obvious’ is an underlying idea in the 94 variations of Mack’s Stack.
3.3b MACK’S STACK - making A general description of making these pieces is given in 1.3 above. The variations were made at home over four days of continuous work, Friday to Monday, with time off only for meals, sleep and occasional errands. They were made in two rooms, at a workstation on a table, and at the sofa, again, while watching television. The pieces accumulated in three rooms and looked like an invasion of small animals occupying the domestic landscape. The exhibition of them as a field of equally spaced objects on a neutral plane missed this quality. The production of the variations was intuitive and sustained by constant contrast of the piece under construction to the others preceding it.
3.3c MACK’S STACK – outcomes No general observations of the project as a whole were made while making: the following observations were made possible when viewing the installation of the exhibition, and were used as the basis of the artists talk held on the 6th of November. Firstly, the initial die cut piece, the starting point, was already a work bearing much thought and effort BY OTHERS: hardly a neutral or fundamental piece of matter. Using it for pulp, or as a flat sheet for further cutting might take it back to such a condition, but the die-cut piece was used AS IT IS. Secondly, the assumption that the given folds could be done in any rotation greatly increased the number of potential folds, and therefore objects. After the first few folds, successive folds were unpredictably limited. This interlocking of potential and limitation was difficult to grasp as an algorithm, but easy to handle physically and spatially. Thirdly, the one template, and the simple set of rules, produced not only variations, but different kinds of objects. Variation were expected when making began, but not distinct and separate types (or species) which exist in different cognitive frameworks. Fourthly, there were no bad results: there were no rejects. There were no trial or prototype objects, and the method of assembly so simple, involving folding, gluing and clamping with pegs, that there were no ‘mistakes’. All resultant objects were accepted as part of the work.
4.0 ALL TOGETHER The way that a priori decisions, making and outcomes were exhibited in the three works discussed above, were specific to each occasion.
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The following is an attempt to generalise each of these phases through a list of potential strategies.
4.1 A PRIORI STRATEGIES a) The given material or medium may provide a history, a specific group of exemplary uses or techniques, or a set of physical/ chemical properties. b) The material may already have been given shape and use by others, and thus appropriated for new use. This is the condition of the found object, which could easily extend to found systems and found processes. For this to work, the found object has to be drastically shifted in context or use, otherwise it is just a use, or re-use. c) The acceptance of a genre, or type, or archetype allows for unique manifestations. Examples range from ‘still life’, to ‘pantheon’, to ‘haiku’ and so on. d) The category of type can be tailored to a specific case, where an individual artist can nominate works by other artists as a priori, or the artist’s own previous works could function as such.
This list grades the strategies in their apparent frequency, with the least frequent as a) and the most frequent as d).
4.2 ON RULES Creative rules are better if: a) they provide for the initiation of the work and its continuation
Alex Selenitsch, Mackâ€™s Stack, 2007 (installation view), found cardboard, one die-cut stack, 94 folded items, stack 10 x 31 x 18.5cms, object vari-
through specific instructions. They are better as a script or recipe
able, average 14 x 16 x 14cms each,
rather than a description of the final outcome. Inclusion of the
photo by Robert Colvin, from Mackâ€™s
material/system properties and the limits thereof is an advantage; b) they allow non-rule-based intervention at any stage. This is particularly important if errors occur, if context changes during making, or if outcomes are unacceptable. Under those conditions, there is an interaction between explicit system and intuitive implicit judgement. Behind this is the observation that not everything in a physical action involving skill can be foreseen; c) the context of the rules can suggest different and additional rules for further action, if an impasse or dead-end is reached; and d) they suggest or make a GAME. One can then approach the rules in the same way as in a game, by following, interpreting or subverting.
4.3 THE GESTALT The final outcome towards which a priori conditions and rules of making are directing must be evident as a separate condition, not just as a mechanical outcome, or trace, or history of making. A final composition must: a) work as an attractive proposal where the outcome is not only logically clear, but surprising. This can happen when an aspect of
Stack, Craft Victoria.
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materiality or system previously ignored is fore-grounded, when the gestalt transcends the rules, and when the artist applies the game or rules with elegance and flair; b) provide provocative internal relations, so that it can be taken into other categories of interpretation and use, where other people can point to the composition’s characteristics and locate them in the wider world; and c) provide inspiration for further creative work.
5.0 GENERALLY Generally, there are far too many options for action when an idea or concept or observation establishes the will/direction of a work. Rules provide a useful way of restricting options, and in their invention, can help set out what is important for a work and what is not. Just as importantly, they can help to bypass habitual or clichéd ways of working. Rule or game-driven invention and making is contrary to the way a conventional professional designer works. Professional methods attempt to fully predict the final object, depict it as such and then require others to turn the design into a production sequence. The concept of the ‘art machine’ is modelled on this ideal professional role. In an ‘art machine’, all decisions on making, composition are preset and the artist’s job, after the invention of rules and settings, is merely to switch on the machine and wait for the outcome to emerge without any further input. This is the designer’s position in theory: in practice subjective restrictions, ad hoc interventions and mistakes inform the professional designer’s daily life.
ms Digital v1 Digital Architecture has emerged from technological appropriation and as such has only recently started to develop a plausible theoretical discourse. Unlike most architectural styles at the end of the 20th century that emerged from a theoretical agenda, Digital Architecture has had to post-rationalise its position in architectural discourse and has attempted to emancipate the discipline of architectural design from a linguistic and representational critique This and next spread: model by Foong Chern Wong, Mohamad Faiz Akhbar and Shyn Yi Cheah. Project: Eden on the Yarra River, Studio Informe v4, 2009.
of the Post Modernist milieu. Although it is common to sideline digital architecture to the realm of technology, it has been the power of computer visualisation and the complexity of its formal language that allowed it to surpass previous architectural design discourses. By creating a new genre of architecture that could not have been previously possible but for the use of new digital apparatuses, digital architects have re-initiated the debate. In this respect, it is an area of design that is still leading exploration into new forms of non-standard architecture.
Digital v2 Digital experimentation has given way to digital research and application: we are now in the post digital age. Having learnt from earlier periods of digital avant garde experimental art and architecture, we are now applying these techniques in more radical and
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critical projects. The early fascination of translucent ephemeral affects derived from misappropriation of animation software have given way to a multitude of research based agendas regarding interaction design, CNC and RP fabrication, diagrammatic modularity, scripted geometric systems and parametric urbanism.
