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_WORDS & IMAGES A.1_Architecture as a Discourse A.1.1_The Architectural Dialogue A.1.2_Le Principe Domino A.1.3_Bloom A.1.4_Schumacher

A.2_Computational Architecture A.2.1_Computation in Architecture A.2.2_Xtra Moenia A.2.3_Arnhem Central Transfer Hall

A.3_Parametric Modelling

A.3.1_Parametricism A.3.2_ICT/ITKE Research Pavilion A.3.3_Hygroscope

A.4_Algorithmic Explorations A.4.1_Cages

A.5_Conclusions A.6_Learning Outcomes

_ I N T R O DUCTIONS To the university I’m known as student #539163 but you can call me Nic. I came to Melbourne two years ago and have enjoyed the most of my time here. After never even dabbling I’m finding that standing here at the precipice of parametric design is quite a daunting experience, even if it is just as exciting. My first love was sketch-up but I found my Juliet after nervously experimenting with Rhino in first year and haven’t thought of Sketch-up Rosaline since. Now days I spend my time at uni or working at small architecture practice in Fitzroy North. On the side I complete small design projects such as set designs and some competition work.


Architecture is a challenge to adequately define and given the changing nature of its theory, practice and built form this challenge is compounded by temporal evolutions. As a starting point I asked my housemates (architecturally uninitiated by anyones standard) what they thought architecture was. The response: “architecture is buildings - it has to be artistic”01. This understanding of architecture is simple and indicative of how most of society perceives our profession. To the initiated (the scholar, the professional and the critic) architecture is a much more encompassing term, comprising not only built examples but the knowledge, practice and experience attached to them. Considering this we tend to think of architecture, as Richard Williams puts it: “as a range of social and professional practices that sometimes but by no means always lead to buildings.”02 In other words, architecture is a dialogue. Williams furthers this case by teasing out the limitations of three prominent views of architecture, that of it being an art, a symbolic mechanism and a spatial construction. Williams argues that architecture cannot be reduced down to any of these alone, but rather as their amalgamation forms a discourse “a network of practices and debates about the built environment”02. This account of architecture offers a solid departure point from which to argue its nature as a dialogue. Adding to Williams definition, I would include within the discourse room for the formal elements of artefact, knowledge and practice as proposed by Patrik Schumacher.

_Le Principe Domino

Modernist pioneer Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, whom since the 1920s has been better known as Le Corbusier, conceived of a structural system consisting of planar slabs and recessed column supports with an adjacent dogleg staircase. Known as the Domino frame or the Maison Domino, this conceptual structure challenged the prevailing dialogues idea of how a buildings structural system should work. In contrast to traditional buildings whereby walls are required to support each floor or roof slab, Le Corbusiers Domino model showed that by replacing these elements with columns the internal plan becomes a liberated space, ready to be shaped by the architect 03. This seemingly innocuous structural configuration excited and inspired the growing modernist movement, within which the architectural dialogue quickly adapted and experimented with Le Corbusiers ideas (culminating in his five points of architecture). Architectural historian Colin Rowe said of the Maison Domino, exemplified by the constructed Villa Savoy, as being “symbols of emancipation” carrying insinuations of “social liberty”04. This model has informed the subsequent dialogue throughout the 20th and 21st century. For better or for worse various permutations of the Domino skeleton are contained within a sizeable share of the worlds built architecture today. In this way, Le Corbusiers Maison Domino constituted a weighty contribution to the modernist architectural dialogue of his day. Indeed the fact that we still feel its gravity now is testament to its influence.

La Villa Savoy 1929-31. Le principe domino has been furnished here with a dichotomy of curved and straight walls 06

A contemporary Japanese example of le principe domino 2012. this example is taking Le Corbs idea to its extreme. 07


Deviations from the mean often constitute worthy contributions and challenges to the architectural dialog. In her BLOOM project biologist turned architect Doris Kim Sung explored what she has termed ‘smart materials’ in an installation made entirely of thermobiometal panels able to bend in response to temperature changes. Whilst the form is parabolic and clearly designed with complex CAD programing, the real contribution to our dialogue is in material development. It is here that new ideas and potentials are being pushed and it is here that this project makes us re-frame the perceived limitations we place on what built architecture looks like and what built works can do. In this example the diurnal changes to form and phenomenological experience of the installation constitute a wide deviation from the architectural mean and propose new potentials for creating the space and spacial-experiences enjoyed by people.

