Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Visceral Intricacy II 2013
Architecture as Performance



Architectural Choreography

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Viceral Intricacy II. Architecture as Performance
Architectural Design V
Spring 2013
Carl Fredrik Valdemar Hellberg

Visceral Intricacy II 2013
Architecture as Performance
Experience Driven Architecture of New Urban Sacred Places

Luminaria by Architecture of Air

After a successful studio exploring the potential and future of experiential mega malls in Dubai, Visceral Intricacy II continues the pursuit for new experientially driven design methods, now with new urban sacred spaces. The studio will explore the possibilities of architecture as performance (not architecture of performance) by pushing the boundaries for human - architecture interaction. The challenge for the members of the studio this term will be how to bring architecture to life to a level where it can expand communication and exchange between architecture and its inhabitants to unknown levels. We will create intelligent and active structures that perform and acts according to its own “experience” and responds to the human activity inside, a form of communication bond between the architecture and its occupants. We will explore the possibilities of a transformable architecture as the means for this strange communication and analyse existing examples of kinetic and movable structures.

Moving Architecture
In the last half of the twentieth century architecture began to move, literally. The radical new invention, the automobile began mutating into industrial beasts like cranes and bulldozers that radically changed the way people thought about their abilities and built environment.

The new transformable and practically performative industries, ports, construction sites, aviation, rail roads, shipping etc. propelled to unimaginable levels of speed and efficiency. The new power of steam, oil and electricity also had a dramatic effect in the construction of buildings and the built environment as new materials and material processes became available at the same time as mechanical power could replace manpower as one of the main construction forces. The change was seen most noticeably in how we connected buildings together.  The automobile and the train became the new interface between buildings and made new urban and suburban models possible.

Urban design became the trade of the time as things now could be connected over vast distances far exceeding the scale of buildings and cities. Despite these massive advances in technology and innovation concerning mobility and transformability in static buildings, the buildings themselves remained relatively unaffected. There are only really two major introductions into the transformability of buildings in modern times that had a real impact,   Elisha Otis invented the modern elevator in 1854 and Nathan Ames patented the first escalator, the Revolving Stairs in 1859. Human mobility limits was defeated and buildings got taller and larger.  Over 150 years later, and these are still the main players in modern architecture and buildings remain generally static.

Illustration from U.S. Patent #25,076: Revolving Stairs. Issued August 9, 1859 to Nathan Ames

Static as the buildings were, in 1880 the first ever leisure caravan was built in England by the Bristol Carriage Company. Private Buildings on wheels! At this time train carriages were already fitted with luxury but the Wanderer as the caravan was called was something new. But although the horses of the Wanderer were replaced by the automobile the format never really changed as the size of the automobile and the lanes on the roads never did. The furthest we’ve come to is the Recreational Vehicle of the US, which is nothing more than an expensive bus... The new inventions of power and mobility stayed primarily as machines of industry and infrastructure.

The Wanderer by the Bristol Carriage Company in 1880 for Dr. W. Gordon-Stables.

But the innovations inspired visionaries of the 1960´s such as the English architecture group Archigram to imagine how the sophisticated performance of machines and infrastructure could influence culture when readapted to perform with enjoyment as its goal. The project Free Time Node (1966) was a speculative proposal for an expanding/contracting structure servicing caravans, designed for a society with a 2-3 day working week.
Archigram. Free Time Node 1966

Another project, Instant City adapted the airship of the early part of the century and was envisioned as a gift to people who live in the country side who might want some city pulse every now and then. The portable city would fly in at night and deploy over a village and stay for a day or two before it moves on to the next village.

Archigram. Instant City 1964

Many have followed in Archigram's footsteps and joined the collective dream of truly transient architecture that changes in every moment, like people! Architecture that comes alive, architecture that you can communicate with. The closest we are to this today is the opera stage, unbelievably sophisticated and dynamic, yet unbelievably static in its performance. The physical stage speaks to the audience through its moving parts, light and smoke and the actors. Yet the stage never receives a reply from the audience, more than applause. This is the challenge that the members of Visceral Intricacy will face this term, to discover possibilities with a two way communication system between architecture and its occupants.