Informe v6 Our design studio focuses on progressive research into digital experimentation and its application to non-standard architecture. The design research aims to provide a setting that fully critiques and explores the implications of the digital through a rigorous testing of the architectural form and the making potential inherent in digital technologies. One of the most distinguishing and important features manifested in digital architecture is its performance-based essence. The work aims to reinvent Modernism by appropriating the techniques of diagramming, scripting, interaction design and performativity. The Digital is explored by the interplay of virtual and analogue material systems exploration. By reworking the principles of the Modernist mass production system we seek an agenda of modulation and specificity within the generic modes of Modernism. The rework starts as accurate mappings and diagrams. The parameters are not symbols nor metaphors, but rather quantitative information, diagrams that are translated and mapped onto the generic material system as an exercise of performative modelling. The principle paradigm is the strategy of attaining highly differentiated non-standard organisations from systems that are in their initial or generic mode, highly standardised components. The projects displayed in these pages are from students who have undertaken at least two studioHatzellisâ€™ digital studios. These students are gifted digital designers with a propensity for material and formal making. The crafting of architecture has moved from a purely physical materiality to include digital material systems. These systems are tested within the software systems that create them prior to repeat testing in small scale analogue maquettes. These models help us to explore the spatial and structural limits inherent with digital play. Keep playing.
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Hiroko Shirai. The model explores minimal surface geometries using ABS plastic rapid prototyping techniques. It maps the movement of a ballerina as curvilinear formations. Final Thesis, Master of Digital Architecture programme, University of Technology, Sydney, 2005.
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Far left: Peter Muhlebach and Rob Gray. Research Models, final thesis project, Folded Geometries, Studio Informe v4, 2009. Left: Wilson Tang et al, students undertaking Informe v2. Model constructed using rapid prototyping knife card carding machinery. Final thesis project, Studio_Informe v2, Voronoi Tower, 2008. Right top: Yan Hou. The model explores minimal surface geometries using fabric and acrylic. The fabric geometries are distorted in relationship to flows of people. The mapping was undertaken at a railway station when the crowds ebbed and flowed, the kinetic analogue model responded accordingly. Research model, Master of Digital Architecture programme, University of Technology, Sydney, 2006. Right bottom: Geo-soft sculpture, rapid prototype by Steve Hatzellis, 2005.
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Left page: research model, Master of Digital Architecture programme, University of Technology, Sydney, 2006. Right page, left: Gaurav Malhotra. The model explores ideas of atomic accumulation and the potential of biomimicry to help develop a responsive architecture. Soap bubbles were studied prior to constructing this model made from straps of paper. Gradation of size is based on mapping crowd behaviours. Research model, Master of Digital Architecture programme, University of Technology, Sydney, 2006. Right page, right: Matt Choot, Informe v2 thesis design studio. This model is constructed using laser sintering rapid protoytping techniques. Final thesis project, Studio Informe v2, 2008.
This and next spread: Foong Chern Wong, Mohamad Faiz Akhbar and Shyn Yi Cheah, Informe v4 thesis design studio, 2009. The model is constructed from stretch fabric and high tensile wire. It expolres the potential of spatial formation using tensile fabrics reminiscent of Frei Ottoâ€™s earlier experiments.
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This and previous spread: Johnathon Long, Prominent Hill Habitat. Final thesis project, Studio_Informe v6, lasercut plywood models, 2010. This thesis proposes a new architectural typology to transform the current Australian miner’s living/working protocol. It challenges the common perception that a miner’s ‘home’ and family must remain in a major city while the miner flies in and out on a rotation roster. This thesis argues the feasibility of a habitation facility to support and sustain mining families in the arid climate of outback South Australia. It examines the existing conditions of mining villages in South Australia and proposes a new living community of up to 360 people for the operations workforce of an underground mine.
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Michael Thomas, Research project, Moon Capital Competition, Studio Informe v6, 2010.
This and next three spreads: Michael Thomas, Research models, final thesis project, City Translations, Studio Informe v6, 2010.
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Michael Thomas, rapid prototype model, final thesis project, City Translations, Studio Informe v6, 2010.
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ological G Nam auctor cursus ante, quis fringilla risus
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Previous and next spread: Mould City by Colony Collective, rendering by FloodSlicer. This spread: Mould City by Colony Collective, Physarum slime mould growth.
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Mould urbanism is an urban system which reconfigures the relationship between humans, shelter and collective settlements. Mould urbanism proposes that the garlands of the Vitruvian primitive hut offer a new beginning for exhausted cities made of inanimate materials. The urbanists of the future will be indistinguishable from gardeners. In 2050, Australian suburbs and cities will look disappointingly similar to today and will desperately require new sources of energy and water. Mould urbanism is a response to the carbon production choking the earthâ€™s cities and suburbs. Mould will not save us, but if we learn how to tend it new and rich possibilities will emerge. Mould began in the outskirts of the suburbs. It first settled in eaves, gutters, downpipes and cisterns; anywhere where once there was water. Mould colonies formed and reformed, thickening where opportunity and the inhabitants allowed. Along with shelter, the mould also provides food and fuel. The mould grows across, over and through the old infrastructure of the city. Mould replenishes the water table. The mould is an urban architecture which needs direct solar energy. It changes and responds to the sunâ€™s orientation during the seasons. It waxes and wanes with the moon. It is like a foam that aerates itself when happiness abounds. Pores will form in the mould so it can breathe. Liquid vessels and reservoirs will form in the mould both as heat sinks and as stores for excess reserves. Mould factories will produce new products. The mould will adapt to the seasonal and diurnal cycles of its inhabitants. Mould urbanism reconsiders the Australian suburbs and city of 2050 as a family of sensual experiences which reverberate with the earthâ€™s atmosphere, climate, and seasons. Mould is an integrated, interacting system of environs. It will be the setting for new rituals and harvest festivals. The architecture of the mould allows a new realm of sensual experiences to come into play for its inhabitants. Mould is shamanistic. The mould is a living organism of the community nursed by the sun. It nurtures life and offers protection to all within its realm. The mould
helps its inhabitants to release new energies which then reverberate within it. This promotes bio development instead of techno degeneration. Mould urbanism bridges the gulf that divides an urbanism based on digital diatoms from an urbanism based on radical community politics. The form of the future city is beyond composition, not beyond comprehension. It requires continual attention, but eventually it will overwhelm all intentions, good, bad or otherwise. Mould urbanism evokes both the responsive intricacies of biological organisms and those vessels which give form to plastic material. The mould is a system that is at once organic and parametric. It possesses growth patterns that are to an extent predictable and controllable, as well as being random and surprising. Mould urbanism exists in a state of flux, creating environments that change in response to what the city and suburbs need. Mould, only barely within our control, is both a destructive and a regenerative force.
Colony is a collective of architects and urbanists who produce utopian vision in response to todayâ€™s climate crisis. Our inspiration is the architecture of the 60s mashed with the suburbs of Corrigan. Our inspiration is Yona Friedman, Archigram, Superstudio and Archizoom. Colony Collective is Madeleine Beech, Jono Brener, Nicola Dovey, Fu Tun Han, Peter Raisbeck and Simon Wollan. Colony Collective was assisted by the School of Botany, University of Melbourne. Our thanks to Kaija Jordan and her colleagues for samples, lab support and advice in the early experimental stages of this project. Our thanks also go to Sam Slicer and FloodSlicer for 3D visualization and animation, and to Bharat Dave and CRIDA at the Melbourne School of Design, University of Melbourne, for technical advice and resources.