_References 1.01_S. Harper, (2013)

1.02_R. Williams, Exploring Visual Culture: Architecture and Visual Culture (2005), pp108 & 114 1.03_F. Samuel, Le Corbusier in Detail (2007), pp21 1.04_C. Rowe, The Architecture of Good Intentions (1994), pp57 1.05_Maison Domino, digital image, <>, (accessed 01.04.2013)

_ P a t r i k Schumacher

In his 2011 book The Autopoiesis of Architecture: A New Framework for Architecture Patrik Schumacher develops the concept of a unified theory of architecture, basing this theory in the idea of autopoietic systems, that is in the sense that biologist Humberto Maturana uses to describe living systems as “autonomous, self-making unities”08. This theory posits that the architectural dialogue is to be considered as autopoietic, capable of self-generating its own theoretical needs. Schumacher describes the dialogue as encompassing the three principle elements of artefact, knowledge and practice as disseminated by various mediums such as print and digital media08. With this effectual mud map we can begin to consider where the Wyndham City Gateway project may make its contribution or draw its insight and inspiration. Within this case for innovation I will argue that computational and parametric technics and processes provide the most fertile frame of reference for design to take place.

1.06_La Villa Savoy, digital image, <http://arch329lain.>, (accessed 01.04.2013) 1.07_Sou Fujimoto’s House, digital image, <>, (accessed 01.04.2013) 1.08_P. Schumacher, The Autopoiesis of Architecture: A New Framework for Architecture (2011), pp1-28.


As we have discovered architecture and the process of design fits neatly in neither the sciences or as an art. Indeed as expressed by professor of architecture, Yehuda Kalay; the design process draws on both the creative and analytical talents of humans, as epitomised by the dichotomy between the left and right hemispheres of our brains01. For Kalay design involves the four interdependent stages of rational problem analysis, creative solution synthesis, rational evaluation and an all-encompassing requirement for articulate communication. Separating design into these four tasks illuminates the points at which computers, computation and digital tools are able to provide the most help or introduce the strongest constrictions. Computational programs capable of rational analysis of quantifiable values can be relied upon in the rationally based tasks of problem analysis and solution evaluation. It is here that programs such as those built to model engineered structures or fluid mechanics outperform their human users as tools of analysis. In the process of solution synthesis and communication computers and digital technologies are able to express increasingly complex structures and forms becoming important feedback loops informing the designers and their process and well as more pragmatically disseminating this information to other parties. However what must also be realised is that in using computational tools we may constrict our designs and our processes by the tricky need to speak in languages the computer can understand. Just as the tools available to physically construct a building dictate the range of forms that building may take, so to does the character of computation methods exert their own gravity on the solution space of a design problem. With regard to the Wyndham City Gateway we are able to apply the benefits of computational tools. Computational processes allow us to broaden the design space of any given project because of the improved analysis and communicative facility they provide. For the Gateway this means the design typologies and analytical opportunities are much greater, leading to a more comprehensive conceptual base.

Designed as a temporary installation that marks the northern entrance to the San Gennero Festival in New York City, this tensile architecture was developed and built by SOFTlab using the Rhino plug-in Kangaroo. This plug-in is effectively a “physics engine”02 enabling in model simulation of the real world properties of many materials. Using Kangaroo highly complex forms such as these can be modelled and intuitively altered whilst still working within the computer. What this shows is the breadth with which the design solution space can be expanded. Forms and hence structures such as these present prohibitively complex challenges when faced without advanced computational tools. Xtra Moeina, which in Latin means ‘outside the walls’, is site specific as it “can only find its true form when attached”03 to specific points in its built context. As a precedent for the Gateway project this instillation proves the complexity and emancipating quality of parametric programs and their plug-ins. Perhaps we may use Kangaroo to shape the solution space of our design.

