Architecture & Urban Design I

Studio: Atavist Anatomies
Tutor: Kristof Crolla
Semester: 1st semester 2011-12
Students: Chan Yi Sa, Yisa; Cheung Wan Kai, Ivan; Ching Hei; Goh Virginia; Huang Wenying, Fiona; Hui Pui, Jannet; Lau Ka Lo, Carol; Liu Lizao, Eric; Tse Kwun Lok, Grand; Wong Chun Wing, Gregory; Yap Tse Lee, Elizabeth; Yuen Gordon

Procedural parameter-driven design tools, introduced within architectural design by today’s digital revolution, allow for architects to deal in parallel with various outcomes from one single design setup. Yet, in contrast to this paradigm shift, unique local architectural characteristics are gradually disappearing due to the globalisation, automation and industrialisation of the profession: phenotypical expressions of today’s genotypes struggle to incorporate the regionally specific variations visible worldwide in previous times.

The master studio “Atavist Anatomies” explored how architectural atavisms (i.e. the tendency to revert to ancestral types) could be re-introduced into contemporary procedural design setups deployed in radically different contexts in order to provide unique solutions responsive and adaptive to regional specificities. The task at hand was the design of five train stations along China’s rapidly growing train network in five radically different environments starting from one digital design setup. The design challenge lied in the definition of precise aspects of the architectural anatomy that allowed for responsive shape-shifting. The question sought to answer was whether or not the revamping of characteristics wiped out by homogenisation of current global trends can regenerate regional specificity.

Set up in three phases the studio 1) allowed students to gather information on both the historical and geographic context of the projects, 2) familiarised them with contemporary performativity based design methods that allow for a site-specific fitness and 3) developed design application through iterative explorations. In addition, invited by the curators of project “Belgian Spirit” for deTour 2011 and as an introduction to light-weight structural systems, a short workshop on tensegrity structures resulted in an exhibited installation designed by and built with students.

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