Paul Andreu/RFR, Peter Rice, Nuages du Parvis, Paris
design and control them. This complexity is growing, but paradoxically it is also becoming simpler at the same time. Take fire and air. Firefighting methods and the prediction of how a building will perform in a fire are now much better understood, so old-fashioned blanket rules can be abandoned or relaxed and realtime simulations of disasters carried out. Large atriums and great voluminous confer ence centres and sports facilities can be safely built, thanks to advances in computer simulation and software. The new Stansted Air Terminal (pp. 258-59) is a case in point. This building far exceeds the guidelines for maximum volume in fire. But modern computer simulation techniques enabled a series of likely fire scenarios to be tested to demonstrate how the building would perform. Air flow inside and around buildings has become a positive factor in promoting form, as at Renzo Piano's Kansai International Airport Terminal Building in Osaka, Japan. These computer simulations have been used positively as a design tool to generate the building's form and are further justified because they improve comfort within the building and reduce energy consumption. Elsewhere, environmental wind engineering which can be done in the wind tunnel or by computer is used to study the impact of buildings on towns and to avoid unpleasant wind currents in the vicinity of new structures.
The Lloyd's Building in London (pp. 156-59) had air flow and smoke tests carried out on the atrium and had an environmental wind impact test to help design the entrance area. There are many other examples of the use of computers to promote change through improved environmental performance and perhaps one day we shall see a future, so far only a science-fiction invention, which has been stimulated by real technological issues, as in Future Systems' Green Building recently exhibited in London.
Structure and architecture are also candidates for change. Most structural solutions are adaptations of previous systems. Some, however, are now being developed using the new possibilities of analysing things differently now that powerful computers are commonplace. Tents and fabric structures are a good example. These require complex and sophisticated non-linear analysis and have grown in performance and form over time. The fabric roof of Lords Cricket Ground in London (Michael Hopkins) and the Nuages at Tête Défense in Paris (Paul Andreu/Peter Rice) are recent examples, and many more will follow, either as canopies or as full roofs to buildings. An earlier and two more recent examples are the Schlumberger Research Laboratories in Cambridge (pp. 124-25, Michael Hopkins), the Thompson Factory at Conflans Ste Honorine near Paris (Valode & Pistre) and the
Imagination Building in London (R. Herron), three buildings which use the diffused daylight created by fabric to enhance the ambience of internal spaces.
Structural forms too are advancing, as the structure for the Pyramid in Paris shows (pp. 226-29). Consisting of a highly prestressed frame with overlapping cable systems holding taut an outer glass layer, this is an example of a structure wholly rooted in the computer age. Towers and tall structures, such as Jean Nouvel's Tour Sans Fin, proposed for La Défense, Paris, require a great deal of analysis to ensure that they are comfortable and buildable, and that they will resist earthquake, wind and other environmental forces safely. The shape and form of these buildings are often computer led, and we shall no doubt see taller and thinner examples as engineers and architects explore the limits of the style and demonstrate to others their prowess.
The final area I would like to stimulate and hopefully help to explore is the rise of computer draughting programmes to generate change. One recent example was the Nuages du Parvis at La Défense. The structure is a canopy leading to and complementing the Nuages structure at Tête Défense. The intention of the design was to achieve complexity and variety using a standard element. The standard element chosen was a fabric panel with a warped geometry and non-parallel edges. This could be combined in a number of ways to create an undulating surface which overlapped and turned in a sensuous pattern. Another example is the Groninger Museum in Holland, designed by the American artist Frank Stella. Here the artist's original model was transferred to a computer, which was used to explore geometric and construction rules. The original artistic intention was the key to how the rules were developed, and the artist participated in the process. It was the computer which made possible the original model's transformation into a description recognizable to constructors and something they could price. Not only did the computer enable this exploration to take place, it also enabled it to be communicated to artist, contractors and client. The final project contains all the artist's intentions, but is quite different from the model and is made of simple contemporary building options. The artist becomes architect with the computer as palette.
Building materials and the way we use them have changed beyond recognition these last two decades. Many of them look the same. Indeed, most of them are the same, but the way we use them is quite different. Most building materials are now manufactured to be assembled in large elements on site. The crane and crane planning dictate the way buildings are built. Hand in hand with the need to deliver buildings in large sub-elements, industry has invented and developed methods of manufacture to enable this to happen. We are all familiar with steel and glass buildings, where this is obvious. Panels and sub-assemblies are used, totally manufactured off site, then clipped into position. Such methods often create an architectural feature which is used as a 'language' - Rogers' Lloyd's of London or Foster's Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank show this well. Whole sections of these buildings, manufactured and assembled off site, are a clear indication of one view of the future.
