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FORMS IN TRANSITION The art and science of Continual Transmutation

Rukmani Thangam M Arch Graduate Architectural Design 2012 - 2013 Bartlett School Of Architecture University College London Research Cluster 2 Tutors: Marjan Colletti Guan Lee Pavlos Fereos Hannes Mayer

‘Nothing retains its own form’ – Pythagoras.


Everything, in this world, changes. Form, even though architecturally it is considered to be static, stagnant even, changes too. ‘Substance is enduring, Form is ephemeral’ – Dee Hock1 . This thesis concentrates on understanding ephemerality of form, from the factors which enable form to take shape (morphogenesis) to the factors that could cause, predict and control the continual change of form within itself, through an extensive research on phenomena such as emergence and practical tests. The aim of this is to understand the possibility of an infinitely adaptable architecture that could be controlled nevertheless.

1. Dee Hock - Founder and former CEO of the Visa credit card association



Abstract ....3 Contents ...5 Acknowledgement ...7 1. Introduction ...9 2. Understanding Form ...10 2.1. Finding Form 2.1.1. Form Finding Techniques of Frei Otto 2.1.2. Form Finding Techniques of The Emergent Group 2.2. Morphogenetic Design Strategies 3. Shaping Form ...18 3.1. Form Finding Experiments Stage 1 3.2. Inclusions 3.3. Form Finding Experiments Stage 2 3.4. Musee de Glace 3.5. Form Finding Experiments Stage 3 4. Controlling Form ...44 4.1. Factor Based Control 4.2. Process Based Control 4. Transcending Form ...58 5. Conclusion ...63 6. Bibliography ...64



I’d like to thank everyone who has helped with me with this thesis. I thank my tutors Marjan Colletti, Guan Lee and Pavlos Fereos for their support, advice and feedback. I thank my report tutor Hanner Mayer for his guidance and encouragement. I thank Cindy Charisa, my partner in design and an invaluable asset. I thank Fatema Soliman and Christina Samurkas for reading through all my drafts and for proofreading every single one of them. I thank Yvonne Simeonidis, for she did all the above and more: for correcting my mistakes, for pushing me when I needed a push, for holding me when I needed to cry, for supporting me through everything and for simply understanding me. Without her none of this would be possible.



Forms are the way things exist or appear. Forms are the visible shape or configuration. Architecturally, forms are what seem to define architecture before the space is experienced. ‘Space’ has been widely accepted as ambiguous, but forms are regarded as something static. If a space can achieve its potential by changing itself, then the form that shapes this space should be able to change as well. Forms change in nature; ice melts, fires burn and rocks smoothen. This leads to the thought that designed forms could also be susceptible to change. In recent years, many designers have indeed entertained this thought, if the developments in ‘mechanized’ architecture are anything to go by. With the dawn of the post digital era in art, therehas been a shift in attitude that is more concerned with being human. If this thought was to translate into architecture, then the possibilities of a more ‘personalized’ space are endless; a space that would be dependent on the interaction of its form with the people and its own environment. Though designers over time have taken into account the behaviour of the people and the influence of the environment in the process of the design, the end form is usually a static product. This venture seeks to understand the possibility of these factors extending beyond the stages of construction and manifesting over time.






Biologically, an organism taking shape is described as ‘morphogenesis’ (Greek: morphe – shape, genesis – creation). This is especially relevant to architecture because a detailed study of natural systems enables a better understanding of form finding techniques and principles. Hence, it could be rephrased as the creation of forms that evolve in space and over time. Many a designer have gone about different routes to achieve a form such as the pioneers in morphogenesis, Frei Otto and Achim Menges, each reserving a different style of his own. But from a study of their work it can be undertsood that for the development of form, it is necessary to study and understand natural systems, which create forms on their own.

