Architecture and Performative Design (APD) was commenced at SAC in 2011 and is informed by a range of material, constructional, manufacturing and environmental considerations and technologies. The performance of an architectural design is conceived in its ability to incorporate various requirements resulting from programmatic, functional, structural and environmental aspects in a synergetic and fruitful manner. This specialisation focuses on how computational techniques and processes are changing the methodological and strategic make-up of architectural design by linking projective and analytical phases informed by technical data in the work process.
Whereas digital tools in architecture continue to be predominately used for representational purposes, APD draws on the transformative role of digital computational processes to bridge the abstraction of geometry with the performative aspects of contemporary and advanced material, technical and constructional systems. Form is not merely driven by subjective design approaches but results from adaptive, evolving processes. These affect architecture in new and profound ways by enhancing its environmental, functional and aesthetic performance potential.
APD is linked to contemporary advances in theory and practice and trains its students in areas of architectural design that potentially have the most radical and unsettling effects on the traditions of the discipline. The new digitally driven changes to how architecture can be practised and theorised deny the architect the traditional role of being the individual protagonist and ‘master builder’ and transfer and distribute his or her creative and productive role to a larger team of project collaborators. By implication, architectural design is carried out in a more complex methodological setting where various forms of feedback inject projective and analytical momentum to the design development.
Moreoever, computational design techniques are changing the role of analysis in the design process. Digital feedback loops of synthesis, analysis and evaluation establish a process of becoming in which solutions evolve, differentiate and adapt to specific requirements. Complexity is tackled by circular procedures. Instead of a linear cause-effect relationship, circularity creates feedback via signal exchange between effectors (output) and sensors (input). The computer becomes more than a mere representational machine.
The computer's formalised systems are not inscribed into mechanical cogwheels but provided as a string of symbols based on a certain syntax. Scripting, programming and parametrics help to access this layer of description where the algorithm (the machine) and the data are represented with similar symbols and syntax. These processes create the conditions for the digital mediation of design emergence through evolutionary structures. Furthermore, the simulation of material properties and structural behaviour enables designers to integrate constraints and transform them into design drivers.
APD revolves around these novel paradigms and conceives architecture and its design processes as a complex system which is comprised of sets of elements and their relations whose behaviour is unpredictable. The system properties are not defined by individual elements but rather emerge from intricate interaction without any top-down control. Collaborative design demands the negotiation of multiple design criteria in these larger systems that account for increasing number of elements and relations. Thus, APD is actively engaged in relocating the architect’s role as a creative designer in an emerging field of technologically driven changes.
APD reverts to work on material without neglecting the computational aspects established under the 2014 agenda of Trans-Scalar Diversity. The 2015 agenda is built on the premise that digital design strategies allow us to address all scales from the fibres and particles in the material make-up to larger programmatic and infrastructural elements. Computation offers the direct control of each element without any abstraction, allowing for an unprecedented resolution in detail and material accentuation. At the same time computation provides methods to deploy this control in the manufacturing of architectural elements and spatial settings. This deeply impacts the act of designing as well as the role of the designer.
The questions embedded in this agenda will be answered via design. APD will develop its own framework for evaluation, loosely described as Quantitative Aesthetics, a collection of methods that efficiently processes causes and effects when working with large sets of elements of various shape, size, colour and material. The ambition is to chart and extend the range of scales that are usually addressed in architecture, to drill into the make-up of materials and investigate how they are infiltrated by technology, aiming at an Architecture of High Resolution.
During the first six weeks, a weekly a design task is given in order to equip students with techniques and hands-on design experience. Furthermore, they will expand their ability to navigate and calibrate spectra of variation. Each task has a clear theme, review and submission. They are independent exercises, venturing into neighbouring disciplines such as graphic design, data visualization, product design and sculpting.
By January 2016, students are asked to develop their findings further and demonstrate their relevance for architecture by developing a thesis project proposal on a given brief for a small mixed use building. The thesis should address the question of materiality in a world where technology is all pervasive - a condition that is often described as post-digital. The underlying question is: To what degree is architecture embracing digital technology beyond design and fabrication and how does that impact the relation we have to our built environment?
In Autumn 2016 a large, spatial installation by Guest Prof. Mirco Becker and the APD group will showcase a life-size interior of Trans-Material Diversity. This interior will be realised at a prominent Frankfurt gallery and funded by a crowdsourcing campaign on Kickstarter throughout spring 2016.
If you wish be part of the community supporting this project at the intersection of installation, technology and architecture on Kickstarter, please join our mailing list for details and rewards here.