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Mould City by Colony Collective, rendering by FloodSlicer.
Mould City by Colony Collective. Left: mould growth over city grid and river intersection. Right: mould growth on road striae.
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Mould City by Colony Collective. Outer suburban mould growth.
Left: Craig Mullens, Williams Creek Dreaming, architecture thesis, 2010. Right: Lorraine Meinke, Get Hatched, landscape architecture thesis, 2010.
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The University of Melbourne has phased out its Bachelor of Architecture programme, replacing it with an approach to higher education that aligns with the international trends in the US and Europe. We now offer an undergraduate degree in ‘environments’ to students seeking a career in the fields engaged with the built and natural environments: from environmental management to engineering, from property to planning, from architecture to landscape architecture. Students have an opportunity to be broadly grounded in issues that interface with a range of disciplines. Following the Bachelor of Environments degree, we offer a professional architecture program at Master’s level. This has involved a significant shift in approach from the traditional conclusion of an architectural education with a ‘major project’ to a conceptually driven design ‘thesis’. Students are expected to engage in design research, a multi-modal research enquiry that includes a range of methodologies: quantitative, qualitative and creative. Outcomes are a combination of design and text that demonstrates an ‘answer’ to their research proposition. Because of this approach, teaching staff are encouraged to bring their own research interests and expertise to bear on a studio and to work in interdisciplinary contexts. As an investigator on an ARC Linkage Grant into indigenous placemaking, we offered a range of interdisciplinary studios for architecture and landscape architecture students that asked students to re-imagine placemaking in Melbourne in light of research into the settler-colonial city, indignenous placemaking practices and contemporary indigenous culture. Design for indigenous communities is notoriously difficult. There are only nine Aboriginal architects in Australia, so non-indigenous architects invariably end up engaged in the design of projects for indigenous stakeholders. How does one avoid a new path of colonisation of indigenous culture, or perhaps worse, appropriation? Treanha Hamm and Laura Brearley, in their joint paper, “Ways of Looking and Listening: Stories from the Spaces between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Knowledge Systems” (2009) ask: “How do we perform justice – Where do we begin? How might we make a difference against the backdrop of the dispossession and
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Left: Craig Mullens, Williams Creek Dreaming, architecture thesis, 2010.
Right: Project by Craig Mullens. As a reminder of what has been superficially covered, William’s Creek re-emerges from the drain that contains it during times of abundant rainfall. Elizabeth Street’s position in a valley causes runoff to flow into its path, occasionally recreating the seasonal ferocity for which William’s Creek was known prior to and during the early years of colonisation. Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ gemmajones/4446963060/
marginalization of indigenous people? What would it look like to create spaces in the academy for research (and here I think one could equally substitute CITY) incorporating indigenous ways of knowing without appropriating or colonizing?” A collaborative approach was at the core of our studio. A parallel seminar series co-taught by indigenous academics, architects (three of the nine were involved) and stakeholders, exposed students to core issues. Brearley and Hamm argue that an indigenous concept of ‘deep listening’, is central to collaboration of this kind. They define a new methodology for research practice that has its roots in a concept shared by a number of different language groups describing the process of deep and respectful listening when a narrative is shared.
Lorraine Meinke, Nests.
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Deep listening has a reciprocal relationship with self-reflection, a process that allows the story of another to critique one’s own ways of viewing the world. Rueben Berg, a Gunditjmara man from Western Victoria and graduate in architecture from the University of Queensland, encouraged students to enter into the issues from their own experiences. This and next spread: Lorraine Meinke. Lorraine invites passers-by
A number of our students are not Australian, with no prior knowledge of
to participate in re-making indige-
indigenous culture or, indeed, the post-colonial history of dispossession.
nous place in Melbourne through the
Thus, the pathways students followed into the indigenous stories they
planting of indigenous saplings. This art work seeks to inform the broader community of the issues concerning declining tree health within the municipality and engage the public in a positive act towards alleviating the same issues in the future. It does
heard and researched were diverse. Melbourne Wurundjeri elder, Margaret Gardiner, speaks of a long history of cultural centre projects - longed for, even designed - that have never been built, due to insurmountable hurdles with land acquisition, finance
so by inviting members of the public
and political will. Part of the challenge is an absence of broader public
to take the nest away with them and
commitment to the idea. The studio speculated that when a sufficient
adopt the indigenous plant it contains. In doing so, the foster parent of
wave of desire and determination rises up within the populous as a
the plant becomes its caretaker and
whole, obstacles will seem less difficult, and politicians and financiers
custodian and is thus responsible for its future health and wellbeing which, in turn, will help bring life back into the city.
more committed. Students were asked, not to design a building, but to design, make or enact an ephemeral installation, or ‘critical spatial practice’ in the real space of the city as their outcome. Architect and theorist, Jane Rendell, defines ‘critical spatial practices’ as a range of creative practices between art and architecture that are more provisional and conceptual than architecture traditionally is, and more site specific and spatial than art practices traditionally are. Non-negotiable criteria were that the site had to be in the public domain, occupation could not be illegal or permanent and the cost of the ‘practice’ had to be less than $100. This served a number of pedagogical aims: 1) make students see that architectural practice as has social ramifications; 2) make students translate conceptual ideas into a material and spatial outcomes; 3) make students engage with bureaucratic and technical aspects of design. One of our research linkage partners, the Melbourne City Council’s Indigenous Arts Programme, was actively involved in smoothing the road into the ‘real space’ of the city. They identified the possibilities of using these students’ work to begin a process of collective ‘imagining’ as an important outcome.
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Students engaged in substantial research into indigenous and early colonial histories, geographies and precedents within architectural practice and discourse. Through this research, they developed a wide range of design interventions that critiqued the place-making practices of settler-colonial society, including performances, projections, ‘site writings’, gifting, collaborations, infiltration of the print media by stealth, and installations. Ronit Eisenbach and Sarah Bonnemaison’s recent book, Installations by architects (2009), chart the history of full scale prototyping as a pedagogical tool throughout the 20th century from the Bauhaus to MIT, to the Royal Danish Academy in Copenhagen and the Bartlett. While they were used throughout the modernist period as a vehicle for technological innovation, the post-modern shift in art practice that created the term ‘installation’ has provoked architects to consider real-scale installations as a prospect for social engagement beyond the academy.
Xiao Liu, Urban Memory and Amnesia: Remembering and Forgetting Through Monumentality, Architecture Thesis, 2010. This project focuses on the settler-coloniser practice of recording memories in the urban environment through building monuments and statues. The selective commemoration of particular events and figures has resulted in amnesia of the indigenous past as part of our collective memory. This project reveals that, in some instances, collective memories have been manipulated through false representations and altered contexts.