“Models derived from natural systems help in the creation of artificial systems that could produce forms and complex behaviour and even intelligence. These models are provided through emergence and morphogenetic design principles using a mathematical basis.” 2

Top: X –ray of a leaf showing venation and resin cast system of branching of pulmonary arteries. Examples of functioning natural systems

2. Michael Hensel, Achim Menges, Michael Weinstock (eds.), “Emergence: Morphogenetic Design Strategies”, Architectural Design, Vol. 74 No. 3 (2004), Wiley Academy, London.


Throughout architectural history there has been a myriad of processes that resolve, structure and formulate form. Examples could be drawn from the simple hanging chain models of Gaudi to the soap bubble models of Frei Otto to much more technology supported models of designers such as Achim Menges. The term form-finding is often applied to such efforts in generating form through material organisation under the influence of internal and external pressures3.

2.1.1. Form Finding Techniques of Frei Otto

Frei Otto is known for his intuitive understanding of the fundamentals of structure that result in a largely sculptural and efficient form. He tried to observe and understand the forms that exist and develop in nature and employed it to create light but strong structures. He also worked on developing models in which forms generated themselves, the most famous of which are his soap bubble experiments that he used to generate tensile structures. Through his design and experiments, we learn that to achieve a certain tension and rigidity, the structure needs to have a specific shape, these shapes mostly being saddle-like or anticlastic. This helps in the better understanding and development of minimal surfaces, which in turn led to innovations in pneumatic architecture. Further experiments with soap films, nets and springs enabled better understanding of architecture and space and prompted the thinking that form and structure are bound to one another.

Counterclockwise from top: minimal surfaces in bubbles, Tensile structures of the Munich Olympic Stadium and Stadt in dir Arktis (City in Antartica) by Frei Otto.

3. Sean Ahlquist and Achim Menges, “Physical Drivers: Synthesis of Evolutionary Developments and Force-Driven Design�, Architectural Design, Vol. 82 No. 2 (2012), Wiley Academy, London. pp. 60-67


Another point of note is that through his study of self forming architecture, Frei Otto understood the potential of changing forms and its use in adaptable spaces.

“(Building and constructional codification) which will not impede future developments by ‘planning’, but will instead be easily adaptable to various problems.“ 4

Bottom: Convertible roof for the open-air theatre in Wiltz, Luxemburg, 1988 by Frei Otto)

2.1.2. Form Finding Techniques of The Emergent Group:

Otto further augmented this idea by designing architecture that would change with change in environmental conditions from sunlight to earthquakes. His convertible constructions are a product of that, wherein he designed roofs that could be retracted or folded. His ideas help provide a basis and a foothold for the author into the research forms and ‘de’forms.

The form finding methods of designers such as Achim Menges and Michael Hensel are different from the methods of Frei Otto because Otto concentrates on physical form finding, while the emergent group focuses primarily on computational form finding. Where physical form finding is generation of form through simulation of specific circumstances of elements and force, computational form finding is the iterative exploration of various circumstances.5 These designers strive to understand the behaviour of complex systems and the mathematics of their processes and using that knowledge systematically for design and production. They employ different software together with simulations of dynamic structural and environmental loads to enable the progress of design process from one single frozen entity to a complete set of forms that respond to varying conditions. Even though the process is essentially technological, ideas and strategies are derived from natural systems and how they adapt to their environment. In fact, the computational form generating processes are based on ‘genetic-engines’ that are derived from the mathematical equivalent of the Darwinian model of evolution.6

4. Conrad Roland, Frei Otto: Structures, (London: Longman group Limited, 1972), pg: 4-5 5. Sean Ahlquist and Achim Menges, “Physical Drivers: Synthesis of Evolutionary Developments and Force-Driven Design”, Architectural Design, Vol. 82 No. 2 (2012), Wiley Academy, London. pp. 60-67 6. Michael Hensel, Achim Menges and Michael Weinstock., “Emergent Technologies and Design: Towards a biological paradigm for architecture”, Routledge (2010), Oxford, pp: 26 - 31

Understanding and developing forms through behaviour enables production of systems that do not exist in only one equilibrium state, instead show a “multifaceted and complex capacity of balancing multiple functional and performative requirements” 7 A good example of this is the ‘Responsive Surface Structure’ where the structure responds to moisture content in the material itself causing the material to change result in increased or decreased porosity. Apart from the moisture content the other key design parameters include fibre orientation or the ratio of thickness, length and width.

