Swarm Architecture

Some days ago I shared a video of a swarm of thousands of starlings. This shared video quickly has over hundred likes, it sure appeals to people’s expectations of what is beautiful. I added two words: swarm architecture. In other words I linked the image of the swarm to architecture, notably my own.

Now how can a recording of a dynamic swarm possibly link to something that is as static as architecture? [the answer is literally blowing in the wind]. I certainly did not refer to the swarm as a superficial reference only, and it is explicitly not meant as a metaphor. I hate metaphors, my design attitude is based on what it is, not what it looks like.

point cloud of reference points | waterpavilion | design kas oosterhuis | 1997

So what is the swarm in my architecture? It really started 20 years ago when we were designing and executing the Waterpavilion at Neeltje Jans in Zeeland. To actually build the steel structure we found out that describing [scripting] the exact geometric relations between the reference points on the control curves would form the best basis for the communication with the production machines. We realized that CNC production machines do not read drawings but process data instead. So we decided to produce data which were directly used by the algorithms running the machines. It was the birth of deep parametric design to production.

Now we learned how to describe the relations between reference points of the point cloud, we realized that we were actually doing something very similar to what birds do in a flock. The birds follow some simple rules as to form the flock. Yet the birds execute their rules as a player in a running complex adaptive system, similar to being a player in a game. This triggered me to think of architecture as a dynamic system, not only in the design phase where everything is still mouldable, but also in its behavior as a built structure. That being noted, I invented the Trans-Ports multimodal pavilion in the years 1999 – 2000. The Trans-ports pavilion is a structure that changes shape and content in real time as to accommodate changing use over time. Keywords that I used from then on: time based architecture, real time behavior, multimodality, interactive architecture. The nodes of the dynamic structure act as in a swarm, they look to their immediate neighbours as to change position and information content.

In that same year I was invited to make an interactive installation for the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2000.  As proof of concept for multimodality and real time behavior I designed together with Ilona Lénárd the interactive painting titled Handdrawspace, 360 degrees projected on the 3 curved screens around the central arena for the interaction with the public. The public would move between center and periphery of the arena and trigger arrays of sensors informing the algorithms. The algorithms controlled the number of dots, the size of dots, and the background colors.

Everything we have done since, whether interactive installations or built structures, notably the Web of North-Holland, the A2 Cockpit, the Bálna Budapest, the LIWA tower in Abu Dhabi are further steps in the development of that basic concept of the swarm. Without compromise, the logic of the swarm functioned as the very genetic material facilitating our design language.

NB: I have written since quite a number of articles on swarm architecture [google entry: swarm architecture kas oosterhuis].

 

Making Ends Meet

sketch of the information omniverse | Kas Oosterhuis | 2017

Knowing the Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames, zooming out into the macrocosmos, zooming in into the microcosmos, the feeling which it leaves behind is the experience of vast seemingly empty spaces. Empty between the stars and galaxies, empty between the atoms and quarks. At the same time the feeling imposes on us that in effect matter does not exist, it only exists because we are built the way we are built. Meaning that we see and feel matter as matter since our sense organs are evolved as to feel what we feel, and see what we see.

The earth, the cosmos and the nano worlds are seen by our sense organs and the instruments lifeforms like people have built since ages. So this is the extended reality that is created to be seen by our eyes only. Let’s have a look at a smaller creature, for example a bacterium, what does a bacterium actually senses, feels, what does it see without having eyes? One thing is sure, they explore their environment in similar way as we do, while they see different things, they have a different worldview, not per se more restricted, but different.

Let’s apply this methods of empathy to other scales on the bandwidth from macrocosmos to microcosmos. What does galaxy feel, how does it explore its environment? You may already notice that I assume that a galaxy indeed actively explores its environment. For sure it exchanges information with other nearby galaxies, for sure it absorbs information, it processes information and it sends out information in a customised format. Like any vehicle – people, bacteria, cars, atoms – a galaxy processes information.

So all people, bacteria, cars, galaxies, atoms etc are information processing vehicles, with their own particular way of seeing, feeling, sensing, living in their own information bubble, exploring their own worlds within their sensing boundaries, developing their own worldviews. At the same time they are intensively interacting with innumerate other information bubbles. This way of looking at the world, on any imaginable scale, is the basis of swarm theory, which I have embraced in my architectural theory and practice.

Back to the Powers of Ten, I have been wondering for much of my life, to start with my essays in the Dutch magazine Wiederhall in the eighties, whether the seemingly empty space on macroscale somehow could be connected to the vast empty space on microscale. What is particularly difficult for our limited worldview is that we ourselves are caught in our [extended] worldview. We are sort of flatland people, not equipped to see or feel beyond flatland. Yes, we can extend flatland almost endlessly but it will never become spaceland, or any other dimension we would wish to reach out to.

My hunch is that that unreachable spaceland is the realm of information. Information as a primary driving force of what we may label as the omniverse, and of which we see and feel only a section. Very much like plans and sections of a building are mere one-dimensional cut-outs of an otherwise three-dimensional space, a single section can never include the amount of information the three-dimensional model has. Information as a primary driving force I consider as something similar to the concept of Richard Dawkins selfish gene. So I am tempted to develop empathy with the selfish information. Information that can not stand still, but always is on its way the be read, processed and passed on in tweaked form. Information as an executable, as suggested by Stephen Wolfram.

The above speculation means that we are living on a delicate membrane in an information omniverse which bridges both far ends of our extended human vision. Imagine that from our own randomly local, temporal position in the information omniverse our outward vision propagates on a curved flatland surface, as on the surface of a doughnut, climbing up and curving downward towards an imaginary equator. Now imagine the same for our inward looking vision, looking deep into each and every atom, imagine a downward curving surface of the same doughnut, eventually curving up towards its equator. Now connect the upper and lower half of the doughnut.

There we are, making ends meet, trying to live with our limited ability to understand the endless world of information. I have always had the feeling that macrocosmos and microcosmos must be two sides of the same coin. That coin being the for us people unfathomable universe of selfish information. That coin being inflated to become an endlessly scalable doughnut. The crux of this thought experiment is that the two ends will actually merge in the world of information [but not in our flatland view, while one can imagine any life form on any location perpendicular to the surface of that doughnut. Other lifeforms are perfectly possible on other sections, forms of life that we can not see or feel, neither would we be able to understand alien crystallised form of information.

This speculative thought experiments does not give a clue to what life actually is, but it teaches me that life as we know it is only one of many possible crystallised forms of accumulated information, increasing its entropy level by consuming certain crystalline forms into higher organised forms of information. In the same way as we people process food to feed our brains. The second law of thermodynamics goes hand in hand with the unlikely increase in information content. This for sure we experience on an everyday basis when we achieve something, preparing our food, designing our buildings, writing our blogs. We process information and bring it to a higher level of organisation, thus contributing to the increase of entropy of what is left behind.

It would not be overly audacious to consider information processing as the deeper form of life and assume that after a very long period of time all we sense as tangible matter will eventually be converted into an highly organised highly unlikely immaterial form of information. Than indeed what we experience as ourselves in relation to matter is in fact a transitory phase in a giant information processing machine called the information omniverse. Whatever, I like that idea, and it makes me feel perfectly at home in the universe. All we have to do is making ends meet.