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Eisenbach suggests that it is probably not what architects bring to the practice of making installations that is interesting, but how the practice transforms architectural thinking. Installations are immediate, allow for discursive response of the city/audience and give agency to architects to act critically, inventively and with relatively low risk. As such, they can be usefully integrated at the core of investigative designing as discussed in this monograph. Bonnemaison, Sarah, and Ronit Eisenbach (2009). Installations by Architects: Experiments in Building and Design (New York: Princeton Architectural Press) Brearley, Laura and Treanha Hamm (2009). ‘Ways of Looking and Listening: Stories from the Spaces between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Knowledge Systems’, in Creative Art Research: Narrative methodologies and Practices, Elizabeth Grierson & Laura Brearley et al. (eds) (Rotterdam: Sense Publishers), pp. 33-54
Eván Dimitropoulos Eván Dimitropoulos’ research focused on the site of the ancient falls in the Yarra River, and more specifically, the changes to the flow of water since colonisation. The falls were the only natural crossing point for several kilometres and were used by the Wurrundjeri for hunting on the southern marshy riverbanks at dusk. The pounding of the falls had created a deep, widening in the river that settlers used to turn their tall ships after disembarking goods and passengers to the new colony. Within 30 years of settlement, the falls were destroyed with dynamite to mitigate against seasonal flooding upstream. As the freshwater by this stage had been polluted by the untreated waste of a city that had grown to 1,000,000 million, the ecological consequences of mixing salt and freshwater went largely unnoticed by colonial settlers. Commercial trade of water had emerged as far back as 1839, five years after settlement, in response to the pollution. This century, commercial trade in water has re-emerged as an escalating phenomenon. Despite Melbourne now having one of the least contaminated water supplies in the world, bottled water consumption has risen dramatically in recent
years. By 2005 Australians’ drank 550 million litres of bottled water, almost 30 litres per capita, and only a small fraction of the plastic containers were recycled. Indigenous author, Tony Birch, spoke at our seminar series about another practice of commodification peddled by settlers in mid19th century Melbourne: ethnographic photography. Melbourne’s indigenous people were dressed in ‘traditional’ garb, placed in studios, or asked to stage ‘mock battles’ and photographed. It was a practice that Tony Birch argued assisted in creating the myth of indigenous culture as primitive, which led to their subjugation and dispossession. Eván approached the State Library and Koorie Heritage Trust for permission to use some of these photographs in his critical spatial practice. He brought together these three stories: the destruction of the falls, ethnographic photography and the trading of water in a flash mob that he convened and choreographed. Using digital social media and radio, he invited people to Queensbridge, the site where the falls once stood, on Saturday 23 October 2010 at 3pm. Each participant was issued with a bottle of water that Eván had re-labelled with archival ethnographic photographs overlaid with excerpts from letters between Melbourne’s surveyor Robert Hoddle and colonial secretary and police magistrate, William Lonsdale in 1838-39, regarding an attempt to dam the river at the point where the falls once stood. It references Aboriginal artist, Leah King-Smith’s work ‘Patterns of Connection’, that recontextualised similar portraits with her own paintings and photographs of Australia’s bush. Eván had distributed, via facebook, detailed instructions for a performance of pouring the water back into the river in memory of the lost falls. The event was filmed and uploaded later onto the internet. The State Library have requested a copy of the book that documents the work for their collection.
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This spread: Eván Dimitropoulos, The Falls, landscape architecture thesis, 2010. Eván’s project is a ‘critical spatial practice’ that explores past and present consumer culture in Melbourne. The practices of such a culture dispossessed Indigenous people of their lands and exploited their waterways. This event re-imagines the area where a waterfall once divided the river, challenging assumptions about indigenous history and culture through engagement and reflection. Next spread: Eván Dimitropoulos. Bottle and bottle lable.
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Craig Mullens Upstream from the Falls, was a tributary known by early settlers as the River Townend and also Williams Creek. It was a seasonal waterway that discharged into the Yarra River along what is now known as Elizabeth St, one of the central north–south streets in the uncompromising grid of streets laid down by surveyor, Robert Hoddle. Robyn Annear writes poetically about the problems of this conjunction in her imagined history, Bearbrass, telling of shoes lost in the mud and a punt that was established at one time to transport pedestrians from one side of the street to the other. The failure to develop an adequate sewerage system meant that Elizabeth Street flowed with excrement by the 1940s and epidemics of dysentery,
monuments to permanently mark the landscape, and indigenous place-making, which finds place within the natural landforms. Xiao researched the practice of monument-making by Mao, and the processes of deterritorialising the monuments after his fall. Xiao argued that Melbourne’s monuments are similar, telling only half of the story of Australia’s settlement.
cholera and typhoid were rife. Work began on the subterranean
Burke and Wills have been immortalized in bronze on
drain we now have under Elizabeth St in the 1840s and William’s
Swanston Street. They led a tragic expedition of discovery
into the heart of Australia and both perished in the pro-
Craig Mullens created an interactive film that re-imagines Elizabeth Street as a river which he projected from the vacant office of a building on the corner of Flinders St onto the blank side wall of a nearby building in Elizabeth Street. The projection included a textual narrative about Williams Creek and invited people to share their own ‘dreamings’ by uploading related videos on a website.
cess. Xiao discovered through his research that only one of their expedition crew survived the trip, relying on the support of the Aboriginal tracker who is recorded in only two early paintings. Both he and the tracker have been deleted from the sculptural record of the story. Similarly, the bronze sculpture “Three Business Men Who Brought Their Own Lunch” on the corner of Swanston and Bourke
Xiao Liu Xiao was an international student from mainland China. His route into the stories of indigenous Australians was via the history of communist China. Tony Birch had spoken to the students about the contrasts between settler colonizer place-making, that used
St celebrates the legacy of early colonists Batman, Swanston and Hoddle. Robert Hoddle was the early surveyor of
Melbourne and Captain Charles Swanston, gave his name to the street on which they stand. It is well known that Batman offered blankets
specific plant species information and planting instructions, infor-
to local Wurrundjeri for land, now known as Batman Hill, in the south
mation about the significance of the site to the Aboriginal people of
west part of central Melbourne. Wurrundjeri elder, William Barak was
Melbourne, and speculation about what the landscape in the area
believed to have been at the meeting and signing of the ‘treaty’. Xiao
consisted of prior to colonization. “By accepting the gift,” Lorraine
developed two installations to reinstate these important indigenous
writes, “the recipient is acknowledging the mistakes of the past
figures into the sculptural record: the Aboriginal tracker positioned to
and reinforcing their own positive notions of what is valuable in
climb a ladder up the podium to join Burke and Wills, and Barak, clad in
the indigenous landscape.” All but two of her nests were ‘adopted’,
business suit, as the ‘Fourth Businessman Who Brought His Own Blanket’
and she received encouraging feedback from many participants.
placed between two of the characters who seem to deliberately turned to look the other way.
