wing yun’s publications forthcoming / 2013
“Tracing the Autonomous Identity” as invited article in International Journal of Interior Architecture and Spatial Design, The Advanced Spatial Design Research Group, University of Houston, USA
(an article summarizing and theorizing the design approach of Wing Yun’s project Spatial Sundial. Spatial Sundial is a building generated by a careful study of the movement of the sun. basic grasshopper and its plugin heliotrope were used in the process)
Autonomous Identity of Architecture 0. introduction : Modernist ocular dogma in the parametric language The creation of global arrays of dynamic and stunning formalistic architectures as the outcome of digital parametric design process led Henriette Bier and Douglas Spencer to observe that digital architecture is still adopting the ocularcentric approach, which delivers no difference against the ocular dogma of non-ornamental visualization of the modernist era1. Parameters, which in most cases, closely linked to the geometrical expression of the building, serve the purpose of creating stunning forms. The easy plug-in of mathematical geometric representations are visualized with ease into three dimensional objects that are always visually stimulating. This ocular-centric use of parametric design prevails in the contemporary architectural scene. Regardless of parameters the designers are taking, from small objects like furniture to the largest scale of urban planning (such as the proposals done by Zaha Hadid for Istanbul and Singapore), these designs will mostly arrive at a similar aesthetic representation. If the above observation of a global “parametric visualization” style is correct, then Patrik Schummacher's terming of “Parametricism” as a new style is justifiable. “Despite this pervasive convergence nobody has yet pronounced the formation of a new style. However, I would like to argue that we are in the midst of the longest and most sustained wave of collective work since the demise of modernism, and that we are now fully justified to talk about a new style : Parametricism is the great new style after modernism. Postmodernism and Deconstructivism have been transitional episodes that ushered in this new, long wave of research and innovation.” Patrik Schumacher, London 20082 The statement by Patrik Schumacher reinforces the fact that no matter where you begin the digital design process of architecture, the representation of the architecture will eventually end up as an independent discipline and dogmatized as an aesthetic style, thus falling into the ocular trap. We have seen this trap earlier in the 20th century right after the Bauhaus advocated their social deliberations in the field of architecture – buildings had to have a global, homogeneous and monotonous outfit in order to be classified as “modern” or “radical”. A suggested sequential development? In Schumacher's quote above we can already sense a suggestion of sequential progression from modernism to, what he termed, “parametricism”. It is a path from modernism, to postmodernism, to deconstructivism and then to parametricism. However, Schumacher's discourse failed to provide the progression logic behind his suggested sequence of architectural development. Without pinpointing the progression logic clearly, what Schumacher claimed as a sequence would simply become a sequence of ocular-oriented visual styles. This essay will attempt to use Peter Eisenman's theoretical framework to examine critically what Schumacher suggested: firstly, whether there is really an observable sequence of development and secondly, whether the notion of taking “Parametricism” as a style is the right direction for the architecture industry to pursue. A series of diagrams will be used as a tool for investigation.
1 Henriette Bier and Douglas Spencer (2006). 2 Patrik Schumacher (2008).
1. modern = the fundamental displacement of man In his essay Post-functionalism, Peter Eisenman declared that architecture never exactly entered into Modernism. Instead of being truly “Modern”, the prevailing Modernist concept of Functionalism, having form/function as the only two valid dialectical oppositions, is merely a late phase of Humanism3. His foundation of this argument lies on the belief that true Modernism should include, what he termed, the “modernist sensibility”. This “sensibility” refers to the fundamental displacement of man4 which means that the central point of reference shifts away from the dominance of human-beings. Here, Eisenman is taking the Structuralist approach that he regards modern as the period when humanbeings are no longer the originating agent of thoughts. Instead, bigger collective systems become the ultimate agents that shape thoughts, beliefs, and culture. Human beings simply become mediating agencies. In Eisenman's words, he sees traces of this displacement of man in the western consciousness at some point in the 19th century. However, these traces never appear in the culture of architecture5. He sees the prevailing Functionalism as a branch of humanistic thoughts where humans are still located at the central point of reference, and throughout the 20th century, this Functionalist thinking continued and revived until the British Revisionist Functionalism of Reyner Banham, Cedric Price, and Archigram6. The intrinsic values of Functionalism, being ethical positivism and aesthetic neutrality, are still the backbone notions of architectural production.