Xtra Moenia 2011. The project acts like an urban spiderweb, intuitively tensile and consisting of two polar oculi that evoking a dynamic visual tension that invites public engagement. 04

_Xtra Moenia


UNStudio has placed computational analysis and its catalogued accumulation of knowledge and technique at the heart of its design practice, using visual expressions of algorithmic analysis to inform the designer-design relationship. In the now decade long Arnhem Central Transfer Hall project in the Netherlands, the designers sought to create a building morphology intuitive to the user05. The continuity of the roof structure was made possible only with the use of advanced parametric software, whilst the optimisation and structural development relied on complex computational tools. This structural development pertains most notably to the roof panelling where the “complexity of the woven pattern represents a balance of structural, material and economic parameters”06. These panels were first abstractedly modeled by programmed objects, which “contain[ed] methods that autonomously create boundaries, check for geometric optimisation (ruled, cylindrical, flat), create anchor points, annotate and extract data”06. In contrast to the predominantly top-down method of design that requires designers to work around the set characteristics of materials, this project actively informed and optimized the material requirements that would need to be developed. To consider the Gateway project in regard to the Arnhem Central Transfer Hall we might learn from the use of algorithmically driven optimisation present in UNStudios work. Factoring in quantifiable parameters regarding context conditions and structural needs our design can aim to balance between these similar to that of UNStudios

Arnhem Central Transfer Hall 19962014. Depictions of the complex geometry that intuitively informs users behavioral patterns. 07

_References 2.01_Yehuda E. Kalay, Architecture’s New Media : Principles,

Theories, and Methods of Computer-Aided Design (2004), pp 5 - 25 2.02_Daniel Piker, “Kangaroo: Form Finding with Computational Physics“ Architectural Design, vol. 83, i. 2, (2013), pp 136-7 2.03_”Xtra Moenia: SOFTlab”, (accessed 02.04.2013), < > 2.04_Xtra Moenia , digital images, <>, (accessed 02.04.2013) 2.05_ M. de Boer et al, ”NSP Arnhem Central Transfer hall”, (accessed 02.04.2013), < http://www.abece. > 2.06_Ben Van Berkel, “Navigating the Computational Turn“ Architectural Design, vol. 83, i. 2, (2013), pp 82-7 2.07_ NSP Arnhem Central Transfer hall , digital images, <>, (accessed 02.04.2013)


Much has been written and discussed about the potential for parametric architecture to be the unifying, hegemonic style of our time. Prominent architectural theorist Patrik Schumacher seems to think that it undeniably is01, yet his views have been met with some opposition. The tensions seem to be aggravated by confusion in the definition of terms. For as has been said before; parametrism is surely the doctrine of that which is parametric02 right? If this is true then we are wasting our breath as all design is constrained by parameters. Nay, Schumacher seems to be using parametricsism to denote a certain aesthetic style produced by much digital architecture. He refers to this style as ideally having soft forms, gradated and correlated systems where functions are defined as parametric activity scenarios, all of which communicate with each other. As a style I believe this “parametric” aesthetic is as legitimate as any other (although notably more expensive) where I see the line being drawn is in “parametrism” as a theoretical ideology rivalling the likes of modernism or post-modernism. We must agree the “parametric” design we are talking about goes beyond the simplistic acknowledgement of constraints in design, instead indicating the observable relationships between these technical, financial and cultural constraints and the developed goals of projects. From here we can see how parametric modelling is useful to design, but does not constitute a standalone ideological –ism in itself. Consider for instance the role of computation in design; clearly computers have widened the scope of the design space, giving it breadth. The parametric process by contrast allows us to explore the design space with greater depth. Parametric modelling deals with the raw DNA of form and spatial organisation as expressed in the algorithmic relationships between parameters. Here in do parametric tools prove their usefulness in exploring the pluralistic depths of the design space and, in this authors opinion, prove also that this process sits within the post-modernist ideology where many solutions may be appropriate.

