Field Reconstruction

The current worldwide rural challenges are being manifested in China’s recent rural reconstruction efforts. This class investigates rural villages and provides analysis of the current rural society including its agricultural production and construction systems. A discussion of new development strategy in the rural site aims to reconstruct its physical environment and its social fabric. A series of studies into building methodology examine aspects of location, ecology, natural materials, construction collectives, tectonics, forms, and shelters. A comprehensive solution to the selected place is discussed, through architectural prototypes, intervention strategies, and media dissemination. These chain link events contribute to the reconstruction of village collectives in the future.

Drawing the Shade

This discipline seeks to research the use of shade as a public program generator. The shade, in areas of strong heat, not only provides shelter, but also enables multiple occupations. It functions as a transition element between public and private spaces and also as a generic space, waiting for a specific use.

I possess no specialized knowledge of architecture, but I understand that in the Gothic cathedral of the West, the roof is thrust up and up so as to place its pinnacle as high in the heavens as possible—and that herein is thought to lie its special beauty. In the temples of Japan, on the other hand, a roof of heavy tiles is first laid out, and in the deep, spacious shadows creates by the eaves the rest of the structure is built.

Tanizaki, Junichiro – In Praise of Shadows, Leete’s Island Books, 1977

Traditionally, shaded spaces are used as transition zones between the inside and the outside, like the varandas in Brazil or in Japan. These spaces create an expanded boundary and a more fluid connection between programs.

This studio intends to study these spaces as a central element of the work and discuss its use in a broader context, without neglecting the ephemerality of the shade and its spatial qualities.

Democratisation of Architecture

An arms race is on in the worlds of computation and architectural fabrication research. Robots with increasingly large, fast, and powerful capabilities are available and can produce outputs with military-grade precision. The assumption is that, through the use of these advanced tools, architects also advance the production of outputs, but can these tools be developed with traditional forms of human engagement still in mind? Robots are not particularly adaptive. They do not integrate changes with ease—at least, not yet. Humans, on the other hand, exhibit great capacity for adaptation but lack the precision of robots. How could precision and adaptation be combined in architecture, specifically within the context of Japan, where imperfections are embraced as part of an ideal form?

Exploring this question, we investigate human centric digital fabrication as a primary vehicle to conceptualise, design and build a design proposal.

Building Rendering

“The Digital” is no longer simply a tool for the production of architecture, but the context in which architecture is conceived. This shift calls for a fundamental rethinking of some of our most commonly used tools and techniques. For example, digital renderings were once an expedient way of depicting (soon-to-be) “real” buildings through photorealistic, computer-
generated images. With improvements in processing power, software, and virtual reality, rendering now happens in real-time, through immersive, interactive environments. This shift from static to dynamic is more than a simple shift in perspective, it is an invitation to rethink how architecture is conceived, produced, and experienced.

In this studio, we will take up rendering as a means of visualizing the built environment, but also as a framework for design and experience. This approach collapses distinctions between physical and digital, and turns visualization tools into generative ones. Thus, the components of rendering (UV mapping, mesh topologies, and so forth) will be the material we author as architects.

Our site will be Detroit, a city accustomed to digital mediation. Students will study Detroit remotely, utilizing digital tools such as Google Earth to form a basic understanding of the city’s topography. Mid-semester, students travel to the site, gathering information for the design of a building to be designed in a virtual Detroit.

Amalgamated Architecture Studio

Hong Kong is a city where cultures intersect. Forces of colonialism, politics, ideology, and economics have exerted themselves to shape the city in extreme ways. Urban form, architectural character, programme and even geology have been moulded, trained and bent by these forces into a unique urban ecology. Our studio investigates and speculates within this culture of ultra-hybrid urbanity.

It does this in two ways: First by ‘reading’ Hong Kong through close observation. This produces a series of ‘portraits’ of existing architectural phenomena. These act as studies but also as potent manifestos of architectural potentials. These explore and explain how unique forms of architecture have thrived within the Hong Kong ecosystem. From very small to very large, historic and futuristic, global and local, individual and collective, we use the act of drawing and modelmaking to articulate our readings as positions.

Secondly we work with elements of architectural culture, raiding history for ingredients and tactics that we can use ourselves to create alternative histories and possible futures. These give us disciplinary foundations that shore up our speculations.

THE STREET STUDIO

In late Modern city planning, street design was almost entirely driven by traffic planning parameters with moderate consideration for vegetation. Today, from the homeless population in LA’s Skid Row and London’s tunnels, to the surveillance system deployed via street cams in Beijing and Hong Kong, from Google’s much contested Sidewalk Labs pilot in Toronto, to the pink Pussyhats and the yellow vests, the street in the new millenia is nothing short of the new frontier of cultural expression, public discourse and technological transformation.

Thus in the streets around the world, along with the apparent as well as latent fault lines of social fabrics and technological apparatuses, profound fractures can be seen everywhere. Domesticity of the disenfranchised confronts civility; camouflage tactics evades state control; the under-represented parades in a rainbow of colors. The old discourse of street design rooted in managerial ethos is fundamentally insufficient. With critical urgency, a new discourse fueled by new polemics needs to be forged in the emergent void.

