Bartlett UCL London, MArch Graduate Architectural Design (GAD), research cluster 2 (RC2)
Advisor: Univ.-Prof.(IBK) Marjan Colletti PhD, Guan Lee, Tea Lim, Pavlos Fereos.
In Greek mythology the Chimera was a monstrous fire-breathing creature. She had the body of a lioness, a tail ending in a snake’s head, and a goat’s head arising on her back at the centre of her spine. There are of course many other examples in different cultures that could also be referred to as Chimeras. In genetics, biology and botany a Chimera represents an animal or plant with genetically distinct cells from two different zygotes or genetically different types of tissue; the resulting organism is a mixture of tissues, and of different sets of chromosomes. In paleontology, it is a fossil reconstructed with parts from different animals.
aRC(2)himera is an architectural chimera. From its distinct sets of digital chromosomes and analogue chromosomes evolves a monstrous mix-up of various approaches that go from developing skin morphologies, structure anatomies, ornamental textures, responsive environments, biological growth, robotic behaviour, miniature devices, machined fabrication, interactive media design, sensorial feedback etc. To some this may look and sound outrageous and horrific—as it is neither elegant nor pure, nor truthful or correct (process-wise).
Why this Frankensteinian, modern Promethean approach? The grotesqueness of aRC(2)himera is only relative. aRC(2)himera must be seen in a postvirtual and postdigital context of New Materialism, which marks the ambition to escape from the old unsustainable (socially and environmentally) virtual and cyber architectural visions, and from the old off-the-shelf and unsustainable (environmentally and financially) architectural production methods towards innovative applicable theories, techniques and technologies.
Why being obsessed with digital and nature-mimicry processes if what is really necessary is breeding a chimerical environment that is partly biological, partly technological, partly romantic, partly scary? The ambition of aRC(2)himera is to mark an era of synthesis, hybridity and new potentialities. Today’s postvirtual era is less interested in the almost quasi-religious cyber myth of total liberation from physical limitations (think of the famous goggles or data gloves for example). Digitality is not the alien, the other. Plus, in a postdigital point of view, digitality is fully intertwined with analogue, mixed and biological technologies. Pure mathematical functions just will not suffice. Thus, aRC(2)himera should facilitate the overdue (and for some, accomplished) task of overcoming feelings of alienation and estrangement towards digital technologies, to re-addresses human cognition, augment realities, and develop nature 2.0.
aRC(2)himeras are constitutive occupier of such a conceptual, and material, landscape. Whether they project fear, or power, they can help in humanising the unknown. The ethymological root of monster, ‘monstrum’ means that which teaches, which is again linked to ‘monstrare’, to show; and both deriving from the same base ‘monere’, to warn. So… be warned! Architecture must inevitably respond to the current acute, actually monstrous, political, economic and ecological problems.
aRC(2)himera is part of the year-long brief entitled Form Follows Fetish. Louis Sullivan’s dictum Form Follows Function is certainly one of the most known and also misunderstood statements in architectural history. Falsely propagated as a dictate against ornamentation and in favour of functionalism, yet seemingly still in vogue.
First of all it must be said that most often form outlives function. How many buildings perform other, different functions than originally planned for because it has become obsolete? Or because the programme has evolved so much that it had to move out? The body of architecture is a given (and often underestimated) fact, and so its presence and experience. Is it fair to say then, that it is form that should ideally be more controlled/planned by the architect then function (as a description of required performance) to have more chances to survive societal change? Is form here to stay because it is the primary, and also ultimate, asset of architecture?
Secondly, the proliferation of digital techniques has brought a close to the seemingly enduring separation of function and ornamentation in architecture. Whether sculpted or scripted—this is of no importance here—small variations in software protocols and fabrication mechanics can result in the more or less exuberant articulation of ornate surfaces and volumes. Thus could one state that function has long lost its primacy as design purpose, scope and object(ivity) over, for example, complex, texturized geometric formations?
