ARCH IS

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Arch is __________________.

Infrastructure and its relation to the superficial has long been a point of productive contention in architecture. This history has been marked by two radically different sensibilities, one concerned exclusively with the visible realm, stuffing structure and building services into the spaces between walls and behind ceilings, and the other a modern rationalist desire to express or represent technology for its own sake. It is a tired dance in which both partners, postmodernism and structural expressionism, have run their course but continue to appear on our skylines. With Architecture of the Well-tempered Environment (1969), Reyner Banham was one of the first to suggest that the history of building infrastructure in architecture is characterized by general neglect simultaneously manifested in the repression of environmental systems and an assumption of the primacy of structure in determining form. While problematic for its humanist underpinnings, his argument that re-tooling the relation of form, structure, and lowly mechanical services can be generative in terms of design is intriguing, and to a great extent, still unexplored territory. Going one step further, I would like to suggest that assuming separation between the realms of building infrastructure and affect may be similarly unproductive. As interest in single-surface and topological projects wanes in contemporary digital design, there arises the possibility to think about surfaces not as abstract, endless, and of zero-thickness, but as spaces of variable thickness, embedded and laced with structural, environmental, plumbing, and lighting systems. Once the sanctity of the surface as an independent agent exclusively responsible for affect is challenged, other logics and systems can begin to operate in a space that opens up between performance and sensation, infrastructure and ornament. This is architecture of extreme integration, where vectors dip in and out of architectural surfaces, reconstituting them in a complex way. Imagine the potentials of surface-to-strand geometries, embedded hollows, structural pleating, bundled micro-capillary systems, and deep relief, where the iconography of technology and infrastructure dissolves as they are woven into architectural form.

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Wild Structures
2008

Design today must find ways to approximate … ecological forces and structures. To tap, approximate, burrow, and transform morphogenetic processes from all aspects of wild nature, to invent artificial means of creating living artificial environments. -Sanford Kwinter The history of architecture reveals a constantly shifting relation of structure to space. Structure is sometimes latent, sometimes expressed, other times dematerialized at great effort. Whatever the case, considerations of efficiency alone are never enough to explain the role of structure in architecture. In the contemporary digital environment, vital, adaptive, formative potentials of structure have begun to emerge. There is a growing acknowledgement that structure, when removed from a state of equilibrium, can become as unpredictable and varied as natural phenomena. When released from critical states of suppression and representation, structure can become fluid, color-variegated, cross-pollinated, and hybridized, in a jungle-like ecology. One way to frame a discussion of wildness is through Mies van der Rohe and Pier Luigi Nervi, who offer two divergent approaches to structuration. Mies’s canonical National Gallery in Berlin (1968) appears to be about structure, with its exposed beams and fetishistic steel detailing, but it doesn’t exhibit any intensive material or structural logic per se. The project is about the universality of flat planes, and the purity of endless metric space. In this sense, it is a conceptual project. Columns are removed from the interior and dissolved with his trademark cross-section; there is no response at the location of maximum shear where column meets roof, and the roof structure is equally deep, independent of the variable bending forces at work within it. Nervi’s Giatti Wool Mill (1951), in comparison, begins to exhibit a materialist flow of forces, a proto-wildness. In this project, the structural ceiling morphology begins to organize in response to force flows along its surface. The vertical is not suppressed, but rather begins to effect transformation in the horizontal. The variability and elegance of the relief can be experienced on a conceptual level, as intensive forces at work, but also on an immediate, sensate level. Jeff Kipnis has referred to this kind of simultaneity as a “dual-ontology.” Wild structures are not simply expressive structures. The drive toward legibility, in the sense of being able to trace a genealogy of forces back to a source, is actually quite tame. Wild structures are instead a seething combination of behaviors that coalesce into an emergent whole with effects that may exceed the structural. Butterfly wing structures are wild in that sense: their porosity is certainly related to structural lightness and aerodynamics, but it is also unpredictably related to the production of visible color effects. It turns out that color-variegated wing patterns are often not based on pigment, but on the micro-patternings of variable-depth pores modulating wavelengths of light. Structural Expressionism, as a movement in architecture, has been more about zero-sum, one-to-one legibility—no doubt a late permutation of the modernist instinct toward transparency. But it also must be noted that its practitioners have often gone to great lengths to produce legible images of efficiency at the expense of actual efficiency. This drive toward excess for the sake of producing affect in terms of structure is quite interesting, and re-examined in the contemporary environment, opens up ways of thinking about legibility versus obfuscation in structural design. I would argue that engineering efficiencies do not have to exclude excesses, that these territories can cross over, creating complex formations that might do unexpected work, and might be felt as well as read. While the term “wild” is easily associated with the biological, it is important to remember that in architecture, we are talking about artificial, inorganic constructions that don’t literally grow. Wild behavior can be synthesized through any number of opportunistic processes, however, wherever material logics operate within shaping environments. In a military-industrial setting, exactly where we would expect not to observe wildness, we find salient examples. The F-22A Raptor is a radically heterogeneous construction that reflects local, opportunistic thinking in terms of materials, engineering, and manufacture. Instead of one continuous material system, this aircraft was designed using several interwoven materials and structural morphologies. Boeing made the fuselage from a deep-celled aluminum and steel egg-crate system and the wing spars from cast titanium, while Lockheed Martin made the wings, fins, and duct manifolds from formed thermoplastics and carbon-fiber composites. The structural patterning that results is patchy but nonetheless coherent. This is not an ‘exquisite corpse’ or collage of parts, but a radically responsive model for structuration that injects variable materiality into a system of variable patterning. The result is technically intelligent, but also beautiful, articulated, exotic.