In this studio, we research the new players in the street, rediscover past experimentations that might still offer relevance and study possible new typologies that might be constitutive of a contemporary discourse.

On the island of Hong Kong vibrant street life and informal cultural
activities take place in the shadows of high-rise developments amassing global capital. Traffic congestion dominates the urban experience and the social space oscillates violently between control and liberty. We map the studio project onto a decade-long advocacy of pedestrianizing a stretch of DVRC (Des Voeux Road Central). We observe and document the various constituencies fighting for the precious ground here. We situate ourselves in the near future where smart mobility has reduced congestion in Central significantly, freeing up DVRC to become a new kind of public space shaped by its own time and people.

FORENSIC ARCHITECTURE

Tear gas, banned in warfare under the Geneva Protocol except in the use for riot control, has been used extensively throughout the city since Hong Kong’s anti-extradition protests began in June 2019. Over 16,000 rounds were fired in a 6-month period (dated 8/12/2019) in this densely populated urban landscape. Playgrounds, shopping malls, MTR stations, nursing homes and residential areas have all been infiltrated by these formless toxic clouds.

Hong Kong civilians are not only physically, but psychologically, socially and environmentally impacted by the police response to the protests. The dense nature of Hong Kong’s built environment has resulted in residential neighbourhoods being affected by the use of tear gas – entering through civilians’ windows, stairwells, cracks in the built fabric, air ducts and building ventilation systems to displace breathable air in residential spaces – transforming them into temporary “gas-chambers.”

Our studio adopts investigative practices developed by Forensic
Architecture in order to map the effects of tear gas in the city and to
analyse how the system of architecture presents itself as an accomplice, weaponised by the choreography of the clashes between police and protesters. From the scale of the object, to the individual dwelling and the urban environment, we will examine how complex social, political and architectural forces entangle across multiple strata of the city.

UPSIDE-DOWN

Today, the majority of the global human population lives in conditions of poverty and scarcity. In order to change this we need to create opportunities for those who don’t have any; we need to invert the process; we need to “do what we don’t know how to do” (yet). As architects, we need to protect the habitability of our world through evoking the matter.

In a world that is expanding but lacking resources, the wisest way to protect it is to try to be as austere as possible in respect of the matter that surrounds us. Being austere does not only mean using low-cost materials. Being austere means understanding that any material has its own structural capacity and making efficient use of it. This can be investigated through the way in which the material is arranged, through who lays it and who uses it, and how it is produced. We might just have at our disposal the worst brick that has ever been produced;  but we can design its use so that the workforce – even the unskilled one – is able to manage the characteristics of the material in favor of architecture.

The studio starts upside-down, inverting the common architectural
process that goes from design to construction. We start from the matter: investigating its attributes, transforming it into a material; giving matter with a purpose and allowing matter to serve. Imagining the ways in which the material can be arranged, define the necessary protocol to implement it into a construction material by proving its constructive relevance, defining the best program to which it can be applied and develop it as a construction hypothesis, as an architectural proposal. The proposal must be set in a fragment of an urban utopia called “Little Hong Kong” and its program must be adapted to a public space as a proposal for human development.

EXIGENT HABITATS

The studio research focuses on key global concerns such as environmental issues, climate change, increasing social and economic inequalities, mass tourism, waste management and the growing population by exploring the limits of habitation in severe environments. These habitats represent a unique testing territory for human settlements because of its inherent climatic singularity. Understanding the performance of architectural proposals in these areas is essential to anticipate what might become standard in the rest of the planet for years to come. The research through design proposes schemes for specific sites while addressing issues such as the latest technological breakthroughs, vernacular tradition and local identity. The aim is to produce a coherent concept to cope with the exposed facts for each scenario. The final result of the studio is a specific buildable proposal, accurately developed and defined by 3D models, plans, sections, construction details, physical models and prototyping for some parts.

MILLENNIAL ARCHITECTURE: TOOLS, STRATEGIES AND PROTOTYPES FOR POST-BOOM LIFE

With ourselves as both subjects and objects of study, Millennial Architecture looks into tools, strategies and prototypes for our very
own. Millennial Architecture’s efforts concentrate around reinventing a future for what increasingly sits at the centre of the millennial struggle: housing. While housing was at the core of the 2008 financial crisis, in the millennial condition, it remains inaccessible for the many, from London to Los Angeles and from Beijing to Barcelona. Meanwhile, architecture as a profession itself is taken hostage by the housing-crisis, reduced to mere visual marketing at the hands of speculators and developers.

The studio develops a platform based on questions of peer-funding, crowdfunding, new modes of ownership, rent, co-housing and shared living. Ultimately the goal of the platform is to disrupt the assumed developer-led model for housing and enable large groups of people to take the housing question in their own hands. In terms of building technologies, we work within the so-called Discrete Design paradigm, which advocates parts rather than whole. Discrete
Design is based on a digital understanding of assembly, architectural modularity and prefabrication and attempts to create functional wholes that emerge from the assembly of generic, serialised, accessible and versatile form of architecture with a short production chain that is prone to automation and therefore able to disrupt the current building industry. Discrete Design is a collective project which aims to reinscribe the “digital” in architecture in a framework of social, economic and political relations rather than merely stylistic ones.