_ICD/ITKE 2012 Pavilion Students at the University of Stuttgart designed and fabricated this carbon and glass fibre pavilion as a part of a research studio investigating biometic design and robotic fabrication techniques04. The pavilion which spans 8 meters is entirely self supporting and only 4mm thick. To achieve this incredible structural performance the students studied the fibril and morphological principles of the exoskeletons of arthropods. After research various arthropods the final design came to be based off that of the lobster. By applying lessons learnt from the protective shell of lobsters, the design students were able to use parametric tools to model and test designs for the pavilion. Parametric software allowed the analysis of the structure for optimisation and the development of a custom fabrication process using a robotic arm and temporary steel frame. What this shows is the potential for parametric designs and the ability of parametric modelling to easily incorporate biomimicry into designs. For the gateway project parametric modelling allows us to better model and reproduce biological systems, integrating them into our design.


ICT/ITKE Research Pavilion 2012.


Material-innate environment sensitive morphology was the outcome of this project by Achim Menges. Hygroscope explores the field of what might be called â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;smartâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; or reactive materials by using the humidity sensitivity of wood to build an environment responsive structure. A model of the project, which was commissioned by the Centre Pompidou05, reacts to changes in humidity levels by opening or closing its many apertures. As a precedent for the Gateway project Hygroscope asks us the push the envelope of architecture and what we understand the role of structure to be. Potential exists for us to explore meteorosenstive building morphologies through combined structural and material properties and modelled using parametric tools.


Hygroscope 2012

_References 3.01_P. Schumacher, “On Parametricism: Let the Style Wars Begin” Architects Journal, <> (2010) 3.02_D. Davis, “Patrik Schumacher: Parametricism” Digital Morphogenesis < php/2010/09/25/patrik-schumacher-parametricism/ > (2010) 3.03_ICT/ITKE, digital imagea, < icditke-research-pavilion-2012/#prettyPhoto>, (accessed 02.04.2013) 3.04_”ICD/ITKE Research Pavilion / University of Stuttgart, Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning” (accessed 02.04.2013). <> 3.05_”Hygroscope: Meteorosensitive Morphology” <>, (accessed 02.04.2013) 3.06_Hygroscope: Meteorosensitive Morphology, digital images, <>, (accessed 02.04.2013)


_CAGES The Challenge here was to recreate a lofted undulating ampthithearter shape using a cage structure. This was achieved using Pframes and pipe components.

A.5_Conclusions The Wyndham City Gateway project calls on us to balance diverse and in some cases contradictory goals. What is required is a low maintenance and engaging piece of built architecture that both embodies and responds to its context. In the same breath we are asked to ensure the project is not so engaging as to the point of being distracting for passing motorists and that the piece strikes its balance between abstraction and readability. Most importantly the project must serve to both identify and enhance the city of Wyndham. This inherently creates a feedback loop between signifier and signified that offers the potential for further exploration. Today we live in a world where the ipad more adequately denotes the prevailing zeitgeist then any building. Clearly the challenge of creating architecture that people can identify with the nature of contemporary life is formidable. What I hope to have shown is that our strongest arsenals are parametric and that these tools and processes are most suited to the Gateway project. Specifically I will be exploring the potential to learn from natural relationships and systems. bio-mimicry is a hot topic in the architectural discourse and this is where the Gateway project can use parametric processes and computational tools to be most innovative.

A.6_Learing Outcomes Learning about the world of digital architecture has been eye opening to say the least. The theory is heavy which is exciting but at the same time it feels like I’m fighting a Hydra; just as I understand one concept, two equally complex ones emerge. What I really hope to do is find out more of what people are saying right now. If there really is as Patrik Schumacher suggests an architectural war going on I want to know who’s guns are bigger. Even if the mêlée has not yet left the avant garde the chances are that it will. Personally I see a chance to skip the hard slog of the typical architectural career and become a leading contributor before the age of 50. Got to be quick tho, soon every man and his dog will have a 3D printer and a grasshopper plug-in and that spot at the head of the pack might be gone. When all’s said and submitted, this is a pretty strong incentive to master the subject.

Air Studio_CFI_539163_Nicholas McRoberts  

My case for innovation submission for Air studio