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Notes on Biomimicry and Technology
Branching Structures
Giant lily pads are characterized by their wide circumference allowing maximum photosynthesis. A pattern of deep, tapered veins on the underside of the lily pads have evolved to increase stiffness and buoyancy. Vein patterns are driven by a branching logic but also a cellular logic, both driven by a differential of vascular performance versus structural capacity. The pattern, based on incremental subdivisions, has a bio-mathematical similarity to dragonfly wings and alligator skin.

Beam/ Membrane Hybrids

Dragonfly wings are the complex result of multiple patterning systems which interweave in response to force flows and material properties. They consist of both honeycomb patterns which are flexible and exhibit membrane behavior, and ladder-type patterns which are stiff and exhibit beam-like behavior. These patterns are characterized by their rule-based interaction in terms of cell density, cell shape, and cell depth, as well as other parameters affecting overall wing performance, such as out-of-plane pleating behavior and material distribution. This complex mineral skeleton is skinned with a translucent cuticle which eliminates shear failure in-plane. The composite morphology of skeleton and skin is what ultimately generates wing performance. Researchers at the University of Tennessee Space Institute are currently studying dragonfly wings for application in fighter jet design.

Co-Evolution
The bloodcomb jelly consists of two interlaced creatures. The jelly itself is transparent, but colonies of bioluminescent bacteria live on its ‘combs’ (racks of little paddles), creating a kaleidoscopic color output. The jellies‘s predators live at lower depths, and the interference pattern created by the bacteria and the motion of its combs works as a stealthing mechanism. The bacteria gain increased mobility and access to more food sources. Both species benefit, and have evolved into a single, irreducible organism.

Performative Ornament

A survey of historical military armor and contemporary wetsuit design reveals the complex relationship of ornamental sensibilities and structural and ergonomic patterning. Pleating stiffens surfaces without increasing their overall depth and seaming allows flexure within assemblies or between materials.

Mutation and Ornament
The hammerhead shark did not emerge slowly, step-by-step, from small to large hammer as is commonly thought. In fact, the first hammerhead to appear was the winghead shark, with a very wide hammer. This mutation offered no discernible advantage- it was, at that point, “ornamental.” Through the process of optimization (a.k.a. natural selection), other species have appeared with a range of hammer sizes better adapted to hunting in various environments, and more or less ornamental.

Rain Harvesting

Some desert-dwelling species of lizard have the ability to harvest rain by channelling water along the fine crevices of their skin towards their mouths. These variegated skin patterns also serve as camouflage against predators.

