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Welcome to StudioAir (a journal by Samuel Ong)


- Architecture as a Discourse -Introduction -Past Year Works and Experiences -Views on Digital Architecture -Architecture as a Discourse -The Barcelona Pavillion -Orchard Central - Computering in Architecture -Computering in Architecture -The Next Big Thing -The Port Authority Gateway, New York -Burj Khalifa, Dubai - Parametric Modeling -Parametric Architecture -Beijing National Stadium by Herzog & de Meuron - Esplanade - Threatres on the Bay, Singapore - Journey on Parametric - The Critic - Attractors/Perceptions - Dynamic Performance of Nature

Off-the-Shelf Genius, METROPOLISMAG.COM:

“All the swoopy, curvilinear, geometrically perverse gestures that we associate with the world’s most fam­ous, most audacious architects—those are now embedded in, and enabled by, commercial software: Rem in a box.” ...... “Crumpled, folded, rounded show-off “wow” buildings will become increasingly commonplace—but they’ll no longer be designed by the stars. The only true stars will be the guys who design the parametric software.” -Karrie Jacobs on Parametric Design


Views on Digital Architecture

Dear readers, My full name is Ong Jun Hao, Samuel, preferred name would be Samuel. I am a direct third year student who just arrived here from Singapore to pursue a degree in Bachelor of Environments (majoring in architecture) and hopefully, Masters of Architecture in order to fulfil my dream of being part of this great profession called Architect. My journey began when I decided to pursue architecture after my GCE O levels at the (only) local polytechnic in Singapore that provides architectural course, Singapore Polytechnic. During my education in polytechnic, I was given the chance to be attached to one of largest architectural firms in Singapore, DP Architects and be part of the team that was in-charge of tender documents; it was in there that I marvelled at the complexity and sophistication of this profession.

Past Year Works and Experiences

During my training in polytechnic, I was equipped with the following computer skills to communicate and present my project – Bentley’s Microstation, Autodesk’s CAD, 3D Max and a little on Revit and Adobe’s Photoshop. Therefore, I am completely new to Rhino and Grasshopper; however I believe it is relatively similar and am keen and open to learn new skills/ programs. Shown on the right is a montage that briefly present my past year works- the design processes that I have been through and technical drawings that I have done during my polytechnic days.

Frankly, I have seen and heard of digital architecture (Example, works by UNStudio), however I have never done one before. I understand that digital architecture is a cutting edge technology (which I guess one types in the data and the computer generates a form) however my mind has been influenced by the propagandas by what some might called them “traditionist “, with reasons and statements such as “what will you do if your computer is down” and “too much reliance on computer to do your work (calculation) will ruin your mind”. However, I believe that this “movement” or “style” could have a name/therm for itself- digital architecture, there should be a reason, a solution or maybe a charisma; something great and hope this module will shed some light to me.

Architecture as a Discourse To begin to write on archiecture as a discourse, one must first reflect upon the two key words in this statement, Architecture and Discourse. What exactly is architecture to me and how it relates to discourse? Many often can only see the superficial part of architecture, they think that it is merely an object, a building that is being built to serve a fuctional purpose (eg, a hospital, a office tower.. etc), however, I feel that architecture is more than just an object, it is a integral part of our life. Examples of architecture being part of our lives could be seen during our daily routine, from the landmarks we use to tell our bearings to the habits we caltivated for daily chores and the topic we use to converse with our neighbours or friend, these are little details that architecture had in our life. Therefore, when one would to contemplate on architecture, one would realise that architecture “talks”, it communicates - which brings up the point of it as a discourse. Richard William in one of his chapters on Architecture and Visual Culture expressed that architecture should be seen more than just mere object instead it should be use as a tool to bridge the “social and professional practices”. In other words, architecture as a discourse is architecture ( as Schumacher would call) as “a system of communication” - which brings about discussion and ideas and may result in the creation of a language. In order to have a better picture of how Architecture is being carried out as discourse, I have selected two of my favourite architectural design and how are they relate to the term discourse.

The Barcelona Pavillion

Lastly, the detailing that went into the design of the building provoke interest and generate topics for conversation and discussion. Each element is design to appear as individual giving the visual effect of each floating on it own.

The German Pavillion at Barcelona (Barcelona Pavillion) built in 1929 design by Mies van der Rohe was created for the sole purpose of exhibition Whats unique about this design that relates to architecture discourse is the concept behind this project and the architects intention for it.

As a whole, this project interacts with the public regardless of social and professional standing. We can see ideas being convey and activities made between the professional, Mies van der Rohe and the public (range of social practices).

