Fab

[Image: “The Sphere” by Oliver Tessman, Mark Fahlbusch, Klaus Bollinger, and Manfred Grohmann].

The Bartlett School of Architecture has made all three volumes of Fabricate, their excellent series of books and conference proceedings dating back to 2011, free to download.

[Image: Matter Design’s La Voûte de LeFevre, Banvard Gallery (2012)].

More than 700 pages’ worth of technical experiments, speculative construction processes, new industrial tools, and one-off prototypes, the books are a gold mine for research and development.

[Image: Greg Lynn’s “Embryological House,” Venice Biennale (2002)].

3D printers, buoyant robots, multi-axis milling machines, directed insect-secretion, cellular automata, semi-autonomous bricklaying, self-assembling endoskeletons, drone weaving—it’s hard to go wrong with even the most cursory skimming of each volume, and that doesn’t even mention the essays and interviews.

[Image: “Custom forming tool mounted on the six-axis robotic arm,” via Fabricate 2014]

Download each book—from 2017, 2014, and 2011—and be prepared to lose a few days reading through them.

Subterranean Singapore

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[Image: A “Cavern Breathing Unit” from Subterranean Singapore by Finbarr Fallon, Bartlett School of Architecture, Unit 24].

Here is another project from my reviews the other week at the Bartlett School of Architecture; this one is called Subterranean Singapore, and it is by Finbarr Fallon, produced for Unit 24, which is taught by Penelope Haralambidou, Simon Kennedy, and Michael Tite.


[Image: “Concept Breathing Towers” from Subterranean Singapore by Finbarr Fallon, Bartlett School of Architecture, Unit 24].

Subterranean Singapore is presented as a speculative look at massive underground residential development in the city-state of Singapore over the next few decades.


[Images: Glimpses of a “high grade recreational space within an inflatable cave unit,” from Subterranean Singapore by Finbarr Fallon, Bartlett School of Architecture, Unit 24].

The city has run out of room to expand into the sea, and is thus forced to look downward, into the depths of the continental shelf, excavating beneath the surface of the city and heading partially out below the seabed.


[Image: From Subterranean Singapore by Finbarr Fallon, Bartlett School of Architecture, Unit 24].

As Fallon describes it, the project explores “the city-state of Singapore’s subterranean ambitions to suggest an imagined masterplan and spatial typology for deep-level underground living. While it may seem utopian to imagine that extensive deep living will become viable, the pressures of chronic land scarcity in Singapore may necessitate this outcome.”


[Image: The “Subterranean Development Institute: Designing Your Underground Future,” from Subterranean Singapore by Finbarr Fallon, Bartlett School of Architecture, Unit 24].

The construction process is kicked off with great imperial fanfare, involving a parade of excavation machines and robot carving arms marching their way forward through clouds of confetti. There is even a celebratory pamphlet.


[Images: From Subterranean Singapore by Finbarr Fallon, Bartlett School of Architecture, Unit 24].

The idea is not entirely science fiction, of course: Singapore is already excavating huge oil-storage facilities underground, and nearby Hong Kong is actively experimenting with the design and implementation of entire underground infrastructural zones.


[Images: From Subterranean Singapore by Finbarr Fallon, Bartlett School of Architecture, Unit 24].

For Fallon, however, such a proposal cannot be divorced from the question of who will be able to afford these spaces of underground luxury—complete with fish ponds, spas, and the soothing presence of exotic mechanical animals meant to bring an ironic touch of the natural world to those below.


[Image: A light-well looking down at Subterranean Singapore by Finbarr Fallon, Bartlett School of Architecture, Unit 24].

Let alone, of course, the question of human labor. Who, after all, will physically construct these things? Whose backs will be broken?


[Image: From Subterranean Singapore by Finbarr Fallon, Bartlett School of Architecture, Unit 24].

The accompanying film—in fact, the film is the core of the proposal—suggests that not everyone is pleased to see this triumphant underground utopia take root beneath Singapore, and hacker-saboteurs appear to take things into their own hands.

While the plot itself is not unusually complex, many of the images successfully wed the cinematic and the architectural, and were worth posting here.


[Images: From Subterranean Singapore by Finbarr Fallon, Bartlett School of Architecture, Unit 24].

With any luck, I’ll post a few more student projects here in the days to come; for now, don’t miss Matthew Turner’s project for a “New London Law Court.”

Spaces of Guilt and Innocence

[Image: From “The New London Law Court” by Matthew Turner, Bartlett School of Architecture, Unit 12].

I was in London earlier this month, primarily for another year of external exams at the Bartlett School of Architecture. This consists for the most part in meeting with a large group of students from different design units across the school for one-on-one presentations of their work; much of that work was incredibly interesting and worth sharing here.

