The below text is the introduction I wrote in 2008 for the second issue of the iA series of Interactive Architecture.*) It was one year after the fire and we were discussing how to rebuild the new faculty. There was an international competition launched, but soon the idea of a new building was rejected, and it was decided to renovate a century old building closer to the city center of Delft instead. In hindsight, the renovation was a very costly operation, yet considered successful by the majority of the users. We as Hyperbody lost our unique iWEB as our state-of-the-art laboratory, while it was cut off from the grid and TU Real Estate did not intend to connect it again due to – presumably – excessive costs. We ended up with having our Hyperbody / Protospace 150 m2 lab inside the renovated building. The renovated building was partially extended with a sixties style large hall and was eventually far more expensive than a fresh new structure would have cost. Some of the points I argued for below were realized, but all in all the faculty became a more traditional place after the fire. I considered it the victory of the traditional over the new, and that became symptomatic for the Hyperbody years to come, whereas our budget was drastically cut, year after year. We had to reduce our staff from 12 people to 4 in the years between 2010 and 2014, while we were expelled from Architecture and re-positioned within Architectural Engineering. Not surprisingly, we were not amused, yet continuously thankful for the support we had been given in the years between 2000 and 2007, that is, until the fire broke out.
*) The complete iA series iA#1 – iA#5 are available at www.japsambooks.nl
iA#2 Introduction / editorial
In Delft, we will remember 5/13, rather than 9/11. the day the Faculty burnt. The day that chaos theory was applied in real life. Water leaking from a coffee machine, setting fire, and eventually burning down the complete faculty building. All was lost, except digital data, which was stored on the BK server back-up tapes. And miraculously the iWeb survived. I took a picture of the iWeb after the fire; it looked like a scene from a Star Wars movie, titled the “Battle of the Theories”. Swarm Architecture beats Architecture-As-We-Know-It. To begin an open discussion for possibilities for the new faculty, I have put together scenarios for 12 possible faculties.
01 | The burning faculty
“Architecture Muss brennen” stated Wolfgang Prix in 19968 when the student revolution was unleashed. At exactly that time, the faculty was built, and forty years later, it took fire literally. Now, Coop Himmelb[l]au statement is more relevant than ever. How can we make architecture relevant and actual? What kind of faculty would stimulate that?
02 | The swarm faculty
The complete staff and all three thousand students spread over the city, hosted by other faculties, in tents, in apartments in the city, in private offices, The faculty swarmed out and yet was connected via the Internet and mobile phones. In a sense, many people were mentally closer to each other than they were before, when they were physically close, but with back turned to each other, looking outside the windows. Now, we had the experience of looking towards the essential inner kernel of the faculty. We were living in a swarm. What kind of organization of the new faculty would support this kind of emphatic swarm behavior?
03 | The digital faculty
All people were rescued but their books, their personal memories, and their works of art. All these were claimed by the fire. but everything digital was rescued, the back-up tapes which were stored outside the faculty were OK, and all digital files of staff and students could be recovered safely. Had this fire occurred ten years earlier, it would paralyzed the people, now it activated many people to continue immediately with augmented energy.
04 | The 24-hour faculty
Opening hours of the faculty are limited. There was not much activity during the evenings, and on the weekends it was completely closed. I always wondered, why? both staff and students work almost continuously on their ideas and projects. The bad plumbing job probably revealed itself during the weekend, but there was no-one to witness it. The new faculty must be a 24-hour faculty; the designer’s mind never sleeps. I receive approximately fifty emails per day from my Hyperbody staff, some of them posted very late. The work always goes on.
05 | The adaptive faculty
After my thesis project in 1989, I came back twenty years later to invent the chair of Interactive Architecture, In those twenty years, virtually nothing had changed in the building,as if it had been asleep for that many years. Only during the last years were serious attempts at a real change made by the Dean: finally we had good coffee and more comfortable furniture, but its efforts were stranded in the fire. we need an adaptive, flexible faculty, a faculty that allows itself to be reinvented every seven years of architecture generation.