Top: The reactive wooden skin of Responsive Surface Structures, showing thermodunamic modulations. Right: Digital and physical prototypes for Responsive Surface Structure

7. Michael Hensel, Achim Menges and Michael Weinstock., “Emergent Technologies and Design: Towards a biological paradigm for architecture”, Routledge (2010), Oxford, pp: 48-9.



Through the study of emergence and the works of the aforementioned designers, some factors, detailed below, stood out that seemed to be the core of understanding this concept. Natural systems – they help in understanding and evaluating complex behaviour form

Form - the initial form, the anticipated form and the resulting

Form finding techniques – from simple techniques of Gaudi to the use of advanced mathematical knowledge and complex systems Process – One of the most important ideas in emergence, since both form and behaviour emerge from process. Behaviour and self-organisation – Understanding of energy flow, patterns and feedback. Interrelationships and the genetics of collective behaviour – genotypes and phenotypes. Mathematical techniques – essential in every part of the process for development, evaluation and production. If living organisms are considered as systems, then it could be said that they acquire their forms and patterns of behaviour through the interactions of their components in space and time. Growth and evolution of forms is an important part of morphogenesis and hence form finding plays a key role in emergence. Various form finding techniques have been experimented and discarded by numerous designers, but it is generally agreed that form finding requires forces acting on the initial form. These forces could be the oft considered ones like gravity or more complex forces like the interaction between the components themselves.






Right: Photograph of simple structure used to create minimal surfaces Bottom: Varyious types of minimal surfaces formed by the modulation of a basic structure. Facing: Paper drenched in water and allowed to achieve its form by freezing.

The ideas and concepts learned from the research were tested, validated and understood by experiments in various scales. These experiments helped fuel and develop design ideas which were further substantiated with more tests. Through these we come to understand the interrelationship between individual smaller forms and their influence on the overall architecture.

3.1. FORM FINDING EXPERIMENTS Frei Otto’s theory of minimal surfaces were put to test by experimenting with soap bubbles (facing), on a simple structure consisting of two parts, STAGE 1

which would meld and change with one another and themselves, thus resulting in a family of varied forms, based on direction and angle of combination, density, wind and surface tension, while still pertaining to the rules of minimal surfaces.

Further experiments were carried out along similar lines by allowing natural forces to impact and influence the shaping of forms. Materials such as paper were drenched in water and allowed to freeze in sub-zero temperatures, thus enabling the combined effect of water and gravity to shape the paper. It was also noted that the initial shape played an important role by affecting the level of influence exerted by these external factors. Further, the change in weather conditions with time caused consecutive melting and freezing, thus resulting in a constantly changing form.


Spread: Photograph of a paper composition drenched in water for an hour and left overnight at a temperature of -10oC in Cambridge, Canada.



The ideas earlier discussed such as the influence of natural forces and the interaction between smaller components affecting the overall form was apparent in our paper+ice installation, Inclusions, for The Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec in January – February 2013. The installation was designed to be a rather lightweight paper structure, strengthened through solidification and reinforcement as the water sprayed on it froze. The outdoor structure was supposed to transcend space by seeming to pierce through the glass window and continue inside the building. The structure was then sprayed with water in such a way that the formation of ice would seem to increase with distance from the viewer. Interior


Left: Photographs of the completed Archiglace installation at the MusĂŠe national des beaux-arts du QuĂŠbec. Bottom and left: Visualization of the installation showing overall form and transition from the interior space to the exterior space

We anticipated the formation of ice would help create junctions among the paper components along the edges close to one another. However, due to the presence of wind and the force of the spray itself, the components solidified in configurations that were not initially intended. This, combined with the sagging of the support structure due to the weight of the added water, resulted in a form a bit different from the proposed sketch.