[Image: From “The New London Law Court” by Matthew Turner, Bartlett School of Architecture, Unit 12].

This first project is a design for a new London Law Court, by Matthew Turner for Unit 12. The class, taught by Jonathan Hill, Elizabeth Dow, and Matthew Butcher, looked at what it called “the public private house,” with a focus on civic institutions and their relationship to the larger city.

In this case, that institution is a court of law.

[Image: From “The New London Law Court” by Matthew Turner, Bartlett School of Architecture, Unit 12].

The entire project is built around a set of stark spatial polarities set up between public and private, accuser and accused, guilty and innocent.

Circulation—the actual path a visitor might take to pass from one room to another, or from one part of the facility to the next, or even what can or cannot be seen from specific standpoints, such as the witness box or the judge’s robing chambers—is thus the building’s major organizing principle.

It is all about sequence, connection, and adjacency.

[Images: From “The New London Law Court” by Matthew Turner, Bartlett School of Architecture, Unit 12].

Even better, the project is a rigorous exploration of brick, a hugely overlooked material, including micro-studies of structural bricklaying patterns and surface effects.

[Image: Brick patterns from “The New London Law Court” by Matthew Turner, Bartlett School of Architecture, Unit 12].

Turner explained that different surface treatments show up throughout the building almost as a kind of signage or way-finding tool, such that particular patterns come to signify types of interior spaces throughout the complex—a public waiting area, for example, or spaces for the accused.

[Image: From “The New London Law Court” by Matthew Turner, Bartlett School of Architecture, Unit 12].

These pattern-studies are rendered in a style that makes them deeply reminiscent of Auguste Choisy.

[Images: Brick patterns from “The New London Law Court” by Matthew Turner, Bartlett School of Architecture, Unit 12].

Turner really went for it with the axonometry, cutting gorgeous sections through sites of extreme structural complexity that reveal slices of the interior that seem more like Cubist abstractions than actual building plans.

Yet, as his thesis voluminously demonstrates, all of the spaces nonetheless maintain both architectural and narrative coherence.

[Image: From “The New London Law Court” by Matthew Turner, Bartlett School of Architecture, Unit 12].

The passage of light, as can be seen in this next image, is also given symbolic or explanatory weight. As Turner writes, “Distances are compressed and spaces seem to step through each other. Spaces are attenuated, echoed and re-echoed before their sources are experienced. Light in the building does not signify divine truth and justice but instead its shadows and effects are hard to define.”

As they day progresses, the interior is like a clock, and “shadows become spaces within themselves.”

[Image: From “The New London Law Court” by Matthew Turner, Bartlett School of Architecture, Unit 12].

The thesis is immensely detailed, and these selections are barely sufficient as an introduction to Turner’s work. As a study of how architecture itself—that is, the careful and deliberate sequencing of spatial experience—can be used to instill narrative sensations of guilt, resolution, privacy, institutional respect, and so much more, it was really commendable.

[Image: From “The New London Law Court” by Matthew Turner, Bartlett School of Architecture, Unit 12].

I’ll hope to post a few more projects from the Bartlett over the next couple of days.

Calling All Agents

Here are some opportunities for writers, designers, and filmmakers, in case you’re looking for ways to challenge yourself over the summer.

[Image: “Angels” (2006) by Ruairi Glynn, one of the co-organizers of Stories of Change].

1) Arup Foresight and the Bartlett School of Architecture have teamed up to gather what they call “responses to some of the world’s most pressing issues as featured in the publication, Drivers of Change. We would like you to tell us your Stories of Change.” Original films, texts, and architectural designs are all eligible and welcome; the texts could even “be a poem, a letter, a blog-post, even a currated collection of tweets.” Which is good news, but the deadline is approaching quickly: Friday, 24 June 2011. See the Stories of Change website for more.

2) For its new call for papers, the Bauhaus-Universität’s Horizonte journal begins by quoting architect Raimund Abraham: “From earliest times,” Abraham writes, “architecture has complied with that order of logical forms which is contained in the nature of each material. That is to say: each material can only be used within the limits imposed by its organic and technical possibilities.” This fourth issue of the consistently well-designed journal explores the materiality of building: the issue thus “challenges the constraints and possibilities of architectural production, in order to reflect on the material and constructive methodologies of the present day.” I imagine essays and even speculative fiction covering everything from genetically engineered building materials to 3D printers—to new types of brick to artisanal craftwork—would be of interest. Your deadline is 8 July 2011.