The Inevitable

My notes by page number reading The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly

9 becoming
10 continuous updates
13 protopia
18 ted nelson: hypertext 1984, intertwingularity, transclusion
19 hyperlinks enabled sharing
21 the web merged in physical world
21 anticipate intentions
27 2050: AI in everything
30 cognifying by distributed intelligence
33 AI enlivens inert objects
34 tools first were electrified, now are cognified
38 AI breakthrough unleashed by 1) neural networks 2) big data 3) smart algorithms
48 our human job is to create alien intelligence
50 robots are inevitable
53 cheap robotic production favors local production to cut transportation costs
62 the flow of copies is inevitable
64 from batches to daily to real time
65 nouns become verbs
65 flows, tags, clouds
66 everything yhat can be copied will be free
68 72 immediacy personalization interpretation authenticity accessibility embodiment patronage discoverability
76 as music streams it expands, as design streams it will expand and become abundant
83 the soft will trump the hard, knowledge will rule atoms
89 screening = reading + watching
93 ebook connects readers, authors, characters, ideas, facts, notions and stories
93 books are byproducts of the booking process
102 all linked words and texts form the umiversal book
104 screening nurtures thinking and acting in real time
110 accessibility replaces ownership
111 software eats everything
112 services disencourage ownership
113 alvin toffler: 1980 prosumer, consumer acts as producer
113 product becomes service
115 matching pros with joes
116 crowdspring bid with a design
117 a connected crowd of amateurs can be as good a the average solo professional
124 firms, marketplaces, platforms
125 platforms are factories for services
125 services favor access over ownership
125 the cloud is almost organic healing
127 where does the I end and the cloud start?
128 the cloud is the Backup
133 without ownership one is free to move like the hunter gatherer
144 increased sharing is inevitable
154 decentralised connected dumbs things can become smarter than we think
156 millions of niche markets
156 crowdfunding funds the creative niche markets
160 can a crowd make a car? 150.000 car fanatics designed 3d printed electric car for Local Motors
162 micropayments, electronic voting
164 we share the process not just the end product
164 share not only success but also failure
174 my avatar is managed by Universal You
176 information consumes attention
207 we will record everything, creating a new culture where everyone’s past is recallable (total recall)
215 cellphones saved VR immersion
217 presence in VR is the basis for interactivity
217 interactivity spreads out to the rest of the tech world
223 if something is not interactive it is broken
226 more sensors more intimacy more immersion: technology becomes a second skin
235 your body is your password
236 our interactions will become our password
232 buildings will be reskinned with altermative facades inside VR
232 the city will look different each time you walk through it
230 my quantifiable self
241 a quantifiable-self experiment is n=1
257 information is epandong faster than anything else
259 bits want to duplicate, replicate, be linked
260 david brin: the tranparant society 1999
260 civilising coveillance
262 vanity trumps privacy
264 tera peta exa zetta yotta bytes
265 bits can be arranged into complicated structures just as atoms are arranged into molecules
266 by raising the level of complexity we elevate bits from data to information to knwlowledge
266 bits want to be linked
266 unbundling allows the elements to be rearranged into a new chemistry
268 machine readable information
271 can wikipedia be mapped to political governance
271 radical embrace of the common wealth
273 technium is the modern system of culture and technology
277 the improbable is the new normal
278 mass media make people ready to try something extraordinary
279 because of global connectivity all facts have their antifacts challenging the truth and reality
280 superlatives and extremes are the new normal
279 certainty about anything has decreased
279 requires constant questioning, leaping into scenarios, provisional beliefs, subjective hunches
280 roaming the web is like tapping into our collective unconsiousness like dreams
284 knowledge is expanding exponentionally, questions are expanding exponentionally faster
284 science is a method that chiefly expands our ignorance rather than our knowledge
289 a good question is the seed of innovation
289 questioning is more powerful than answering
296 we can’t live without what we’ve made
297 the beginning is just beginning

Automotive Styling [Wiederhall 12, 1990]

[original punctuation]

Luigi Colani | Jumbo carrier | 1978

Luigi Colani | Jumbo carrier | 1978

The linear one-dimensional movement along the highway is broadened to the second dimension when turning off or filtering in · Driving along at a regular speed one feels the line-movement, the movement intersecting the landscape and zipping it open · The car and its driver are the point that is multiplied one dimensional to form a route · While overtaking and turning off, one moves away from the straight line movement for a second, the first dimension is being stretched to the second dimension, for a moment the line is granted the sensation of the plane

When the road rises (on a dike for instance) or even more clearly when the road crosses a road below by means of a bridge construction, then the sensation becomes three dimensional · By moving sideways and upwards one feels the elasticity of space: the traffic junction with its fly overs · The three dimensional sensation is created by movement, by the system of roads and bridges, slip roads and exits · The monotony of the straight line is as essential as the fact that it may be widened (and become a plane) or deepened / heightened (and be turned into space) · The moving particle, the car, stretches dimensions and is even able to interweave them at certain points · In a joint venture with the cars the road system represents the elasticity of space · The details designed by the Department of Public Works add to the overall picture · As far as design is concerned items like barriers, white lines, graphics, dikes, the long rows of lights, all fit in very well · The disarmingly effective way in which the barrier rises from the asphalt or grass, is excellent in its simplicity · The broad white lines which divert at the exits and meet again at the slip roads guide along the continuous stream of driving, small, streamlined containers

The boxes on wheels seem to be mesmerized by the point perspective they have to reach · Apart from some dissidents, they feel the inward need to move along the road, faithfully keeping between the long white lines or the dotted lines, all of them with a different speed · The driver gets in his car at one of the innumerable ends of the many-branched road system, he takes part in the system, to wander away again to one of those numerous ends, to his temporary destination · The car and/or its driver are the messengers, linking point of departure and point of arrival · In between there is the road system, an open network, available to anyone who owns some means of transportation, knows the rules and wishes to conform to them · The road system and the car literally belong to the same system · Without cars there would be no smooth asphalt roads, without roads cars cannot function · Ecologically speaking they belong to the same organism

It is difficult to determine whether the driver decides for himself where he wants to go or has become part of a mechanism following its own laws · When the driver gets in his car and enters the system, he becomes its voluntary prisoner · During his journey he contributes to the preservation of the system, but his place is interchangeable: his place may be taken by anyone else · The driver has swapped his individuality for a collective contribution to the further development and complication of the physical communication system · More and more energy is being dissolved for the further evolution of the road system as a building · Each individual contribution adds to the total amount of energy condensing in the communication network, each contribution adds to the intensity of the earth encompassing movements