In fact, we are in a new era of fetishisation within (digital) architecture. Fetish(isation) in architecture is an extremely precise articulation of aspired perfection (albeit usually exaggerated, even dysmorphic) and/or gratification (albeit often obsessive and compulsive). Fetish(isation) is truly contemporary partly due to the revived architectural discourse on nature 2.0 and beauty++, but also due to novel design and fabrication aestheticisation processes, protocols and rituals. Furthermore, the concept of fetish also raises questions on ethnicity, religion, sexuality, underground culture, and provides thus an alternative argument on architectural design that is not bound within stylistic globalisation, or default design methodologies. RC2 formulates powerful individual sets of values, defined by strong aesthetic (objects, materials) and intrinsic psychological (behaviours, fixations) factors. This is discussed in terms of 1:1 human interaction and also within a larger, urban public context…
1) Form-finding through processing
Process: group of agents, each attracted to a basic flock of agents for a certain lifetime and then freeze in space, giving their place in XYZ to a new agent that loops this procedure.
This simulates basic coral growth with the following principles in mind:
a) the use of “dead” agent as a structure on which the living ones move and expand b) the growth that is mainly dictated by the direction of protein and various sea life (plankton etc).
Output: point cloud and line art on which the overall form is based.
2) Small scale form-finding through grasshopper, rhino-scripting, and smart-form:
Process: development of different skin/texturing strategies and techniques experimenting with folds, layering, subdivisions, wrinkles, porosity etc.)
Output: grasshopper definitions and scripts that can populate generic uv surfaces or meshes.
3) Material testing:
Process: experimenting with glass-torching, foam milling, vacuum forming, plaster moulding, fiberglass, 3d printing etc. Also, recycled glass casting was done by Guan Lee in Grymsdyke farm.
Output: range of techniques and material samples from which high density foam and perspex were chosen as skin and structure materials respectively.
1) Overall form
a) Processing point cloud was shrink wrapped into a minimal mesh manually in rhino.
b) The minimal mesh was used as a guide for a smooth t-spline surface version.
c) T-spline version fine-tuned in z-brush.
d) The final t-spline surface was consequently tessellated with various algorithms (kairo tiling, honeycomb, voronoi, triangulation, Catmull&Clark quads).
Output: Triangulated structural model, the faces of which were subsequently distributed to all the 13 students of the cluster for texturizing.
2) Texture adapting and structure mock-ups
Process: Adapting the textures generated in the previous phase (and some new ones to the triangles described above. And making mockups of the structure to solve practical problems.
Output: rhino files prepared for milling and DXFs for lasercutting.
Milling and lasercutting in Grymsdyke farm and the Bartlett. Assembly for crit at Grymsdyke farm and at the Haus der Architektur, Graz as part of the By Any Means exhibition.
RC2 is taught by: Univ.-Prof.(IBK) Marjan Colletti PhD, Guan Lee, Tea Lim, Pavlos Fereos.
Fabrication: Grymsdyke Farm (http://grymsdykefarm.com)
Sponsoring: Ms. M Lim, Grymsdyke Farm.
The Masters studio in Graduate Architectural Design is a 12-month full-time programme concentrating on advanced architectural design. It offers the opportunity to be involved in the world of advanced speculative research and to develop the possibility of a personal involvement and implication in the challenging aspects of prospective architecture.
The course is directed by the newly appointed Bartlett Professor of Architecture, Frédéric Migayrou. For this academic year Professor Migayrou has decided to open out the programme to offer a larger diversity of courses, which will be defined as “Research Clusters” and, will focus on a better apprehension of heterogeneous language and the tools of production and fabrication which will radically change the shape of architecture, its social and economical role in the industrial world and its effectiveness as an active agent in the city. Through new developments such as the role of artificiality and simulation, the borders of many disciplines are more and more porous with emerging languages (computational and technological), which redefine the status and the territory of architecture, the understanding of the traditional architectural typologies and the mutations of urban morphologies.
The programme is structured so that the first three months introduce students to the theoretical concepts through lectures and initial design projects. During this period students confirm the subject of their thesis project and report and then work in specialist teaching groups. There is continuous discussion of work via tutorials and reviews. In a second period they will develop their own projects individually or in small groups depending on the structure of each cluster. This allows the individual to discover his or her individual expression; it takes many forms from speculative projects through drawings, models, printed objects, to the construction of working prototypes.