Traditional materials have also succumbed to this trend, and that is a surprise. We may not like it, and some of the more vociferous critics of modern architecture, such as Prince Charles in the UK, deeply regret the advent of modern methodology in the most conservative of professions. Take brick, that most traditional or artisanal of building materials. Gone are the bricklayer and mason, assembling bricks by hand to create an intricate facade (except, of course, in the repair of older buildings). Instead, bricks are now assembled into panels at the yard, backed with insulation and sent to site to be treated like precast concrete or steel. Stone too is cut into thin sheets, accurately formed and assembled on site to make designs similar in form and preparation to their antecedents. Nothing is as it seems. And yet at the heart of this there lies a challenge. How can we use these techniques to create new forms?
The extension to IRCAM in Paris (Renzo Piano), next to Centre Pompidou, is an example of the way things might go. There, the panels are sub-assembled like any other, but the jointing and the panel form are changed to return to a more vibrant past. Glass too can be used differently to express its innate character. The glass at La Villette in Paris (Adrien Fainsilber, pp. 172-73) or at the Willis, Faber & Dumas building in Ipswich (pp. 74-77) are two examples of the aesthetic results of exploring glass technology. Many others exist. These results are produced by an active involvement by designers, architects and engineers in the way materials work and are used, so that new uses and forms may emerge. In a way, no building is ever the same as any other. As in music or literature, variety is the objective as well as the norm. But variety within a restricted vocabulary. The vocabulary of building will expand, and that expansion must be stimulated by the designers as much as by constructors and be in some part controlled by them.
What of the new materials we hear so much about and eagerly await? The benefits from the space programme and other high-technology areas, where are they? The reason these new materials have not had an impact is largely because they are too expensive and because the performance conditions for construction are so demanding and difficult to test. Fire resistance is the most difficult obstacle, but long-term performance in sunlight is also a difficult criterion for many new materials to meet.
I think it is unlikely that wholly new materials will ever take over the role of the traditional ones, except as interior surfacing or other replaceable items. Some development of replacement materials, such as fibre-reinforced concrete, are currently being researched and developed, especially in Japan. These will offer options but will not, it seems, lead to large-scale change in construction methods, as glass-reinforced concrete did for a time in the 1970s. There is also talk of ceramics becoming an important material, especially in external cladding, but none of this is likely to alter the basic direction of industrial rationalization taking place, promoted by the information revolution.
Where then do we find ourselves? Technology out of control is the great challenge for the nineties and beyond, not just in the construction industry but generally. Not only do we have to make the impact of technology more acceptable, we designers and users of technology must take more responsibility for directing its growth. We can, if we make the effort. Ove Arup, an important thinker in the field of construction from the 1960s and '70s, became concerned at the end of his life about all the power and technology we direct without being aware of our responsibility. I would like to finish with a quotation from a speech he gave in London in 1983 when he was 88.
It is my conviction that whilst we have become very clever at doing almost anything
Foster Associates, Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank
we like, we are very backward in choosing the right things to do. This is, of course, taking a global view of the behaviour of mankind and that; I submit, we are simply forced to do in view of the tremendous power for good and evil conferred on us by our sophisticated technology. It has brought us tremendous blessings, and it has also done tremendous damage to our planet and its inhabitants... And as mentioned, the decision about how to use it is not generally made by the engineers. But engineers are world citizens as we all are, and as they are largely represented on the design teams preparing the designs which determine what is made, they are in a good position to judge the consequences for mankind of proceeding with doing what we are about to do. Would it not be a good thing if they had a say in what we should do, and have they not a duty as citizens of the world to warn us of any dangerous consequences which would result from our actions?
My only hope is that this well-educated minority will swell to include the less well-
educated majority so that even governments can start to think about how to alter course without creating world-wide chaos. It will be extremely difficult. It must be a slow and controlled process and its success depends on whether we can convince a majority of our leaders and their followers that we need to alter course. Doing a 'U-turn' in the midstream of traffic is dangerous: we can hardly avoid severe trouble and hardship. We are not helped by fanatic peacemongers, feeding on simplistic slogans, who think they can achieve universal peace by hate and destruction. Pulling down is easy, building up is difficult. We have to employ slogans which the great mass of people can understand and support, but they should appeal to their good instincts, not their bad ones. This is a source which is not so often tapped by our politicians, but / believe its power could be overwhelming if our leaders had the courage to build on it. Ideals must be tempered by realism but should not be poisoned by cynicism or hate. In the end all depends on our own integrity.
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