The original surface of the earth is being transformed in a continuous acceleration into an artificial landscape with artificial objects and events, linked by the visible communication cords · The compact energy of the fuel and ores is set free and rearranged into much lighter, airier volumes · When compressed, the basic material of a car takes up no more space than a small cube of 40 x 40 x 40 cm3 · To turn this cube into an industrial object, the chemical structure of the various basic materials is purified and turned into a plate-like or fluid half-product · Then it is spatially transformed into hundreds of parts which are assembled according to a particular pattern and turned into a complicated artificial organism · The volume of the car is increased more than a hundredfold compared to the total volume of the compact basic materials · The simultaneous explosion of space (pump up the volume) and implosion of knowledge, laid down in the form of a car, represents the elasticity of constructional space · This process seems to be characteristic of products of our culture: do more with less material

Yet at the same time: the more effective the use of material, the more energy it takes to reach such levels of effectively · The ability to move fast, and some simple inventions, have had a snowball effect on daily life, from sport to transport · And from physical transport to electronic transport · Nowadays we are informed with the speed of light (radio, TV, computer), the time that is needed to transfer information has been reduced to practically nil · We transmit and receive almost simultaneously · We cannot observe the transportation of this instant communication with our senses · Although the atmosphere is being riddled with a permanent, seemingly structure-less network of all sorts of radiation, we cannot observe this presence · Had our sight been turned in to a different wavelength, even then it would be impossible to detect any structure because of the jumble of waves

Inspired by the speed of electronic communication, we have felt the need to move faster ourselves, to take a seat in a mechanical device (train, car, plane), which compresses the length of the journey · Sport, in origin a means to spend one’s leisure time, becomes a speed race · New sports are being invented, based on the elements of speed and streamline · The demand for speed becomes a compelling factor in the design of objects which may move · Science and design are closely linked · Moving objects face a certain amount of drag from the matter surrounding them: air, water, ice or asphalt · More and more effective designs are invented to reduce the drag in these objects pulling themselves along · It is evidently a matter of the utmost importance to perfect the form, thus reducing the drag · The streamlined form uses less fuel, leads to better performance, is in short economically more effective

All the new theories from aerodynamics and aqua-dynamics, together with the professionalization of leisure activities, have yielded the evidently communicative objects but also a number of fascinating new sports: windsurfing, hang-gliding, throwing frisbees, skateboarding · Existing sports like ballooning, flying kites, skiing, cycle-racing, sailing and speed-skating are being subjected to an aerodynamic metamorphosis, as a result of new theories about drag and transfer techniques and as a result of the availability of new materials, generally developed in space travel odes with their high-standard materials · Technology is facing the challenge of further reducing weight and drag and improving performance · The new shapes of the new and renewed sports are inviting: even when these objects do not move they carry an aura of irresistible dynamism · The surfboards, the ski-boots, the frisbees, the skateboards, they are the equipment of a new way of life: leisure activities have been professionalized, leisure time has become a profession

The new professionals surround themselves with bright colours and fresh air, they are constantly moving on, under or in their streamlined fetish · They are the new nomads, the exempted who have released themselves from labour ethics and the principle of usefulness · They are not only the consumers of these attractive new objects, they are also their provokers · Because of their lifestyle, developing these new objects has become a serious and flourishing industry, into which science, technology, stylizing design and professional pleasure have been combined quite naturally · The streamline is halted, the movement is caught in the slender, tense volume · When at rest, the surfboard seems to be o bit unbalanced, but it seems eager to move · The object has a built-in tension, which is only released when it moves full speed ahead in the water, when it may use its streamline to the full · In the exuberant trial of strength between the concentrated energy of the streamlined object and the drag of the water, the surfboard seems to relax, it seems to feel perfectly at ease, like a fish in the water

When at rest the Citroën CX is like a tense bow and arrow, which need no longer control its subdued energy when it is ‘shot’ along the road, its elastic form showing out well in just o matter of seconds · The CX designer has tried to capture the caged tension of the formal concept in every little detail · The tension which keeps the arrow to the string of the bow has been caught in the design of the muscled sides of the car · The roofline is as tense as a bent steel spring · The back-window has been made concave to accentuate the curvature of the roofline · The nose has been pushed forward very far and has been pointed, to add to the tension in the bow · The stylist has abraded the frontal volume near the headlights, thus anticipating on the erosion which speed will cause · The sidelines, the folding lines in the tinplate, seem to have been drawn apart · The stylist makes the two loose ends of the line meet again in the undefined middle area of the side in a sort of whirling movement · In the formal concept the volume is taken as a whole, not interrupted by details · Our attention is not drawn to the various parts of the car (headlights, doors, windows), it is the object as a whole which calls up the image · The stylist uses quantitative data from technology (cx value), sound of the wind, comfort) to add to the subjective and individually-intuitive formal concept · Intuition and science are combined to increase the expressive qualities of the object · The stylized volume is measurably effective, the inherent tension visibly active

The revolutionary proposals of Luigi Colani for a large transport plane calls for a shift to a different scale level, the volume has been increased with a factor of one thousand compared to the car · The science of air-traffic provides the designer with other data influencing the form of the object · There is more formal freedom, driving a car imposes far more formal restrictions · The volume of the car is like a stylized cockpit with engine, the large transport airplane is more like a flying container of enormous size, in which the ergonomics of the cockpit hardly influences the form as a whole · Fascinating about Colani’s design is the fact that he designs the giant object (which has the size of a building) as a single volume, without any additions · The form integrates the landing-gear, the separate parts merge very smoothly · Only the counter-rotating propellers are still clearly recognizable as separate elements · The volume rather looks like a streamlined potato, it does not remind one of an airplane at all · The movement-factor has made the stylist provide the volume with a built-in tension · When it is moving, it sets the external forces in motion, it intersects the mass of the atmosphere

The streamlined container increases its internal tension at the expense of the external tension · The smaller the drag, the external forces working on the surface of the volume, the stronger the designer’s wish to increase the internal tension of the object, as if to maintain the difference in potential between the two · The technician aims at drag reduction, the stylist aims at giving maximum expression to his individual styling · A non-streamlined volume would only be confronted with external tension, bombarding the square volume with its airy matter · The volume has to defend itself and has to gather all its material to withstand the attack · The stream-lined volume, however, has anticipated the attack by building up an internal tension, equal to the external tension to be caused by its speed · As a certain amount of tension between dimensions pervades the road-system, so the tension between the non-moving environment and the moving object might be seen as the tension between volume and time, between third and fourth dimension · The tension between space and time is increased in the object at rest when the forthcoming movement is anticipated on · The volume is stretched in time · The object anticipates in time, time becomes part of the design · The stylized volume does not resign to the restrictions of its physical three-dimensionality, but tries to break through the boundaries of its own volume · Paradoxically the volume can only be set free and become an ‘open’ container when the restricting surface becomes continuous and homogeneous, like the loose element in the time-space continuum (De Stijl), like a comprehensive constructive network (Frei Otto) or like a stylized, glove-like membrane (Philishave)

Kas Oosterhuis, Wiederhall 12, 1990

The 3d printing delusion

I have seen during the last year various claims on “a 3d printed car”, a “3d printed house”, a “3d printed office”, a “3d printed airplane”. The UAE announced that by the year 2020 25% of all new construction will be 3d printed. What of this is really true? What of this is likely to happen?