Diagram 1: Eisenman sees the form/ function opposition as a humanistic approach in architecture and it has been carried through the discourse of time even across the modernist era
In the humanistic approach of form/ function opposition, the basic role of the architect is to translate function into forms and then to sculpt the resultant form. This is very much a linear process and furthermore, a linear appearance of authorship since the active influence of the author is constantly visible and affective throughout the design process. Ethical positivism and aesthetics neutrality7 are the two logical backup of the progress of architecture through time. They also give the line a linear character (Diagram 1). 2. the dialectic process of post-functionalism To inject the modern sensibility – the fundamental displacement of man – into architecture and make it truly “modern”, Eisenman suggested a dialectical approach to the design of architecture. This new dialectical approach is based on the Structuralist interpretation of human reasoning: 'As Levi-Strauss has said, “Language, an unreflecting totalization, is human reason which has its reason and of which man knows nothing.” It is this condition of displacement which gives rise to 3 4 5 6 7
Peter Eisenman (2000: 237). ibid (2000: 238). ibid (2000: 238). ibid (2000: 237). ibid (2000: 237).
design in which authorship can no longer either account for a linear development which has a “beginning” and an “end” - hence the rise of the atemporal – or account for the invention of form – hence the abstract as a mediation between pre-existent sign systems.' 8 The idea of the architect taking the active role of translating function into form (or the resultant of form – space) no longer exists in this discourse. Instead, the role of the architect becomes the selector of the atemporal fragments from the architectural relic line, the mediator in the dialect between the selected fragments and the relic line, and the actualizer of the dialect by using the architectural language which already exists in the system.
Diagram 2: Dialectical relationship in the post-functionalist approach to design
When comparing Diagram 2 to Diagram 1, it is obvious that the role of the architect is submerged into the system of the existing. No real invention is possible as the architect is dealing with the dialectics between his found fragments and the existing architectural relic line. 3. look for the advantage of “modernist sensibility” in architecture The term “modernist sensibility” seems to be a caring word with the affiliation to “sensible”. However, many sociologists view that this “fundamental displacement of man” may result in objectification of mankind which leads to a lot of “modern” social problems. For instance, Max Weber's projection of the pre-modern being a period of enchantment, the modern being a period of disenchantment will finally lead to a period of re-enchantment which rationalization (or to be more precise, goal-oriented rationalization) becomes a new religion for the people. This is the true period of “fundamental displacement of man”, and also the true period of social impasse of the iron cage. In view of the above, since the fundamental displacement of man is the source of social problems, it is difficult to justify why Peter Eisenman would like to inject this missing “modernist sensibility” into architecture. In humanistic terms, Eisenman's proposal might be problematic (in fact this lack of humanistic considerations has always been the key critic against Deconstructivist architecture), but I would like to suggest two advantages of this approach in the production of architecture. The first advantage is the opening of a new critical perspective to examine the “architectural relic line”, which is a “progression” mostly based on the notion of ethical positivism and aesthetic neutrality. Due to the strong binding force of these notions and their breed of form/ function opposition, this “progression” of architecture is limited to a recurring study of typologies (for which typologies are regarded as the proven result of form/ function approach). Although there is sub-text of denying the existence of authorship or pure invention, Eisenman's proposal of post-functionalism allows architects to employ a distance from the typological path and this distance becomes a critical element in the debate 8 Peter Eisenman(2000: 238).
towards new forms of architecture. The first advantage leads to the second advantage. The introduction of a critical distance opens up the possibility to select atemporal fragments from disciplines other than architecture, thus enlarging the possibilities of trans-disciplinary design. From more architecturally-relevant references of material behaviour to less relevant references of flower mechanism, a wider spectrum of architectural debate can be projected. Besides academic and aesthetic values, if this debate can lead to a better performance of architecture by cross-referencing other disciplines, it is a good direction for exploration.