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Prototype I: Tracery Glass
Los Angeles, 2009 Type: Floor Area: Building system hybrids N/A

These three prototypes are a family. They are combinatorial in nature, fusions of diverse systems and services which generate emergent architectural behaviors and features. They are part of recent research in the office concerned with unpacking the spatial and ornamental potentials of airflow, fluid flow, and glow, often considered to be minor forces (in the Deleuzian sense) in architecture. Based on chunk logic rather than layer logic, these prototypes are intended to manufactured and delivered as fully integrated three-dimensional components embedded with all internal infrastructural systems. They are to be constructed of formed fiber composite and polycarbonate materials assembled with socket connections and structural adhesive, as well as more common materials such as plate steel and acrylic pipe. They feature embedded integrated thermal solar systems, PV systems, algae photo-bioreactor coils, radiant cooling systems, and grey water re-capture systems. PROTOTYPE I: Tracery Glass The Tracery Glass prototype reconsiders glass and transparency in architecture. In contrast to modern dreams of dematerializing glass and framing perfect views, this glass is not only not glass (it’s polycarbonate), it is highly characterized by embedded systems of technology and ornament. It allows views, but through layers of light, cooling coils and fins, solar surfaces, and gradient color patterns. Ultimately, it is intended to explore the possible new relevancy of stained glass and other types of figural transparency from centuries past, and possible crossovers with contemporary energy technologies.

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Prototype II: Thermo-Strut
Los Angeles, 2009 Type: Floor Area: Building system hybrids N/A

PROTOTYPE II: Thermo-Strut This prototype is based on intertwining low-res steel plate beams with a fiber composite shell embedded with solar thermal technology. The solar thermal system is a continuous loop which weaves around through the steel sections, forcing structural adaptations at intersections. In armature conditions, the solar thermal has sun exposure through transparent apertures, while in surface conditions, it changes behavior and spreads out as patterns of relief. The result is a prototype which organizes structural forces, fluid flows, and material properties into a tectonically coherent, yet ornamental assembly. This prototype is intended to take ‘surface-to-strand’ geometries to the next level, where disciplinary forces temper abstract formal sensibilities.

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Prototype III: Lizard Panel
Los Angeles, 2009 Type: Floor Area: Building system hybrids N/A

PROTOTYPE III: Lizard Panel This prototype is a unitized system with puzzle-piece panels and socketed structural/ mechanical members for continuity between units. It is characterized by a lacy, meandering pattern of algae pipes for energy generation as well as deep channels which re-claim grey water from rainfall for use inside the building. This prototype is the most overtly biomimetic: it capitalizes on characteristics of the Agamid Lizard, which siphons moisture from its back to its mouth via deep channels in its skin, as well as geometrical features of Lizard Panel. The algae and grey water systems are not simply adjacent, but rather interwoven in such a way that unexpected structural behavior arises: the grey water channels become the bottom ‘flange’ to the upper ‘flange’ of the algae channels, while interstitial webbing connects the two into a hybrid beam morphology.

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Flower Street BioReactor
Los Angeles, 2009 Type: Floor Area: Client: Public Art Installation (2010) N/A Dept. of Culture and the Arts, LA (DCA)

Our point of departure for this project was to engage the nascent cultural paradigm shift from thinking about energy as something which comes magically from distant sources to something which can be generated locally in a variety of ways. Our goal was not, however, to undertake an engineering experiment, or to simply express material processes, although this is certainly one dimension of the project. Our primary goal was to create a sense of delight and exotic beauty around new technologies by decontextualizing them and amplifying their potential atmospheric and spatial effects. The project is an aquarium-like bioreactor inserted into the facade of the building (our given site), which contains green algae colonies that produce oil through photosynthesis. The aquarium is made of thick transparent acrylic, molded to create the intricate relief on the front. This relief tracks along with and supports an internal lighting armature which is based on the Bio-feedback Algae Controller, invented by OriginOil in Los Angeles in July of 2009. This new type of bioreactor uses tuned LED lights which vary in color and intensity to support algae growth at different stages of development, maximizing output. According to OriginOil, “this is a true bio-feedback system… the algae lets the LED controller know what it needs as it needs it, creating a self-adjusting growth system.” At night, when this system intensifies, it generates a simultaneously urban and jungle affect: glittery reflections on acrylic combine with an eerie élan vital of glowing algae. A solar array, used to collect energy during the day, spirals and winds up into the branches of an adjacent tree, jungle-style. This energy will be stored in a battery and used during the night to run the various systems.

