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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Questioning the Gated Compound - Looking for Urban Conviviality in the GCC...


Examples of gated compounds in Doha (images sourced from Google Maps)...



We are not running out of land. We are running out of urban spaces.
Andres Duany

For the exception of some areas in Manama, I haven't come across many mixed neighborhoods within the GCC countries. Usually, particularly in the more recent developments, residential areas are usually fiercely separate (occasionally even by walls) from retail areas, commercial offices demarcated from green areas, etc. Neither is there much evidence of small, shared neighborhood parks or even playgrounds. One could argue this is partly due to cultural norms, where traditionally each residential unit's (freej's) privacy is partitioned from the adjacent buildings and areas, however, looking at even a half century old maps and photos from various regional cities, it becomes clear that this hasn't always been the case and this more stringent, hermetically sealed, demarcation between plots is a more recent development. The historical neighborhood template, which even though partitioned, nevertheless, with their narrow and shaded pedestrian paths (sikkat), allowed for a much more organic and less segregated neighborhood-scape to those evident today. There are an abundance of suggestive precedents, from places such as Southern Europe, Asia, Africa, along with the Middle-East (for images of an Omani example click here), for how such issues could be tackled without compromising either some of the levels of comfort we'd become accustomed today, whilst still allowing an evolution, of sorts, develop regarding what a city in this region (GCC, MENA) could/ should be. Moderation, or 'evolution instead of revolution' as Bjarke Ingels of BIG puts it, is still the key in implementing such, potentially even drastic, changes... But considering the changes this region has already been experiencing for a number of decades, such a additional diversion, which inevitably would be realized at relatively generous timeframes, shouldn't be an issue. However, the focus here shouldn't necessarily be on the notion of change, but the intention of providing urban options, something which are still somewhat limited in this region...

What this might entail will hopefully be something explored further through a number of proposed research projects as well as through this blog - so watch this space...

Men do not love Rome because she is beautiful; Rome is beautiful because men have loved her.
Leopold Kohr



A photo showing the 'freej' and 'sikkats' of a traditional urban neighborhood (image sourced from rudi.net)...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Responsive Acoustic Surfacing Cluster - Smart Geometry 2011, Copenhagen...


A (probably) final submission about a cluster from the latest Smart Geometry event, this time from a very interesting cluster titled Responsive Acoustic Surfacing, championed by Mark Burry, Jane Burry, Alexander Pena de Leon and Daniel Davis from SIAL at RMIT... Its introductory outline is included below:

This cluster aims to develop and evaluate a new generation of parametric tools that embed emergent behavior within parametric models. Swarming, Flocking, Cellular Automata, Genetic Algorithms and Dynamic Relaxation are examples of emergent tools that synthesise data-sets into solutions. In this cluster we will explore sound datascapes in order to investigate how surfaces with variable resonators can be used to reduce particular frequencies of sound in response to shifts within a particular soundscape.

After qualitatively and quantitatively measuring the sound and environmental conditions of selected situations, participants of this cluster will use emergent-parametric tools to search for doubly ruled surfaced forms that accentuate certain frequencies of sound and muffle others. The variable tunable Helmholz resonator is one example of how this can be achieved in association with the design of the surfaces. The emergent nature of our parametric tools allows them to synthesise acoustical analysis by setting up a real-time feedback loop between the data from the parametric model, and the analysis provided by acoustical analysis software: ODEON. The resulting designs will be prototyped at 1:5 using the hot-wire cutter, constraining the geometry to doubly ruled surfaces (the same vocabulary Gaudí used in his later years) and allows for the analysis of the parametric models’ accuracy. The resulting data including acoustic properties, aesthetics, material and manufacturing constraints, is then fed back into the parametric model to improve the next generation of prototypes.






The back of the 1:1 wall...






Sunday, April 10, 2011

Agent Construction Cluster - Smart Geometry 2011, Copenhagen...


An additional submission of a workshop cluster from the recently concluded Smart Geometry event(s) in Copenhagen, this time of the Agent Construction cluster, run by Petra Jenning, David Andreen and Rupert Soar (my PhD advisor)... Brilliant stuff, that kept one one ones toes as the 'bottom-up', quasi-random, construction evolved and advanced...