The project was concieved during the the 1930s after the 1924 Dawes Plan whereby Germany’s economy was starting to pick up. This project was supposed to represent the new Weimar Germany: democratic, culturally progressive, prospering, and thoroughly pacifist (Concept). When Mies van der Rohe took on the project, he wanted it to become “an ideal zone of tranquillity” for visitor to be invited into to “rest” before moving on to the next exhibition (Intention). These idea (concept) and Intention could be seen from 3 different aspect of the project. First, the selection of the materials: glass, steel and marbles of up to four different types namely Roman travertine, green Alpine marble, ancient green were used to represent ideas of the new Weimar Germanyassociating ideas with materials especially stone is a concept which many cultures practice. Second, the use of planar walls was cleverly executed to direct the viewer from the foreground to the background, at times, these planar walls and roofs form semi-enclosures to create a dialogue between the internal space with the external space, blurring the definition of boundary and engaging the visitor to move forward.

Orchard Central, the tallest and first vertical mall in (my lovely island) Singapore was designed by DP Architects Pte Ltd, this mall sits on a narrow strip of land at the tip of Singapore’s famous shopping district, Orchard Road. Unlike the majority of commercial projects in Singapore, Orchard Central is one of those projects that has thought being put into the design of it. Due to the spatial constraint, Orchard Central was design to wisely incorparate the public walkways into the architecture by designing alternative routes to get through it- which will bring you into the atrium of the building, and extending out a long escalator that reach out to the center of the main circulation space (the public walkway) inviting the public into the building. With a porous facade design that has a range of transparency, the mall engages not only the public through offering glimpses of the internal

Orchard Central

Computing In Architecture (Evolution) Since the introduction of computer to this world, man has gradually become more reliant on it. Likewise, architecture is also expriencing this change due to this advancement of technology. From the introduction of CAD (computer-aid-design) programs to the use of 3D modelling tools (ie. 3D Max, SketchUp and Rhino), we can see how computers with its analytical brainworks help us, designers to breakdown the complex geometry and sophisicated mathematical equations to present what is in our mind - the fanciful ideas and creative forms, and capture that in its virtual world/enviroment. This not only allows easier communication of ideas but also freezes our idea for us - for further improvements. space, the activities and retail machandise but also create dialogue with the busy street and the luscious trees surrounding it through the reflection of it. This idea of communication is also being carried out into the design of the internal space of the building. Multiple pockets of multi-volume space are generously place in various part of the complex, occasionally interlaps each other which rise to not only connection of the visual and spatial but also create ideas for activities such as mountain climbing and oppotunities for events to be carried out.

A great example of the use of computers using the method as mentioned above is Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. Like many of Frank Gehry’s project, Guggenheim Museum was a huge mass of complex geometrical facade that Gehry pictured in his mind; which he pen it down in a form of scribbles. However, the project could not be realised until the discovery of the computer program, CATIA. This is due to the complexity of the iconic curve facade which Gehry design that bends randomly and in two directions - a design which is too complex to calculate and perceive that it could only be realised through 3D visualisation. However, Gehry’s architecture is merely using computer to computerised his design. This brings us to the next type of use of computer, which is computer doing the design or computational architecture.

The Next Big Thing Computer have allow us to push the boundary of design more through the use of artificial intelligent (AI) - making the computer to do the thinking together with or for us. Instead of us coming out with the design or end product, we can create AI(s) with our objective/inspiration input into it and let the computer generate the design for us.

An example would be the competition entry by Greg Lynn for

The Port Authority Gateway, New York

In this project, the inspiration was to use forces that represent the flow and movements of vehicles and pedestrians on the site to design a protective roof and lighting scheme that will be the gateway for the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York. Greg Lynn who was famous for his use of animation - evolution of form and shaping forces, used a

computer program, particle system - which i presonally feels is a representation of AI to study the forces within the site. Particles were input with intelligents to react to the data collected from the site, which results in a series of movements that Greg in turn used to determine (shape) the design which he joins to form the structural support for the roof and lighting scheme

Apart from using computer to generate forms as we have seen earlier in this entry, computers can also affect the appearence (color) of the building in regards to building compliences. In this current period, almost every country has formulated a set of building regulation and code, Many building’s ultimate appearances usually do not correpond to what the architect’s initial idea after going through the panels of authorities. Computer programs such as Ecotect, RAM, STAAD and ProSteel by Bentley - which usually associated with analysis and building authorities; which people find it hard to associate with design, is undeniably a great influence on how architecture’s appearances/design turns out ultimately A great example, one that test the extremes to best represent this point would be,

Burj Khalifa, Dubai Standing at 829.84 m tall in hot climate, Dubai, Burj Khalifa face several challenges that definitely requires the analytical mind of computer for its construction. Due to the hot climate and the facade material, glass, computer program such as those like ecotect is required to calculate the thermal properties of the building and prescript the glass that is going to be installed - to meet buidling codes which is often link to the comfort of the tenant.

This use of computational method in architecture, unlike Frank Gehry’s design whereby he himself gives a personal touch from inspiration he might have gathered from the site. Greg’s design could be interpreted as a design influenced by the site and therefore bears a character unique to the site

Shear height and strong winds pose enormous stress for a building of that magnitude, therefore, judging from its size and height, constant test, simulations, endless structural equation and frequent remodelling of the design in regards to structure is required to be carry out in computer, to ensure that the building is structurally sound and buildable.