Diagram 3: Interpretation of trans-disciplinary referencing possibilities using the post-functionalism dialectics model
4. linearity of authorship in the design process The recognition of the process of collecting atemporal fragments from different relic lines in the design process can be non-linear. Scrutinies of different disciplines, selection of fragments and dialectical debates between the fragments and the architectural relic line are happening in loops throughout the design. As discussed above, there is no more direct authorship which is visible from the “beginning” to the “end”. And very possibly, it is hard in defining the “beginning” and “end” in these series of loops. Thus, a pendulum of design approaches can be mapped in the scale of linearity of authorship.
Diagram 4: pendulum of linearity of authorship
Several identifiable architectural periods/ approaches can be located in the pendulum shown in Diagram 4. In comparison, architectural production from the period of industrialization to the school of Bauhaus is
relatively linear in terms of authorship as the architects take the direct role of translating industrial mass production into the aesthetics of products and architecture. Eisenman's proposal of post-functionalism, which led to his creation of House VI, demonstrated a theoretical recognition of non-linearity in the design process. The design and construction process of House VI can be seen as a dialectic debate between Eisenman's selection and manipulation of architecture fragments and the functional aspects of architecture. It took quite a while to stabilize the dialectic relationship between the screen-only computer-generated forms and the architectural relic line in the 1990s. This dialectic struggle led to the actualization of the first generation of digital architecture in the 1990s. The non-linearity of authorship continues to evolve and in late 2000, we see people like Neil Leach who started to theorize the new materialism and immaterial approaches to the production of architecture. Materialistic concerns such as material behaviour and environmental responses, and fundamental architectural concerns are together, inscribed in the codification of architecture. 5. theorized sequence versus real practices However, we should also notice that the real practices in the architectural field covers a much wider spectrum of practice/ academic models.
Diagram 5: pendulum of linearity of authorship with scattered practices
Several examples are mapped out in Diagram 5 to demonstrate the limited coverage of the theorized approaches. For instance, in a series of unbuilt projects of the “unlimited growth museum” in 1930s, Le Corbusier explored architecture as a system of growth and the final outcome of the architecture was mostly determined by the aggregation of pre-fabrication pieces which was subjected to changes over time; Iannis Xenakis created a mathematical system for his Philips Pavilion in the 1950s; and Antonio Gaudi and Frei Otto attempted material computational techniques long before the emergence of computer simulation of materialistic behaviour. These are a few of the many of examples that architects can go beyond their “theorized” time. Similarly architects can stay behind their “theorized” time. While Grey Lynn was busy in the dialectic debate between the digitally-generated forms and the functional aspects of architecture in the 90s, Dominque Perrault materialized his conceptual model of the National Library of France almost completely
into the final built-form of the giant complex. A handful of architects like Peter Zumthor, David Chipperfield and Tadao Ando were all working to actualize their conceptual models. They are the representatives of linear authorship processes in the theorized time of non-linearity.
Picture 1: early conceptual model of National Library of France 6. where is the trajectory leading us to? Following the trajectory of Diagram 5, the next theorized approach of architecture should go beyond “newmaterialism”, “swarm architecture” and interactive architecture, representing a pursuit of architecture that is truly responsive to the complex materialistic, environmental and social quests. Under this trajectory, architecture, using the words of Winy Maas, will become a device9 which processes all kinds of knowledge from various disciplines and produces spatial solutions after running through loops and loops of dialectic debates.
Diagram 6: theoretical projection of where “Parametricism” should locate
“it is as though the whole history of architecture can be divided into two contrasting yet reciprocally related outlooks. One would be a broadly aestheitc outlook that tends to impose form on building materials, according to some preordained “template”. (Here one immediately thinks of the role of proportions and other systems of visual ordering.) The other would be a broadly structural outlook that tends to allow forms to “emerge” according to certain programmatic requirements.”10 Neil Leach's summary of Deleuze's thoughts about division of architecture The “contrasting yet reciprocally related” type of architecture is the approach which allows “forms to emerge according to certain programmatic requirements”. Originally in Deleuze's words, it refers to the Gothic method of dealing with forces where designs do not begin with desired images but with structural 9 Winy Maas (2005: p45). 10 Neil Leach (2008).
logic. To put it in a border sense, this form-emerging type can also be used to describe the design process which refers to referential systems that are beyond the immediate human decision. For instance in the contemporary context, besides materialistic parameters like material behaviour, structural behaviour and environmental behaviour (which are exemplified in the projects mentioned above: Taichung Metropolitan Opera House and Water Cube), forms can also emerge from urban data like demography, transportation figures and carbon dioxide emissions. Works by MVRDV demonstrates how these “datascapes” can be used as the breeding bed of forms. In view of all these, following the trajectory, the projected “parametricism” should be the translation of knowledge from various disciplines, selection of fragments from different spatial typologies and the abstraction of strata of social quests into manageable parameters which form the dialectic platform for architecture to emerge. It should be more than an ocular-centric stylistic approach.