Architectural Performance as Communication
The practice of speaking to architecture is an ancient one. The belief of spiritual embodiment by gods, spirits or ghosts in physical matter has both haunted and encouraged man for millennia's. This might be most radically illustrated in the great monuments of the world dedicated to gods of the world religions.  Massive structures that in some cases are believed to be the body of God, or that God lives in the walls, or in other cases that the space is the mental vehicle to communicate with God. Sometimes these structures are very simple, then relying more on the imagination of the believer. In other cases the structure is so overwhelming in its massiveness, ingenuity, intricacy and uniqueness that the experience drop believers and non believers alike to their knees.

The dynamics of communication between believer and architecture happens in a multitude of ways, mainly by the believer projecting his or hers inner space of desires, dreams, fears and guilt onto the architecture (indirectly) and its artefacts and ornaments. The architecture responds with static but rich narratives in ornaments and effects such as light and sound.

The real dynamics of sacred spaces is the activation that occurs in collective ceremonies and rituals where different parts of the space and its artefacts are attended to such as altars, statues, openings, podiums etc. We will study these ceremonies and the delicate relationship between hand and matter, prayer and space, elements and song. We will search for the fragile and vague links between the rich physical world of altars and ornaments and the deep meaning in spiritual practice. This link will be our platform and design area. We will learn from existing master pieces in religious architecture and sculpture and our research into industrial machinery and design a communication bridge between architecture and people.

What will we do about it?
We will begin the project by analysing manmade performative constructions like opera houses and industries in order to gain knowledge about how physical constructions at architectural scales can move and how many agents such as cranes and machines act in symbiosis in a precise choreography. The chosen performative construction, a container port for instance will be 3D modelled in order to be able to create an animation using Bongo Animation that shows the choreography in its entirety, the arrival of a ship, the moving gantry, the placing of a container on a truck and so on. This will be done both to understand the complex choreography but also to learn animation and modelling skills. After the performative construction has been animated to express the practical purpose another animation will be made in order to change the purpose from practical to performative. From which angles, and in which sequence will a container port look like a rock concert, or a dance? This final animation will be the start for the performative project.  The members will then choose a world religion as its host and client and conduct a careful study into its history, people, calendar and architecture. A more detailed study will be made into a particular ceremony or ritual where the sequence and temporal aspects will be emphasised so that an understanding can be developed into the delicate intricacies of the event.  

The context and site for the projects is the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong where we will travel together to collect site data and summon with the clients and take part in their rituals. Hong Kong's rich and diverse demographics with expectance and tolerance across borders of faith will be utilized to our advantage as the sites are to connect with urban infrastructure and highly congested pedestrian areas seeing people and cultures from all over the world rub against each other.  The projects experiential and ephemeral qualities will be illustrated through digital animation and physical models which will serve as the final presentation piece. The projects temporal reality will be key as it responds not only to people’s direct interaction but to the participation over months and years, both following the calendar of the faith and the user’s involvement over generations.

To help us explore this complex and delicate topic of performative architecture we will be collaborating with experts in the field. Lara Lesmes will be a regular guest critic as well as animation instructor for the first phase.

The Project

1. Architectural Choreography
The first part of the project includes both research and production. The members will learn advanced modelling skills and animation techniques.

Chose a construction that is transformable, works as a choreographed and coordinated system and includes a sophisticated kinetic movement. Could be a construction in the entertainment business, in an industry, in infrastructure etc.
Analyse the construction in its entirety and produce diagrams that explains the choreography.
Produce a 3D model of the construction using Rhinoceros 3D
Produce an animation using Bongo Animation that exhibits the full choreography and the purpose of the transformable system.
Using the same 3D model and the same movements, but changing the sequence, duration, camera angles, light, colours etc produce a new animation that changes the purpose of the construction and ads new qualities that could be described as performative.