Lorraine Meinke Lorraine Meinke’s research into the landscape of contemporary Melbourne revealed that 7000 mature exotic trees, predominantly English Elms and London Planes that line Melbourne’s major boulevards and city streets, will be cut down in coming years. Lack of species diversity, stress from a decade of drought and old age have combined to hasten their decline. Meinke found that indigenous species had been trialled at times, but there was general public outcry and the trees were often ringbarked. A parallel investigation into Aboriginal dreaming stories revealed that life and death have a cyclic relationship in Aboriginal culture. Aboriginal remains were traditionally either returned to the earth, their ‘spiritual mother‘ or placed into the fork of tree on a person’s traditional lands. Lorraine mapped 26 sites of indigenous significance from a range of sources and developed a critical spatial practice that brought these stories together in a series of ephemeral installations. She obtained permission to work on 18 of the sites. From collected artefacts from each site, such as twigs and discarded rubbish, she fabricated a series of 18 distinct nest-like forms. These were returned to the site with a papier-mâché egg-like vessel containing an indigenous sapling and a laminated tag appealing to passers-by to ‘help me!’. Inside was detailed information on the problem of dying trees within the City of Melbourne,
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Diagrams are not a new phenomenon. Many of them appear to have been created long before any written language had been defined. One of the oldest diagrams of the city comes from Catal Hayuk, probably drawn around 6,500 BC. Some prehistoric diagrams not only inform us about city’s physical structure but also about its social and organizational structure. It has been argued
that we can read in these diagrams even more, such as the structure of the spoken language of the people who inhabited these places. Even if diagrams do not convey information literally, they are significant tools by which to understand and illuminate. In more recent times, there has considerable interest in the role of diagram in the design process. In this studio, we focussed on a particular type of diagram, the diagram which serves as a condenser of information. Clearly, diagrams can do much more than that; for example, diagrams
This diagram was produced for a
often bring ‘time and action’ into a design exploration in a way
project by Peter Spence, Paramet-
that 3D models or drawing cannot. Diagrams can introduce into
ric Urbanism studio. The project is
our work qualities or aspects that cannot be articulated otherwise;
about visualising data and mapping information to produce form (in this
diagrams work when they extend and enhance our capacity to
case a height field). The project
understand. Ben van Berkel (1999) has observed that “an image
mapped multiple levels of urban
is a diagram when it is stronger than its interpretations”.
data (the image shows higher levels in Melbourne CBD) as spatial representations. For example, the project
In examining diagrams within studio teaching, we are introducing
speculated about relative symbolic
the students to two key ideas. The first is that the diagram can
significance of urban sites by meas-
concentrate or condense the essence of the information being
uring the social network activity that referred to them in photographs. By combining the topographic maps with the data-driven spatial overlays, these diagrams can inform future design decisions.
explored; the second, and more difficult, is to enable us to engage in a mode of abstraction that takes us beyond our preconceptions. Design learning necessarily relies on precedents, but this strategy can become a crutch and blinker our capacity for designing by limiting exploration in a search of the known. The studio starts by introducing the diagram as a condenser of information as an initial step in design process. After identifying representative or relevant data in a design opportunity, we
A technique by Shima Ghafouri, Parametric Urbanism studio. This project is about visualising relationships between points of influence in a city. These points are imagined as magnetic charges that influence a field. The field is visualised with curves that run perpendicular to the charge direction. This
explore meaningful techniques by which to present and examine
approach allows to organise subjec-
these data; this is a particularly challenging task if the subject of
tive sampling of urban environments
investigation is the city. Park (1925) observed that city could not be viewed as purely a physical entity:
(e.g., smell or noise) as data that can be visualised in unexpected/suggestive ways and utilised to inform design choices.
â€œThe city is, rather, a state of mind, a body of customs and traditions, and of the organized attitudes and sentiments that inhere in these customs and are transmitted with this tradition. The city is not, in other words, merely a physical mechanism and artificial construction. It is involved in the vital processes of the people who compose it; it is product of nature, and particularly of human nature.â€? It is easier when representing a city to separate the experience into the physical and the intangible; thus, physical models trace the geometries, reports and tabular data describe other facets. Common diagrams of cities include those of figure ground, porosity, movement, use, age of buildings, etc. Such diagrams promote specialisation, yet we acknowledge that segregation of knowledge fails to help us grapple with urban issues. Furthermore, isolating aspects of the cities into representations encourages strategies to examine each element as represented, while we acknowledge that
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A technique by Shima Ghafouri, Parametric Urbanism studio.
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a city can be better understood as a complex adaptive system, an approach that requires us to represent multiple systems. One of the most difficult problems related to design and even more when teaching design, is our inability to move beyond preconceptions. Borrowing from social theory, we might suggest that we are working within our “frame” or “schema”, a context of stories, anecdotes and stereotypes that we used to interpret, understand and respond to design opportunities. While such frames may be extremely useful in our daily life in order not to overload our brain with too much information, in the design context it will lead us to fail to register much that could help us in the design process. We are only aware of “framing” when we find the reason to change “the frame”, and this is why diagramming techniques can be powerful - design can start when you become aware of your re-framing. The two types of diagrams we have introduced, condenser and abstractor, can be understood in another way. In this studio we suggest that one may be understood to represent “knowledge of” and the other “knowledge for”; where “knowledge of” describes how things are, and the “knowledge for” how things may change. Parametric systems are used as they require the user to explicitly articulate the component elements to be engaged and the relationships between them. The graphic outputs can then be understood by the user to represent the relationships of the components; with multiple elements and diverse relationships, the outcomes are beyond those which might be drawn manually. Through these
A technique employed by Edward Blanch, Parametric Urbanism studio. Intentions for movement held by pedestrians in the city are visualised using simple particle behaviour. Particles (representing sound) are emmitted from points within a city. Their paths are traced to represent spaces that can â€œhearâ€? the source sounds. Particle reflect off building surfaces and aggregate into suggestive patterns. This diagrammatic visualisation can be used dynamically to evaluate consequences of design choices.
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tools, the students can interrogate their abstracted understanding of a situation and drive postulations by manipulating parameters or relationships. Most importantly, the process exposes the ease by which facile form may be generated and misinterpreted as proposition. Thus, the transition from diagram to proposition is explored explicitly. While there is much to understand about diagramming, we have found this studio enormously rewarding as the design outcomes we have observed were not those we would have predicted as each student starts on their design process.
References Berkel, B. v. and C. Bos (1999), Move (Amsterdam: UN Studio & Goose Press)
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A technique employed by Edward Blanch, Parametric Urbanism studio. Particles emitted from a location congregate around a point of interest without approaching too close. This dynamic diagram can demonstrate a spontaneous creation of urban rooms that are defined by the behaviour of the people. Visualisation of such events can inform and guide spatial design decisions.
bharat d jules mo
g & making
at dave moloney
Left: Giovanni Veronesi, Digital Design Application elective, 2009, led by Bharat Dave. Surface composition using transformations of cones. Photo by Stanislav Roudavski. Right and next spread: Antry Lau. Digital Design Application elective, 2009, led by Bharat Dave. Modulated surface wrap around a pedestrian bridge. Photo by Bharat Dave.