3d printed office Dubai | design Killa architects | 2016
3d printed office Dubai | Killa design | 2016

What is 3d printing?

First of all we need a definition of what is 3d printing. For sure it an additive technique, not subtractive, meaning that one adds material to form the object. Being additive does not cover the intention of 3d printing though, since all on site concrete would be 3d printed according to that definition. So the definition will need some more specification. The process of 3d printing must be automated, robotized, controlled from a distance, executed by machines, not by people handling hand-held tools.

Slow cooking

But even then, a fully automated concrete pouring machine would not be very relevant since it would automate a traditional process which is not very smart. Even when the pouring process would not need any molds, as could be the case with a rather slow procedure using quickly hardening concrete, that process would be nothing more then an mechanization of an known procedure. Such slow cooking 3d printing process could be compared with an automated horse, which would be just an automation rather than inventing something new like a wheeled car. Well, we still count car’s propulsion forces in horsepower, proving how strongly past customs survive in today’s vocabulary.

3d printed office Dubai| contourcrafted components | 2016
3d printed office Dubai| contour crafted components | 2016

Less than 10% is actually 3d printed

Is it right to call something a 3d printed home when only 10% of the whole is 3d printed? We need to be honest about the amount of 3d printed parts of a 3d printed car, a 3d printed home etc. The best I have seen so far is a 3d printed framework, representing less than 10% of the total enterprise of assembling a car, of putting together a house. The examples I have seen rely heavily on exterior and interior finishing for the walls, the floors and the ceilings, and on additional handcrafted efforts to establish a precise bond to windows, doors, let alone the wiring and plumbing of the house. I know the ultimate goal is to print complex hybrids using different materials for their different functionalities. But the inconvenient truth is that we are far from that point.

Promotional vehicle

Recently I have seen the 3d printed office in Dubai, a promotional vehicle as to promote the Museum of the Future, an excellent design by Shaun Killa architects from Dubai, scheduled to be completed before 2020. Also the the 3d printed part of the office is no more than the raw and rough core structure, counting for even less than 10% of the completed building. The shape it suggests from the outside is not what is actually 3d printed. A elaborate structure has been added to the 3d printed core as to hold an doubly curved stucco facade. The strangest thing is that introducing 3d printing techniques has caused an excessive amount of traditional labor as to end up with a proper finishing. Yet as a promotional vehicle it works very well as the take off for the ambitious governmental promotional campaign to build 25% of all construction with 3d printing technology by the year 2030.

3d printed office Dubai | design Killa Architects| 2016
3d printed office Dubai | Killa design| 2016

Can it be scaled up?

Yet the biggest inconvenience I feel towards 3d printing is its inability to be scaled up to the grand scale of larger buildings and larger machines. Now it is feasible to 3d print in a meaningful way smaller things like scale models, rings, parts. Scaling up tenfold in all three spatial dimensions means multiplying 1000 times for the object. Thousand times in production time and another thousand times of material costs. In other words we are factor one million away from economically 3d printing parts that are ten times bigger than the examples around. No way that optimization of the 3d printing process and topologically optimizing the deposit of materials can compete with that reality in the near future. Not for the bulk of work that lies ahead of us.

3d printing is for the long tail of economy

So when 3d printing concrete for larger structures that need to be built fast is a not such a smart idea, what could be a smarter approach using 3d printing technology? Will 3d printing be scaled up to cars, homes, office, towers and larger structures at all? My view is that it will happen in the consumer market, but not to replace the larger structures and not executed by the larger companies. I believe it may flourish among individual customers representing the long tail of the economy. Roughly half of the global economy will be managed by ever growing multinationals, while the other half of the economy is privately managed as to express individual lives. A form of basic income could pump up the length and mass of the long tail.

The challenge is to 3d print complex hybrid components

But that is not the whole story, 3d printing has all my attention since it allows to design and produce series of unique components. The great thing about 3d printing is that we no longer need to build molds, or that the molds become the load bearing building blocks themselves. It allows for the assembly of series of small and medium sized components to complex and hybrid larger structures, and deposit materials where and as needed. My own research heads into this direction, into the direction of the design and production of made to measure transportable chunks of a complex 3d puzzle, hybrid components integrating every aspect of material composition, structure, skin, distributed building physics, practical finishing and attractive ornamentation. And its needs to be able to be 100% recycled and display overall good performance in design, production and in use.

Surface quality

Mind you, none of the examples around today come close to having a nice surface finish, nothing like a serious structural capacity on the larger scale. I have seen no integration of climatic control unless used as a second perforated skin. And certainly not the much needed exactness to fit to other components, as to fit seamlessly to the 3d printed parts.

Trapped in the delusion

So let’s be serious about robotic 3d printing and robotic assembly of complex parts, let’s put the bar high as to trigger much needed practical inventions. Let’s design to produce a serious structure which features all aspects of a modern comfortable building. Otherwise we will be trapped in the inconvenient truth of the 3d printing delusion.

Kas Oosterhuis, 15 September 2016

Zaha’s calligraphic sweeps

 

LIWA dunes bu Dhabi
LIWA dunes Abu Dhabi

Having met Zaha Hadid only a number of times personally, I will not reflect on these otherwise memorable encounters, but rather on her work as an emotive architect. Exactly the emotive factor links her designs with mine and not surprisingly also with the Powerlines paintings of Ilona. In 2001 I wrote my inaugural speech for the TU Delft and titled it Towards An Emotive Architecture. I founded the Hyperbody research group at the TU Delft, fully dedicated to the exploration of complex geometry, interactive architecture and real time design games. Over the past 16 years we educated hundreds of young designers in Hyperbody, quite a few of them found their way to Zaha’s office. Likewise our office in Rotterdam functioned as one of the gateways to Zaha’s design studio.

Zaha Hadid | Performing Arts Center | Abu Dhabi 2007
Zaha Hadid | Performing Arts Center | Abu Dhabi 2007

In 2004/2005 Zaha selected our competition design for the U2 Tower in Dublin [2003] and the Web of North Holland [2002] to be respresented in the collectioner’s book 10x10_2 [10 architects selected by 10 architects]. I like to think that Zaha and her team were charmed by the emotive nature of our design, by the muscular sweeping shape. Anyway, what I do like about Zaha’s designs is the strong emotional physicality of her sweeping gestures, mostly horizontally stretched, just as far as the arm can reach on the drawing table. Gestures like calligraphy, fully embodied in the middle part of the graph, their tipping points stretching to become a single fine line. Appearing and disappearing. She was clearly more confident with horizontally stretched gestures than with vertically directed sweeps. Her skyscraper designs never radiated the same power as the horizontally stretched designs,  merging the building with the landscape. Almost as a rule the curved contour lines of the buildings extended themselves into the landscape, from the very beginning of her career in design for the Hong Kong Peak and the Vitra Fire Station, until her last published designs such as the Performing Arts Center for Abu Dhabi and the Tokyo Olympic Stadium.