2. Religious Institutions
The projects main (needs and introduction)
Chose a world religion to base the project on and to be your client for your design project.
Firstly a study on the chosen religion from a global perspective will be done in order to understand its history, people, calendar, rituals, ceremonies, hierarchies, architecture and artefacts.
One specific ritual or ceremony will be chosen to conduct a more detailed study and exploring things like music, mantras or readings, artefacts, participation, decoration, sacrifice and the most importantly, the ceremonies relationship to its architecture or place. This has to be carefully diagrammed in such a way that the crucial temporal or ephemeral qualities of the event are clearly readable.   The chosen ceremony has to involve a group and have significance in the religions calendar.
Based on the specific ceremony chosen, do a study concerning the relationship between the inner space of prayer and external world of the prayer room or the holy place. How do they relate to each other? If at all?

3. Hong Kong
The Site for the projects will be in the Chinese Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong. There will be a selection of areas on Hong Kong island and Kowloon to choose from. The precise location will be determined by the conditions given by the chosen faith, interviews done in Hong Kong and interests concerning the personal views and possibilities of performative architecture. The regions demographics offer a wide range of cultures, businesses and practised religions.

As of 2010 the region is home to approximately 1.5 million Buddhists, 1 million Taoists, 480.000 Protestants, 353.000 Roman Catholics, 220.000 Muslims, 40.000 Hindus, 10.000 Sikhs, and other smaller communities such as Judaism and Jainism making the region one of the most diverse religious areas in the world, although the majority of residents of Hong Kong would claim no religious affiliation, professing a form of agnosticism, atheism, or indifference towards religion. According to the U.S Department of State, only 43 percent of the population practices some form of religion. According to a Gallup poll, Hong Kong is the seventh least country which considers religion as an important part of their daily lives.

A Taoist prayer for the dead after ferry accident 2012. Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a prosperous region for acceptance and tolerance, something that we will defend in the design project. Your choice of religion to design for has to be represented in Hong Kong and the religion has to be institutionalised.

Buddhism and Taoism have a considerable number of adherents in Hong Kong (more than 1 million Buddhists and about 1 million Taoists). There are more than 600 temples in the HKSAR. Some of these temples can be traced back to more than 700 years ago, while some others have been built in recent years.

Roman Catholic congregation.  Hong Kong

There are five major festivals in the Chinese lunar calendar that all the projects need to take into consideration, with the Lunar New Year being the most important. Gifts and visits are exchanged among friends and relatives and children receive lai see, or ‘lucky money’. During the Ching Ming Festival in spring, ancestral graves are visited. In early summer (fifth day of the fifth lunar month), the Tuen Ng Festival is celebrated with dragon boat races and by eating cooked glutinous rice wrapped in lotus leaves. The Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month. Gifts of mooncakes, wine and fruit are exchanged and adults and children go into parks and the countryside at night with colourful lanterns. Chung Yeung is on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month, when many visit their ancestors’ graves or hike up mountains in remembrance of an ancient Chinese family’s escape from plague and death by fleeing to a mountain top. Apart from the above traditional festivals, quite a number of important religious festivals, including Good Friday, Easter, Buddha's Birthday and Christmas, have been listed as public holidays. Adherents hold special celebration or memorial ceremonies on these occasions.

The exact location of the projects in Hong Kong within the given areas is to be determined by the student in conversation with the instructor but must follow these points
The site must attach to an existing form of infrastructure.
The site must combine minimum two existing flows of traffic, by any mode of transport.
There must be an exciting pedestrian flow through the site.
The site must include a minimum of 50% public outdoor area, a street, a corner, a square
The size of the site and project is to be determined individually.

