Museum Boom!

ARCH4001 Architecture & Urban Design 1
MArch 1 Studio
2014-2015 Semester 1

Digital Workshops:
Mohamad Ghamloush, Marshall Ma
Structural Consultants: Ben Luk (Arup Hong Kong)
Curatorial Consultants: Aric Chen (M+ Museum)

In 1949, there were only 25 museums in China. Last year, 451 museums were built in China. The Central Government of China’s current 5 Year Plan is to have 3500 museums built by 2015. The urban implications of the museum building boom in China may be found in the shift from the iso¬lated phenomenon of individuated cultural buildings to design ini¬tiatives which are coordinated and designed as “cultural districts”, thus forming the brief for the studio, for a site to be developed in Chengdu, Sichuan Province.

Our design research methodology focused on generating and deploying discernible and legible patterns, towards a set of cor¬related architectural and urban and architectural systems, and the often disjunctive relation of vast interior urbanism of cultural buildings, and their exterior civic territories. The studio confronted the recapitulation of the ornamental in contemporary architectural culture, through searching for unfamiliar affects of a radical expressive architecture. The study of complex, rule-based patterns reveals the increasingly close connection between culture, to what we still call nature.

The semester commenced with two overlapping exercises – one being an analytical research exercise aimed at understanding ex¬isting exemplary cultural districts, their built institutions and civic spaces., and the other which introduced the learning of design tools towards projective design applications, and a second exer¬cise introducing the learning of design tools towards projective design applications. Prior to midterm, students teams took on a first design project, Systemic Masterplanning, followed by a more detailed comprehensive design of one single cultural institution, and its urban field, in the second half of the semester.

Go West: Chongqing

“The form, then, of any portion of matter, whether it be living or dead, and the changes of form which are apparent in its movements and in its growth, may in all cases alike be described as due to the action of force. In short, the form of an object is a ‘diagram of forces’, in this sense, at least, that form if we can judge or deduce the forces that are acting to have acted upon it” D’Arcy Thompson, On Growth and Form, 1917This MArch I Design Studio investigated the wild west of Chinese urbanization through the design of a high density political and civic centre for Chongqing. Contemporary computational design methodologies drove the studio’s speculations upon new, culturally specific spatial paradigms, patterns and topologies, with which innovations upon default typological models were proposed.Located at the confluence of the ubiquity of experimental design techniques, and the particularly unique topographical urban context of Chongqing along with its associated architectural and cultural heritage, this studio aimed to discover a new organizational model of political space for Chongqing in the twenty-first century.

The studio generated new relations between conventional typologies and their contextual specificities to topographic territories. Beginning with the analysis of a selection of canonical towers, urban clusters and political buildings, this formed the basis from which to mine their inherent typological diagrams. Architectural typology was explored not as a fixed, formulaic mode of perpetuating normative spatial conditions, but rather, as the diagrammatic basis upon which innovations are borne from typology as a generator of complex yet legible differentiated morphologies. In a second project, the studio emphasised the development of techniques with which to generate complex relations of massing to multiplicitous ground conditions. In this light, the studio researched topology as a mathematical spatial notion in which form emerges through transformational dynamics. Mathematical models served as the basis for understanding architectural objects as the result of the interaction of information and forces on “rubber sheet geometries”, through 3D digital modelling exercises, various topological cannons were explored. As a research arena invested into legible forms of complexity, students’ projects focused on the customisation of differentiated, heterogeneous spaces and systems. In the main design proposal stage of the semester, design teams of 3 students will continue to focus on developing a comprehensive design proposal for Chongqing’s Municipal Administration Buildings and Chaotianmen Civic Square, as a cluster of 3-8 high rise buildings deeply contiguous with interior and exterior public civic spaces.

Projective Design Manual – For Japan’s Future Cities

The Tohuku earthquake and tsunami of 2011 had devastated vast urban territories, and this studio sought to articulate visionary concepts through process-oriented methodologies for the future of coastal urbanization in Japan. As the conceptual basis of the Projective Design Manual, the studio targeted the paradox of “Planning” for indeterminable events within an increasingly uncertain world.

As a “manual”, the output of this studio aimed to negotiate the parallel contingencies of everyday life with the prerogatives of disaster prevention. Although other areas of Japan suffered greater devastation in 2011, Sendai Airport, the site for this studio, was also badly damaged in the tsunami, remaining closed for two months. Given the vital status of Sendai Airport as a hub for various road, rail and air infrastructures and cargo shipping, situated in a vulnerable context, there is an evident necessity to develop secure infrastructures. In response, this studio investigated how preventive emergency systems can also be catalysts to privilege new kinds of everyday space. Far from a cry to repair and return coastal Japan to its pre-Tohuku earthquake state, this studio aimed to discover new associations of architectural space, landscapes and infrastructures of various kinds, to sustain, as well as to innovate Japan’s costal urbanism.

