Written by Thomas Stellmach

Associative Design @ Berlage

Associative Design @ Berlage by Thomas Stellmach

associative design III – berlage institute second year studio (requires quicktime, turn sound on)

Last week I attended the presentations of the associative design 2nd year at the Berlage research studio synthetic vernacular. Led by Peter Trummer and assisted by our fellow dysturb evangelist Martin Sobota, the class investigated traditional chinese building typologies. The principles found in the analysis were used to create a set of rules to create a framework to parametrically derive urban structure and architecture of an exemplary plot in Shanghai: Deus ex Machina.

The research group divided up into for teams, each focussing on different base parameters as FAR, degrees of privacy, climate, internal room organisation, sun trajectories. The formal decisions of the teams also led to varying urban fabrics, from low-rise high-density urban mass not unsimilar to south-american favelas to a styled courtyard & slab network. The results are cutting edge and and visualisations of the process are breath-takingly beautiful. But watch the movie first, then proceed to the review.

Degrees of Intimacy

Degrees of Intimacy

The excellent critique acknowledged that the intricacy of the parametric modeling approach has vastly improved of the course of the last years at the Berlage classes. However, the models are still linear in structure, not spanning different scales or relating to larger scale configurations of the environment. From that perspective it was an interesting move to apply the method to an actual, real urban plot – the next task is to push things further, mix scales, create variety. The parameters now well emulate known existing realities and re-create desired qualities. The challenges lies in breaking these limitations, extending the ranges of the parameters to a point where the un-expected can happen, and surprising new qualities are generated. The outside influences, landscape, building limitations, real world effects, could also constitute the troubling element, which would introduce the tension, the catastrophies which the homogeneous plans miss.

Urban Plan

Urban Plan of Project 1: Economic Laws (by Luming and Zhenfei Wang)

Lars Spuybroek remarked that ‘when I studied, my fellow students presented quite similar projects, it was at the end of dutch structuralism. But interestingly, they presented it in a completely different way: the discourse wasn’t about shifting and re-configuring floor plans, but about grass root democracy, human interaction, all the 60’s idealism.’ This is visible when it comes to the eye-level renderings of the displayed projects: spaces of little programmatic definition, where the usual skaters and and happy couples photoshopped in look rather desolate. This is where a 2nd class could pick up the thread and evaluate the generated spaces, find the advantages and shortcomings and tweak the parameters accordingly, thus create a generate-test-feedback loop.

It is remarkable that even after looking at these points which need more investigation in this young methology, the results are convincing – even more so because ‘the market would solve the problem with four high rise towers’ as Zaera Polo noted.

Among the Critics were:

Participants of the studio are: Nana Chen, Weijie Liu, Jiri Pavlicek, Shiyun Qian, Ming-Ying Tsai, Luming Wang, Zhenfei Wang and Sheng-Ming Wu.

Download the movie here: associative-design.mp4 (156MB, right-click to save)

  Comments ( 47 )


  2. […] Core Research Program at Berlage-Institute The aim of the research is to design a site specific housing environment by means of associativity. The research is applied in Shanghai, in the district of Qing Pu. Nowadays China faces the question of how to develop a housing environment which is not a modernist type purely applied to accommodate the mass housing problem, but how to develop a synthetic vernacular; a form of housing that evolves from its historical heritage, its site specificity, and at the same time able to present alternatives to tabular rasa urbanism.This project tries to learn from the spatial organization of the vernacular models, using parametric design technique to explore possible model of modern Chinese living, offering alternative strategies for middle income people.The neighborhood model is based on the construction of a series of associative protocols, transformed and developed by local economical forces, housing policy, ecological environment, and cultural or social demands of Chinese people. They are developed mainly on 3 different scales, housing units, housing clusters, and the whole neighborhood.A private skywell is introduced to give each unit a better physical performance, but more importantly, its spatial quality creates a modern way of chinese-living. However the form of the unit varies, the skywell is inbetween the active living space and still zone, generating a rich package of room arrangements. Rules are set with the constraints of the staircase to ensure the homogenous quality of all the skywells. The skywell in each floor negotiates with each other to give spaces to one above or below. This results in a semi-exterior space in each unit, and altogether forming different 3D characters. With composition of pairs of units, a shared courtyard is formed within the housing cluster. Depending on the size variations, number of exits, and distribution of units, different junctions and street patterns can be generated, which defines its accessibility and collectiveness.In opposition to the existing top-down assignment, a self-organizing system is established to allow specific programs to emerge. Each program requires different conditions in terms of land use, ground areas, location and specific preferences due to the domestic behaviors. Therefore, the size of the courtyards always adapts to accommodate different programs.The morphological process performs in such an evolutionary way that it’s never a simple repetition of courtyard arrangements, but an associative relationship affecting one upon each other. It provides a basis upon which programs in different domains and locations can be correlated and made to reinforce the vividness of the living environment.The street pattern turns out to be a mixture of configurational properities of moderate connectivity. The frequency of ‘t ratio’ and ‘ x ratio’ , as well as the diversity in junction types ensure an efficient circulation system without losing the hierachical accessibility, producing the ambiguous perception and a sense of security like the vernacular do.Final Video Presentation : http://www.dysturb.net/2007/associative-design-berlage/#more-239 […]

  3. This video is very well organized (rimshot!). It was remarkable entertaining considering its topic, and for me, an aspiring civil engineering student, very informative. I hope to do some sort of urban planning like this at some point in my career. If anyone knows of any similar videos (architecture/civil engineering), it would be great if anyone could send me a link (illuminaitscott@gmail.com).