Diagram 7: a proposed parametricism following the trajectory of Diagram 6
7. where is “Parametricism”? However, when Schumacher talked about Parametricism as a new style located at the end of his suggested sequence of modernism to postmodernism to deconstructivism, he simply implied that a direct authorship to exert active control over the built-form thus ensuring a recognisable collective style is revived.
Diagram 8: linear role of Schumacher's Parametricism
Diagram 9: incorrect over-focus in visual style as a force that twisted the development of â€œparametricismâ€?
8. Systems versus stylistic pursuits Eiesenman demonstrated his notion of humanistic displacement by launching a series of design exercises which focus on systematic approach. During the computation era, parametric design tools allow different systems to be created during the design process of architecture. Systems involved in the design process give designers guidance and reference in design decision making. However, the decisions can be interpreted and expressed in different aesthetic preferences. The same cubic meter can be hosted by a sharp-edged box or a fillet-edged box. The driving forces of the systems and that of the aesthetic pursuits of designers are always in tension. However, if the desire for aesthetic expression is too strong, the dialectic relation between systems and aesthetics maybe distorted or even destroyed. The independent logic of the system may be twisted to serve aesthetic needs. As a result, the displacement of human in the design process found in a non-linear authorship approach will be directed back to a linear stylistic authorship approach. This is the basis of the current “Parametricism” style debate. To avoid this, we need to go back to a honest scrutiny of the different systems before assigning a stylistic direction to distort the systems. 9. 0 Spatial Sundial as an example to look into existing Spatial Sundial is a prototypical design project in order to explore the possibilities created by following existing systems as closely as possible. The function of Spatial Sundial is an architecture school in Rotterdam. A big part of a school is made functional by its school calendar. Students, teachers and related parties move in and out of building according to the calendar. Therefore, primitively the architecture needs to deal with the school calendar and how to give order to people’s movement according to it. The process of the design is to test out how combination of calendar / sun relationship makes reasonable architectural arrangement. In this case, Spatial Sundial is to make architecture as a device to move people through a building to address the existence of natural light, a bigger sense the nature. 9.1 Spatial Sundial: an introduction Spatial sundial is a part of the natural system. It is a building designed by the movement of the Sun. the shape of the building, internal spaces and allocation of program is all determined by the trajectory of Sun. Spatial Sundial adapts the concept of a sundial. A sundial, by having a unique geometrical form, delivers a sense of time through the interplay of the lit and the shaded. A Spatial Sundial, similarly and provocatively, provides the users a spatial experience within this geometrical interplay of the lit and the shaded. (Diagram 9) Artificial lighting grants modernists’ stacking tower the power to ignore the movement of the Sun. the users of these typical towers experience no nature and miss the sense of natural time. Spatial Sundial tries to explore a methodology to create buildings as sundials – a geometrical form with particular meanings towards the sun and time. (Diagram 10)
In a way we can say that the doctrinated modernistic language takes away the autonomous identity of an architecture school.