Parametric Architecture

Although parametric architecture has been introduced for a while now, majority of the people are still skeptical and divided by it. Mix emotions are always felt when architecture labels themself as parametric. Due to the lack of definition to the term “parametric architecture”, many people associates new and organic (blob) form with it, thus creating a style whereby when people sees a organic form, they says, “well, that is parametric”.

Lastly, I do not like the idea of parametric to be asthetical, pure asthetical objects are usually short-lived and shallow in thought - a joke to the owner who is paying mountains for it. In contrast to the earlier example, here is another architecture which also uses parametric, however this architecture uses it in a ingenious way - to address practical realistic issues as compare to the majority parametric architecture which are usually pure asthetical.

Here are two examples that are identify as parametric architecture, however one I personally feel executed it badly whereas the other carried it out ingeniously.

Beijing National Stadium by Herzog & de Meuron

Esplanade - Threatres on the Bay, Singapore

The Beijing National Stadium, though design by the famous architectural firm, Herzog & de Meuron, brought about a large stir of emotions when it was first introduced. Although currently this architecture has been accepted by the majority now, it is fustrating to see it being label as “Top 10 Buildings: Parametric Design” in a online publication (HUFFPOST ART & CULTURE). The Stadium, which made out enormous steel beams bend and weld together to form a large “nest” was suppose to reflect the character of chinese ceramic wares, however, despite the fact that others associated it with another object, the construction of it was not sustainable. Although parametric has been used to make the facade into modules (visually random), I personally feel that there is a lack of exploration as similar effects and smaller modules could still be achieve when more exploration is done.

The Esplanade, one of the major landmarks in Singapore is a joint effort by two architectural firms - DP Architects (DPA) of Singapore and London-based Michael Wilford & Partners (MWP). It houses two threatres in organic glass domes - which is an avant garde design to Singapore when it was first presented to the public in 1994. However, many may misunderstood its as parametric due to its blob gometry but it is the facade the uses parametric - which caught my attention and interest. The facade, angular pointy sturctures (thorns) though seemingly generic throughout the dome, contains complex calculations, tiny difference in dimension and angle. Each module of thorns were specifically design in groups- for prefabrication, selected and designated on to the building by the computer according to the direction of the sun in the tropics What is successful about this architecture was the incorperation of parametric into the project, which resulting in meeting the requirement of Singapore’s building code - regarding the issue of heat in buildings and creation of a creative visually pleasing architecture - which the locals associate with the king of fruit - the local’s favorite, durian.

The Critque (a personal reflection) Journey through this topic of parametric design has been a confusing and frustrating walk. From Patrick Schumacher to Jerome Furmar, each has their interpretation of what parametric is. Some like Schumacher calls it a style, whereas others like Jerome descript it to sound more like a tool of design. After studying the history of architecture – especially the 19th century, whereby the break from styles began, I feel the Schumacher to state parametric as a style, the next movement after modernism shows how foolish he is in regards to the background of architecture – as this seems like a backtrack rather than moving forward.

Attractors / Perception

Studies has shown that man’s memories are usually associated to their senses or objects that have impacted them. In the Wyndham project, it is important for the design object to leave a print in the users mind and associate them back to Wyndham City. Therefore, Attractors/Perception is selected as the team’s area of interest, for we believe that when interacting with the user’s senses through this media, we will be able capture their attention and create an experience which will leave a deep impression upon them.

Dynamic Performance of Nature

Design has always been unique to man and individuals - that is how we are able to tell the differences among the works of different era and identify the individuals that design it. From what I have observed so far, the idea of parametric that I have been propagated to understand allows computer to generate the design for us. Although some may argue that the designer came out with the mind (parameters) of the media (computer) that generates the design – which could be traced back to him or her. However, I identify the danger that majority of the decision are influence by the programmer whom decides how these parameters are interpreted. For it is the way individual interprets these parameters that makes architecture unique to them. Therefore, I would say that my interpretation of parametric is like that of Jerome. I feel that parametric is a tool for design; whereby it could be used to produce fresh new “eye candies” for the current generation. However, if not handled well, disastrous consequences could in the end hurt the designer himself. Just as this quote of Karrie Jacob has indicated “Crumpled, folded, rounded show-off “wow” buildings will become increasingly commonplace—but they’ll no longer be designed by the stars(architects). The only true stars will be the guys who design the parametric software.”

In the first case study, the team has selected to study this project, Dynamic Performance of Nature in Leonardo Museum of Art, Science and Technology, located in Salt Lake City, Utah. The permanent installation, designed by EB Office has solar powered LEDs which coresponds to natural factors such as wind, temperature and seismicity by changing its colour. Taking the form of louver fins, the installation is a representation of attractors and perception as it attracts the user with is flashy colour which changes as unpredictable as nature and invites them to close up and journey along it. As they begin to close up and walk along, the gap between the fins starts to reveal glimpses of the space and exibited items behind it - which plays around with perception as users needs to perceived what is behind.

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