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Garak Fish Market
Seoul, Korea, 2009 Building Type: Wholesale fish and vegetable market Floor Area: 54 hectars (540,000 sq. m.) Client: Mr. Oh Se Hoon, Mayor of Seoul

The Garak Fish Market is the largest wholesale market in Korea. It covers 54 hectares or 540,000 square meters of land and is one kilometer long. This project, undertaken with Chang-jo Architects, was an invited competition intended to explore the future of the development of the market and in particular, how it could become more integrated with the city and the surrounding neighborhoods. Of particular concern was the visual chaos and smell associated with the market, and whether or not some type of enclosure was warranted. Our point of departure was to split the site into two zones, one ‘natural’ and one ‘urban’. The West area, adjacent to the Tan Stream, is to be developed into wetland preserve and leisure area. The displaced market program is stacked onto the Eastern side of the market creating a hyper-dense, two-level organization. The intention is to urbanize the market by stemming its organic sprawl and creating sectional properties. The design is characterized by a large roof which operates as a semi-enclosure, and interior space, and a community garden landscape on top. The structure of the roof begins as a regimented grid-like pattern to the East due to the strict column pattern required by the market functions, and it dissolves into a series of loose spiraling patterns as it nears the wetlands. The roof features double-pleats which are both structural and programmatic, forming embedded figural hollows. These hollows house restaurants and commercial activities, and feature views over the buzzing market below. The roof gardens are a gift back to the local community of 55,000 residents around the site. They are broken down into a network of variously-sized plots driven by the structural patterning of the roof. Exotic color gradients of flower and vegetable fields will be planted, over time forming a kind of organic/synthetic jungle architecture.

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Batwing
Size: Materials:

Matters of Sensation Exhibition, Artist Space, 2008 250cm x 150cm Acrylic or Fibercomposite, Electroluminescent filament, LEDs

Batwing is part of a larger body of work concerned with creating coherent relationships between building systems through geometric and atmospheric means. The aim is to move toward a higher-order emergent wholeness in architecture while still maintaining a performative discreetness of systems. The project can be understood as an articulated manifold which incorporates structural, mechanical, envelope, and lighting system behaviors. This is not to say that any one of these systems is ‘optimized’ in terms of any functional category-- the formal and ambient spatial effects of fluidity, translucency, glow, and silhouette are all as important for the overall effect of the piece. The intent is to establish a link between the sensate realm and infrastructural flows in architecture. The design sensibility of Batwing is driven by two types of surface transformation: the pleat and the becoming-armature. Pleats operate in terms of providing structural rigidity and directed airflow across the surface while also creating a seductive ornamental patterning. The armature transforms the envelope system into a duct system which provides supply air as well as structural continuity between envelope components. Deep pleats become ‘air diffusers’, featuring an embedded cooling meshwork of micro-capillaries used for cooling or heating of passing air. Based on the principle of water-to-air heat exchange, this cooling system heats or cools through local radiative transfer rather than relying on ‘central air’. The language of the piece consciously looks to automotive and aerospace design in terms of fluidity and integration of systems as well as processes of construction. These disciplines have flourished through the feedback of design sensibility and extreme shaping environments, a process which is of profound interest to our office.

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Huaxi Urban Centre Tower
Guiyang, China, 2008 Building Type: 110 M. Office Tower Floor Area: 20,000 sq. m. Client: Hualong Investment Group Ltd.

This project revisits the problem of architecturalizing tower infrastructural systems. Rather than expressing the literal image of technology, the goal is to create technological ambience. This ambience is defined by translucency, shrouding, and exotic lighting and color effects. But it is also the result of hybridizing mechanical systems with other building systems in a way that cross-wires traditional hierarchies and produces synergetic forms. The point of departure for the design was to allow ductwork to migrate out of the central core toward the exterior. The glass envelope begins to take on duct behavior by delaminating to create pleats where air can flow. These pleats branch and run across the building facades, linking to floor plenums on each level at several locations along the perimeter. Through the stack effect, hot air rises in the pleats thereby passively cooling the building. A second layer of loose-fitting skin wraps the glass duct-skin, registering the pleats and shrouding the building. This shroud is made of perforated sheet metal. It acts as a sunscreen during the daytime, while nonetheless allowing views through. At night, the glass ducts glow from behind the shroud, creating elegant color and depth effects, reflections, and silhouettes. Their freeform morphology and variegation begin to create associations with the lush natural terrain of the site.