Diagram 9: a sundial having geometry which can tell time
Diagram 10: from modern block to spatial sundial
Diagram 11: Sunpath diagrams of Rotterdam
9.2 Location of the Spatial Sundial Rotterdam Museum Park (52 deg N/4.5 deg E) is the location of this study. the site was chosen because of its relatively open surroundings in the urban context of Rotterdam. the open site allows a wider range of sunlight (both high and low angles) to penetrate through the building. Sunpath diagram of Rotterdam is used as the basis of program allocation. (Diamgram 11) 9.3 Programs of the Spatial Sundial Architectural school was chosen for the prototypical testing of the Spatial Sundial idea. A study of the monthly calendar of the school gives hint of selecting which part of the trajectory of the Sun to be used as parametric input. The process of the programming the Spatial Sundial can be explained in four steps. (Diagram 12) a/ spatial diagram Can we have a building with holes for sun penetration? Can we have a building with stacking programs following the time of a day? Then we can move around it, meeting different people at different time and at different spot of the building. Then we can know the time, by the sun. Then we can have a more humane built environment. Possible? b/ the active months and active hours A brief study of the school calendar was done. September to November and January and March are the months which desire direct sunlight for the vibrant school activities. We select four distinct periods of a day from the school time table as our point of departure. c/ the four sun-penetrating shafts d/ the respective sun vector boundaries : framing the sun The desirable time frames are interpreted by the corresponding sun vectors. They are the boundary lines for each of the shafts. 9.4 The structure of spatial sundial The structure of the building follows the trajectory of the sun. The shafts are connected structurally to form a twisting structure. a wrapping structural skin follows the geometries of the twist and creates a dynamic appearance of the building. (Diagram 13) 9.5 The making of Spatial Sundial : positioning the shafts and the building volume formation As a form-finding process, the four shafts are parametrically controlled to test for the position as a viable building. An abstract building envelop is introduced in order to gauze the outcome in terms of floor areas and site boundary. After getting the desirable shaft locations, volumes of the building are generated by connecting the iso-curves of the vector lines.
Diagram 12: Formation of spatial sundial by looking into the systems of calendar and sun angles.
Diagram 13: Main elements of the spatial sundial. 1/ top view of the sun shafts: gene of the twisting structure 2/ structure generated to connect the shafts 3/ external structural skin following the movement of the shafts, 500mm in diameter 4/ 36 floor slabs hanged onto the structure 5/ three sets of vertical connections 6/ the spatial sundial
Diagram 14: Testing the possible positions of the shafts.
Diagram 15: An abstract boundary is introduced to control the overall size of the tower. After the rough positions of the shafts are fixed, external structures are generated by connecting the geometries of the shafts.
Diagram 16: south, east and west elevations at different times. as the building is solely derived from trajectory of the sun, the spatial organization respond honestly to the natural time. a series of elevations was captured to look at the lighting on and off of the shafts and also the effects on the twisting facade.
Diagram 17: overview of the Spatial Sundial. the elevations give an overview of the twisting nature of the building, which is an inherited character from the movement of the sun.
Diagram 18: Spatial Sundial with its context: Spatial Sundial delivers a new interpretation of tower.
9.6 Zoom in to each of the light shafts The programmatic arrangement throughout the building is following the location of the shafts: from morning to evening in time and from bottom to top in position. This arrangement promotes a round-the-building movement within and therefore enhances interactions among the users. Some possible routes through of the building of various users of the architecture school are illustrated here. The morning foyer hosts a main entrance of the building. the inclined surfaces resulted from the sun vector study are interpreted as a living and unregulated staircase space with connections to cafes, morning meeting rooms, receptions and so on. It is fully light on from 0900 â€“ 1000 during school times. The lunching hall captures the brightest sun light of the day. The high sun angles remain high throughout the hour of operation of the lunching hall (from 1230 -1330), and therefore it gives a steady slope for the shaft. This steady slope is interpreted as stepping dinning spaces and two sun-bathed picnicking platforms. The tea-time corridor is fully shone from 1530 - 1630. The sun vectors give the corridor a two-sided inclination base surface. Big openings are made for tea cafes and coffee houses. The remaining surface is paved with grass to make it a perfect space for afternoon chill-out in the sun. The golden soft lights penetrating through the evening gallery makes it a best place for exhibitions and enjoying a beer with the sunset after a day of work, for students, tutors, and even people from the neighborhood. The sloping nature of the floors inherited from the sun vectors is interpreted as a cascading gallery space.