Spread: Photograph of the completed Archiglace installation at the MusĂŠe national des beaux-arts du QuĂŠbec, showing time induced sagging and realigned frozen components.

Furthermore, the continual presence of wind caused the overall form to keep changing, the components aligning and realigning among themselves, creating a sense of both strength and fragility. With the passage of time, parts of the ice on the installation started to melt causing further change in the form. But the point of importance here is that the parts closest to the building melted much faster due to the heat emanating from it and the parts further away remained frozen due to the cold weather, thus cementing the proposed idea of stages of freezing. This leads us to believe that form-finding need not necessarily be limited until the stages of construction. Understanding the methods of form finding and the factors that affect the development of a form could help in the prospects of achieving a changeable form even after construction. 27

3.3. FORM FINDING EXPERIMENTS Having understood that the process of freezing could have influence in the forming and morphing of forms, the next stage of experiments sought STAGE 2 to strengthen the hypothesis by trying to understand the influence of melting on forms.

The behaviour of the material embedded in the ice was noted and monitored pertaining to the change in the amount and type of the inclusion. Factors such as the inherent tension or the elasticity of the material anchored in the ice, the angle and the depth of that anchor, the environmental factors such as temperature and wind that cause the ice to melt, the direction they act from and the rate of melting resulted in the formation of forms different from the initial configuration.

Facing: Sequence of photographs of change in form using paper compositions embedded in ice. Bottom: Photograph of the form after partial melting of ice, freeing the anchor points on one side. Right: Sequence of photographs showing the change in form as the ice melts


Counterclockwise from below: Deformed spirals as a result of simulation of refractive principles and porosity, form modulation of a cube through the principles of refraction, ribbon surfaces modulated through the principles of reflection and the grasshopper definition for form modulation using reflection

In addition to physical form finding experiments, digital form finding experiments were also carried out wherein an initial simple form such as a cube was subject to different types of forces enabling deformation and iterative development of said form. The principle of this was a range of factors that were projected onto a form which henceforth deformed in ways controlled by a moderator. It was interesting to note that the obtained results were remarkably similar to tests done using a heat shrink material.


Spread: Collection of renders of modulated forms and different stages of iteration through the principles of reflection and refraction


Facing: Visualization showing form modulation of a simple ribbon through a generative process employing principles of light rays passing through and bouncing off surfaces.



The possibility of ephemeral architecture as discussed earlier was proposed in the design of Musee De Glace in Quebec. The museum was to be made of three quarters of ice, thus evoking the need to design not just one unchanging form, but something that could transmutate itself over the course of the year through the change in weather conditions, directly relative of the ability of the material (ice) to actually exist.

Clockwise from left: sequence of climate change on the site over the year, section through the proposed design showing parts of design over land and river

Ice in itself might be a solid, but it transmits a sense of ephemarality. This is evident in the site of the museum which is atop the Bae du Beauport of the River St Lawrence. Through the year, the very space the museum is supposed to stand on, morphs and changes as the river freezes and thaws. This quality can be transmitted to the architectural space that is made almost entirely of ice, a space that changes and redefines with respect to that of the changes in the material itself. But it is also essential for the space to maintain its continuity and integrity.


To evoke order and coherence within an essentially playful design, the museum is conceived to be similar to that of a garden. An important part of the design, the public winter garden acts a breathing space between the exhibition spaces while being almost a sanctum sanctorum. Keeping with the theme of the garden, the space is designed to be enclosed by petal shaped structures. These petals are the key feature of the design, structured with the help of thin pipes, whose intermediary spaces would be frozen over during winter.