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Taipei Performing Arts Center
Taipei, Taiwan R.O.C., 2008 Building Type: 3 Theater Cultural Complex Floor Area: 39,500 sq. m. Client: City of Taipei

The aim for this design for the Taipei Performing Arts Center is to create a world-class urban experience defined by hybrid urban environments not traditionally associated with performing arts theaters. The three theaters are woven together by way of an elevated Concourse, creating a unified whole which has significant presence in the city. The Concourse is a bridging element which acts as circulation for the theaters but also as a commercial zone which includes lively urban activities such as shopping, restaurants, bars, and other public amenities. It will be a 24 hour space which will support the theater functions but also operate independently. Below the Concourse is both the orientation space for the theaters, but also a place for urban events, meeting people, or simply passing through. The morphology of the project is based on patterns of armatures and pleats which form an intricate ornamental network. Armatures are woven together to create the circulation and structure of the Concourse, forming deep spaces and views from the plaza into the building as well as from the building down into the Plaza and out into the city. Micro-pleats track along the armatures but also spread out along surfaces, spatially drawing visitors inside the Plaza. The sensations produced by this fluid geometry are heightened by a gradient of color which is most intense on the interior but fades out to the exterior of the building. Formal and color intensities are at their peak in the Concourse, and begin to atrophe toward the theater blocks at the perimeter of the site. The Grand Theater is located on the south end of the site, rotated toward Wen Lin Road. It is designed according to the brief as a proscenium type with 1500 seats and two balconies. This theater will be flexibly designed so that it can take the form of a thrust stage, theater-in-the-round, or proscenium arrangement. It will have a flat floor to allow for ease of transformation and build-out. Theater interiors are designed based on optimal sightlines as well as acoustics.

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Sundsvall Performing Arts Theater
Sundsvall, Sweden, 2008 Building Type: Performing Arts Theater Floor Area: 50,000 sq. m. Client: Sundsvall Municipal Government

This proposal for the Sundsvall Performing Arts Theater is based on the creation of a radically contemporary urban space to revitalize the Sundsvall waterfront. Our scheme consciously orients the plaza to the oceanfront. This plaza is characterized by trees, landscaped topography, and water features which create a microclimate and protect the space from the noise produced by the E4 roadway. The new building is connected to the existing Kultur Maganiset via its glass atrium, which becomes the main entry for the new building. The two buildings become one complex, although they have radically different architectural sensibilities. The shell of the building is based on topological torus geometry. It was generated by stretching a soft volume in response to environmental conditions. An architectural ‘desiring’ of the oceanfront and riverfront generated two smooth protrusions in the volume to the north and east. These cantilever out of the building allowing unobstructed views out over the E4 roadway to the Baltic Sea. Other areas of the shell are pushed inward, spatially drawing the outside into the interior. These involutions interconnect on the interior of the building, creating structural ‘columns’ in the space. They also operate as building circulation, connecting the performing arts theaters to the foyer on main and balcony levels. The structure of the building is based on a hybrid of shell behavior, which is surface-based, and spaceframe behavior, which is vector-based. Where bending occurs, member depth is increased on a smooth gradient up to the maximum economical depth for a plate girder, at which point the structure delaminates to become a three dimensional vector-based spaceframe. It produces highly intricate and ornamental spatial conditions which can be understood qualitatively as well as quantitatively.