And very consistently Zaha’s sweeps are elegant, strong, lighthearted and beautiful. I would not hesitate to label these as a form of sweeping calligraphy, therewith embodying her Arabic background. Zaha must have loved the giant sand dunes south of the LIWA desert. I was so fortunate to have an Arab client from Abu Dhabi who was born in the LIWA Oasis, eventually naming our tower design in the Capital Center district in Abu Dhabi the LIWA tower, it must reminded him of the gentle curves and the colour of his native desert. Zaha obviously had the desert in her eyes, translated into such gently sweeping gestures.

 

The Smog Free Illusion

Journalism
Twan Huys did in my opinion in the last College Tour with Daan Roosegaarde a proper journalism job to confront his guest with opinions of respected experts who question how he wants to deal with his fame. Best television I have seen lately. Daan is clearly lifted on the horse by certain media [DWDD, Zomergasten] and supported by the disruptive community, and he simply has to deal professionally with that position. Otherwise his pride becomes before his fall.

Not the person
The critique should not be focused on the person, everyone has the right to be as one sees oneself, be it arrogant, narcissistic, aimable, self-satisfied or the ideal son. The unconvenience is that Daan is seen by many of his followers as a kind of bringer of salvation, while he has seemingly no problem being addressed like that. Yet this is irrelevant in the discussion. What matters is content, what matters are the scientific facts.

Neither the technology
The technology that is used by the popular artist is not subject to debate either, these techniques do work properly, albeit on a smaller scale. And that is exactly the problem with these technologies that Roosegaarde has chosen to apply, these technologies simply can not be scaled up like that. Induction works properly in intimate distances for low energy apparatuses like cellphones, toothbrushes and atmospheric lighting, but effectively not on the grand scale of highways. Similarly softly glowing light embedded in the pavement for bicycle paths can not replace safe lighting. It may indeed lead you the way, but de facto alienates you from the surrounding context. And ionisation works properly in controlled environments but certainly is underperforming when it comes to windy open air spaces.

Smog Free Tower | Roosegaarde 2016 | bringer of salvation?
Smog Free Tower | Roosegaarde 2016 | or smog free illusion

But the Smog Free illusion
Placing a Smog Free Tower outdoor and claiming that it cleans polluted air of a neighbourhood is comparable to placing your fireplace outside and claim that you are heating up the neighbourhood. It simply doesn’t effectively, and similarly the Smog Free Tower certainly does not clean up a neighbourhood, nor does it clean up properly the indicated ground surface area of some 100m2. I would need verified scientific proof, I would need monitoring the immediate environment of the Smog Free Tower as to get my proof of the pudding, it needs to be verified before making such claim. By stating that it does clean the environment Roosegaarde ignores the huge column of air above which is constantly being mixed up with the lower parts. Even if one would rule that unconvenient reality out, then even a moderate wind would blow every bit of cleansed air away. Air is a gaseous material and want to reach its equilibrium according to the laws of nature. This ionisation technology is proven to work in controlled environments, in closed or semi-closed spaces, and the essence of an outdoor space is that it is not a controlled environment. Therefore Roosegaarde’s tower most likely is a falsification, and therewith creating a counterproductive illusion. What it does is creating an illusion, in which well-meant sweetness people are obviously tempted to believe in, because it would be so nice if it would be true, it feels so good to believe in it. But indeed the followers of Daan Roosegaarde and Daan himself seem very complacent, being very pleased with themselves, drunk on goodness. They must feel they have all the good intentions with the future of the earth, yet in fact they are instrumental in distracting the discussion from real solutions, regrettably the followers of bringers of salvation rather believe in such sweet miracles.

Game Changers

Author: Kas Oosterhuis | 2014

Director ONL [Oosterhuis_Lénárd] [from 2015 renamed into VAA.ONL] | Professor Hyperbody Department of AE&T Faculty of Architecture TU Delft

Abstract

We are living inside evolution. There is nothing more exciting than to realize that the billions of components which constitute today’s built environment are subject to continuous change and evolution. Specifically in the building industry the major game changer is the shift from mass production methods to made to measure processes for the masses. Now both the production industry and the individual makers can produce series of unique nonstandard components cheaper and better than the earlier series of the same which earmark the building boom we have left behind us. This paper addresses the implications of the long tail of the building industry revolutionizing the next generation buildings. Buildings will never be the same, there will no more repetition of components from a catalog, each design will create its own families of uniquely shaped parametric building components, uniquely behaving distributed climatic de- vices and personalized interaction apps effectuating the movements and intentions of the users in real time. The next generation building is fundamentally generic, following simple rules as to generate complexity, based on open design systems, its design being inherently participatory and inclusive. The actuating climatic and structural building and interior components cooperate with their identified users as in a swarming hive of things and people. The author illustrates the game change with built examples from his own design practice and with examples from his university based research group.

Keywords: game change, evolution, mass customization, made to measure, tag, identity, nonstandard, makers, the long tail, next generation, parametric, top down, bottom up, swarm behavior, distributed, climate design, structural design, personalization, preferences, body, styling, powerlines, feature lines, vectorial, drivers, data exchange, lean, app, real time, fundamentals, rule based, generic, generative, algorithm, complexity, open design system, design game, participation, interaction, actuators, actor network, hive, inclusive.

1.        Generic < > Specific

First of all there is an urgency to rethink the understanding of the word generic in relation to architecture and urban design. The word generic has been popularized by Rem Koolhaas in the nineties and many, including Koolhaas himself, have misleadingly interpreted the generic into a supposedly objective aesthetics for architectural design, while in a populist fashion being offensive to other design attitudes, and blaming them to be specific. Therewith suggesting that generic is good, and specific bad, implying that architects

Illustration 1 | Seagram Building

Figure 1. Mies van der Rohe | Seagram Building | 1959

who choose a different path are simply wrong. Such method of communication is straightforwardly populist, very similar to those populist framing, naming and blaming debating techniques that we all too often see in politics today.

Synonyms for generic are among others are, according to a google search: general, common, collective, non-specific, inclusive, all-inclusive, all-encompassing, broad, comprehensive, blanket, umbrella, sweeping, universal. Let us apply the meaning of  the

02 LIWA tower

Figure 2. ONL | LIWA tower | 2013

word generic now on the distinction that is made between geometrically simple shapes and geometrically complex shapes. Which one of the two is the generic, and which one the specific. In common understanding, and exploited by OMA and their numerous offspring like MVRDV, Neutelings, DKV, KCAP, BIG, the simple platonic shapes are considered generic and for the common people, while the nonstandard geometry is considered to be specific and elitist. I will contradict the above populist reading and argue for the exact opposite understanding of the terms generic and the specific.

It is hard if not impossible to describe complex shapes starting from simple platonic forms. One will have to add, rotate, scale, chamfer and fillet thousands of iterations before something could have been achieved that comes close to a complex shape. And it would certainly lack intelligence and internal consistency, it would simply be an series of arbitrary actions to produce something that only superficially will look like complexity. From the other perspective, from the point of view of complexity theory, it is easy to describe a simple rectangular shape, simply by drastically reducing the number of reference points. Typically a box has eight vertexes to describe the box, while a complex doubly curved volume may require thousands of vertexes to properly describe the shape. The point to make here is that the complex shape is intrinsically inclusive since it includes a possible description of a simple box, while the simple platonic shape is exclusive in its nature—and hence elitist—since it excludes any possible description of a complex shape. The platonic volume must therefore be seen as a specific instance of complexity. Hence I must conclude that the nonstandard is generic and the platonic specific. Hereafter I will take it one step further and will argue that true complexity is based on simple rules, complex but not complicated.