Through an associative logic of multiple, correlated systems, student teams generated specific patterns of heterogeneous and differentiated spatial behaviours, on a range of scales of design. Focusing on the relation of adaptive, bottom up modes of design development, to top down planning procedures, design proposals interrogated the limits of architectural form, here understood less as permanent, fixed, material compositions than as a mobile, dynamic forces and interactions.

Architecture & Urban Design II (ARCH 4002) – Groovy Tectonics

This studio investigated the intersection of mathematics, and the capacity to computationally generate, control and unleash spatial complexities, as the basis of the design of contemporary architectural space.

Curvature, as a central theme of the studio, had repeatedly come under attack throughout the twentieth century. Despite the attempts of modernist, post-modernist and neo-traditionalist theorists alike, to dismiss the Tectonics of Curvature as mere distraction from timeless pursuits, and, to relegate the persistent preoccupations of the avant-garde as deviant Expressionist immorality, obsessions with style and personal gesture, and simplistic formalism, this studio remains committed to Deep Formalism. The studio focused on the making of material models to enable the form finding of structural and infrastructural flows on varied gradients of slope. The emphasis of these models was on sectional surface tectonics, applying research on principles of infrastructural curvature related to topographic contingencies, from flat to increasingly sloped land.

The studio sought to renovate the twentieth century notion of Tectonics – the relationship of spatial surfaces and elements, to materiality, structure and various contingencies of performance. From introductory exercises on abstract mathematical “spaces” the studio migrated towards tectonic formulations with immediate relevance to the topographic and infrastructured landscapes of Hong Kong, towards a brief for the final comprehensive project of this semester’s studio, comprising a series of 3-5 pavilion prototypes on, above and within The Peak, as well as linked to, and extending, existing infrastructural networks from the coastline of Hong Kong Island to The Peak.

HKU-Tsinghua University International Joint Studio: Mass-Customised Urbanism

The contemporary condition of China is one of an unprecedented scale, rate and extent of urbanization. This studio intervened with the generic, repetitive, and standardised ways in which hundreds of cities in China are currently being conceived and built. Given the reliance upon a conventional model of standardized and repetitive production, the lack of articulation of specificities and differences in expanding and new Chinese cities stems from the perpetuation of Fordism. Mass customisation, as a model of contemporary production, aims for non-standard effects of parts leading to more complex and interesting wholes. The main question to be interrogated by this studio, concerns the implications of contemporary differentiated design, production and fabrication concepts and methods, upon the city of the twenty-first century. A Distinctive Urbanism is, perhaps, contrary to The Generic City, and is positioned away from yet another project of ubiquity and globality, valorising the specific and unique, over the general and reproducible.

The studio challenged the primacy of the GRID, as the ubiquitous organising device for deploying infrastructure and subdividing land in China’s new urbanism, and theMEGABLOCK, as an apparent modular unit of urbanism. The megablock is the offspring of Modernist superblock housing schemes of the mid-twentieth century, and, can also be seen as a legacy of compound of the Danwei, or work unit, in post-1949 China. The site for this studio is at once 100+ cities in China for the research stage of work, yet we focused on Tianjin for the design stages of studio work. In collaboration with the Tianjin Urban Planning Bureau, who supported this studio’s work on a 2km2 site, adjacent to the Tianjin Cultural Centre, this studio travelled to Beijing to collaborate with Xu Weiguo’s International Masters Studio at Tsinghua University.

Urban Formation

“We find that everything is in ceaseless flux. This is why our language makes such frequent use of the term ‘Bildung’ to designate what has been brought forth and likewise what is in the process of being brought forth.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Form and Transformation, 1806

Through the understanding of urban form as the outcome of the forces which continually shape it, this studio continued to pursue a Distinctive Urbanism, predicated on the design of unique and memorable spatial experiences. We aimed to harness urban complexity by riding its ebbs and flows, to grasp the city’s networked associations, which are most often generated and formed as much from the bottom up, as from the top down.

This studio experimented with a behaviour-based approach to the generation of architectural form, through meticulous attention given to the dynamics of how physical forces generate and articulate organisational properties. The tradition of experimental material practices, and design engineering approaches to architecture, assume matter has the potential to self-compute its state-space. The studio focused on precedents of tensile and compressive structures, transforming this knowledge into the possibility of discovering new arrangements, spaces, uses and institutions. As a method of generating structures, “form-finding “prototypes were constructed to calculate and resolve forces in analogue material models, and to recognise, record and analyse patterns and tendencies. We found spatial order (and meaning) through design intelligence generated from action and matter.

The form finding experiments were channeled towards a comprehensive design proposal for a unique identity for the a 7Ha infrastructural site in the Umekita Area in Osaka, Japan. The projects were informed by qualities and metrics, of the surrounding contextual urban morphologies, typologies, densities and programming, as well as the complexities of infrastructural flows on, above and below ground. The proposals negotiated the structural and infrastructural constrains of the site, modeling the three-dimensional and sectional qualities of the existing and future infrastructure and pedestrian spaces.