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Novosibirsk Summer Pavilion
Novosibirsk, Russia, 2007 Building Type: Summer Art and Design Pavilion Floor Area: 400 sq. m. Client: Novosibirsk Municipal Government

This Pavilion design is the result of research into grid-stiffened shells. Grid-stiffened shells (a.k.a. gridshells), prevalent in 1950s-60s engineering masterworks by Nervi, Otto, Fuller and Candela, were part of a lineage of experimentation into material intelligence and analogue shape computation leading all the way back to the Gothic era. The elegance of these structures is a function of their controlled curvature which is generated using form-finding techniques as well as their patterned relief which reduces weight and while increasing stiffness. These solutions, while efficient and elegant, were often limited by the modern paradigm and its tendencies toward formal purism on the one hand and structural expressionism on the other. In the contemporary digital environment, the grid-stiffened shell is newly relevant. Our re-examination of the grid-stiffened shell accepts the material sensibility of this earlier work while questioning its monotonous pattern geometry and tendency toward universal forms. This proposal for the Novosibirsk Pavilion is based on the simultaneous response of pattern to surface curvature and force pathways, generating a highly varied and informed structuration. Variability in pattern morphology, density, and depth allow for a localized structural tuning which would be impossible with an invariant pattern logic. Form-finding, no longer a determinant of global geometry, becomes a technique for optimizing regions of geometry in a larger structural ecology. A base subdivision of the surfaces was achieved based on curvature where pinched or twisted regions of the surfaces were broken down into smaller and smaller quadrilateral cells. A routine for transforming this subdivision into a branching logic was developed in order to generate a more complex and robust network of structural pathways, one which could be easily re-adjusted based on engineering information. Long beam-like regions of stiffeners began to emerge with less dense infill areas interconnecting them, together creating what we now refer to as beam-branes.

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Dragonfly

SCI-Arc, Los Angeles, 2007 Building Type: Prototype Floor Area: 1,500 sq. ft. Client: SCI_Arc

In nature, the dragonfly wing is unmatched in its structural performance and exquisite formal variation. Its morphology can not be traced to any single biomathematical minima or optimum, but is rather the complex result of multiple patterning systems interweaving in response various force flows and material properties. In this installation, dragonfly morphology and syntax are employed biomimetically rather than biomorphically, that is in terms of formal and behavioral logics rather than pure aesthetics. Seen in a larger context, this project contributes to the recent contemporary discourse on cellularity in architecture as a departure from pure cellularity toward a tectonic based on emerging structural hierarchies within cellular aggregations. Populations of random structural mutations were generated and fitness-tested based on the given support and loading conditions in a feedback loop involving multiple generations. Using boundary conditions relating to overall structural shape, individual cell morphology, vein distribution and pleating, depth, and incremental material thickness, the geometry was evolved simultaneously toward performance and wild variation. The fabrication procedures for Dragonfly reflect this adaptive model. A CATIA fabrication model was generated which parametrically linked hundreds of two-dimensional unfolded bands to ‘live’ three-dimensional geometry. As the design evolved and as engineering information was filtered into the fabrication model, these bands, including scoring, bending, drilling, and location information, were updated automatically. Bands were automatically distributed onto 4’x8’ aluminum sheet templates using a nesting algorithm which optimized material usage. These sheets were then cut and inscribed using CNC milling machines.

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MoMA/ P.S.1 Urban Beach
New York, 2003 Building Type: Summer Music Festival Pavillion Floor Area: 10,000 sq. ft. Client: The Museum of Modern Art

The P.S.1 Urban Beach, realized in 2003 in the PS1 Contemporary Art Center courtyard, was based on two distinct but interrelated systems: the Cellular Roof and the Leisure Landscape. The landscape integrates various programmatic elements such as long lap pools, furniture for sitting and lounging, and promenade catwalks at different heights. Also, at key points, the landscape begins to adapt into structural supports for the roof. All of these behaviors are integrated into a coherent gradient of use, spilling out rhizomatically into the courtyard, parsing the space into microclimates and passageways. The design for the Cellular Roof was based on creating a long-span structure through the use of a non-hierarchical structural patterning of distinct but interlaced units, or cells. The location and geometry of each cell was determined by local shading requirements, by its required shear and moment reactions, and also by the behavior of neighbor cells. A crenellated second skin wraps these elements into a singular multiplicity, a unified shade structure. At night, however, this provisional body transforms back into an atmospheric light-emitting swarm characterized by its cellularity. The expanded aluminum skin cladding was generated using minimal surface geometry, primarily conoidal and parabolic surfaces. These surfaces were generated by lofting straight line segments with parabolas or rotated line segments, creating a slight warpage to each panel. The warpage was taken up in the meshwork of the material itself, and therefore the panels could still be unfolded flat and water-jet cut for economical manufacture.

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