Facing, above and next spread: renders of different parts of design showing petal configurations

The resulting effect of the museum is proposed to be a frozen and closed budded space during the winter, that blossoms with the onset of spring and transforms itself into a more open space during summer. Employing the use of colours during the formation of ice, the melting of the ice and the resulting change in form and the bleeding of colours combine to create an effect of a riot of colours and movement providing an unique sensory experience.



3.5. FORM FINDING EXPERIMENTS Using the knowledge gained from the earlier experiments, various systems that would aid in the smooth transmutation of the museum architecture STAGE 3 were devised.

These systems ranged from light weight structures that would shape and form in relation to the forces acting on them to mechanically operated systems. The common denominator in these systems remained that the operation would be controlled and effected by the melting and freezing of the ice. Furthermore the design of the petals was refined using the earlier grasshopper definition thus providing an array of possible configurations.

Facing: photographs of different mechanisms tried Below and right: digital experiments using polarization on petal configurations






Forms allowed to mutate on their own tend to get out of hand, hence there need to be certain rules in place that help achieve a desired result. The concept of emergence suggests that ‘a’ particular end result is not the goal. It is the process itself that is much more important than the substance. Architecture, like a natural organism, should be capable of maintaining its continuity and integrity by changing aspects of its behaviour, especially since that behaviour is non-linear and context-specific. This behaviour could even result in self organization of forms as recombination is preferred to mutation. Through this process, there could be any number of results spanning a length of time. Here Darwin’s theory of natural selection could be adapted into artificial selection to pick out the fittest. 8 To control the output and to in turn control the forms, we need to optimize constraints and model based on logical systems. Though control could be exerted by various means, the two most effective methods are control through factors and control through process. It is extremely relevant that both these type of controls require data as a primary set and hence the resulting forms are specific to each data set, enabling easy modification and manipulation. In this approach the behaviour becomes one of the most important considerations. The cause, effect and the nature of the behaviour required needs to be carefully considered and the different ways to moderate this behaviour mapped out.

8. Michael Hensel, Achim Menges, Michael Weinstock (eds.), “Emergence: Morphogenetic Design Strategies”, Architectural Design, Vol. 74 No. 3 (2004), Wiley Academy, London.

Above: The Jyväskylä Music and Arts Center, by Michael Hensel (Ocean North), morphogenetic growth based on the location, orientation and density of the struts, structural, light, acoustic and other functional requirements. Each iteration act as the development framework for consequent generations. 9

9. Michael Hensel and Achim Menges, “Nested Capacities, Gradient Thresholds and Modulated Environments: Towards differentiated multi-performative Architectures”, in Lally, S. and Young, J. (eds.), Softspace: From a Representation of Form to a Simulation of Space. (London: Routledge, 2007), pp: 52-65.



Architecture is a material practice, ipso facto, it depends on spatial, material and energetic interventions within a specific context. 10 These are the factors that are fundamental to a space taking shape. These factors could be said to be either intrinsic or extrinsic. Intrinsic factors are factors like materiality and any factors embedded in the system, while the extrinsic factors involve the environment and the inhabitants. However, in emergent design, the iterating process causes these factors to almost merge into one another. As the form changes, parts of itself starts acting as the environment, thus resulting in further mutation, Hence it is clear, that control is needed in order to stop an uncontrolled chain reaction. The most important factor to be considered in the design of the Musee de Glace is ice, which is both the material and the environment. Before the structure is made to freeze (or ice becomes the main architectural material), the temperature of the space is an extrinsic factor. However as the structure is continuously misted and the architecture itself gets frozen, the boundary between the environment and the architecture blurs and merges. In this regard, it becomes more efficient to use this factor and its changing relationship with the architecture to the utmost advantage of design. In continuation with the simple experiments carried out by melting ice, more controlled experiments were engineered. As materiality is of high importance, materials that change and adapt in relation to heat changes were studied, a few notable examples being heatshrink material, thermal bimetal and shape memory alloys.