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To undertake in-depth exploration of the nature of operative knowledge or how it has evolved in architectural design discourse is too ambitious a task to attempt in brief space. However, it may be possible to briefly resurrect some recurring and persistent questions that follow design disciplines, in practice and in pedagogy. How do design disciplines situate themselves between the two cultures of sciences or humanities? Which specific dimensions of these disciplines elevate them from being mere vocations or professions to accord them significant bodies of knowledge? How do worlds of ‘theory’ and ‘practice’, or teaching and research inform these discussions? Are there modes of teaching and research in these disciplines that are peculiar and different from those in sciences? While some of these questions may be partially answered, others have elicited only tentative and provisional responses. Ever since the French Academy Royale d’Architecture was established in 1671 as the first institution to offer studies in architecture in Europe, oppositional tension keeps resurfacing between scientific and designerly modes of teaching, research and practice. These tensions are now playing out with different intensity following developments in digital information and communication technologies. The worlds of intuitive and creative design are now colliding with highly ordered and logical worlds of computer representations and operations. Echoing some challenges that underpinned formation of the Bauhaus curriculum and birth of new sensibilities against the changed industrial and political conditions of the early 20th century, the rise of calculating machines, their miniaturization and prospects for global connectivity pose different transformative challenges for pedagogy and practice in design disciplines. Against this background and faced with an opportunity to evolve components of the new graduate program, how does one move forward? The rapid pace of developments in digital technologies
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This and next spread: Jonathon Long, Parametric Miniature Gallery, Digital Design Applications elective, 2010, led by Jules Moloney. Photo by Stanislav Roudavski.
and diffusion in architectural design practices and pedagogy have fostered an experimental climate in which provisional explorations outpace sustained theoretical reflections and consolidation. Instead of subscribing to a particular digital ideology or approach that may represent only a passing fancy, we have developed three graduate subjects that address contemporary fluidity of thinking and approaches in digital design. Each subject provides connective threads to theory, research or practice in architectural design as a focal reference. In framing these subjects, the underlying intent is to contextualize how distinct modes and ends pursued in theory, research and practice are sometimes mutually reinforcing and at other times in opposition. PRODUCTION OF DIGITAL SPACE explores theories and technologies of representations ranging from analog to digital and their implications on the production of space. The subject focuses on digital technologies and their consequences on reconfiguration of vision, knowledge, professional practice and embodied experience in material and virtual spatial design environments. CONTEMPORARY DIGITAL PRACTICE focuses on impacts of digital technologies on professional practice and services. It explores
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A technique employed by Jonathon Long, Digital Design Applications elective, 2010, led by Jules Moloney, image 1. Diagram by Gwyllim Jahn. Initial planar geometry is extended to the boundaries of the fabricated shell - a process that could be applied to any contoured model described as simple polylines.
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issues such as emerging forms of professional practice, status of professional knowledge and skills, use and value of digital information in design, and digital fabrication and assembly of contemporary buildings. The subject involves guest lectures by practicing designers and case studies of real projects. DIGITAL DESIGN APPLICATIONS offers a conceptual overview and hands-on introduction to research topics and applications in digital design using symbolic representations and operations. The subject introduces algorithmic thinking and explorations of design spaces, generative techniques for variational designs, designing for parts and whole relationships, and technologies of material fabrication and assemblies.
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A technique employed by Jonathon Long, Digital Design Application elective, 2010, led by Jules Moloney, image 2. Diagram by Gwyllim Jahn. Central volume bounded by the intersected lines.
Jonathon Long, Digital Design Application elective, 2010, led by Jules Moloney. Physical model. Photo by Stanislav Roudavski.
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This and next spread: Kenny Foo, Parametric Miniature Gallery, Digital Design Applications elective, 2010, led by Jules Moloney. Photo by Stanislav Roudavski.
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Previous spread: Fu Shen Ho, Parametric Miniature Gallery, Digital Design Applications elective, 2010, led by Jules Moloney. Photo by Stanislav Roudavski. This spread: Hong Yi, Parametric Miniature Gallery, Digital Design Applications elective, 2010, led by Jules Moloney. Photo by Stanislav Roudavski. Next spread: Danh Truong, Parametric Miniature Gallery, Digital Design Applications elective, 2010, led by Jules Moloney. Photo by Stanislav Roudavski.
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This spread, left: model by Shyn Yi Cheah, Digital Design Applications elective, 2009, led by Bharat Dave. Photo by Stanislav Roudavski. This spread, right: model by Golnaz Shariat, Digital Design Applications elective, 2009, led by Bharat Dave. Periodic patterns inspired by the Persian tessellations. Photo by Stanislav Roudavski. Next spread: model by Michael Thomas, Digital Design Applications elective, 2009, led by Bharat Dave. Parametrically woven surface for a pedestrian bridge. Photo by Stanislav Roudavski.
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making f Technique used by Kenny Foo, Digital Design Applications elective, 2010, led by Jules Moloney. Surface is approximated with panels which are then offset based on distance to attractors. Model is fabricated in two layers to give it rigidity and produce light effects by way of overlapping geometries. Diagram by Gwyllim Jahn.
for show Digitally fabricated paper headpieces. Student projects from Semester 1, 2010. Exhibited as HEADSPACE 2, Wunderlich Gallery, University of Melbourne, 2010. In shot, projects by Jarrod Caveny, Jen Yea Chang, Colleen Chen, Zhengzhan Yang, Ji Yoon. Video frame by Stanislav Roudavski.
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This and next spread: headpiece by Zhengzhan Yang, semester 2, 2010. The concept for this headpiece is derived from an analysis of surface cracking.
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Architectural education needs to respond to the rapidly increasing utilisation of computation in architectural design. Digital fabrication in particular is gradually gaining prominence as a fundamental shift in design development and construction. Being able to fulfil “informed manufacturing potentialities [becomes] a principal strategy in realising innovative contemporary architectural design intentions” (Kolarevic & Klinger, 2008, p. 7). The contemporary condition of rapid change and intense experimentation poses a difficult challenge for architectural education because architecture schools have to introduce the new knowledge in parallel with its emergence.