3) The Architectural League wants to give New York the Greatest Grid:

On the occasion of the two hundredth anniversary of the 1811 Commissioners’ Plan for New York, the foundational document that established the Manhattan street plan from Houston Street to 155th Street, the Architectural League invites architects, landscape architects, urban designers, and other design professionals to use the Manhattan street grid as a catalyst for thinking about the present and future of New York. For two centuries, the Manhattan street grid has demonstrated an astonishing flexibility to accommodate the architectural gestures and urban planning theories of successive generations of architects, urban designers, private developers, and city officials. Given its capacity for reinvention, how might the Manhattan grid continue to adapt and respond to the challenges and opportunities—both large and small—that New York faces now and into the future?

Your deadline is 26 September 2011; see the competition website for much more information.

4) A new Advanced Architecture Contest has been announced, sponsored by the Institute for Advanced Architecture and Hewlett Packard. The theme this year is “CITY-SENSE: Shaping our environment with real-time data.” Aim to submit “a proposal capable of responding to emerging challenges in areas such as ecology, information technology, architecture, and urban planning, with the purpose of balancing the impact real-time data collection might have on sensor-driven cities.” Read more at the Advanced Architecture Contest website; the deadline is 26 September 2011.

5) The California Architectural Foundation, in partnership with the Arid Lands Institute and the Academy for Emerging Professionals, has launched what it calls “an open ideas competition for retrofitting the American West.” The Drylands Competition seeks new ways of “anticipating, mitigating, and adapting to projected impacts of climate change” and other “critical challenges” facing the region. These challenges include water scarcity, obsolete infrastructure, and even the growing gap between scientific knowledge and public policy. “Design teams are invited to generate progressive proposals that suggest to policy makers and the public creative alternatives for the American west, ideas that may be replicated throughout the world.” Register by 15 November 2011; see their website for much more info.

6) Meanwhile, across the pond, the Architects Journal is seeking essays of up to 1,500 words, by writers under the age of 35, for their £1,000 AJ Writing Prize (the money will be split amongst all winners). The jury consists of Christine Murray, Alan Berman, Joseph Rykwert, and Mary Banham; you only have until 30 June 2011 to participate, so get cracking.

7) Finally, this one doesn’t open till September 2011, but it sounds fascinating. Sponsored by Architecture for Humanity, [un]restricted access is “a design competition that will re-envision the future of decommissioned military space. This is an open invite to the global design and construction community to identify retired military installations in their own backyard, to collaborate with local stakeholders, and to reclaim these spaces for social, economic, and environmental good.” As I say, thought, it doesn’t launch until September, but keep your eyes on the [un]restricted access website for emerging info.

Augmented Metropolis

Keiichi Matsuda, a recent graduate from the Bartlett School of Architecture, whose film Domestic Robocop was featured on BLDGBLOG several months ago, has a new project out: Augmented City. And it’s in 3D.

The film “focuses on the deprogramming of architecture and the spontaneous creation of customised, aggregated spaces,” Matsuda writes. We see its central protagonist surrounded by pop-up menus and projected touchscreens, able to switch urban backgrounds—graffiti to gardens—in an instant. From the project description:

The architecture of the contemporary city is no longer simply about the physical space of buildings and landscape, more and more it is about the synthetic spaces created by the digital information that we collect, consume and organise; an immersive interface may become as much part of the world we inhabit as the buildings around us.
Augmented Reality (AR) is an emerging technology defined by its ability to overlay physical space with information. It is part of a paradigm shift that succeeds Virtual Reality; instead of disembodied occupation of virtual worlds, the physical and virtual are seen together as a contiguous, layered and dynamic whole. It may lead to a world where media is indistinguishable from ‘reality’. The spatial organisation of data has important implications for architecture, as we re-evaluate the city as an immersive human-computer interface.

The film is even better, Matsuda points out, with 3D glasses. Watch it here, over at Vimeo, or on YouTube.

(Related: Transcendent City).

The Switching Labyrinth

[Image: From “Labyrinths, Mazes and the Spaces Inbetween” by Sam McElhinney].

Sam McElhinney, a student at the Bartlett School of Architecture, has been building full-scale labyrinths in London and testing people’s spatial reactions to them. See photos of his constructions, below.

McElhinney explained his research to BLDGBLOG in a recent email, attaching a paper that he delivered earlier this month at a cybernetics conference in Vienna, where it was awarded best paper. Called “Labyrinths, Mazes and the Spaces Inbetween,” it describes McElhinney’s fascinating look at how people actually walk through, use, and familiarize themselves with the internal spaces of buildings, using mazes and labyrinths as his control studies.

In the process, McElhinney introduces us to movement-diagrams, Space Syntax, and other forms of architectural motion-analysis, asking: would a detailed study of user-behaviors help architects design more consistently interesting buildings, spaces that “might evoke,” he writes, “a sense of continual delight”? Pushing these questions a bit further, we might ask: should all our buildings be labyrinths?