Diagram 19: a day of the usersâ€™ movements with the sun
Diagram 20: The “switching-on” and “switching-off” of each of the shafts
Diagram 21: Zoom in into the 4 shafts at their corresponding fully-lit times
Diagram 22: partial impression of the tower showing the lunching hall and the tea-time corridor
Diagram 23: section through the lunching hall
Diagram 24: series of floor plans showing changes in shapes and shafts
Diagram 25: a 1:200 model of the Spatial Sundial was built to study light, form and spatial possibilities. the twisting structure was more visible in the physical model
10. Spatial Sundial across Europe The same settings in the calendar system and sun angle system can generate different architectural forms in different locations across Europe. With a different input of latitude and longitude in parametric softwares like Heliotrope for Grasshopper in Rhino, new building form can be easily generated (Diagram 26). All Spatial Sundials are generated in responds to the same school calendar input. However, the differences in the architectural form will demand a completely different architectural interpretation by the architect than that from the Rotterdam.
Diagram 26: a series of Spatial Sundials generated with the same school calendar data across Europe from the eastern-most Reykjavik to the western-most Kiev. A gradual change of architectural form can be observed.
Diagram 26: four elevations of each of the spatial sundials.
11. Autonomous identity of architecture The autonomous identity of a school can be found from its location and its school calendar and time table. Architectural forms that emerge honestly from various parametric inputs can be seen as an alternative to expressing the use of parameters as an aesthetic style. Sunpath and school calendar can be seen as the two main driving forces in the design process. Authorship is expressed in the orchestrating style of these forces but not the direct imposing of form. The series of Spatial Sundial demonstrated a will to look for the autonomous identity of architecture which is given by the systems that the project is embedded in. In view of this, Sundial Spatial is ultimately a process to spatialize that autonomous identity inherited from the architectureâ€™s program and context.
Credits: All diagrams, drawings, models, renderings and photographs by Yun Wai Wing. English editing by Jiayu Tjong. Bibliographies Henriette Bier and Douglas Spencer, “The Body in Digital Architecture – From Representation to (Re)Invention”, Patrick Healy and Gerhard Bruyns (ed.), De-/signing the Urban (Rotterdam: 010, 2006), pp. 390 – 397. Peter Eisenman, “Post-Functionalism”, K.Michael Hays (ed.), Architecture Theory Since 1968 (Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2000), pp. 234 – 239. Peter Eisenman, “The End of the Classical: The End of the beginning, the End of the End”, K.Michael Hays (ed.), Architecture Theory Since 1968 (Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2000), pp. 522 - 539. Philip Johnson, “The Seven Crutches of Modern Architecture”, Charles Jencks and Karl Kropf (ed.),Theories and Manifestos of Contemporary Architecture (New York: Academy Editions, 1997), pp. 208 – 210. Steven Johnson, “The Myth of the Ant Queen”, Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software (New York: Touchstone, 2001). MVRDV in collaboration with The Berlage Institute and Actar, KM3 (Madrid: Actar, 2005). Winy Maas, “Space Fighter”, http://www.bk.tudelft.nl/live/pagina.jsp?id=060cd936-c51d-4524-80b8f636ead6a8ee&lang=en, 2006. Neil Leach and Xu Wei-guo, (Im)material Processes – New Digital Techniques for Architecture (Beijing: Architecture and Building Press, 2008). Kas Oosterhuis, “Swarm Architecture”, http://www.oosterhuis.nl/quickstart/index.php?id=266, 2003. Kas Oosterhuis, “Swarm Architecture 2”, http://www.oosterhuis.nl/quickstart/index.php?id=452, 2006. Alberto Perez-Gomez, “Introduction to Architecture and the Crisis of Modern Science”, K.Michael Hays (ed.), Architecture Theory Since 1968 (Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2000), pp. 462 - 475. Patrik Schumacher, “Design Research Within the Parametric Paradign” / “Smart Work – Patrik Schumacher on the Growing Importance of Parametrics”, in RIBA Journal, September 2008 (see also in http://www.patrikschumacher.com/). Patrik Schumacher, “Parametricism as Style – Parametricist Manifesto”, presented and discussed at the Dark Side Club, 11th Architecture Biennale, Venice 2008 (see in http://www.patrikschumacher.com/). SPAN, SPAN portfolio 09 (see in http://www.span-arch.com/show_content.php?hid=26). Bernard Tschumi, “Violence of Architecture”, in the digitally circulated draft of Architectural Position published by Chair Public Building, Faculty of Architecture, Technical University of Delft. Anne Zweibaum-Longerinas (ed.), Dominique Perrault, Gilles de Bure (Bologne, 2004).