Let me illustrate the above statement that the nonstandard is the true generic with two examples, one benchmark design by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and my own recently realized design for the LIWA Tower in Abu Dhabi. I am great admirer of Van der Rohe,  I will reflect on his work in the context of his time, which is to me the proper way to do. Implying that I would not even consider of superficially copying any of his designs or parts of his design, neither try to re-interpret his work with the technologies of today. Instead  I look at the technologies that are available to us today and draw my logical conclusions to establish an internal logic and stylistic language that is in synch with the spirit of today. Van der Rohe’s Seagram Building in Manhattan in New York [1958] is an uncompromising elegant expression of mass production methods, therewith capturing the fascination of the times, building that new immaculate world leaving the scars of WW II behind. Now we live in years ten of the 21st Century, that is 64 years or 2–3 generations later, and we live in a different world, new technologies shaping our daily lives. The end of the fifties were characterized by the rise and shine of television, and the invention of the integrated circuit [Kilby 1958], which effectively provoked the age of computation. The early decades of our century are flooded by easily available computational design techniques and computer numerical controlled fabrication techniques that are taking advantage of the computing power of powerful microchips. The LIWA tower in Abu Dhabi which my office completed this year is exemplary for the potential of parametric design techniques and mass customization production techniques, brought to live by an uncompromising design concept and an well developed opinion on the shaping of the building body imposing fluid powerlines on the point cloud of reference points constituting the DNA of the structural skin. Now seen from the technological and social perspective of today, if we would model the generic inclusive approach of the fifties, as represented by the Seagram Building, in a systemic parametric design, we would actually voluntarily cage ourselves in one specific instance of thousands parametric possibilities, falsely justified by a nostalgic feeling for the beauty of the past. The method of scalable mass customization is a game changer.

2.        Complex < > Complicated 

Although Frank Gehry is widely praised for his contribution to nonstandard archi- tecture, his realized works show very little of that. Basically he was and remained deconstructivist in his design attitude, not nonstandard. The design process in Gehry’s office would typically develop as follows: 1] a loose but traditional arrangement of functional blocks would form the basis for the project, satisfying the functional needs of the client. In another room many paper models are made as to wrap around these functional volumes, typically not wrapped all around, but only partially as to generate at least one intriguing view fit for publication in the architectural magazines. Then the paper models are digitized with a 3d digitizer, snapping at points on the surface of the crushed silvery paperwork. These points are then conveyed to the 3d modeling program Digital Project and from there entrusted to Autocad. The complexity of this process hardly deserves to be understood as complex but must be considered complicated instead.

For a proper understanding of the silent yet deep revolution that is taking place in the building industry, motivated by the rise of digital media, social media and industrial mass customization, it is necessary to make a clear distinction between the complex  and

03 Gehry entrance Stata Center

Figure 3. Gehry | entrance Stata Center | 2004

04 iWEB entrance

Figure 4. ONL| iWEB entrance | 2002

the complicated. Where complexity based on simple rules that take control of the complete project, complicatedness is the compilation of ad hoc solutions for each corner of the project. Complexity is where the exception freely exploits the rule, while complicatedness suffers from a multitude of laborious exceptions to standard products. In complexity de- signs where all constituting parts are interconnected and interwoven, where the details are developed as specifications of a basic building component. For example in the design for the iWEB the canopy doors are a specification of the generic node detail. For the iWEB the door is not imported from a building catalog as in the case of the entrance of the Stata Centre, but stems directly from the parametric design system. Complexity is generic, complicatedness specific. Complexity is inclusive, while complicatedness is deeply rooted in the standard and hence discriminatory with respect to the nonstandard. Complexity based on simple rules is a true game changer.

3.        Component < > Composition 

Traditionally the education and profession of architecture circles around the mythical properties of the architectural composition. When one starts thinking of any spatial arrangement  as  a  composition,  one  voluntarily  chooses  an  immaterial programmatic

05 Gehry's Treehouse Sydney

Figure 5. Gehry | Treehouse Sydney | 2015

top-down view on the project. In digital design circles at the other hand it is the tweaking of parametric patterns that takes on mythical properties. This other view, which is generative in its nature, considers the construct as a build-up of varying interconnected building components, composing an emotive experience in space, usually along a predefined trajectory. I will argue here that neither approach alone can cover the complexity of any design task for a built construct. The bottom-up component approach should ideally be developed in a bipolar relationship with the top-down composition. The stronger the assumed polarity between composition and component, the stronger the potential for a strong conceptual force in the design. Bottom up individual character builds up inside a top down informed open design system. The wider the bandwidth between bottom up and top down the more excitement may be created in playing by the rules.

The development of parametric building blocks that are suited for the larger scale of building however is hardly touched upon in parametric circles. I have seen, especially in academic environments, a multitude of porous pavilions being designed, produced and assembled, along with a multitude of parametric organic fantasies, without any relationship to the actual building technologies that are badly needed to be developed in order to process the construction of larger building complexes. Typically in any Gehry design the parametric strategy is limited to the complicated loose wrappings around otherwise traditional spatial designs, built according to traditional building methods like in situ cast con- crete, welding on site, and worst of all on site plaster works finishings. In Gehry’s designs there is not a smart and lean relationship between structure and skin, let alone between skin, structure and interior finishing. Therefore the Gehry designs loose their conceptual strength completely when it comes to the bipolar relationship between composition and component. In Gehry’s designs the traditional composition rules, the constituting components of the skin are subordinated to its banal composition, failed to be integrated into the structural design, and hence clueless and nothing more than decoration.

06 Parametric building blocks Hyperbody MSc2 project

Figure 6. Hyperbody | Parametric building blocks MSc2 project | 2009

This polemic essay aims at arguing for an even further integration than that of structure and skin, I advocate the design of building components that are semi-permeable skin, load bearing structure and climatic performative in one. Once such full fledged integration is reached, its naturally will be charmingly decorative as well in its detailing, with- out the need for a separate decorative layer. Ideally structure and skin work together as to transfer the loads, ideally each building component performs a specified programmable task as to bring in fresh air, pump out spoiled air, generate heat or radiate coolness,  filter particles, let in daylight or light up using LED lights. Ideally the entire building consists of interconnected families of specified building components, each of them acting/performing locally and interacting with the changing weather conditions at the exterior side of the skin, and with the whimsical needs of the users at the interior side. Ideally each building component is part of a parametric family finding it own dimensions, shape and weight as to per- form generously within its local context. Necessarily each building component is scripted in the design phase, CNC produced as to be mass customized and produced cost-effectively. Logically each building component would have its own identity and brains as to act locally and as to communicate with their nearest neighbors in real time, continuously updating its current state and informing its closest environment about that current state. The good news is that such ideal building component is a definite reality, since it can be made by thoughtfully applying currently available technologies, and that it can be achieved within standard budgetary constraints. Buildings which are in their entirety composed of interacting swarms of performative mass customized building components definitely represent a game change. The sad news however is that the processes that are necessary to achieve this are heavily compromised by the traditional way larger buildings are currently financed, programmed, designed, tendered, produced and managed. I will enlarge upon this issue in another essay, but it has to be mentioned here as to avoid picturing an overly optimistic scenario.