Early design studios The design studio is an essential device of architectural education. It supports experimental exploration of concepts, representations, materials and processes, introducing students to the designerly ways of thinking. Its usefulness as a place of learning through making is confirmed by the artisan traditions, Dewey’s (1916) philosophy of education, Bauhaus’s Vorkurs and recent research (Temple, 2007). The role of the first-year studio is particularly important. It helps students to form initial ideas about design and architecture, to establish the foundations of their personal creative practice or – as legitimately – to convince them not to specialise in architecture. These first encounters with designing introduce students to wicked problems and the ways to tackle them. Most new architecture students need to abandon their preconceptions about designing because their understandings of creativity are often naïve and their knowledge of useful architectural precedents – minimal. Moreover, design studio work typically requires significant transformations in learning behaviour, away from habits formed
during pre-architectural education. Such transformations can be challenging and uncomfortable. To minimise their re-occurrence, it is important to initiate students into creative processes able to provide an enduring foundation for their learning and practice. Digital design thinking Discussing the challenges for architectural education in his work on design pedagogy, Oxman (2008) persuasively argues that contemporary design teaching needs to be founded on new digital design thinking rather than on templates typical for paper-based workflows. Todayâ€™s computational capabilities introduce associative and performance-based processes that were not available in the pre-digital era. These new methods change the conventional relationships between such fundamental categories as ideation and making or form and material. Reflecting the new capabilities afforded by computing, recent architectural theory moved away from once dominant notions of formal knowledge, typology and representation to new concepts that prioritize dynamic generation in response to performance criteria and the linking of design development to the affordances of material systems.
Next spread: HEADSPACE 2 parade hosted by Signal art studio, Melbourne, semester 2, 2010. The headpiece in the shot designed and worn by Adam Herbert.
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The need for change can be even greater in foundation courses that typically focus on explorations of shape, colour, rhythm, light and idiosyncratic experimentations with materials rather than on issues of performance, generation and emergence. The new emphasis on processes and materiality requires new vocabulary, new domain knowledge, new practical skills and – consequently – new approaches to teaching.
Structure of the course The section draws examples from one course, a constituent of a Bachelor of Environments program at the University of Melbourne. This course, entitled Virtual Environments, is intended as an introduction to the use of representation in architecture, landscape architecture, urban design and other allied disciplines. The course is structured around a practical project – called HEADSPACE – that necessitates learning about design precedents, encourages understanding of digital architectural design theory and convinces students to develop essential skills through practice. The HEADSPACE project asks students to design and build geometrically complex sculptures that can be made from paper and worn on the head. The course consists of four modules. In Module I (Engender), students use drawings and physical scale models to develop three-dimensional forms from the analyses of dynamic processes. In Module II (Digitize & Elaborate), students use orthographic projections, contouring techniques and/or point clouds to describe their models and convert them into three-dimensional computational representations. These representations are then modified and extended with digital modelling techniques. In Module III
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This spread: HEADSPACE 2 exhibition, headpiece by Zhengzhan Yang, semester 2, 2010. Next spread: HEADSPACE 2 exhibition, in the background video frame a headpiece designed and worn by Zhong Chen, semester 2, 2010. In the foreground, headpiece by James Spillane, semester 2, 2010
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(Fabricate), students use computer software to unfold their models into two-dimensional components that can be cut out of paper. These components are then used to manufacture self-supporting paper structures, manually or with automated cutting machines. In Module IV (Reflect & Report), students produce documents describing their projects. These documents include justifications of design logic, evidence of analyses and precedent studies, precise geometric descriptions, how-to manuals and depictions of headpieces in context. Previous versions of this course – coordinated by a different team – involved quasi-architectural project content (such as kiosks) and formal exercises (such as the task to represent a set of geometric shapes in orthogonal projections). Motivated by the ambition to teach representation in relationship to the principles of digital architectural design, two semesters ago Stanislav Roudavski (with the help of John Bleaney, the senior tutor at the time) restructured the course to incorporate digital fabrication as its core technique. We adjudged that the building-scale briefs were a distraction for the new students who lacked previous design education. Predictably, their design proposals were uncritical copies of bland (or kitsch) commercial architecture. The complexity of architectural problems undermined students’ ability to focus on heuristic, conditional and iterative development. In a course with the institutional remit to teach representation, there was no time to teach design history. Another solution had to be found. By replacing a series of small quasi-architectural projects with one comparatively abstract theme – the headpiece – we were able to free resources that allowed us to accommodate a challenging conceptual change and move from conventional experimentation with different design media to an exploration of digital architectural design with computer-enabled fabrication at its core. As a result, we were able to give students an op-
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Headpiece detail, project by Weisheng Ng, HEADSPACE 1, semester 1, 2010.
portunity to produce completed objects rather than tentative descriptions of proposals, such as drawings or physical scale models. We also asked students to cope with unfamiliar and unusual processed-based themes that discouraged uncritical adoption of existing design solutions or unthinking importation of conventional building types. To encourage emotional investment and make students feel greater responsibility for their projects we organised for the designs to be demonstrated in a prominent public event during a specially staged “fashion parade”. For young people whose creative personality is still in formation and who – many as teenagers – are particularly conscious of their public image, such public exposure can be highly embarrassing or highly rewarding. A public event at the end of the course caps a prolonged development process with a distinct and picturesque resolution reframing a potentially dry project as a socially meaningful and emotive encounter. Learning outcomes The focus on digital fabrication allowed a move away from outmoded emphasis on typologies, formal representations, visual precedents and arbitrary ideas. Instead, the structure of the course prioritises gradual, iterative development that searches for outcomes by exposing initial concepts to different media, techniques, contingencies and materials. In addition to emphasizing these new concepts, this digital fabrication ascribes new meaning to the traditional tools of architectural ideation and development, including descriptive geometry, paper sketching, collaging and physical modelling. Working with these media within the framework of digital architectural design, students become accustomed to transferring design content into different representational forms and learning their comparative characteristics. Integrated into the process underpinned by digital fabrication, traditional tech-
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niques, for example those borrowed from fine art, can enhance and guide digital experimentation. To illustrate, in the Virtual Environments course, students were asked to base their designs on an existing dynamic event, for example that of ink dissolving in water, plant extending towards light, a match bursting into flame, a sand dune pushed by the wind or a stalagmite rising from a floor. Having made a reasoned selection, they had to utilise several forms of representation for the analysis of the chosen phenomenon. This analysis could be conducted through a variety of sampling techniques ranging from a frame-by-frame review of a video sequence to the staging of a practical sedimentation process. Forms possible via computer-assisted fabrication are unconventional and directly refer to the current stateof-the-art experimentation in architecture. Exposure to such forms and associated methods encourages students to question their preconceptions of architectural designing and its products. Instead of continuing with a typical romantic image of a designer as an idiosyncratic creator, the students experiment with process-based approaches. Because relevant theory and precedents are less obvious to newcomers, the students cannot rely on existing knowledge and have to engage in independent
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search for the relevant conceptual context and the existing communities of practice. In our experience, this need has the capability to inspire the students and tutors alike. It can also leave behind weaker students who are unwill-
ing to do independent research. Making them understand
Dewey, J.: 1916, Democracy and Education: An In-
and assimilate deeper theoretical implications remains our
troduction to the Philosophy of Education, Macmillan,
Introduction of fabrication allows students to develop ideas
Kolarevic, B. & Klinger, K. R. (eds.): 2008, Manufactur-
in response to the contingencies of making, closer to the way
ing Material Effects: Rethinking Design and Making in
design happens in practice and, in extension, to the more
Architecture, Routledge, New York; London.