06 | The mobile faculty
We need a faculty that is open to the world outside the faculty. Students and staff have been too much encapsulated by the solid structure of the faculty. Imagine a faculty where 50% of the structure is fixed, while the other 50% is located in mobile units, either motorized or erected in places around the country. Naturally all mobile units must be equipped with wireless communication. We must see the factories, the building sites, the political rallies, settle in the Vinex locations for a while, travel the highways, and explore the highways. We must come closer to to the design offices, plug in to other faculties, or find a place on the beach. In these places, we can continue to work on our projects and design and discuss with anyone.
07 | The laboratory faculty
Staff and students must go to the factories, but the factory must also come to the faculty. The production machines inform us of what can be made. Staff and students must know what the machines are capable of/ with these, there is much more possible than is actually used. In general, a machine user [computer] only uses a few of all . The same is true for machine in the workshops; their potential is far greater than is generally known. Knowing the potential stimulates the imagination of the designer. Think of the IO [Industrial Design Engineering] central Hall at the TU Delft Campus, but imagine it covering the whole site.
08 | The robotic faculty
Now the faculty has 3D milling machines and machines for model making in general. We can learn from the ETH Zürich where they have installed robotic equipment to build prototypes on 1:1 scale. Their robots are generic, they are equipped to assemble complex brickwork as well.Using robotic equipment includes old materials but opens the way for experimenting with new materials as well. New robotic technology does not replace traditional technology. but adds another layer of intelligence to it – it is inclusive.
09 | The 1:1 prototype faculty
Staff and students should focus on 1:1 prototypes. This is the latest and most reliable way to understand the full potential of building. There should be a yearly contest to build 1:1 prototype, similar to the Stylos pavilion, but more related to CNC [computer numerical control] production methods using robotic equipment.
10 | The augmented faculty
The faculty must be emotionally linked to leading faculties worldwide. We need to experience on a daily basis what they do at the ETH, at MIT, Harvard, La Sapienza, TU/e. We could place webcams and install augmented reality interfaces, not to see out faculty being taken down, btu to see what is built up at all other faculties. We can embed the interfaces in the furniture, in the lounge spaces. There should be a permanent, real-time connection to talk, communicate, retrieve information, and send information in the augmented, networked swarm of faculties. Augmented reality does not replace physical reality. it adds another layer of intelligence to it. It is nothing to be afraid of.
11 | The sustainable faculty
Sustainability will continue to be a major issue. Sustainability is greatly facilitated by new technologies like wireless connections, CNC production methods, and C2C [Cradle to Cradle] concepts. Each of these new technologies require less energy and they are virtually waste-free. All production is controlled and waste will be recycled and/or function as food / fuel / fodder for other processes. Sustainable C2C and CNC production will be exercised in the prototype Factory.
12 | The theatre faculty
The faculty is a theatre where the renowned and unknown stars perform. They will capture attention and inform staff and students of their designer’s intentions. The new faculty could be a true theatre complex, with rising and falling stars attracting larger crowds, while new experiments are shown in intimate off-off theatre niches, the obvious and the fringe in one big complex. This theatre faculty should be open to all public, not only staff and students. It would certainly have cultural relevance to the general public. It could be rum as a commercial enterprise. The faculty could charge money for the lectures of the big shots, thereby financing more intriguing fringe activities.
We can make them all. Way superimpose all twelve faculties into one compound exciting new faculty, half fixed, half mobile, half prototype, half concrete, half augmented, half frozen, half interactive, half analogue, half digital, half manual, half robotic, half fixed work desk, half flex space, half burning, half wet. The momentum is here, the only thing that is badly needed now are the right programs for the right faculty, the right juries, and the right timing.
Kas Oosterhuis | Professor Chair Hyperbody TU Delft