“In most cases the architect is an unneccesary and cumbersome (and even detrimental) middleman between individual, constantly changing needs and the continuous incorporation of these needs into the built environment.”
Nicholas Negroponte, ‘Soft Architecture Machines’, MIT Press 1975
Intermediate Unit 6 will continue its exploration of research-based design and construction methods for architectural structures that capture and catalyse the complex nature of urban ecologies. This year we will use a different organisation of research topics throughout the year, addressing the final project ambitions from week one. Studying precedents such as MIT’s Architecture Machine Group, we will investigate how construction can be part of an ongoing, user driven design process. This will shift our focus from formation to assembly, concentrating on the growth of buildings as an unavoidable outcome of the social, economic and material flows within cities. This emphasises the architect’s role as process-director instead of form-maker, addressing the contingencies and ambiguities of real-world briefs.
In the first term students will work in small teams by designing and testing models of machine-driven construction scenarios programmed through architectural rules. We will use simple environmental sensing techniques and man-machine collaboration for construction, to generate structures that are not designed but emergent out of a process which create and evaluate iteratively over time. The experiments will be conducted at Hooke Park and TU Delft’s Robotic Lab in Rotterdam with the final installations being built around the AA. Although these will be conceived as 1:1 structures informed by their real context, they will also act as testing scenarios of possible operations at an urban scale.
Term two will transition into individual project work applying and expanding our ideas onto sites in Beijing. As the epi-center of a growing economy and laboratory for urban transformation, we will study and visit the city’s many intriguing sites. The design projects will focus on hybrid buildings that house a diverse population within limited space. Speculating on how architecture can evolve through the negotiation between the interest of individuals and the collective, we will investigate how to encode quality of life into an ever-changing built environment.
Ekatarina Obedkova, variable apartment types regulated by environmental constraints and a social differentiation strategy, generated through a design methodology that incorporates the structural performance of the space frame system.
Jeroen van Ameijde studied Architecture and Building Technology at the Delft University of Technology. He has practised in Holland, New York, Hong Kong and London and taught in a graduate design studio at the University of Pennsylvania. As Head of Digital Prototyping he has been teaching at the AA since 2007, working with various units and programs including the Design Research Lab graduate programme. He has lectured and taught workshops in several universities worldwide and is co-director of the London-based practice Urban Systems.
Brendon Carlin completed his masters in Architecture and Urbanism in the Architectural Association and an undergraduate of Environmental Design in Architecture at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He has worked on architecture projects of various scales for offices in Holland, the UK, China and the United States. Brendon has taught and co-coordinated courses and workshops at the Berlage Institute, the AA, Harvard, and the University of Colorado. Currently he is consulting with Arup for Relational Urbanism, and is co-director of the London-based practice Urban Systems.
Part to Whole
Intermediate Unit 6 will continue its investigation into integrated design and construction strategies, using realistic urban project scenarios to explore the architectural implications of technological innovation. Dividing the year into two interdependent phases, students will work in teams on experimental fabrication processes at a 1:1 scale as well as individually on design methods that implement the key qualities of a material system through spatial and performative rules. Applying these methods towards high-density housing allows us to address some of the most pressing challenges that architecture faces today, exploring new modes of urban living within contexts of limited resources and space.
In the first phase of the year we will develop experimental design and build processes aimed at producing a
single, stackable housing unit. Focusing this year on systems that consist of a ‘kit of parts’, we will take advantage of high-precision digital manufacturing technologies to separate building functions into specifically programmed parts. Combining high and low-tech methods of fabrication and assembly, we will develop design and build methods, which can produce a range of structures that are adapted to their specific environmental and programmatic requirements. In collaboration with industry partners and using visits to Hooke Park, each team will design and construct a prototype at 1:1 scale.
