Unit 4

SabotagE :

UNTypical ENCOUNTER

Unit Tutors: Lloyd Sukgyo Lee + Seung-Ah Choi + Hanjun Kim

The Crystal Palace, Lacey, W. 1851
A worm’s eye view of NN_House 1, Casey Rehm

General Statement

The Great Exhibition of 1851 did not only mark the first World's Fair but also changed how we see the world forever. The exhibition was in fact the reflected worldview of the Victorians: a convenient linear timeline that ended with themselves. The 19th century was full of new discoveries and inventions; Antarctica was found, the telephone and the electric motor were invented and promises of constant progress were made. This rather optimistic and can-do atmosphere of the century was further reinforced when a new scientific theory rose to prominence to make sense of the natural order of the world: theory of evolution. While it caused great debates between the scientific and religious communities, it was also a narrative that suggested that a subject necessarily evolved from a 'primitive' state to a 'better' state. This linear evolutionary narrative was deeply embedded into cultural institutions with the prime example being the pediment of the British Museum named "the progress of civilisation". The Great Exhibition of 1851, too, reflected such ideas of linearity in evolution. Examining the initial layout of the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace—perceived at the time as a wonderful architectural achievement—visitors necessarily started their journeys from oriental states such as India, China, Egypt and Turkey, and moved onto other European states and British Inventions. A notable visitor to the Great Exhibition, Charles Dickens, describes the horror he faced at the visible gap between China and Britain in his writing "The Great Exhibition and the Little One". But, here is the thing—evolution does not happen in a linear manner. Any evolutionary process needs diversified pathways to put itself through.


Among other inventions on display, the Crystal Palace showcased a radicalised approach to construction. The palace embraced an efficient construction logic that also allowed for flexibility, made possible through the birth of standardised structural elements. The Crystal Palace was the most evolved form of architecture that could override all other preceding logics of architecture; it seemed to be able to do anything that architecture could do. Along with new material inventions like reinforced concrete, circumstances of the 20th century allowed standardised elements to flourish through often-abused modern mantras like "form follows function" and "less is more"; two world wars devastated the world, an explosive increase in the world population followed, and increasingly more interconnected international market forced unprecedented developments in different parts of the world. Soon, the widely spread standardised elements started erecting lookalike buildings that still inherit the logic of maximum efficiency and flexibility of the Crystal Palace: the birth of the typical architecture. Roger Eberhard presents a vivid account of the typical architecture through his project "Standard", in which he shows photographs taken from 32 different Hilton guest rooms across 32 different countries. The images reveal a reality: one is unable to pinpoint a photograph to a location because all views from 32 rooms in 32 countries look the same. The typical architecture came to dominate today's world. The typical architecture stands at the end of the evolutionary timeline as a continued legacy of the crystal palace; it exists homogeneously across all cultures and has the ability to replace preceding logics of architecture embedded in different cultures. However, bound so tightly to technology, the typical architecture can only have a narrow path of evolution. Only the evolution in technology can lead to the evolution of typical architecture.


Linearity in evolutionary processes necessarily imposes limitations. Take 'The Road to Homo Sapiens', an illustration that shows an evolutionary process from Pliopithecus (extinct primates) to Modern Man in a progressive roadmap. The illustration repudiated any other evolutionary variations our ancestral species took that did not end in humans. It is a short-sighted approach that negates the multiplicity of the forthcoming changes and takes an absolute belief in the current state. The typical architecture is a result of the belief in linear evolution. Taking the Darwinian approach, genetic variations grant a higher chance of survival for a species. The typical architecture could, too, evolve with multiple variations through mutation; Mutations of the typical architecture would prepare it for the multiplicities of future changes and make it accept the diversity of different cultures. Though the biological mutations happen mostly through randomness, designers have the ability to limit the inputs that could lead to architectural mutations. Accepting the reality and limitations of the current economic and production systems, it is unlikely that architectural mutations could happen through changes in universally-used standardised elements but through changes of compositions of them. Architectural composition often reflects architectural organisation, revealing how buildings are used by the people—The Latin-cross plan is closely linked to the procession of liturgy; The separation between Anchae and Sarangchae reveals different gender roles of the Joseon period; And the introduction of the corridor into domestic British households during the Victorian time shows a change in people's perception of privacy. Using clues from past architectural compositions (and their organisations), architecture could attempt to go through mutations while preserving the various ways of life, cultures and identities. Diversified mutations of the typical architecture will, eventually, lead to evolution that will prepare it for unexpected future scenarios.

Brief


[Excerpt from the General Statement]

The typical architecture stands at the end of the evolutionary timeline as a continued legacy of the crystal palace; it exists homogeneously across all cultures and has the ability to replace preceding logics of architecture embedded in different cultures. However, bound so tightly to technology, the typical architecture can only have a narrow path of evolution.

Diversified mutations of the typical architecture will, eventually, lead to evolution that will prepare it for unexpected future scenarios.



Methodology


The unit will initiate by discussing the current state of architecture in correspondence to the statement above. During discussion, the concept and the parameters of the Typical Architecture will be defined as well as those of the traditional architecture.


After a general understanding is reached, the unit will progress through 3 stages to produce different outputs.


1. Research :

The first stage will see students divided into two groups. One group will focus on a traditional architectural typology while the other group will initiate research on its Typical Architecture counterpart. The students will be asked to analyse the organisation, composition and the logic of different precedents, while cataloguing their plans in a unified format. For example, a plan of a traditional Korean housing (Hanok) can be redrawn to highlight only the key elements that form its organisation - this can, then, be compared with the plan of the Typical Architecture counterpart drawn in the same way.


2. Application

In the second stage, the two sets of plans produced in the research stage will be fused using Python and Machine-Learning. The output of this stage should be able to shine a light on different ways the traditional and the modern architectures (the Typical Architecture) can fuse. A degree of randomness is expected in the fusion process. This stage will act as a testbed to observe numerous applications of different compositional logics to existing examples, while allowing students to imagine beyond the standards of the typical architecture. The output of this stage will be unified in format (planar drawings) to allow for comprehensiveness between disparate ways of application utilised.


3. Mutation

The third stage will ask students to play with the possibilities of mutation. Different scenario will be given and the students will choose from the produced plans from the Application stage to further develop their designs. Each team will develop 3 designs from 3 different plan compositions and one will be chosen at the end, after the discussions with the tutors. Each team will then design the chosen plan until the end of the workshop and should aim to produce an axonometric drawing of A1.



Tools

Python / AI Training



Expected Learning Outcomes

Students will learn

- critical and independent interpretation of the current discourse of architecture

- an ability to understand and build a rigorous methodology that could result in architectural output

- how to design and utilise a machine learning process to produce different compositions in an architectural context

UNIT TUTORS

Seung-Ah Choi

Yonsei University

Hanjun Kim

SoomeenHahm Design