10. Michael Hensel and Achim Menges, “Inclusive Performance: Efficiency versus Effectiveness�, Architectural Design, Vol. 78 No. 2, (2008), pp. 54-63.







Manual - need for change in the use of space

Reconfiguration in the orientation of the structure and the architectural composition

Mechanical or due to climate change

Opening/closing -increased/decreased room -creation of temporary open spaces like balconies/piers

Climate response macro

Materiality - melting/freezing of ice

Releases or contains the movement

Climate response micro

Materiality - melting/freezing of ice

Releases water

Saving/optimizing energy

Excess or shortage of energy

Switch between active and passive systems

An adaptive space



-enables freezing - surface ice formation or removal

above: Control through factors


Heatshrink surfaces are widely used on a smaller scale in electrical applications and could be made to adapt to a larger scale. This material upon direct contact with heat, shrinks to half its original size. 11 The effect achieved was found similar to that of a digital shrink wrap. However a few major disadvantages of this material is that it requires direct contact with heat, which is not practical and also that the change effected by heat is irreversible and hence this material can be used only once. top to bottom: effect of direct heat on heatshrink material, form effected by a wire scaffold 11. Refer to GIFs 1 - 4 in attached CD


Other materials that could be used include shape memory alloys. These alloys have the ability to return to a defined shape. The definition of this shape and the trigger to return to that shape depends on different factors. Flexinol and nitinol are a couple of shape memory alloys that respond to heat and electricity. A few experiments were carried out with nitinol wires to be able to achieve a resilient form. This material is interesting in the aspect that it not only responds to direct application of heat, but also to conducted heat such as in the form of boiling water. This is incredibly efficient as the misting process used in the formation of ice can also be used to modify the overall form.

Facing: sequence showing blooming movement of paper threaded with nitinol wire and copper tape on passage of electricty. Above: effect of nitinol wire due to direct heat. The wire is heated with the shape it has been forced into, remembers that shape even if it is changed and reverts back to that assigned shape when it comes in contact with direct heat or conducted heat through boiling water



It is already established that data is important in the control of any form generation process and that data is subject to change. In this context, it is necessary to understand the need for a feedback loop. Feedback helps regulate behaviour and inform the system of itself. With the help of feedback we can understand that not only does the pattern influence the form, the form subsequently influences the pattern as well. This could be understood mathematically and could be used to evolve a dynamic process. An infinite feedback evokes thought on the complexity theory which focuses on the effects produced by the collective behaviour of many simple units that interact with each other.12 Natural systems, again give a hand in the understanding of this by the principle of genotypes and phenotypes. Genotype focuses on the individual components of the system, while phenotype considers the characteristics of the system in totality, which includes both the genotype and its environment. Simple processes with simple interactions lead to a development of complex patterns and complex forms and at the same time, the system of one process could act as an environment for another. This is could be understood in terms of extension of data from a neighbour and it allows for behaviour change in the system resulting in further change in the process.

12. Michael Hensel, Achim Menges, Michael Weinstock (eds.), “Emergence: Morphogenetic Design Strategies�, Architectural Design, Vol. 74 No. 3 (2004), Wiley Academy, London.

Facing: Feedback network for ‘Lounge Landscape’, Offenbach, 2007 Below: Butterfly Machines, Steven Fuchs(2005). Forms generated for a chair by iteration of self intersectiong surfaces. Analyzed by Genr8 and selcted based on amount of self-intersection of the surfaces and ergonomic considerations.