Starting the second phase with research for our individual projects we will visit Shenzhen and Chongqing,
two of China’s fast-growing, second-tier megacities and a laboratory for new architectural and urban typologies designed to house a new middle-class. We will respond with our own strategies for density, programmatic and social diversity, multiplying our housing units through clustering strategies that test out issues of proximity, access and light. We will set up rules to adapt units to their individual role within the collective, adding strategic variation to improve the performance of private and public space. Then we will revisit our fabrication strategies and speculate on machinic construction and growth, allowing projects to become open systems capable of adapting to the ever-changing requirements in their prolonged lives. They become part of a highly networked and dynamic urban environment, programmed to evolve over time.
image: Alexander Graham Bell with his wife, demonstrating the lightness of the space-frame structure constructed by her husband (1903)
In-fill / Out-fits: Prototypes for Urban Dwelling
Intermediate Unit 6 has focused on a critical investigation into innovative design and construction processes through the application of urban housing scenarios that address contexts of limited resources, infrastructure and space.
Dividing the year into two interdependent phases, we started with the collaborative design and construction of 1:1 scale prototypes based on research into existing fabrication methods. Operating in a laboratory scenario our students worked in teams of three developing an adaptable casting method with corresponding digital design tools that offer a range of variable outputs. Aiming to produce a minimal enclosure the methods varied from fabric formwork (Quiddale, Wiktor, Golshid), to adjustable pixelated formwork (Kevin, Stavros, Yu) and from flexible jump formwork (Ariadna, Harri, Thomas) to prefabricated panels made from Concrete Cloth (Jihyun, Erez, Anand). Scattered around the AA the small structures explored a range of technical issues, geometrical configurations and spatial articulations.
During the second phase of the year we have put our concepts to the test, applying them into the extremely dense, integrated and networked context of Hong Kong. After searching for three-dimensional gaps within the city fabric, our prototypical structures have been reformulated in increased numbers that operate on a range of scales exploiting issues of grounding, verticality, site constraints and infrastructures.
Keeping a close link to our fabrication strategies the projects investigated how variation can be applied to construct units that adapt to the needs of their inhabitants. Through the selection of diverse sites and multiple interpretations of the programme the student work connects our technical explorations to a range of topics that vary from environmental and site-specific constraints to the programming of different apartment types, social classes and interaction spaces.
Furthermore, Hong Kong’s high-density scenarios have allowed the projects to explore design models that can negotiate between the collective project and the interests of the individual, projecting a vision of living structures that can grow and evolve over time.
Jeroen van Ameijde
Ariadna Barthe Cuatrecasas
Golshid Varasteh Kia
Lawrence Friesen (Generative Geometry)
Riccardo Merello (ARUP)
Thanks in Hong Kong:
Kristof Crolla, Jason Carlow, Christian Lange, Jonathan Solomon, John Lin, Laurence Liauw (HKU)
Brian Fok (10Design)
Eric Liu (Redland Precast Concrete)
Juergen Schuster, Ivan Leung (Permasteelisa South China)
Thanks to our critics:
Martin Self, Piers Taylor, Stylianos Dritsas, Sawako Kaijima, Takero Shimazaki, Jonas Lundberg, Nuria Alvarez Lombardero, Francisco Gonzalez de Canales, Christina Doumpioti, Esteban Colmenares, Ines Dantas, Maria Fedorchenko, Nathalie Rozencwajg, Alvin Huang, Brendon Carlin, Chris Pierce, Thomas Weaver, Carlos Villanueva Brandt, Miraj Ahmed, Tao Sule, Michael Weinstock, Wolfgang Frese, Ryan Dillon, Eva Eylers, Xavier de Kestelier, Ingrid Schroder, Stefano Rabolli Pansera, Shin Egashira, Marco Poletto, Barbara Campbell-Lange, Theo Spyropoulos, Dieter Dietz, Andrew Yau, Abel Maciel, Chris Lee
With special thanks:
Brett Steele, Charles Tashima, Charlie Corry Wright and Family, Marilyn Dyer, Belinda Flaherty, Kirstie Little, AA Maintenance for their patience and support.
Concrete Canvas Ltd.