An outline of the cluster brief is included below:

The cluster will be exploring a thoroughly bottom-up approach to construction, by placing ourselves as agents in an emergent system. The goal of the cluster is to demonstrate how ‘invisible’ processes (in this case air and energy flows) generated by the emerging structure can be visualised during the construction process and used to direct the ongoing fabrication process in real time.

Rather than pre-designing a blueprint, the cluster members will be agreeing on rules which will guide the assembly of a physical structure which will mimic some physical and formal characteristics of termite mounds. The role of the computer will be to analyse the emerging structure and simulate alternative rules which can then be applied to the ongoing construction process in order to effect - evolve - the outcome. During development extensive documentation of the rules which guided the construction, how these evolved based on performance feedback and simulations, and the corresponding physical emergence of the structure over time will be recorded and fed back.

Freeform Construction is a multi-disciplinary organisation exploring rapid manufacturing on an architectural scale and its implications for the industry. With an interest in adaptive structures and process integration and with extensive knowledge and expertise of rapid manufacturing, biological processes and innovative construction, they have attracted international media coverage and are collaborating with leading architects. Rupert, Petra and David are among the co-founders of Freeform Construction and together they teach in a diploma studio in architecture at Greenwich University in London which explores digital manufacturing and collaborative workflows.



Above & below: Close-ups of the cardboard 'crystals' as they are gradually assembled, initially from bottom-up, but also at later stages (literally) from top-down...


Occasionally the crystals entwined with various artifacts found it the collectives vicinity...


The Leica device used in the placement of the crystals...

Above & below: A few images from the process of assembly...





Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Performative Skins Cluster - Smart Geometry 2011, Copenhagen...


Last week I took part in the Smart Geometry 2011 event in Copenhagen, during which I participated in a workshop cluster titled Performing Skins, championed by Mette Ramsgard-Thomsen and Ayelet Karmon. The outline for the cluster, sourced from the SG web-page, is included below...


This cluster will investigate the fabrication of three-dimensional knitted surfaces that provide an intelligent skin, are performative structurally, and are behaviourally responsive. 3D complex design strategies will be developed that allow for the creation of responsive fabric skin constructions. By combining advances in intelligent textiles with parametric modelling we will devise bespoke interfaces that link between standard architectural design software environments, CNC knitting machine (Stoll) and simple computational steering (Arduino).
The cluster uses parametric design tools to generate material fabrication code directly from digital design models, built in response to input data. Introducing conductive fibers and simple actuation, the produced materials will ask participants to model textile surfaces physically and computationally at a level that takes into account both the performance of the surface as a whole through its pattern, texture, materiality, flexibility, breathability, warmth and electronic interface. The cluster works as the interstices of architecture, fabric technology, passive and active responsive systems.

In the development of our designs, which involved (at least for me) a quite steep learning curve, we ended up using a variety of more recent plug-ins for Rhino, such as Grasshopper, Arduino and even Firefly along with VB Code and Excel... Along with mastering the softwares, we also needed to get to grips with the Stoll knitting machine (shown in action in one of the videos below)... In the eventual outcomes the cluster produced a number of textiles which, along with a number of additional thread types, also included a conductive thread that could be connected to the Arduino platform and used to 'sense' the presence of a/ any conductive body (see the video at the bottom of the page). In this instance, due to time constraints, we didn't use any physical actuators... Examples of the resulting textiles and display stands can be viewed below...

Overall the event was a very rewarding (though quite exhausting) experience and I'm already looking forward to next year's workshops and conference scheduled to take place in Troy, New York...



The Arduino microcontroller


Screenshot of Grasshopper


Above & below: Examples of the knitted textiles produced



Above & below: Examples of some of the display stands on/ around/ across which the textiles were displayed








Video of the Stoll knitting machine

Video of our textile in action (sensing a presence)...

Monday, April 4, 2011

1:1 - Research by Design Exhibition at the KARCH, Copenhagen...


I'll soon be posting more from the last weekend concluded Smart Geometry event in Copenhagen but, until then, here are a few images from a parallel exhibition titled 1:1 - Research by Design taking place (until April 10, 2011) at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts - School of Architecture...