4.        Actor Network < > Grid 

The above described unique performative building components form an actor network, as opposed to a tessellated grid that organizes a collage of largely identical elements ordered from a building catalog. In the network the nodes are the actors that are connected

07 Manhattan grid

Figure 7. Manhattan grid

08 Digital Pavilion Seoul

Figure 8. ONL | Digital Pavilion Seoul | 2006

to each other via the edges, in the grid the fields inside the grid lines are isolated objects with no relation to each other. The design concept I am looking at when declaring that  the components of the next generation building embody the best of both of these worlds. The grid, turned into a non Euclidean parametric tessellation, allows for a specific performance of each embraced field within the grid. While the edges of the components may form the structural connections between the nodes, the centers of gravity of the enclosed fields may constitute the network of wirelessly connected, interactive, sensitive components,   in its essence similar to the individual high rise jutting out of the Manhattan grid system. “Maybe their very lack of character provides the best context for living” (R. Koolhaas, Wired, 1996). Koolhaas argues for a generic grid that allows individual well-being and growth. The critique I have on his seemingly self-evident statement is that Koolhaas retroactively uses the grid and what is contained inside the grid as a formal language. The open parametric design system, which is based on the higher level nonstandard grid that I am propagating here is in a flexible way adaptive to externally changing circumstances, and internally open to the individual acts of owners, clients and users.

The theory and practice of actor networks in the built environment is surprisingly enough almost literally described by Marvin Minsky in his book The Society of Mind (1988), but then projected on the human brain and its connections. Minsky constructs a model of human intelligence which is built up from the interactions of simple parts called agents, which are themselves relative simple, while their interactions constitute the society of mind. Interestingly the words and descriptions Minsky uses to describe his theory resonate almost 1:1 with the words and terms I am using to describe our agent based smart building component system. Now replace the agents of the human brain with the information processing building components, and it is immediately clear that Minsky’s insights potentially means a true revolution when mapped on the theory and practice of the next generation building. The notion that the building is a society of agents, as opposed to a formal system like a grid system, in nothing less than a game changer. The interacting building components form together in all their complex relationships the society of body. I no longer consider to add brains to the building body, but consider the building to be the brain.

5.        Open Design System < > Proprietary design 

My office has been experimenting with open parametric design systems for more than a decade. In 1998 I designed the Attractor Game as an open design game which enables to play with the parameters as to define an urban plan for 1500 homes in Groningen. Designing an architectural game means setting the rules which can be played by myself and by others as well. Compare it to a tennis game. Some inventive mind at a certain moment in time has proposed the rules of the game, to be played by anyone, amateurs and professionals alike. The level of the skills of the player is decisive for the attractiveness of the outcome of the game as executed. Exactly like this I foresee that the profession of architectural design will evolve. The expert formerly known as the architect [The Expert Formerly Known As The Architect, Linkedin discussion group initiated by the author in 2010] opens up the design process to clients, to college experts and to end-users as well. Basically everyone who is in one or another way involved in the development of the design is a valuable player, a co-designer, a co-creator, playing by the rules as set by the game developer. Even the expert formerly known as the quantity surveyor becomes a designer in its own right, since he/she has quantifiable influence on the outcome of the design game, he/she becomes the quantity designer. Open design designs systems are here set against traditionally proprietary design practices, where the single lead designer claims full authorship, regardless of how  much

09 Attractor Game

Figure 9. ONL | Attractor Game | Groningen 1998

10 Climbing Wall grasshopper

Figure 10. ONL | grasshopper information feedback | Climbing Wall Amsterdam | 2012

actually is decided by this designer. The distribution of authorship right has to be reconsidered, and even more relevant, the architect has to redefine its expertise. What exactly is the authority of the architect in a multi-player design environment? A broader discussion on this subject is badly needed, but falls beyond the scope of this essay.

The design of the rules of the game may be an open design process as well. Open source techniques are available to develop the rules on an open programming platform, where invited and/or self-invited individuals contribute to the scripting of the rules. The open source society has not yet produced convincing examples of open source design. The best examples are momentarily seen in the automotive industry, the building industry probably one of the last industries to follow. The open design system must be accessible for all, clients and users participate in the design game as experts and are considered equal to designers, engineers and marketeers. Any building becomes a personal MyBuilding in the eyes of every participant in the open design game. Anyone who participates acts per definition locally and feels him/herself to be the center of the design universe of that particular moment in time that he/she is acting inside the game. One is either in the game or looking at the game. While traditional participation largely is limited to raising voices and commenting on a closed process, true co-design and co-creation means that one is in the executable process of the game. Such participatory design is a true game changer for the profession of architecture.

6.    The expert formerly known as the architect [TEFKATA] < > the master builder 

I believe the most important question architects must ask themselves today is: what exactly is my expertise? Am I that generalist, known as the master builder, who knows a little bit of everything, as is still propagated by the majority of academic educators? Or am I the specialist, being the expert in a specific field of knowledge? And if so, what exactly could that field of knowledge be? It may be clear that I advocate the second option, being a specialist. But a specialist in what? In any case, the TEFKATA will be one specialist acting in a swarm of many other specialists. Anyone whose knowledge and experience has influence on the size, material, structure, shape, production, assembly, climate, performance, costs and user management of the built construct, must be considered to be a designer, proportionally to its available or acquired budget authorized to make decisions. Such a specialist is an expert designer, in a team of other experts. All of these experts have their own opinion, but limited to the field of deep knowledge they represent. All of these experts must respect the authority of other experts, as they are respected themselves by the others. The traditional master builder would claim to know how many of the other fields of knowledge must be integrated to form a consistent whole. But is that true? In my 301 years experience as a practicing architect I have seen many other experts of other fields being perfectly capable of doing that as well, many of these experts are well educated and have a good understanding how things may be integrated. I think the integration will come from the swarm when all individual experts communicate in a 1:1 bottom-up fashion with their nearest neighbours. This will lead to much more consistent piece of work than when there is top-down

11 Sim City multiplayer design game

Figure 11. Sim City | multi-player design game

12 ONL diagram protoBIM

Figure 12. ONL |protoBIM |diagram data-exchange between experts | 2010

puppeteer leader, who imposes his/her limited knowledge on experts with more knowledge in their own fields. In the swarm picture there is not one leader, but a rotating leadership. All experts would in principle move freely in relation to each other, taking pole position alternately one after the other, taking advantage of the lee side by letting someone else do the hard work in the forefront position. Just like in any group contest there will be a winner in the multi-player design game, which is the one who plays his/her cards on the most strategic moments, which is the one who plays the game most skillfully. But in principle they start as equals and at the same time. It is crucial that the team should be established as from the very beginning of the process of developing conceptual ideas and specialized designs. To reach this goal the contractual client consultant relationship and the tender procedures be must reconsidered.

