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.
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.
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:
- Theodore Spyropoulos (Theodore is the co-director of the Architectural
Association Design Research Lab in London)
- Ali Rahim (Ali is Assistant Professor in Pennsylvania, and is design director at C-A-P)
- Lars Spuybroek (of NOX Architects)
- Lawrence Barth (Consultant Urbanist for Zaha Hadid and Senior Lecturer at the AA)
- Alejandro Zaera Polo (Alejandro is head of FOA and former Dean of the Berlage)
- Bing Bu (principal of One Desing Inc.)
- Felix Claus (co-founder of Claus en Kaan)
- Kersten Geers (partner at Kersten Geers David van Severen)
- Jianfei Zhu (teaches at the University of Melbourne)
- Thal Kamener (co-director of 66east)
- Christopher Lee (unit master at the AA)
- Gabriele Mastrigli (architect and critic)
- Bert de Muynck (architect, writer and researcher)
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)