As this process results in a whole family of forms, it is necessary to understand which of these are more viable for construction, more effective and more efficient. To this, there needs to be continual analysis of all the results, but taking into mind that this analysis should not be mechanical, resulting in one end product. The process of analysis needs to be flexible to be able to control and obtain the desired form. Achim Menges and team have developed a plug-in called ‘Genr8’ which takes into consideration all these factors. Genr8 allows for development of surface geometries in space within virtual environmental conditions. It uses the principles of L-systems and causes simultaneous organic growth in both the genotype and the phenotype. It also allows for human interruption and evaluation, hence making the process less robotic with a fixed computer picked end result. In keeping with the idea of feedback, it simulates an inclusive evolutionary process wherein the recently developed surface acts as an environment for further evolution. This could result in a completely new way of thought, where ‘the design is not a singular finished product but the recognition of operative patterns, the taxonomy of performative species and the detection of emergent phenomena embedded in an inclusive evolutionary process’. 11


In the design of Musee de Glace, polarization is used as a feedback device. Polarization as a technique is employed in different stages of the design, starting before the planning stage and continuing even after construction. It can be used to measure and understand the thickness of ice formation in the river and estimate possible progress of melting. This information is then used as a basis for positioning the spaces and to reinforce the structure where necessary. Polarization can also be used to calculate the amount of heat generated in an environment at any given point in time. The continuous change in volume of the visitors to the museum would cause fluctuating heat levels. This data is then fed to the system which triggers release of pigments with the mists that help in the creation of ice. This essentially means that depending on the people, their number and movement, the entire space would change its appearance thus keeping with the theme of ephemerality.

Facing: Coloured ice created on a surface Below: sequence showing various coloured ice formation reminiscent of polarization pattern caused due to the heat generated by the visitors






Understanding the evolution of forms through various forces which act on it raises the question that as these forces will continue to act on the form after construction, shouldn’t the form keep changing too? Can this form transcend space and time and evolve and adapt to the changing needs of the user and the environment? Philip Beesley calls it,

“A kind of architecture that works intimately with the relationship between me and the world, between me and other people, between us and the environment, searching for a kind of viability that certainly starts with sustainable things and moves into new dimensions, setting very very dynamic kind of relationships” 13 Though all the earlier discussed topics of evolution of the form, everything happens within the constraints of a computer. Michael Hensel however suggests the development of the form-finding process beyond construction, to enable in-situ form adaptation and continuous transmutation. This is in line with Frei Otto’s ideas of forms that could adapt in response to environmental forces such as earthquakes. Hensel lists three generative feedback processes that could result in continuous form finding after construction. They are, 1.

Context specific forces that act upon material form


Relationship between material arrangement and human subject.

3. Interaction between human subject and the environment that causes indirect influences on material arrangement. These processes extend the self organisation of material form beyond the anticipated and create a mutable environment. This results in a rather controversial state where the form is always transitory and gives new meaning to the phrase ‘performative architecture’. This throws to the wind, finite form finding processes and results in plasticity of form, which is dependent on the genetic composition of the system itself. Though it might be a difficult concept for traditional designers to understand when the design itself is fluid and built to change, continual form finding and an infinitely adaptive architecture could very well be the future. 13. Philip Beesley, “Empathy”, Wednesday 18 October 2006, Darwin Lecture Theatre, (The Bartlett DVD collection)

Tube 6 technology by Markus Gruber and Dr Markus Aufleger. The designed underwater hill formations cause different kinds of waves for different water sports. From top: Possible urban application on the river Isar in Munich, several tests for breaking waves with flexibles tubes and bags


Our design addresses the issue of the ability of an entire building to transform itself over time and the ways to you design this transformation. Understanding the factors that trigger the transformation, ways to control the transformation and the process of the transformation itself helps effectively manage the space as the transformation is taking place. The design is taken over and above the process of form finding so that it is the space that mutates, the space that becomes a notion. These ideas take the concept of adaptiogenesis to a whole new level. However there must be control parameters and restraints in order to eliminate undesired influences and results. The numerous iterations in a digital environment and various physical tests, tests not just to study the process of melting but to intelligently analyse and comprehend the need for sensory systems to be in place, help in initiating and controlling the entire process. For example the polarization feedback loop helps trigger the freezing or the melting process and also modify the spatial arrangement in such a ways that the areas that are undergoing transformation, that could be dangerous by design not part of the human route. The author thus looks to understand and design ways that the form finding process is not limited to finding the form for construction, but to design a mutable and adaptable space further and beyond the stages of construction.