[Images: Movement-typologies from “Labyrinths, Mazes and the Spaces Inbetween” by Sam McElhinney].

Early in the paper, McElhinney differentiates between the two types of interior experiences—between mazes and labyrinths.

A path system can be multicursal: a network of interconnecting routes, intended to disorient even the cunning. It may contain multiple branches and dead ends, specifically designed to confuse the occupant. This is a maze.

Alternatively, a path can form a single, monocursal route. Once embarked upon, this may fold, twist and turn, but will remain a constant and ultimately reach a destination; this is a labyrinth.

The experience of walking these two topologies is very different.

These basic definitions set the stage for McElhinney’s own “premise,” which is “that all space is found, experienced and inhabited in a state of ‘switching’ flux between the diametrically opposed topologies of maze and labyrinth. This offers insights into how we might evoke a sense of continual delight in the user [of the buildings that we go on to design].” Accordingly, he asks how architects might actually construct “a path that switches from a labyrinth into a maze (and vice-versa).”

How can architects design for this switch?

[Images: From “Labyrinths, Mazes and the Spaces Inbetween” by Sam McElhinney].

McElhinney’s argument segues through a discussion of Alasdair Turner’s Space Syntax investigations (and the limitations thereof). He describes how Turner put together a series of automated test-runs through which he could track the in-labyrinth behavior of various “maze-agents”; these reprogrammable “agents” would continually seek new pathways through the twisty little passages around them—a spatial syntax of forward movement—and Turner took note of the results.

Turner’s test-environments included, McElhinney explains, a maze that “was set to actively re-configure upon a door being opened, altering the maze control algorithms” behind the scenes, thus producing new route-seeking behavior in the maze-agents.

[Images: From “Labyrinths, Mazes and the Spaces Inbetween” by Sam McElhinney].

Unsatisfied with Turner’s research, however, McElhinney went on to build his own full-scale “switching labyrinth” near London’s Euston Station. Participants in this experiment “animated” McElhinney’s switching labyrinth by way of “a stepper motor and slide mechanism” that, together, were “able to periodically shift, ‘switching’ openings to offer alternative entrance and exit paths.”

The participants walked in and their routes warped the labyrinth around them.

[Image: Sam McElhinney’s “switching labyrinth,” or psycho-cybernetic human navigational testing ground, constructed near Euston Station].

After watching all this unfold, McElhinney suggested that further research along these lines could help to reveal architectural moments at which there is an “emergence of labyrinthine, or familiar, spatialities within an unknown or changing maze framework.”

There can be a place or moment within any building, in other words, at which the spatially unfamiliar will erupt—and from movement-pathway studies we can extrapolate architectural form, buildings that perfectly rest at the cognitive flipping point between maze and labyrinth, familiar and disorienting, adventurous and strange.

[Images: Sam McElhinney’s “switching labyrinth”].

The cybernetics of human memory and in-situ spatial decision-making processes provide a framework from which we can extract and assemble a new kind of architecture.

[Image: From “Labyrinths, Mazes and the Spaces Inbetween” by Sam McElhinney].

How we move through coiled, labyrinthine environments can be studied for insights into human navigation, physiology, and more.

[Image: From “Labyrinths, Mazes and the Spaces Inbetween” by Sam McElhinney].

McElhinney sent over a huge range of maze and labyrinth precedents that served as part of his research; some images from that research appear below.

[Images: Maze-studies from “Labyrinths, Mazes and the Spaces Inbetween” by Sam McElhinney].

It’s fascinating research, and I would love to see it scaled way, way up, beyond a mere test-maze in a warehouse into something both multileveled and city-sized.

Homefront Dissolve

Keiichi Matsuda, a student at the Bartlett School of Architecture, produced this short video in the final year of his M.Arch. It was, he writes, “part of a larger project about the social and architectural consequences of new media and augmented reality.”

The latter half of the 20th century saw the built environment merged with media space, and architecture taking on new roles related to branding, image and consumerism. Augmented reality may recontextualise the functions of consumerism and architecture, and change in the way in which we operate within it.

The bewildering groundlessness of surfaces within surfaces is beautifully captured by this video, and its portrayal of drop-down menus and the future hand gestures needed to access them is also pretty great. Augmented-reality drop-down menus are the Gothic ornamentation of tomorrow.

Now how do we use all that home-jamming ad space for something other than Coke and Tesco? What other subscription-content feeds can be plugged into this vertiginous interface?

Take a look—and you can find more thoughts, and another video, on Matsuda’s own blog.

(Thanks to Nic Clear for the tip!)