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INTRODUCTION PART A. EOI I: CASE FOR INNOVATION A.1. Architecture as a Discourse A.2. Computational Architecture A.3. Parametric Modelling A.4. Conclusion A.5. Learning Outcomes A.6. Appendix - Algorithmic Explorations PART B. EOI II: DESIGN APPROACH B.1. Design Focus B.2. Case Study 1.0 B.3. Case Study 2.0 B.4. Technique: Development B.5. Technique: Prototypes B.6. Technique Proposal B.7. Learning Objectives and Outcomes B.8. Appendix - Algorithmic Sketches PART C. PROJECT PROPOSAL C.1. Gateway Project: Design Concept C.2. Gateway Project: Tectonic Elements C.3. Gateway Project: Final Model C.4. Learning Objectives and Outcomes C.5. Appendix - Alogorithmic Sketches REFERENCES AFTERWORDS Cover Image: Aranda\Lasch: Rules of Six, Installation at MoMA, New York, United States, 2008. < safavid-surfaces-and-parametricism > [accessed 19 August 2013]


(from left) Me looking touristy; studio works from Earth and Water in previous years. My name is Steve Qingchen Meng, born in China, lived and studied in Australia since 6 years ago. Grew up with my grandparents in a very conservative and traditional Chinese family, breaking free from restraints had somehow become my greatest longing during childhood. Thus there was no surprise when I moved in with my parents (who are more free-minded) I immediately decided to take a big step out and lived in a foreign country. For a kid like me who grew up the only child of the family, there will always be very high expectations of you, and you automatically become the centre of the conversation whenever there’s a family gathering. Luckily I was quite successful during my school years, getting high grades most of the time and made my parents proud. That’s all for a bit of background of me, someone or-

dinary who works with all heart and strives for becoming an excellent influence in whatever he does. Many people have defined what architecture is for them, and to me, I’d like to see it as a restless search for solutions that respond to human beings, environment, and the intertwined relationships among different elements in this society. In short, architecture is problem-solving. It also fascinates me by the complexity of it, meanwhile comprimising its environment, it strives to express the mind of the architect.

stick to any. But in general I do prefer a sense of cleanness and elegance in its artistic expression. Beautiful yet strong and agressive in its form. My favourite architects include I. M. Pei (Le Grand Louvre), Toyo Ito, Bjarke Ingels. I am also quite fond of classic architecture, amazed by the reverance and grandeur of their beauty.

This is why I chose Architecture over all other potential occupations such as arts, economics, psychology, science etc. As I believe that ‘architecture is the epitome of all intelligent acts’ [1].

My professional experience do include internship at a small practice which involves some basic measuring, drafting and documenting of projects. Coming from a very practical and domestic background means that the contents of this studio will be quite new to me, which in other words it seems like an exciting adventure in my long journey ahead.

Being a junior architecture student I personally don’t think I have any particular design style, nor should I

On the technical side, at the university I did familiarise myself with common programmes such as Rhino,

AutoCAD, Revit, Sketchup etc. I do find them useful at different stages of the design, and using a combination of various programmes has always been the way I work. “Whatever you hand finds to do, do it with your might.”[2] has always been a motto to me. And there is always a attractive charisma around those who devote to whatever they are doing. If you want to know more of me, I do keep a personal blog (if anybody still writes blog these days) and an online portfolio for myself. 1. Yehuda E. Kalay, Architecture’s New Media: Principles, Theories, and Methods of Computer-Aided Design (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2004), p. 5; 2. Ecclesiastes 9: 10 (Illinois: Crossway, the Holy Bible ESV)

Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labour in vain. [3] Psalms 127:1

3. Psalms 127:1 (Illinois: Crossway, the Holy Bible ESV)


A.1. Architecture as a Discourse

Tokyo Bay Project (1960), Kenzo Tange [i] Being an occupation that can date back to nearly the beginning of human civilisation, an architect, strangely was not such a clearly distinguished profession as it is today. Architectural design was not considered a crucial part of constructing a building, rather, it is deeply integrated into the craftsmanship of a builder. Thus buildings, prior to the Renaissance, were constructed, not planned. [4] No one will disagree with the fact that in today’s world most of a person’s life time is spent inside a building. Just like good parents will allow their child to be making good friends, we all know that people are constantly being shaped by the environments, with or without knowing it. Just like Richard Williams had stated that ‘Works of architecture frame our lives; we inhabit them; they define our movement through cities; they