  4. metafilter links to this article, and it’s always refreshing to see non-professionals comment on our work. From the comments:

    “An associative house! Each room in a different place, yet linked…”
    posted by Pope Guilty at 8:01 PM on August 10

    The title of the page is ” Associative Design @ Berlage at dysturb.net | architecture 038; urbanism in post-bubble Rotterdam”, but I thought style was far too controlled for the Netherlands, so I was surprised. But I guess all the pages on the site say this, and these buildings are actually in China.

    I always had this idea of creating structures without repetition by creating procedural structures. And it seems these people have gone and done it. Sweet.
    posted by delmoi at 8:07 PM on August 10

    intresting how she pronounces “courtyard” Until it was spelled out I thought she might be saying some Chinese word “ko-ya”
    posted by delmoi at 8:33 PM on August 10

    Well I thought it amazing, so well thought out, such attention to detail. I think its got something. I think the understanding of venacular architecture has a great deal to say.
    posted by MrMerlot at 10:11 PM on August 10

    [Roarkian derail excised. Flag it and move on.]
    posted by cortex at 10:55 PM on August 10

    I think this is very interesting but the computer voice is a little grating to follow.
    posted by andendau at 3:08 AM on August 11

    Or maybe its not the uncanny valley and just a chinese woman speaking…
    posted by andendau at 3:15 AM on August 11

    Good to see someone’s considering how to make a better city plan, and that it’s influenced by traditional rules.. However, it seems that in 10-15 years, architects and urban planners would look at a project like this and be moved to make an inspiring presentation on putting *windows* back into houses.

    I’ve never been to China, and I’m not a planner. But. It seems that in the current and highly rigid housing developments, at least some of the housing is done well (especially in the affluent neighborhoods, obviously) — but the planning isn’t done right. Here, the planning may be better, but the houses are designed for, I don’t know, ogres? This often seems to be the case in any of these top-down planned-to-the-centimeter-developments: they can’t plan for everything.

    So I guess the obvious solution is to offer up this planning method (if it’s new?) and allow other architects and buildings to do their work based on the developed rules.
    posted by romanb at 4:44 AM on August 11

    Being school projects, I can understand that there were probably particular design considerations that were being addressed, but I found the apparent lack of transit and navigation systems disappointing. I can imagine being lost inside one of there neighborhoods and never getting out. The analysis of the orgainc vernacular Chinese courtyard construction and subsequent application to these models was interesting; however this type of very rigid top-down public planning is sort of depressing in a human habitrail kind of way. I realize that’s the nature of high density housing especially, but designing a couple of apartment buildings versus orchestrating entire neighborhoods seems much less creepily Soviet, for lack of a better word. However, these models are certainly much more livable than the awful, inefficient and dehumanizing apartment blocks. If they ever are built, I’d love to visit. With a GPS unit.
    posted by oneirodynia at 10:46 AM on August 11

  5. sic! – peter, martin & students. getting better time by time.
    All this with only with 8 students… wow!!

  6. […] “associative design 2nd year” presso il Berlage-Institute l’anno scorso. Il video in questione “Synthetic Vernacular” mostra le incredibili potenzialità dell’associative design coniugato ad una vasta e metodologica […]

  7. […] tessellation on steroids.Links: Gallery Shiyun; Download original MP4 video 48 minutes 156MB at:Associative Design @ BerlageRelated Posts:Quadruple House in FranceFrank Lloyd Wright’s Quadruple HouseCharles Bage: Inventor of […]

  8. […] might have also seen a previous post on Dysturb.Net about associative design and the typology of Chinese housing studied by the Berlage […]

  9. […] Associative design Immagine: Luming e Zhenfei Wang, "Piano urbano del Progetto", Associative design III, Berlage Institute, 2007Nel 2007 presso il Berlage-Institute si è svolto un lavoro di ricerca dal titolo “Syntetic vernacular”, guidato dal prof. Peter Trummer; scopo della ricerca era la progettazione di un ambiente specifico per lo sviluppo di residenze sociali a Shanghai, nel distretto di Qing Pu. Il video mostra le incredibili potenzialità dell’associative design…Collegamenti:http://www.berlage-institute.nl/05_events/graduation2007.jpghttp://galleryshiyun.blogspot.com/2007/06/associative-design-synthetic-vernacular.htmlhttp://www.berlage-institute.nl/ Video: "Associative design", Berlage Institute, 2007(Versione integrale: http://www.dysturb.net/2007/associative-design-berlage/) […]

  10. […] Look Familiar? Like Neighborhood Plans? It’s amazing finding nature repeat itself on the micro scale to the macro scale.  Check out Associative Design’s students Projects on neighborhood development using parametric modeling techniques. It’s amazing. Watch the video at their website here. […]

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