“Ecologies cannot be seen in terms of the possible and the real. They are virtual environments in which all species and objects are actualised, meaning that within our ecologies there are possible worlds, things, objects that are not yet real but are waiting to be actualized” The worlds keeps changing; it is the way which a person looks at something which makes it solid, that makes it real. This thesis and design look to understand ways to creating this world, thus making reality just a notion. As Philip Beesley puts it, “Our built world can acquire animated qualities that qualify as being alive” A space is not constant when the architecture lives and what makes it come alive is how it behaves in response to people. Such a space would not only be an architectural achievement, but can also play a major role in the cognitive and emotional response of people.



Alistair Mutch, “Technology, Organization and Structure - A Morphogenetic Approach.”, Organization Science, Vol. 21, No. 2 (2010), pp: 507-520. Conrad Roland, Frei Otto: Structures, (London: Longman group Limited, 1972) Frei Otto and Bodo Rasch, Finding Form: Towards an Architecture of the Minimal (1995). Katerina Alexiou, “Coordination and emergence in design”, CoDesign: International Journal of CoCreation in Design and the Arts, Vol. 6, No. 2, (London: Taylor and Francis, 2010), pp: 75-97. Lugwig Glaeser , The work of Frei Otto and his Teams 1955-1976, (Germany, 1978) Michael Fox and Miles Kemp, Interactive Architecture, (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2009) Michael Hensel, Achim Menges and Michael Weinstock., “Emergent Technologies and Design: Towards a biological paradigm for architecture”, Routledge (2010), Oxford. Michael Hensel, Achim Menges, Michael Weinstock (eds.), “Emergence: Morphogenetic Design Strategies”, Architectural Design, Vol. 74 No. 3 (2004), Wiley Academy, London. Michael Hensel and Achim Menges, “Inclusive Performance: Efficiency versus Effectiveness”, Architectural Design, Vol. 78 No. 2 (2008), pp. 5463. Michael Hensel and Achim Menges (eds.), Morpho-Ecologies, (London: AA Publications, London, 2006).

Michael Hensel and Achim Menges, “Nested Capacities, Gradient Thresholds and Modulated Environments: Towards differentiated multiperformative Architectures”, in Lally, S. and Young, J. (eds.), Softspace: From a Representation of Form to a Simulation of Space. (London: Routledge, 2007), pp: 52-65. Michael Hensel, Achim Menges, Michael Weinstock, “Towards selforganisational and multiple-performance capacity in architecture”, Architectural Design, Special Issue: Techniques and Technologies in Morphogenetic Design, Vol. 76 No. 2 (2006), pp: 5-11. Michael Hensel and Achim Menges (eds.), “Versality and Vicissitude: Performance in Morpho-Ecological Design”, Architectural Design Vol. 78 No. 2 (2008), Wiley Academy, London. Rivka Oxman, “Informed tectonics in material-based design”, Design Studies, Vol. 33 (5), (September 2012), pp: 427-455. Sean Ahlquist and Achim Menges, “Physical Drivers: Synthesis of Evolutionary Developments and Force-Driven Design”, Architectural Design, Vol. 82 No. 2 (2012), Wiley Academy, London. pp. 60-67 Sivam Krish, “A practical Generative Design Method”, Computer Aided Design, Vol. 43 (2011), pp: 88 -100. Tomoko Sakamoto and Albert Ferre (eds.), From Control to Design: Parametric/Algorithmic Architecture (Ingoprint SL, 2008) Video references: embedded&v=yuYV3RrowWY c5wXuJ3IY4 embedded&v=fmxueHRRdFo


Masters Thesis  

Rukmani Thangam's Masters thesis report at Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

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