Barcelona Pavilion (1929), Mies van der Rohe [ii] moralise and discipline, or attempt to.’ [5] Therefore we could say that architecture exceeds more than just the physical realm, it also goes into the philosophical and social field as well. [6] However, the discourse around architecture is mainly about the material or the aesthetic realms of it. The Tokyo Bay Project (1960) by Kenzo Tange was his climax work expressing his prospect of seeing cities as metabolism. Functional units (residential sectors, recreational sectors, governing sectors etc) are ‘plugged into’ the city and are ‘plugged out’ when replacement is required. Though his (and many of his fellow architects’) ideas were too expensive and enourmously complicated to be realised, the concept of metabolism offered a whole new perspective on the possibilites of human inhabitats. And this is the same

with many similar ‘avant-garde’ architects who probably did more writing and sketching rather than realising their projects. Thus the discourse arises whether their research realm still belongs to architecture and is valuable or their ideas should be treated unfavorably. Talking about built projects, Mies’ Barcelona Pavilion used beautiful architectural language in both of its form and proportions. The intentional use of this pavilion was for World Expo exhibition only, the design somehow expressed the German spirit of precisions, perseverance and minds of intellects. This building is certainly a masterpiece in post-modern architecture, and conceptual in every way. Although one may argue the function of this building is poor and oblivious of context or insulation, it certainly inspired many architects of the time.

And alike, Tange’s Tokyo Bay Project proposed a new way of procuring landscape, and now Tokyo Bay has some 20% area of artificial land. In conclusion, if anyone is not simply satisfied by what the architectural design world has to offer today, and is ambitious to advance the architecture discourse to a higher level, he or she is bound to look beyond the materiality of architecture, and soberly consider what it is to human beings today. In this way we can prevent our designs from being repetitive and wearisome. Just like Archigram has stated, ‘buildings with no capcaity to change can only become slums or ancient monuments.’ [7] 4. Kalay, p.7. 5. Richard Williams, Architecture and Visual Culture, in Exploring Visual Culture: Definitions, Concepts, Contexts, ed. by Matthew Rampley (Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2005) p. 102 6. Williams, p.108; 7. Archigram, dir., Archigram, BBC Productions, 1966.

A.1.1 Precedent: Sendai Mediatheque/ Toyo Ito 2001, SENDAI, JAPAN.

Toyo Ito has been known for his idea of creating ‘wind-like’ architecture and ‘fluid’ internal space. In his project of building a multifunctional cultural centre ‘the Mediatheque’, computing and technology are certainly integrated into his design, which reflects his view on the modern society. The thirteen-internal-supporting steel columns are representing similar structural function as trees. This metaphor of trees, which is present in many of Ito’s projects, indicated his ideal of When confronted with this commission of contructing a ‘museum and the library’, Ito embraced the idea of technology and acknowledged it as the central motif of modern society (remember it was early as 2001 which

marked the entering of a new century, and Ito sensed his building would somehow stand for his expectations for the coming century). The two precedents that Ito refered this projects to are Mies’ Barcelona Pavilion and Le Corbusier’s Dom-ino House, which are two influential masterpieces from the last century. Looking from this prospective, Ito did bring in the central ideas of the master architects’ (Mies’ fluid space and ‘less is more’, and Le Corbusier’s emphasis on the floors and columns). However Ito used very high-end technology to develop around these ideas, looking for the best way to represent the ‘zeigeist’, meaning ‘spirit of the age’.

Sendai Mediatheque (2001), Toyo Ito. from left: [iii] [iv] [v]

A.1.2 Precedent: Flinders Street Station/ Herzog & De Meuron 2013, MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA. (Competition Winning Entry)

In the competition of the Flinders Street Station revamp that just recently closed, among the six shortlisted candidates, Herzog & De Meuron (HDM)’s ‘vaultfeatured’ station design beat the others. In the short description of the design intent, HDM mentioned that ‘An important part of the original design for the Flinders Street Station from 1899 was a generous arched roof, adjacent to today’s existing heritage building, with 3 large vaults. This roof was never realized, and therefore, the station’s intended glory has never fully materialised.’ [8] HDM’s design was one of those firms who really looked into the context of the design and thus make it relevant to the people, the

culture and their daily life. Architecture can only engage with people and be truly appriciated when it shows respect and acknowledgement of the local environment, which does not necessarily compromise creativity in any way. Comparing to the competition entry of Zaha Hadid Architects, I’d say their work emphasises more on the identity of the firm than trying to adapt the local context. Thus their design, though beautiful in its form, looks somehow ‘egotistic’. Another one of their projects in Beijing, the Galaxy Soho, received accusation for destroying heritage buildings and streets.

Therefore it is important for architects to understand their role in the society as ‘presenters of zeigeist’ rather than ‘revolutionists’. Presenters strive for expressing and capturing the central value of the society and preserve it in the form of architecture, whereas revolutionists only care about promoting their own value and idea regardless of heritage and the rituals which people have been living with and have become part of their identity, their source of security.