The TEFKATA must find its expert niche in the new way of collaborative design and engineering. In the Hyperbody master design courses I typically organize the brief in such a way that the students, work in groups of 4–6 people, and that each student chooses an expertise. The student then for a number of weeks looks at the project from the viewpoint of this field of expertise. For example the shaper, which is the person that gives shape to no matter what, would look at the form and styling of any building component, including structural and climatic components. In fact this student must develop an opinion on the shape and the style. When the student would choose to be the material expert, he/she would dive deep into material aspects of all constituting components of the built construct. It is clear that one single student would never be able to dive that deep in all different aspects of something as complex a the built environment, it is too big for one student to handle and to excel in all finesses. Typically during one semester I stimulate the students to swap roles, as to see the project from another point of view, and be very serious and ambitious about that new role. The TAFKATA definitely is a game changer.

7.        Least common multiple < > Greatest common divisor 

Just there, just that, just then, just thus. This could very well serve as the leading motto for the leanest possible form of data-exchange between the experts in the multi- player design game. The ambition is to exchange no more data than is strictly necessary for the connected expert to perform their task.

I was much impressed by the Apollo-Soyuz connection which took place on the 17th of July 1975, for obvious reasons. The less obvious reason, but the only relevant reason in the context of this essay, is the shear elegance and lean nature of the connection. Americans and Soviets needed to agree on only one connection, the technology and   the

13 Apollo Soyuz connection

Figure 13. Apollo-Soyuz connection | 1975

14 Waterpavilion connection

Figure 14. ONL / NOX | Waterpavilion connection | 1997

diameter of the docking ring. The two spaceships were of completely different design, on all those aspects the Americans and the Soviets did not have to agree at all, only the docking ring matters. It clarifies the meaning and importance of lean data exchange. In order to cooperate they did not need to exchange their complete BIM models, but only the details of the ring instead. How elegant, how essential. When it came to find a basis for cooperation between ONL and NOX during the early design process of the Waterpavilion at Neeltje Jans [an artificial island between the impressive sea barriers], we decided to minimize the amount of items to agree upon to that which was strictly necessary to connect. It was agreed to meet in one common ellipsoidal section, whereas ONL would cover the ellipse at the outside, and NOX would slightly protrude at the inside as to materialize the connection. That was all, there was no more direct collaboration than common presence in meetings with the client Rijkswaterstaat. The interesting observation during the opening party was that the public did not seem to notice in the interior the transition between the silver grounded beast of NOX with the black stranded sculpture. Both sides were so special and unique in their design approach that it was experienced as a continuity, just like the internal transition from Apollo to Soyuz.

When exchanging data with the structural engineer, I give them only reference points and/or reference lines [data in the form of coordinates], and some metadata, which may label a node as moment fixed or hinged, or describe a surface enclosed by the reference lines as closed or open [capturing loads / wind loads or not]. Before starting the design work

15 Star Wars Death Star attacked by Luke Skywalker

Figure 15. Star Wars Death Star attacked by Luke Skywalker, |“Feel the Force”

I sit together with the engineer precisely what data can be read directly into their software, and then I export only those data, and certainly not the complete BIM model of my design. In fact I share as few data as possible. I share just the least common multiplier of data, as opposed to the greatest common denominator that is shared in the traditional linear design development chain. I share just that. This principle of lean data sharing characterized the lean data exchange process, in all phases of the design development. When exchanging data to the CNC machines one exports only those data which are read and understood by the CNC machine, just that. That machine produces just that unique building component that fits only just there, and is assembled on site just then.

Luke Skywalker just then intuitively pushes the button as to destroy the much hated Death Star [Star Wars Episode VI, 2005], the image of which has been without doubt inspired on the massive bronze spheres [1963] by Italian sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro. Skywalkers’ intuition has been extensively trained as to feel the force. Similarly to be able to fit unique building components just there and just then, it needs a solid preparation in the parametric open design game. Such precision provides for the justification to perform exactly like that at that particularly moment in time and space, which is why the building component must act just thus. The just there, just that, just then, just thus strategy is the ultimate game changer to redefine the very nature of the design game.

 

010 | TGV Station Liège-Guillemins

Calatrava | TGV Station Liege-Guillemin | 2009
Calatrava | TGV Station Liege-Guillemins | 2009

In one day in spring 2010 Ilona and I went to see the TGV station of Santiago Calatrava in Liège and the Centre Pompidou dependance in Metz. Although at first sight applying similar technologies, the contrast between the two buildings could not be more dramatic. Both buildings have cost a fortune, but were both buildings worth it? A Belgium architect has declared that Calatrava is a bank robber, since the building of the TGV station turned out to be overly expensive. Now I have been there, I see that it must have been expensive, but I think it is worth it, since it represents in all its pores an image of clarity and consistency. I expect that the building is fit for a long life and an that it will be respected as an inspiring intervention in the otherwise decaying city fabric of Liege. No doubt that Liege will benefit from it in the long run. The structure itself is a convincing example of the integration of design and structure, of visual lightness and structural performance, a structure that encourages an elevated stroll. The design is undoubtedly following a functional logic, a structure featuring a large free span of the roof and a delicate dimensioning and detailing of the shops and the cafe´s in the underpass, where the public can literally feel the structure and the materials from very close. Being there makes you feel being part of a documentary movie, as if one is an active player negotiating with the movements of the trains, monitoring the come and go of the cars to and from the parking garage. The flow of people and the feature lines of the design are merged in beauty. One can not but physically feel the real time motion interlaced with the frozen dynamics.

009 | Stata Center entrance

Gehry |Stata Centre Boston | 2004
Gehry |Stata Centre Boston | 2004

Seen from a distance a recent Gehry building may look like a sculpture. But when approaching that Gehry building, any Gehry building, from the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao to the Stata Center in Boston, the building becomes uncomfortably more and more traditional. Finally when entering the building via the entrance there is not much special about it. You enter through a regular mass produced facade, through regular doors, built up with regular profiles, be it in the deconstructivist way brutally cut off at varying angles. Decon as usual, nothing nonstandard about it. I appreciate Gehry Technologies [GT] for their great Digital Project [DP] software, but even Jim Glymph of GT told me back in 1998 that he was admiring the awesome achievements concerning the design and execution of the Saltwater Pavilion at Neeltje Jans. DP was created to rebuild Gehry´s wrinkled and distorted silver paper models into something manageable and buildable. When the starting point of a design concept remains rooted in old concepts, the realized building will communicate in the first place the outdated concept and not the new technology, there will always be an inconvenient friction between the designer´s concept and the contractor´s execution. When there is not established a direct link between BIM and CNC the execution can be done, but it will not be consistent, it will cost an unproportionally large sum of money and is hence a threat for the truly nonstandard designers who seriously strive for the unbroken link from their generative design concept using parametric modeling in the earliest design phases to a proper CNC manufacturing procedure.