typical approaches to architectural education that support students through ideation but frequently do not provide opportunities to engage with production. The digital fabrication workflow requires coordination between different media and skill sets. By focusing on a holistic challenge of fabricating a complex form, this approach provides a context that demonstrates how multiple types of media satisfy different pragmatic needs. Working on the project, students acquire skills in physical modelling, sketching, drawing, photographing, digitization, threedimensional modelling, unfolding, fabrication, writing and desktop publishing. Engaging with such challenges in the context of digital fabrication is particularly useful because it results in easy-toperceive successes and failures. If the final paper headpiece does not assemble, it is clear that a geometric mistake has been made. As a result, “[w]orkmanship becomes evident as a category of design decision-making, not simply as a by-product or something that might be spoken of at a designer’s whim.” (Temple, 2009, p. 220)
Oxman, R.: 2008, ‘Digital Architecture as a Challenge for Design Pedagogy: Theory, Knowledge, Models and Medium’, Design Studies, vol. 29, no. 2, pp. 99–120. Temple, S.: 2009, Initializing the Discipline of Design in the First Project(s), Proceedings of the 25th NCBDS (National Conference of the Beginning Design Student), Louisiana, USA, J. Sullivan and M. Dunn, 219–226.
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Previous spread: HEADSPACE 2 Exhibition, semester 2, 2010. In hte background video frame, a headpiece designed and worn by Anne Gaelle Poussin. In other shots, headpieces by David Fitzwillian, Gumji Kang, James Spillane. Previous spread, bottom left: headpiece detail, project by Colleen Chen, HEADSPACE 2, semester 2, 2010. This spread: HEADSPACE 2 Parade, Signal art studio, Melbourne, semester 2, 2010. In the shot, a headpiece designed and worn by James Spillane.
Fragment of a photograph by John Gollings.
at full sca
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Unless mentioned otherwise, the work in this section is produced during SKINS studio, 2010. Student participants: Neo Fu, Rachel Jones, Goh Kai Kheng, Adeline Leng, Chris Loh, Tan Yee Peng, Angelica Rojas,
The SKINS 2010 Design Studio in the Master of Architecture programme at the Melbourne School of Design, Faculty of
Sun Shuli, Fereshteh Tabe, Nicole
Architecture, Building and Planning, University of Melbourne
Teh, Melody Tong, Alex Wong, Kathy
designed and built a permanent ceiling installation in the
Wu, Wong Chern Xi, Keong Pei Yi, Henry Tan Chia Zeh.
ground floor concourse of the facultyâ€™s building in the Parkville campus in late 2010. The construction of the ceiling required 4600 minutes of laser cutting, 378 hours of pre-fabrication, and 3 days of on-site installation. Materials used were 300 sheets of white and translucent polypropylene, 16712 steel eyelets, and 200m of stainless steel cable. The result is a series of 784 modules, 341 are white plastic, 443 are translucent. Each is unique, with differing proportions and directionality. The ceiling installation explores, firstly, the shifting relationship between permeability, perspective and movement; and secondly, the function of the concourse as both a circulation route and a gathering space. The overall form is a record and study of stationary and moving bodies within the concourse. It maps and reflects
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the activity in the concourse. Empirical activity and usage data gathered over the course of a 24 hour period was used as the starting point for the parametric model. The most intense gathering spaces create peaks in the undulating surface, while a circulation path is carved in between these spaces as the troughs of the form. The modules create large, permeable openings at gathering spaces that correspond to main entryways such as the stairwell
The work of the SKINS studio continues a sustain research theme that
and elevator doors. Large, overlapping, enclosed modules mark
exlores formal potentials of digitally
independent, discrete gathering spaces, such as those around the
fabricated and parametrically con-
display shelves. The modules in between shift gradually from more open to more enclosed, larger to smaller, creating a controlled rate of change in the permeability of the skin. The modules are grouped to open up and allow views through the skin, directed towards key vantage points from the main entry doors at either end of the concourse. As one passes through the concourse, the ceiling gradually opens and closes in areas, shifting its permeability in relation to the viewer, variously appearing and dissolving. Material, technique and form are interdependent. The studio examined this relationship within the context of the contemporary cultural, economic and industrial landscape of mass customization. The studio was interested in the translation of the virtual to the physical. Students considered the production and realisation of
trolled geometries. Previous spread: Priscilla Ang, Cheryl Heap, Jingyi Heng, Abstraction Fabrication studio, 2009. Right: Cheryl Heap, Abstraction Fabrication studio, 2009.
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This and previous spread: SKINS studio, 2010. Diagrams showing the geometric operations used to produced the distorted hexagon grid of the final installation. Nest spread: A series of images showing the construction of a typical
architecture informed by the seamless integration of processes
module. Compare with the bottom of
of generating design information and industrial production. This
the following spread presenting the
integrated exchange of information has led to forms of architec-
same process as a diagram.
tural production that bring designers deeper into the complexities of making, assembly, and material formulation. The aim was for students to develop an understanding of digital design and fabrication technologies, as tools for managing a complex negotiation of material, geometric, manufacturing, and assembly constraints and the resulting effects. Through the exploration of these techniques, it was intended that students would discover new forms of collaboration with industry, challenge conventional methodologies, and suggest a future in which designers are much more engaged in the total process of architecture â€“ re-associating design and making. Students investigated current industrial contexts, covering both material production and manufacturing processes. Materiality was a key design parameter, through its constraints of structural behaviour, available sizes and suitability to specific working techniques. Together with fabrication techniques, material performance was a key determinant of the final design. From these, new solutions were sought, utilising digitally-driven methodologies to extend existing, and create new, possibilities.
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From Gottfried Semper’s Principle of Cladding in the 19th Century, through to Mies van der Rohe’s “skin and bones” in the 20th, the separation of architectural skin and structure has been a central topic. This studio continued this line of inquiry. Students explored the complex and dynamic relationship between architectural skin and structure. The intersection, interstice and interdependency of the inner envelope, outer envelope and load bearing structure, were points of investigation. These conditions were the means to explore, address, condense and bring together the aesthetic, functional, technological values, of the project.
Top: student participants assemble the installation. Bottom: an example of the documentation used to manage the complex logistics of fabrication. Next two spreads: construction tools and techniques.
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The installation in situ. The image shows the suspension system of the structure. Photo by Eugene Cheah.
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Right and next page: completed installation. From original photos by John Gollings.
Published on Feb 20, 2012
A book showcasing ideas, projects, designs and courses united by the theme of Investigative Designing and realised at the Faculty of Archite...