8. Herzog & De Meuron, Flinders Street Station, < > [accessed 19 August 2013]

Flinders Street Station Revamp (2013), Herzog & De Meuron. From Left: [vi] [vii]

A.2. Computational Architecture

The invention and development of computers have brought complete changes to the world, and the architecture in particular, has gained much benefit from enabling computer-aided designs. Digital drawing, modelling and documenting has become the standard in the industry, and digital fabrication has also become increasingly popular. By computerising drawings and developing conceptual ideas, the architects are able to achieve results in a few minutes where it used to take years for people to achieve similar. However the computerised designs in nature is still paper-based design, as they have somewhat the same methodology, only improved performance and accuracy. Computational architecture is still somehow unfamiliar to the world today. Instead of tranferring handdrawings into digital drawings, computational architecture creates design by following a set of equiations, algorithms, parameters to

achieve something that is complex yet well-informed. One way we could describe the design process is turning the six sides of a Rubic Cube. Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a certain stage where we want to get, which is, uniform colour on each side. By turning each side and working within constraints we achieve at the final stage as envisioned. However, Computational architecture should be compared as puzzle making or building blocks. There are pieces of different shapes at our hands, and there is a general direction in our mind as to what to achieve (functional, representational etc), but as working and playing around with pieces, we tend to be surprised by the outcome and the effect of the design. Thus computational design is not merely about precise control, but exploring into the realm where human imagination wouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be able to perceive.

Arctic Flowers, Evan Douglis The assembly is similar to that of a puzzle-making.

A.2.1. Helioscopes/ Evan Douglis FRAC Centre Collection, Orleans, France

The material of this indoor decoration is called CNC miled master foam unit, it was uniquelly designed for the client who was seeking for a most futuristic architecture design. The swirling shape and the surface movement are controlled by a set of algorithm in order to maintain integrity of the design while offering a range of different geometry. The monolithic property of this design wouldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve been hard to achieve with traditional materials such as stone, concrete, cement etc. With the aid of the CNC machine and plastic materials, this design can be made with a quite limited labour and resource, and allowance for adjustments. As this product designed by Evan Douglis can be or-

dered and customised according to the client. Computational design and digital fabrication make the massproduction of this decoration possible. By changing the parameters, different outcomes can be easily achieved, thus ensuring the product to be â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;one of a kindâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;.

A.2.2. Smithsonian Institution/ Foster+ Partners 2004 - 07, Washington DC, US

Articulating the new over the old, the new courtyard design for the Smithsonian Institution (the former Patent Building) features the wave-form truss roof. Being a finecrafted Greek revival architecture, the Patent Building has long been Washingtonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s landmark and now is housing exhibitions and public performances of all kinds. The challenge for the design team was how to incoperate a contemporary design harmoniously into the classic. And how to collaborate the new digital design thinking with the rigid and elegant forms of classic. This project reminds me of the prestigious glass pyramid of the Grand Louvre by I. M. Pei, which was also a challenge of mixing two designs that are hundreds of years apart. The roof was majorly comprised of three continous vaults that flow into one another. Unlike the Louvre Glass, the flowing roof structure was formed using parametric design tools. The positions and dimensions of the grid were calculated with computation methods. The contrast between the symmetrical rigid classical building and the free-form transparent canopy communicates to the audience an interesting discourse. The

result was not merely â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;adding onâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; an extra structure, but to transform the culture of the surroundings and to express a subtle humerous of the combination of the old and the new. Projects like these are tricky as precedents are few and it all depends on the existing site and the old building. It is a perfect example when looking at the constraints that architects are working within. Computational tools allow architects to control this constraint and make changes to the shape quite easily. It also makes possible for a structure like this to express its monolithic feature, though joints are present due to fabrication, when looking afar, it is the continuous fluidity that is the most eye-catching. From left: [ ] [ ] [ ]

A.3. Parametric Modelling

Rules of Six, Aranda/ Lasch [ ]

As degital design tools are becoming more userfriendly, providing there are a handful of very high-end programmes to offer, one may think these would be sufficient to accomplish any design tasks. However, this mindset restrains the computer’s abilities mostly as a new type of ‘paper’, and three-dimensional visual aid. There is a tendecy now for architects to move from ‘aspiring expert users’ to ‘being digital toolmakers’. [ ] Scripting (which should somehow be differed from parametric modelling) has several definitions but in design programmes, ‘scripting is the capability offered by almost all design software packages that allows the user to adapt, customise or completely reconfigure software around their own predilections and modes of working’. [ ] Providing this opportunity to fine tune the programmes you are working on, there’s a greater chance for the user to engage with the computer and to utilise its capability (as a superb analytical machine) in full. The value of scripting is free from the restrictions that the programme developers embodied, allowing the archi-