We will travel together to Hong Kong where we will meet representatives of the religions in question and visit there congregation spaces and if possible take part in a ceremony.

Information regarding the religion will be gathered concerning:
Existing architectural presence in the city
Exclusion or inclusion with other communities
Its visibility in the city

Before we go together to Hong Kong we will conduct collective research regarding the urban hills of the city and its streetscape. Preliminary choices of exact sites within the given areas will be made before our trip that will be visited when there. The choice might change after meeting the representatives of the religion or after experiencing new previously unknown aspects of the site.

Information regarding the site will be gathered concerning:
Flow of people during a full day
Existing social groups at the site
Business operations at the site
Existing buildings at the site

The collected data will result in a multitude of diagrams as well as digital 3D models of the site.

4. Actor Taxonomy
Using the 3D model of the site and the collected data you will now produce and isometric drawing of the site that will be used as an interactive mind map.

The ceremonial and practical elements of the chosen religious institution will be abstracted and translated into isometric and diagrammatic actors to be used on the isometric drawing of the site.

Elements from the site will also be diagrammed such as the existing transportation network, social groups and businesses in the neighbouring areas of the site.

The aim for this phase of the project is to rationally and systematically gain control over the complex project by “sketching” different possible projects directly on the site and to be able to perceive the intricate network of people, flow, infrastructure, rituals and other elements from the site such as climate and seasonal changes.

The most fundamental aspect in this drawing is time as the projects clients and content operates in complex sequences possibly over generations. In order to explore the temporal aspect the drawing will both be animated and printed sequentially.

This drawing will lead directly into the final design phase of the project.

5. Design
After the research part of the project the following skills and understandings have been acquired:
Knowledge regarding complex and coordinated systems of kinetic and transformable architecture.
Advanced skills in 3D modelling
Animation skills
Knowledge regarding one world religion and its rituals, ceremonies, followers, hierarchies, artefacts and architecture
A deep understanding concerning one specific ceremony of one religion.
Data collected from meetings with the client on site.
A detailed site study and a detailed 3D model of the site.
An interactive and temporal drawing of the site consisting of all the previously considered aspects from the research and the experimentation.

With these elements the project will take shape, but the project could take go may ways and employ many different methods, techniques and qualities. Learning from the research, a project could use basic elements like water or fire, or complex digital integration, or kinetic mechanics. It could change with every visitor and increase in complexity over time, or change over generations and decrease in complexity. It could be dark and invisible, or brighter than the brightest billboard, it could be silent like a forest or louder than the most bustling market. It could be timeless like a temple, or hip like a night club. It could be still like lake, or raving like a waterfall.

The project is open for individual interpretation and demands active conceptual thinking. A fourth year thesis project must be consistent and have a clear agenda and a rational representation. A detailed brief regarding the design phase will be released at the midterm review but the following aspect must be followed:

The studio is concerned with the communicative possibilities between architecture and people and the finished project must answer that challenge in a unique way.
The project must be technically and structurally realistic using either existing construction techniques or within know reach.
The project must address the client and their ceremonies in readable links.
The project must be usable by believers and non believers a like and should not obstruct daily like of potential neighbours and the community at the site.
The project must be represent and explain its speculative lifespan over minimum 20 years in a way that it is clear how it would change over time.
The project must address the link between the inner and the other aspects of prayer and rituals concerning the chosen religion.
The projects exact size will be determined case by case but must react to the given sites and it must be manageable within the given time span and answer to the submission requirements.

6. The Holy Script and Performance
The final stage of the project is the moment when everything comes together. Your research and production will be printed in a book, the Holy Script of (name of project). The finished design will be represented in a final performance that will consist of a combination of a physical model and digital enhancement by means of projections, sounds, kinetic mechanics or other physical and dynamic effects such as smoke, water, fire, light etc, depending on the project. This performance will take place at the final review.

Carl Fredrik Valdemar Hellberg
January 2013