For more information on the Exhibition, click here.
Collaborative partner 2014-15: HENN (Munich, Berlin, Beijing)
Trans-Scalar Diversity attempted to broaden the repertoire of digital design. In nature one finds a wide variety of forms at every scale. Be it the overall shape of a plant or the cellular arrangement of tissue, at each stage nature exhibits wide diversity. In contemporary architecture such a spectrum of extreme articulation across all scales is not found. With the programme, Trans-Scalar Diversity, the ambition was to identify the means to transfer this richness of scalar articulation into methods of digital design and architectural application.
The programme had a strong computational focus. As much as digital methods were used generatively, they were also put in context as thinking protocols for conceptualising design. Two tectonic themes were pursued in parallel: Tessellated Topologies and Fibrous Super Alignments. Each student was assigned to one of these two themes by the beginning of the first semester. A group study of natural microclimatic conditions provided the blueprint for diversification.
In collaboration with the architectural firm, HENN (Munich, Berlin and Beijing), a study of void spaces in multi-story buildings was conducted in order to link the study of microclimates to spatial settings.
By the end of the first semester, teams of two students were ask to present proposals for high-rise buildings which were to synthesize the research. In the second semester, each student further developed her or his research and demonstrated its relevance by developing a thesis project on a given brief for a small mixed use building - The Garden Archive - on the Städelschule campus.
Collaborative partner 2013-14: Liebieghaus (Frankfurt)
Deep Research addresses the role of material assemblies in architecture and explores the potential they lend for re-thinking architectural design. The research centres on four topics which were established in the APD programme 2012-13: Smart Joints, Elastic and Plastic Skins, Friction Aggregates, Flexible Formwork.
During the last years a vast body of disciplinary knowledge on these topics has been produced. Based on the state-of-art knowledge in the field and to further explore design possibilities within these topics, each was assigned to pairs of students. Each group of two students proceeded to formulate their own research agenda, based on which each student ultimately authored the design brief for the individual thesis design projects.
Each body of research within the resepctive, thematic areas was based on the research results in APD 2013. The topic of Flexible Formwork continued the research previously developed by Kavin Horayangkura on flexible formwork casting techniques. Shima Moradi's work on linear and non-interlocking aggregates was continued in Friction Aggregates. The research thread in Plastic and Elastic Skins was based on Melissa Swick's research on flexible latex skins and Amr AlJanadi's on thermally deformed plastics. However, the work on Smart Joints was new in APD and referred to a general, strong body of research on the topic in architecture and engineering. It looked at connections, links and joints in highly differentiated architectural assemblies such as space frames and shell structures.
Continuing its work on material assemblies from 2011-12, Layered Material and Bodily Patterns in Space comprised a shift in APD's focus from cellular aggregation to a layered build-up of the assemblies. The shift entailed trying to challenge the bias in design computation that favour modular concepts. Second, layered assemblies present the advantage of improved scaling possibilities in architectural applications.
Performative design criteria and analyses in the work included structural performance, material properties, geometry, environment factors, ergonomic and occupational behaviour. The research emphasised in particular the development of new spatial analyses and the simulation of user patterns.
The research mainly looked at the layered of assembly of sheet material and multi-material composites. Based on gaining an understanding of different material properties, connections between elements, build-up techniques and fabrication technologies, the research comprised of developing material assemblies that have the possibility to be highly specific in their in-situ performance.
In APD's first year, the programme's agenda explored performative construction assemblies which were comprised of a dual construction system, Topological Interlocking Assemblies and Bell Kites. The base geometry for both systems was a tetrahedron whereas the two systems presented very different performative characteristics.
The design-research on assemblies addressed performance driven differentiation and part-to-whole relationships with these two very different systems. Topological Interlocking Assemblies comprise assemblies of solid parts where the overall structural integrity relies on each element being kinematically constrained by its neighbours. Strictly defined, Topological Interlocking Assemblies consists of topologically identical and convex shapes. The assembly does not allow mechanical jointing details.
The second system, Bell Kites, are topologically similar but fundamentally different in performance to topological interlocking assemblies. These kites are made of clusters of tetrahedrons. Compared to the first system, these structures are super light, and their performance is predominantly driven by wind forces rather than gravity.
Papers documenting and discussing aspects of the research were published and presented at eCAADe 2012 (Prague), Advances in Architectural Geometry 2012 (Paris), and CAADRIA 2013 (Singapore).
7-8. July 2016 10:00 am - DAM / The German Architecture Museum
12-13. May 2016 Städelschule Aula
7-8. April 2016 Städelschule Aula