tect to focus more on design activity. As it is stated by Kostas Terzidis, ‘It is possible to claim that a designer’s creativity is limited by the very programmes that are supposed to free their imagination.’ [ ] Patrik Schumacher, architect and theorist who’s working under Zaha Hadid Architects, says that ‘Parametricism is the great new style after modernism’. [ ] Despite receiving criticisms on his definition of paramatricism and a seemly ‘self-promoting’ attitude, I’d like mention that this is a common misunderstanding of parametric design. Schumacher believes that there’s a major shift from the rigid geometries of classical and modern architecture, to the splines, nurbs and dynamic designs of parametricism. When post-modernism has gone into the dead-end of minimalism, or ‘function follows form’. The shifting back to mathematics and parametric modelling offers a greater opportunity to rely upon the algorithm and be expected to see what we can hardly forsee in our own mind.

By looking at Safavid Mosque ceilings, architects traced the algorithm by which the surface patterns are generated. [ ]

A.3.1. Precedent: Seroussi Pavillion/ Alisa Andrasek

From left [ ] [ ] [ ] ‘Seroussi Pavilion was “grown” out of self-modifying patterns of vectors based on electro-magnetic fields (EMF). Through logics of attraction/repulsion trajectories were computed in plan and than lifted via series of structural microarching sections through different frequencies of sine function.’ [ ]

Computation allows us to represent sophisticated properties of design elements or complex between them within our design models/algorithms. [...] Parameters can become far more informed than merely intuitive. Stanislav Roudavski [ ]

Though the description above sounds like it is an experimental project that exists without any context, however there is a script that was built-in later in order to fit the pavillion in the site (the pavillion is on a steep hill). The automatic growth of cocoon-like spirals saves time of generating the shape as well as avoiding repetition that all human handcrafts tend to have. 3D fabrication technology allows this project to be precise and to express the monolithic nature of the material, the continual stretch of the surface.

A.3.1. Precedent: Cottbus Technical University Library/ Herzog & De Meuron

From left [ ] [ ] This library project is sitting within a context of buildings with uniform style, they are all essentially the same in shape, height and material. The group decided to communicate with a new spirit of the university by placing this landmark architecture in the campus. The building was not planned out arbituarily, but rather it is following a certain configuration of different flows of movement inside the building.

‘The development of specialized treatments of concrete and glass, customization through digital fabrication, and parametric design tools have brought about a contemporary resurgence of surface articulation, reopening the general issue of surface composition as a “legitimate” aspect of design, after almost a century of (near) omission by modernism.’ Contemporary architects start to bring back the value of ornamentation (despite being rejected for nearly

a century), by looking at patterning ornamentations from the mosque ceiling is one example. Parametric tools help to develop and have further control over the patterns that are automatcially generated by computer following a certain written algorithm.

A.4./ A.5 Conclusions/ Learning Outcomes

Architecture can be looked at more indepth when it is considered beyond the clustering of building components. The discourse of architecture, which means looking at architecture from multiple disciplines, and practise it through researching, writing and experimenting, becomes increasingly crucial to advance the history of architecture. Therefore architecture has to be relevant and respectful to its context, which is the very nature of the profession - to work with outer constrains and inner creativity. The development of new media and computing technology offers revolutionary changes to the field of architecture. While being thrilled by the accuracy that computers have to offer, designers tend to confront with the problems of being restrained by their tools. Computerised designs, in its very nature, are still paper-based designs, only in digital forms. Computational architecture is becoming increasingly popular. By scripting and constructing the set of algorithms the designers are offered with greater control. Designers are shifting from expert programme users to toolmakers. Computational design and parametric design thinking not only offers greater control and precision over the project, but also explores the possibilities of manipulating and populating geometry. Before starting this course and researching into the area of parametric designs, I thought these projects are mainly experimental and far from functional. How-

ever, now I have encountered a lot of new projects and architects and realised that this design thinking has already be adapted by many successful architects/firms. Though the complexity of forms and ornamentation has been rejected by the modernist movement for nearly a century now, it starts to come back to architects to realise the beauty of ‘orderly chaos’, and looking at ways of generating complex but not complicated form. Since the post-modernism has been restricted by minimalism (not speaking against it as there are many beautiful projects still being built), thinking in algorithm and bringing in digital fabrications will certainly open up new realm to the industry.

A.6. Appendix - Algorithmic Explorations

Exploration with ‘perpendicular frames’ and ‘pipes’ on a lofted Brep. A series of different geometries can be achieved by simply altering the parameters in Grasshopper.

Populating a grid of cylinders on a loft Brep. The grid can be random or following a certain set of algorithm. The finishing result’s application will be an assembly of structures on a contoured terrain.

A.7. Bibliography A

Case for Innovation_Steve Meng (Version 2)